Monday, November 20, 2006

Lobbying for "The Rematch"

Here's to hoping Notre Dame does Michigan a huge favor this Saturday. An LSU win over Arkansas on Friday, and then an Arkansas win in the SEC championship would cement the deal. I feel that USC is the only team that still deserves a chance to steal the #2 seed, although that stretch of games involving Washington State, Washington, Arizona and Oregon State didn't exactly scream out "National Title Contender".

There is no way anyone is going to rank Notre Dame above Michigan, so a win by the Fighting Irish does nothing but increase Michigan's strength of schedule. Arkansas got blown out badly by USC earlier this year.

The tough call for me is between Michigan and Florida. The Gators are 10-1, with their only loss coming against #14 Auburn, but they needed a couple blocked field goals to get by South Carolina, and the margin of victory over Vanderbilt was nothing to write home about. To be fair - Michigan squeaked by Ball State earlier this season, but that was because Carr put in the second stringers on defense way too early.

Ranking the #2s

#2 Michigan
Quality Victories:
at #5 Notre Dame (47-21); vs #8 Wisconsin (27-13); at #25 Penn State (17-10)
Losses: at #1 Ohio State (42-39)
Ugly Wins: unranked Ball State (34-26)

#3 USC
Quality Wins:
at #6 Arkansas (50-14), vs #23 Nebraska (28-10), vs #22 Cal (23-9)
Losses: at unranked Oregon State (33-31)
Ugly Wins: unranked Washington State (28-22), unranked Washington (26-20), unranked Arizona State (28-21)

#4 Florida
Quality Wins:
at #19 Tennessee (21-20), vs #9 LSU (23-10),
Losses: at #14 Auburn 27-17
Ugly Wins: at unranked Vanberbilt 25-19, unranked S Carolina 17-16

#5 Arkansas
Quality Wins:
#19 Tennessee (31-14), at #14 Auburn (27-10)
Losses: vs #3 USC (50-14)
Ugly Wins: at unranked Vanberbilt 21-19; vs unranked Alabama 24-23; at unranked S Carolina 26-20


Michigan 3 Quality Wins, 1 loss (very close; vs #1 team in the country), 1 ugly win
USC 3 Quality Wins, 1 loss (vs an unranked opponent), 3 Ugly Wins
Florida 2 Quality Wins, 1 loss (vs #14 team in country), 2 Ugly Wins
Arkansas 2 Quality Wins, 1 loss (blowout at home vs #3 team in the country) 3 ugly wins

Michigan lost by a field goal to the #1 team in the country; USC lost against an unranked opponent, Florida lost against Auburn, and barely squeeked by S Carolina, and Arkansas was blown out by USC, and looked very ordinary against several opponents this season. Notre Dame was blown out by Michigan, so moving them ahead of the Wolverines is a non-starter.

Regardless of how the rest of the season plays out, I don't know how you move any team ahead of the Wolverines. In order to remove all speculation over who should play in the national championship, I really hope USC, Arkansas and Florida all find a way to lose in their last two games, but I feel the Wolverines should play in the championship, regardless of what happens between now and then. The chief argument against the rematch is that it is unfair to require that Ohio State defeat Michigan twice in the same season. I dismiss that argument are irrelevent. The BCS is designed to pit the two top teams against each other in the National Championship, on a neutral field. The key to this is that it should be a neutral playing field. OSU defeated Michigan by a field goal at home. Does that really tell us that OSU is a better football team than Michigan? If OSU is a better team, they should be able to defeat the Wolverines on a neutral field. If Michigan wins in the rematch, I'd argue that it should be enough to give the Wolverines the outright championship, because the all the first games showed us is that Ohio State is three points better than Michigan when playing at home.

Michigan and Ohio State are far and away the best two teams in the country. This weekend, Ohio State definitely looked more impressive, but they had time to prepare for the absolutely horrible field conditions, had the home field advantage, and got a huge break when Barringer went down, exposing the weakest link in Michigan's lineup, which is depth at secondary.

Critics of the rematch argue that the game wasn't really as close as the final score (42-39) indicates, but I beg to differ. OSU fans like to point out that the only thing that kept the game close was two fluke turnovers. True - a couple of those turnovers were giftwrapped, but it wasn't like OSU didn't have a few things go their way. If that roughing the passer against Crable was avoided, Michigan, who had all the momentum, would've go the ball back, with a chance to take the lead; Manningham was wide open for a sure touchdown, but slipped on the cursed grass; if Barringer didn't go down early, there is no way those two runs by Pittman and Wells would've both gone for scores; Michigan defenders were falling all over the place - I'm almost positive that Tressel dictated that the field be kept in the worst shape possible, and has his players practice on the field to determine what types of cuts they can get away with without falling over, in order to gain a competitive advantage.

A rematch is the best thing that could happen for college football. If Ohio States wants the national championship, they shouldn't be afraid to play the Wolverines on a neutral playing field, and a level playing surface. OSU and Michigan went into the game with the two of the most impressive defenses in recent memory, and both were exposed. A rematch would allow both teams to remedy the issues exposed on defense. This weekends game was a truly exciting match, and the highest rated television audience for a College Football match in the past thirteen years. Since this game lived up to all the hype, a rematch would be an even bigger spectacle. I believe a rematch would be the true "Game of the Century".