Oregon (#2) vs Ohio State (#4) – first of all, as the parenthetical numbers showing end of season ranking indicate, polls are sometimes, if not often, wrong. A play-off for the national title is more fair, though clearly other teams could contend that had they been in the final game things might have been different (TCU, for one).
I’m not a sports writer. Since I don’t have a TV anymore I don’t watch sports that often. After working retail for so many years, anything played on a weekend was something I could never follow anyway. So, don’t expect an intelligent or even semi-intelligent treatment of the game here. I didn’t watch it, but I saw highlights this morning, thanks to the Internet. And by the way, yes, I worked last night. Even if I had a TV to watch the game, I wasn’t home.
As a kid born and raised in the Buckeye state, I was a huge OSU fan in the Woody Hayes era. I recall teams toward the end of the 60’s being highly ranked nationally and appearing in the Rose Bowl usually to lose to California teams. Yes, I watched the USC trouncing of OSU on TV on New Year’s Day. You know the game. It was the one featuring “The Juice” at running back for USC. As a Buckeye fan I was heartbroken. But those were the days when national championships depended mainly on poll rankings after the bowl games. Ohio State won a few of those but lost several as well.
Fast forward a few years for my college years – I decided to not attend Ohio State, or any other school in Ohio for that matter. Why? I had this crazy idea that I needed to broaden my world a bit, experiencing other places, meeting other people. As many of my friends and acquaintances from grade school and high school (I attended different school systems between the two) were attending Ohio colleges, I figured the best opportunity for me to walk away from my past and start out fresh was to go somewhere that the people didn’t know me. Initially, I picked Purdue. Even so, in my sophomore year, a couple of people from my high school showed up on campus as freshmen. I guess being a couple of hours drive from home wasn’t enough separation.
It wasn’t like Purdue was a national football powerhouse. They were renown as a cradle of quarterbacks, though. During the years of my matriculation the Boilermakers were, at best, worthy of their unofficial nickname, the Spoilermakers. They upset Notre Dame’s hopes of repeating as National Champion, beating them at home – I game I attended, by the way. My friends and I kind of crashed the gates. As the Boilermakers jumped out to an unexpected 21 – 0 lead in the first quarter my friends and I got in to see the game by using return passes we acquired from those Irish fans who were leaving the game in disgust. Later in my college career I watched a game at home where the Buckeyes were ranked and supposed to handle Purdue easily, but didn’t.
My point, if there is one, is that polls and rankings are often wrong. College football is played with a lot of emotion and at times even the best team on paper doesn’t win on the grid iron. Also, as the football season progresses some teams get better while others get worse or stay the same. That why I’m in favor of a playoff system. However I don’t think four teams are enough. And I doubt eight teams would do for me either – except it would give more teams the opportunity to prove they are worthy on the field, the only place where it really counts.
My question is how many national championships in the past have been awarded to the wrong team. My guess is many, though certainly not all. If the playoffs give most fans a sense of fairness and opportunity, then by all means let’s do it. Supposedly Ohio State wouldn’t have been considered under the BCS system and doubtfully would have been in the top five under the previous system. Yet they won. Go figure.
Several years ago, if you told me Oregon would be playing in the title game I would have laughed, but they have come a long way in the past decade. I’m sure they deserved to be where they were last night. Although I live in Florida and probably should support FSU, I don’t think they deserved to be in the playoffs. They were there because somehow they escaped defeat for 13 games during the season. I’m not sure if TCU had been the team picked to go up against Oregon in the semi-finals at the Rose Bowl that Oregon would have advanced. No one knows the answer to that. And any playoff system devised will not answer lingering questions like that. Yet, a field of eight teams instead of four would have included TCU and perhaps Baylor, or some other team that might have surprised everyone, coming from a 7 or 8 seed to take home the trophy. Now that would shout fairness to a playoff system. Judging from college basketball’s playoffs upsets happen because polls are often wrong and they do not take in account the intangible factors of team spirit and performance peaking at the right time.
I’m happy for Ohio State this morning. I have a lot of friends and relatives who still live in the Buckeye state. My publicist lives there and she’s a huge fan. So had they lost I would be commiserating with her this morning. Since they won I guess I have to listen to her gloating. Oh well, it’s not so bad. I used to be a fan, too.
One of the things I like about the way OSU won the game is that they overcame their own mistakes – four turnovers – preventing the Ducks from cashing in most of their opportunities. Also, they pretty much shut down Oregon’s vaunted scoring machine, though Marcus Mariota threw for 333 yards and was obviously in the game. It was just good to see that in an age where football seems to be mainly about a fast-scoring, passing game, Ezekiel Elliot dominated with the run. It was kind of an old school game plan for that reason, one I’m sure Woody Hayes would have take pride in.
As for getting away from one’s roots and seeing the world, I did a lot of that. So I reached my goal of seeing other parts of the world back when I was young enough to enjoy it and have it leave an impression. Certainly it’s not a bad thing for an aspiring writer. somewhere along the way I ended up at the University of Texas at Austin where, to my knowledge, no one from back in the Buckeye followed me. Later on, I joined the Air Force and served in California, Texas and the Republic of Korea.
Ironically, when I was halfway around the world – 13 time zones away from home, actually – I saw someone on base who looked familiar. I stopped him in passing and seeing that his last name on his uniform was Boggs, I asked, “Are you related to a guy named Randy?” “He’s my brother,” was the response. Yeah, Randy was in my class at high school, and his little brother served with me in Korea – small world.
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