Bucks put reputation on the line in L.A.Written by Dave Woolford | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Perception is sometimes nine-tenths of the law as it relates to college football, unfair as that might be. So, with that in mind, are you ready for the BCS National Championship game semifinals between Southern California and The Ohio State University?
The one-game season is upon us. It’s not totally winner-take-all or one and done, but here’s a little advice for both teams: Don’t lose!
For OSU loyalists, this isn’t akin to the California Gold Rush where we load our buckboards and head west in search of fame and fortune — or is it?
Poll predators are poised, ready to strike down the Buckeyes with the patronage of the national media.
It’s almost like a set-up game for the Bucks, a trap. Lose, as expected, so we can pit the Trojans against the best the SEC has to offer in a real national championship game in January in Miami.
As one national college football magazine penned: “The college football world (non-Buckeye division) is united in hoping to see the Trojans win big, vastly decreasing Ohio State’s chances of making a third straight mockery of the national title game.”
Some of the supposed logic in condemning OSU is that even if tailback Beanie Wells can play, Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman is coming off a weak performance against a supposedly feeble Ohio University team.
The logic continues that the last time Boeckman faced a good defense, it was against LSU in last season’s BCS National Championship game when he was sacked five times and threw two interceptions in a 38-24 setback.
The pollsters had already pushed the preseason No. 2-ranked Buckeyes to No. 3 after the first week and then to No. 5 this week, Ohio State going from 21 first-place votes to one. This all coming after OSU won its first two games by a total of 55 points.
Where’s the love? Why don’t college football fans in general find OSU somewhat irresistible instead of always irritating? Sure, the Buckeyes lost the 2006 National Championship to Florida, 41-14. No other team can make the claim that it got slammed in consecutive national championship games because no other team qualified to play in both of those games.
In case you hadn’t noticed, Southern Cal has played just once, had last week off, but still jumped to No. 1.
And this clash of the titans in the L.A. Coliseum, where USC has won 38 of its last 39 games, isn’t just all about Ohio State. (At this point we’re not going to whine that Ohio State played LSU in Louisiana; Illinois played Southern Cal in Southern Cal; Michigan played Florida in Florida, and Penn State played Texas A&M in Texas in bowl games last season. That would be passing the buck.)
There’s also the Big Ten’s national persona that needs a quick injection of restoration, especially after last week when three supposedly marquee teams — Illinois, Michigan State and Michigan — played on prime-time national television and promptly lost.
And let’s shrink this down even further to a regional issue. There’s the once-proud Midwest football reputation to re-establish. Slow, plodding, incompetent blocks of granite we’re not.
But turn the other cheek you Buckeyes because here comes another slap. You’re undefeated, ranked fifth and playing a team that has only performed once this season and you’re a double-digit underdog. USC is a 10-point favorite. Forget that the Trojans have won their last seven games against Big Ten opponents by an average of 28 points. That’s just not right.
Buckshot is coming from everywhere.
The perception is also that if Ohio State gets firmly trampled but then wins out, there’s still no hope for a third consecutive national championship appearance. That’s poppycock. If OSU makes a genuine fight of it against USC, but still loses, the Buckeyes will definitely remain in the title hunt. One loss doesn’t spell elimination, even for ostracized Ohio State. Didn’t LSU make it to the title game last year with two losses? And then there’s this almost appalling possibility: What if, and we’re just saying, the Buckeyes should actually win? Maybe then OSU coach Jim Tressel can prevail over still another perception that his teams play small in big games and that the Buckeyes get their notoriety from playing SpongeBob SquarePants opponents.
Whatever happens, the season is still in its infancy and the fun is just beginning.