Thursday, January 8

For Texas, Winning Should Be Enough

Florida and Oklahoma will play for the college football national championship a crystal football tonight, but I have one more bone to pick with the system we call the BCS. Before I begin I must state that in this post I will do the unthinkable, yes I will actually defend Ohio State. It makes me feel unclean and I far from enjoy it but objectively I must call it how I see it. Monday night Texas defeated Ohio State 24-21 in the Fiesta Bowl. That fact is immutable and indisputable. Texas won, it is a victory nothing more nothing less. Somehow between the time Quan Cosby lunged into the endzone and today the Longhorns have been almost completely washed out of the national title picture. Like everything involving this vomitous creation we call the BCS, it should not be that simple.

I'm going to get my Buckeye defending out of the way first. Yes it was another loss in the BCS for OSU and their three year run of losses creates embarassment and a bad reputation, which actually gives me a lot of satisfaction. It is a no brainer I was rooting for Texas in the game simpy because of my aversion for Ohio State, there was no other motive so please do not take this post as me having a secret love for Texas. See how I'm stalling on the Buckeye praise? OK let's get down to it. First off, Ohio State is not an elite team in college football, but they gave the best effort they could give in Glendale. It had been 44 days since Ohio State had seen the football field in real time, almost a week longer that Texas, and that is a long layoff for anyone and I believe that has hurt OSU in their previous BCS bowls. It truly is a whole new season when these teams take the field now. In the dry air of Arizona, a lot of Ohio State players were suffering from cramps. Moving from the cold midwest to the arid desert and then playing at game speed takes a large toll on the body in terms of dehydration and muscle fatigue. The falling out of so many players to the sidelines told me that the players were giving it everything they had, the Buckeyes wanted this win, badly. The group of 28 seniors they had wanted to end their college careers with a statement win over a big time program on a national stage, where they had practically been made fools of the previous years. This meant Texas was in for a fight, it was not going to be a walk-through even if they were the superior team.

The defense of Ohio State was led by Linebacker James Laurinaitis who is a stud and will be playing on Sundays and another future pro Malcom Jenkins. Ohio State's defensive strategy was simple; we are not the fastest team out there so keep the Longhorns in front of us and do not get burned by the big play. It worked the entire first half. Keith Wells and the defensive line neutralized any run game the Longhorns tried to get going and Colt McCoy was pressured and forced to get rid of the ball quickly. The Longhorns resorted to a quick strike passing game which the Buckeyes were able to prevent from getting in the endzone in the first half. It is a strategy I have seen in the NFL many times, particularly since I watch so many New England Patriot games; bend but don't break if you can't break the other team with your defense. The second half is when Texas proved how good of a team it was by making the adjustments they needed to win the game against a ough opponent. The biggest thing Texas did to get in the endzone was to speed up their offense and continue to go no-huddle which wore down OSU. By the end of the drives, the OSU defense was so tired they were unable to keep up and Texas took the lead. Credit should go to McCoy and the Texas offense for finding a way to get it done, including the final drive of the game.

On the offensive side of the ball Ohio State knew they had to move the ball in the air to keep the ground game viable. This meant Todd Boeckman was getting in there and making the throws they did not want Terrelle Pryor making. Pryor has great potential but he will need to work on his throwing. His athleticism however is magnificent. He was eluding tackles and making first downs(except when he went out of bounds before the marker) with his legs and adding a dimension that was needed against the Texas defense. Beanie Wells ran undaunted through the tough Texas run defense and unfortunately got injured in the second half which limited his time on the field. Daniel Herron scored the go-ahead TD with over two minutes left, which was more than enough time for Texas.

Overall it was a gutsy performance for Ohio State and one that I think proved that they are not completely incapable of playing with an upper eschelon team and that if they improve in some areas they could once again get into the national title picture. Of course, I would prefer that not to happen. The stigma against the level of OSU's team quality had taken its biggest hit back in September when USC beat them 35-3. However, the Buckeyes were without Beanie Wells that day and Pryor had yet to be fully integrated into the offense. I am not saying Ohio State would have won that game in Los Angeles but if they were at the point in their team identity that they were against Texas I do not think the score would have been as lopsided.

With all this being said, Texas should not be punished for their victory Monday night. We have already discussed the disturbing trend of style points in college football but the eyeball test fails in so many ways because there are too many variables to take into account when disecting performances. The win-loss comparison is finite and crystal clear. If people do want to roll out that argument than Texas's résumé still holds up against any of the other contenders. Texas's lone loss was at Texas Tech on a last second play, Oklahoma's blowout came at home off a bye week. Texas ran the gauntlet of Oklahoma, Missouri, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech four weeks in a row. And of course let's not forget the victory in Dallas over Oklahoma. The Longhorns won that game by 10, and won every other ame by double digits except for their game against Oklahoma State and the Fiesta Bowl. They beat Arkansas 52-10, while in the SEC the Razorbacks had a loss of 31 to Florida in what was actually a competitive game until the last quarter, lost by two to Ole Miss and beat LSU. Texas finished its season by beating a rival of theirs Texas A&M 49-9 and that is with Mack Brown calling off the dogs at the end.

The case for Texas is a strong one, as strong as any of the other worthy candidates for a title. People are trying to find a solution for this mess of college football and while it is important to establish an effective system for future seasons, this season is already about over. I think to tackle a solution to this imperfect system should be an imperfect resolution. Therefore, I propose a quad-split championship. The winner of tonight's Florida-Oklahoma game wins the BCS title and receives the number 1 ranking in the coaches' poll, while the AP vote for number 1 is split three ways between Utah, Texas, and USC. It would be fitting for a season and a sport that is constantly giving so much argument to multiple teams and multiple dimensions every year, multiple champions. So each school can craft a gaudy trophy, stick it in a glass case, and print this year as a national championship in their media guides. Congratulations to all the winners, you guys earned it!

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