Within minutes of Chris Davis stunning return from the back of the end zone of Adam Griffiths missed 57-yard field goal, all the alleged college football experts were explaining that the two spots in the Bowl Championship Series title game now belong to Florida State and Ohio State.
Davis spectacular sprint gave Auburn a 34-28 victory over top-ranked Alabama in one of the most remarkable college football games in years, but their spectacular victory was only good enough to jump the Tigers from No. 4 in the BCS standings all the way to No. 3.
Because Ohio State is 12-0 and Auburn is 11-1.
Thats the sole reason the Buckeyes will go into Saturdays Big Ten championship game in the No. 2 spot: Theyre undefeated. If you are going to buy into that line of thinking, then Northern Illinois – also 12-0 – should be ranked no worse than No. 3.
Won-lost record should certainly be among the criteria for ranking teams and deciding who plays in the title game. But it shouldnt be the criterion.
Theres a reason the team that wins the NCAA basketball championship each April is rarely the team with the best regular season record; it is almost always a team that comes out of a demanding conference and has suffered some inevitable losses along the way. Everyone knows that, which is why the NCAA basketball committee places great emphasis on strength of schedule.
Sadly, thats not the case in college football. Ohio State barely escaped a Michigan team Saturday that has losses at Penn State and Iowa and to Nebraska at home. None of those three teams are ranked.
It also is true that Florida State hasnt exactly beaten Murderers Row. But the Seminoles 51-14 rout at Clemson is head and shoulders above anything Ohio State has accomplished.
Neither one can come close to matching the résumé of either Auburn or Missouri – which also is 11-1 with the loss to South Carolina in double overtime. Auburns loss was at LSU. Does anyone out there really think Ohio State would go to Baton Rouge and win?
Auburns nonconference schedule was at least as unimpressive as Ohio States. But the Tigers play in the Southeastern Conference, the best league in the country. They have wins over Georgia, at Tennessee (not that impressive unless you look at how tough the Vols played teams at Neyland Stadium), at Texas A&M and now Alabama. Seriously, is that even close?
But Ohio State is Ohio State, and it carries great clout. Although the Big Ten was truly awful this year – no one outside of the top two would have any chance to finish in the top half of the SEC – it is run by Jim Delany, who is one of college athletics most effective and Machiavellian figures.
Florida State is going to play in the championship game. There isnt any doubt about that. The Seminoles were held to fewer than 40 points Saturday (37) for the first time all season. As heartwarming as Dukes improbable 10-2 season and run to the ACC championship game may be, the line on the game should probably be Duke-plus-infinity.
There was a time earlier this season when the ACC appeared to have four worthy teams: the Seminoles, Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech. Clemsons loss to South Carolina left the conference with just one nationally legitimate team, the good news being it may be the best team in the country.
Still, it is almost certain that if Ohio State wins next weekend, it will play in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 6 – not five days earlier in the Rose Bowl, which is where it belongs.
A couple weeks ago Buckeyes wide receiver Evan Spencer half-jokingly said his team would wipe the field with Alabama or Florida State. It now appears likely Spencer will get his chance to see how his team will do against Florida State.
Thats not right or fair.
Its college football.