3. Ohio State
4. Southern Cal
9. Boise State
10. West Virginia
14. Wake Forest
20. Virginia Tech
21. Notre Dame
22. Penn State
22. Boston College
24. Oregon State
25. South Carolina
Wire to Wire
No, not Ohio State. The SEC went wire to wire as the nation’s toughest football conference – despite what Sagarin’s poll thinks about the Pac 10.
Florida came out and showed what many SEC fans already felt. It’s really tough to put together an impressive looking season coming out of the SEC. Going into the game, the general perception was that Florida was anemic on offense and wouldn’t be able to score enough to keep up with Ohio State’s high octane offense.
Of course, it was Ohio State with the anemic offense. Ohio State only had two drives over 15 yards (that’s right, 15 yards), and one of those drives (25 yards) was against a Florida prevent defense at the end of the first half. Sure having Ted Ginn Jr. out of the game hurt, but he wasn’t the one who won the Heisman, and he wasn’t playing defense.
The Regular Season
So, the regular season works? At the end of the regular season, the playoff proponents remarked about how well the regular season worked and that it gave us the game we wanted – Ohio State versus whoever Ohio State was going to beat. Hell, it almost gave us Ohio State/Michigan.
The reality is that whether you are for a playoff or not, until the BCS conferences start playing more inter-conference games, the regular season only tells you who the conference champions are. We still have no idea how good Ohio State really is. Could they play with USC, unlike Michigan, who they only beat by 3? Could they play against LSU? For that matter, could they play against Louisville, Wake Forest, or Boise State? The only big wins coming out of the Big Ten were OSU over an over-rated Texas team with a 2nd game freshman starter at QB, and Michigan over an over-rated Notre Dame team. However, everyone was willing to proclaim the Buckeyes as far and away the best team in the country this year based on the regular season despite the fact that Ohio State played exactly one team since September that had a winning record.
Congrats on a great win to the boys from the blue turf, but let’s not get carried away. The Broncos surprised the Sooners. Yet, at the end of the game, it was clear OU had superior athletes and even Boise State’s coaches realized they couldn’t win in continued overtime. Boise State out-coached, out-played, and certainly out-funned OU. They played their best game versus an OU team that didn’t play up to its abilities. It was a great and well-deserved win for the Boise State program. However, it shouldn’t be viewed as a statement game. Winning in overtime using back-to-back trick plays to defeat a demoralized Big 12 team doesn’t mean they can handle the load of a BCS schedule.
Buying Bear Bryant
Can Alabama football ever return to the level of prominence it faced under Bear Bryant? Realistically, can any team reach that level with today’s scholarship limitations?
There is no doubt that Nick Saban is at least a good coach. On the other hand, there is more than a little doubt as to weather he is worth $32 million in guaranteed money. If Alabama chooses to fire Saban after one year, they’ll owe hi the same $32 million they’ll owe him if he stays all eight. On the other hand, if he chooses to leave after one year, he won’t owe Bama a dime.
While most would agree that Saban did a lot for LSU, it’s also easy to argue that LSU did a lot for Saban. Although Saban was already respected in the coaching community prior to heading to Baton Rouge, it was in Baton Rouge where he was canonized. The NFL came knocking on the door several times while Saban was in Baton Rouge, but one thing is for certain, he wouldn’t have pulled down a $4.0 or 4.5 million per year salary if he’d never coached the Tigers.
Tiger fans are very proud of their program, but it’s not the history of LSU that makes it successful now, its geography as much as anything. If you look at a map of all the BCS programs in the country, LSU is on an island. That island produces the fifth most NFL talent in the country, and that is NOT on a per capita basis. Not only does LSU own a monopoly on the state of Louisiana, but from many parts of Mississippi and Alabama, LSU is also the closest BCS school. Additionally, LSU is right next to Texas, which produces the third most talent in the country right behind California and Florida.
At last count, Alabama was tied for 13th on the list of NFL talent, and the Tide must share the state with Auburn in addition to being fertile ground for Tennessee, Georgia, and LSU. So, Saban will have to recruit nationally at least in part, and that is something that he was less successful at than most people realize while he was at LSU. On the 2003 national title team, only four starters were not from Louisiana, and one of those was less than two hours from Tiger Stadium on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Another lived on the Texas-Louisiana border. One was from Miami, but wasn’t offered by the Florida schools, and the fourth was a professional baseball player who was recruited by Saban during his years at MSU.
Ostensibly Bama hit a home run with the Saban hire. However, questions remain, can Saban win with less talent? Can Saban recruit out of state? How much did this coaching search damage the Saban aura and his credibility?