Ohio State: Is Rose Bowl still swell, or is that a quaint notion?
Ohio State is heading to the Rose Bowl as Big Ten champions with a 12-1 record.
Does that even sound good anymore?
Until 20 years ago that — and beating Michigan, obviously — would constitute a dream season.
There was never any higher expectation than that. Nothing you could do but win the conference, go to Pasadena, try to beat that West Coast team and hope the Associated Press voters saw things your way and make you national champions. Because they said so.
Feels like forever ago, doesn’t it?
The first attempt to overhaul our method for choosing No. 1 was the Bowl Alliance, which did almost nothing to deliver a true national championship. Then in 1998 came the Bowl Championship Series, which at least gave us a title game between whichever No. 1 and No. 2 teams came up in a system involving both computers and humans. That system was better, but flawed — and still gave us split national champions in 2003.
Now we have the College Football Playoffs, which of course match the top four ranked teams in the national semifinals of a true tournament. So we have gone from no playoff, to two teams, to four teams in less than a generation.
So what do we hear now? Cries for eight teams. Naturally.
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I’m not even opposed to that idea. But it just feels like college football’s notion of being the most important regular season in sports is slipping away. Is that a bad thing?
Ask yourselves, members of Buckeye Nation: Does the 2018 season feel satisfying?
In beating Michigan, winning the B1G and going to the Rose Bowl, did OSU do enough?
Here’s my take: What else do you want?
I know, I know. You want to not lose by 29 against a Purdue team which wound up 6-6. That’s obvious.
But think of it this way: The Buckeyes had pretty much the exact same kind of season that they had in 2014 and 2016. They had one loss, had a few close calls, romped over several opponents. In 2016 they didn’t win the Big Ten, or even the East Division.
Yet in both of those other years they went the CFP and in 2014 they won the national championship.
What’s the difference?
On Ohio State’s resume, not a ton. This year the Buckeyes were lacking a signature nonconference victory like the one they had in 2016 against Oklahoma. They scheduled TCU in Arlington — essentially a road game — not knowing that the Horned Frogs were going to wind up 6-6. That’s not OSU’s fault any more than it is Alabama’s fault that the Crimson Tide scheduled Louisville in Week 1, thinking that a win was going to look decent on their resume, only to have Louisville crater this season.
And that’s the point. There are so many things out of any team’s control. Let’s say OSU had had this exact season. The only changes are that Oklahoma loses that OT game to Army and Georgia gets blown out by Alabama in the SEC title game. Boom, the Scarlet and Gray makes the playoffs and everybody in Ohio is happy.
So, just like last year, one blip — a really bad, ugly, excruciating blip — kept the Buckeyes out of the CFP semifinals. That hurts.
But should anyone consider this a failure? I should think not. If any fan base has reached a point where only a Playoff berth or only a national title is okay then we are stressing out about college football a little too much. Alabama should treat its current run as special. Very special. Even in Tuscaloosa, this level of success cannot go on forever. Even there, it’s insane to think of a CFP berth as your program’s floor — even if it has been at Bama for five years.
This is not the NFL, where 12 out of 32 teams make the playoffs and that is the only acceptable benchmark for success. That’s how it should be in the NFL. Heck, you can go 8-8 and make the NFL playoffs. In college? With four out of 130 FBS teams going to the CFP? If going 12-1 and winning your league but not getting a CFP bid is a failure then there is too much failure to go around.
Look, I’m not naive. I know a CFP berth is the ultimate goal nowadays. Everybody wants a shot at the title if they have the resume and the talent, which OSU surely feels like it does. OSU did not reach that goal.
The CFP committee felt that the Buckeyes’ resume did not measure up to four playoff teams or to No. 5 Georgia. Thanks to that Purdue loss, and the Big Ten’s downgraded reputation this year after some brutal nonconference losses, OSU put itself in a position where it needed to win and get a little help on Championship Weekend. The Buckeyes did their part against Northwestern. The help from elsewhere never came.
In the end, does a 12-1 record, a B1G title, a win over Michigan and a Rose Bowl berth still feel like a good season in Columbus?
If it doesn’t, then college football has problems we can’t solve with a four-team or an eight-team or a 16-team playoff.