If Ohio State beats Michigan State in the Big Ten title game and Florida State beats Duke in the ACC title game, then college football has what it annually covets. Two, and only two, unbeaten majors to collide in the Big Bowl.
Except this year is a little different. We are on the cusp of a four-team playoff, which begins in the 2014 season. Everyone is in the mood for a tournament and everyone is in an analytical mood. The old ways are no longer accepted. They now are questioned. We expect to question in the future; why not question now?
And the question is, does a 13-0 Ohio State really deserve a Big Bowl spot over a 12-1 champion from the SEC, which has won seven straight national championships?
First off, if the Buckeyes indeed get the slot, and the SEC is shut out of the national championship game, no sympathy allowed for the SEC. Alabama has won two straight national titles, and Bama made the title game both years only because an unbeaten Big 12 team (OSU in 2011, Kansas State in 2012) lost a conference road game late in the season. Now the SEC might be denied a team in the championship game because an unbeaten team lost a conference road game late in the season.
But I would have no problem if a 12-1 Auburn jumps 13-0 Ohio State. For this reason, Auburn would have a better resume’. And what else matters?
Let’s look at Ohio State’s best wins. Home against Wisconsin, Iowa and Penn State. At Michigan. Plus the Buckeyes would have a neutral-field win over Michigan State. Ohio State’s other wins: home against Buffalo, San Diego State, Florida A&M and Indiana, and at California, Northwestern, Purdue and Illinois.
OK. Now look at Auburn’s best wins. Home wins over Alabama, Ole Miss, Georgia, Mississippi State and Washington State. A road win at Texas A&M. Plus, the Tigers would have a neutral-field win over Missouri. Alas, Auburn has a 35-21 loss at LSU. Auburn’s other wins: home against Arkansas State, Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic, and at Arkansas and Tennessee.
It’s not close, is it? Auburn’s resume’ is much better.
Ohio State has nothing close to a victory over Alabama. We can check off the rest of the schedule, finding matches for each team.
Michigan State/Missouri: Seems close enough.
Michigan/Texas A&M: I’d take the Aggies by 21 points, but we can call them a match.
Wisconsin/Georgia: The Bulldogs are beat up. When they were healthy, they were great. So this is a wash.
Iowa/Ole Miss: Seems close to me.
Penn State/Mississippi State: Nittanys went 7-5, Bulldogs 6-6, but Mississippi State lost to four teams in the current top 10, plus LSU and A&M.
Northwestern/Washington State: WSU actually had a better record in a tougher league, but we’ll call it even.
Indiana/Tennessee: The Volunteers are better, but let’s not quibble.
Illinois/Arkansas: The Razorbacks are better, but let’s not quibble.
Purdue/Arkansas State: The Boilermakers absolutely stink.
Buffalo/Florida Atlantic: If there’s a discernible difference between these two, who cares?
Florida A&M/Western Carolina: Both I-AA foes.
So that’s 10 games for each. Leaving Ohio State with California and San Diego State. And Auburn with Alabama and LSU. Ohio State should have a two-game edge on Auburn. But Ohio State has only a one-game edge on Auburn.
Auburn has the better resume’. Anyone voting for Auburn stands on absolutely legitimate ground.
Let’s do the same thing for Missouri, though I personally think Mizzou has no chance to catch the Buckeyes in the BCS.
Missouri’s best wins are at Georgia, at Ole Miss, home against Texas A&M, home against Florida, at Vanderbilt, plus what would be a neutral-field win over Auburn. Mizzou’s loss was at home, in overtime to South Carolina. Missouri’s other victories came at home against Murray State, Toledo, Arkansas State and Tennessee, and at Indiana and Kentucky.
So let’s compare Missouri’s and Ohio State’s schedules, giving each a partner:
Michigan State/Auburn: Auburn’s better, but I’ll give Ohio State the benefit of the doubt.
California/Tennessee: The Vols are better — way better, but I’m trying to go out of my way to be fair.
San Diego State/Arkansas State: The Aztecs actually are better, but I’ve cut Ohio State plenty of slack so far. Time to balance the scales.
Florida A&M/Murray State
So that leaves each team with one foe unaccounted for. Missouri played South Carolina. Ohio State played Purdue. Missouri’s schedule was one good team tougher than Ohio State’s. Missouri has one more defeat than does Ohio State. So their resume’s are virtually equal.
Heck, we can do this with Alabama, too. The Tide’s best wins: Virginia Tech on a neutral field; home against Ole Miss and LSU, and at Texas A&M and Mississippi State. Bama lost at Auburn. The Tide’s other wins were against Colorado State, Georgia State, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee and Chattanooga.
Michigan State/Auburn: Again, advantage Alabama.
Michigan/Texas A&M: Again, advantage Alabama.
Wisconsin/LSU: The Badgers are one of the few bright lights of the Big Ten.
Penn State/Virginia Tech: I can’t imagine two more equitable teams.
Northwestern/Mississippi State: Again, advantage Alabama.
San Diego State/Colorado State
Buffalo/Georgia State: Buffalo’s actually better, but when you get down to a certain level, it really doesn’t matter.
So that leaves Purdue as Ohio State’s 13th game. And Purdue stinks. So Bama’s schedule is a little tougher than Ohio State’s. Probably one game. And Ohio State won one more game.
So I’d rank Ohio State’s about even with Alabama and about even with a 12-1 Missouri. But clearly behind a 12-1 Auburn.