INDIANAPOLIS — The Big Ten went into its showcase game Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium sporting one team with a national championship bid on the line.
It could’ve had two.
If only Michigan State followed the conference’s unofficial BCS era philosophy of scheduling a nonthreatening nonconference slate, the Spartans likely would be preparing for Florida State instead of Stanford.
When reached by the Daily Reporter for comment after stepping down from the postgame awards podium Saturday night at the Big Ten Championship Game, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany declined comment.
But Delany had to know very well knew that his conference could’ve had a pair of top-3 ranked teams facing off Saturday night and no matter the result, Michigan State and Ohio State would be both be off to Pasadena, Calif. — one to play in the Rose Bowl Game, one to play for the national championship.
MSU’s lone blemish on its 12-1 campaign came at Notre Dame on Sept. 21. The Spartans’ three other pre-Big Ten contests vs. Western Michigan, South Florida and Youngstown State were typical nonconference cupcakes — and in reality, if they had scheduled a fourth pushover instead of the Fighting Irish, they’d be playing for the national title.
“Why not us? Why not us?” MSU cornerback Darqueze Dennard said when asked whether his squad deserved a BCS championship game slot. “… We had great day playing the No. 2 team in the nation.”
The reality of the BCS was that the system — as well as the voters who contributed to the formula — tended to reward undefeated teams more often than deserving 1-loss outfits. It will be interesting to see going forward if that logic continues with the playoff committee.
End of the BCS era
Five weeks ago, the college football world was seemingly headed for BCS Armageddon.
Four power conference teams — Alabama, Florida State, Oregon and Ohio State — were 8-0 and another, Baylor, was 7-0.
Five weeks later, only the Seminoles are loss-less, and are headed to their first national title game since the Bobby Bowden era to take on Auburn — which failed to receive a single vote in either the preseason Associated Press or USA Today poll — but wound up with wins over Alabama, Missouri, Texas A&M and Georgia, four teams ranked in the top 25 of the final BCS standings.
Appropriately, in the final year of the BCS — a system reviled by so many — the matchup in the national championship game is seemingly free of argument.
A 4-team playoff begins next season, and the quartet of teams will be chosen by 13-member selection committee comprised of athletic directors, ex-players and even a politician.
And though humans have been put back in charge of college football’s destiny so to speak, accusations of bias and claims of backdoor dealings are likely to persist in college football.
For example, there are five athletic directors on the playoff committee — Arkansas’ Jeff Long, Clemson’s Dan Radakovich, Southern California’s Pat Haden, West Virginia’s Oliver Luck and Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez.
The entire committee will be ripe for criticism next fall, but the aforementioned five are likely to be singled out more than the others.
Also, the committee will open itself to additional criticism by doing two questionable things: releasing a top 25 poll and not permitting the disclosure of individual ballots cast by the members.
Winston wraps up Heisman
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is likely to win the Heisman Trophy after one of the more topsy-turvy races in recent memory.
Winston — a redshirt freshman quarterback who was the subject of an alleged sexual battery investigation up until last week when prosecutors decided not to press charges on the 19-year-old — set Football Bowl Subdivision freshman records for touchdown passes (38) and passing yards (3,820) with his 330-yard 2-touchdown performance in the Seminoles’ 45-7 ACC Championship Game victory over Duke Saturday.
Winston’s on-the-field candidacy has never in question. But had he been charged last week with a felony, Winston would have been suspended indefinitely until the case was resolved, per FSU’s code of conduct.
A handful of QBs (Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Alabama’s AJ McCarron) have come and gone as Heisman contenders. Two running backs (Auburn’s Tre Mason, Boston College’s Andre Williams) have enjoyed tremendous seasons but aren’t legitimate threats.
A pair of Ohio State’s offensive stalwarts, QB Braxton Miller and RB Carlos Hyde, would’ve had a chance at least a top-3 Heisman finish had each not lost precious early-season playing time — Miller missed almost three full games with injury; Hyde was suspended for the season’s first three games — but the Buckeyes’ loss to Michigan State makes those hopes unlikely.
Winston will be the second straight freshman to win the Heisman after Manziel became the first frosh to claim the award last year.
Disputed fourth-down call was Meyer’s decision
Ohio State’s national title hopes came down to a 4th-and-2 play on Michigan State’s 39-yard-line.
The Buckeyes ran a quarterback sweep with Braxton Miller to the right. He was stopped by a yard, and MSU took over with 5 minutes and 41 seconds remaining in the game.
Almost immediately, the OSU coaching staff was called into question because of the curious play call.
Yes, Miller had 129 rushing to that point and was averaging nearly 7 yards per carry. At the same time, the team’s bell cow running back, Carlos Hyde, had run for 118 yards and almost 7 yards per carry himself.
All season long, Ohio State’s bread-and-butter play has been an inside zone rumble between the tackles, with the ball usually going to Hyde. At 6-0, 240 pounds and blessed with nimble feet, Hyde is brought down behind the line as often as a solar eclipse.
Meyer said after the game the decision to run outside with Miller was his call — and not the choice of offensive coordinator Tom Herman.
“I wanted to put the ball in the hands of our best player, Braxton,” he said. “We usually run that play a lot. We ran it to the boundary. I knew they’d pressure us.
“Thought he might be able to come out the other end of it. That’s why. It was a chance to go try to win the game.”
Judging from the comments of Spartans’ coach Mark Dantonio, Meyer’s play call might’ve been doomed from the start.
“We knew that on fourth down they were going to put it in Braxton Miller’s hands and give him a run-pass option or sweep right or left with him,” he said. “That’s what they did.”
OSU still had a chance to get the ball back, but its defense yielded two first downs before MSU running back Jeremy Langford scored on a 26-yard TD scamper with 2:16 left.
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