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Why Ohio State Might Not Be No. 1

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Oct 31, 2006


Ohio State might be everyone's number one team, but Pete Fiutak gives ten reasons why it might not be, along with thoughts on the Florida State coaching situation, the unsung Heisman candidate, and the ultimate, last second Halloween costume in the latest Cavalcade of Whimsy.


By Pete Fiutak    What's your beef? ... E-mail with your thoughts  
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If this column sucks, it’s not my fault … I’m defying Georgia president Michael Adams and Florida president Bernie Machen by calling it the World Largest Outdoor Cocktail Column. Enjoy responsibly.

“E, I can’t fire my best friend, but I can fire my manager.” … If you ever needed a reason why a powerful head coach shouldn’t hire friends or family, look at Florida State. Simply put, Jeff Bowden isn’t getting the job done as the offensive coordinator, and he hasn't for a long time. I don’t care about any excuses about the line or the youth; no team with talent in the backfield like FSU has (wait and see how Lorenzo Booker becomes Leon Washington at the next level) should be 90th in the nation in rushing. Head coaches hire who they’re loyal to and who they trust, but sometimes, it’s better to hire assistants they can view on purely business terms.

With that said, it’s unbelievable that anyone would have the unmitigated gall to even think about asking Bobby Bowden to step down. Talk about earning the right to several hundred benefits of the doubt, this is the all-time winningest D-I head coach who won the ACC title last year. As fans need to keep being reminded, winning the conference title makes for a successful season no matter what. National championships require as much luck as anything else.

This year, Florida State is 4-4 and at the bottom of the Atlantic division. However, ten defensive players off the original two-deep have missed time or are out injured. 45% of the team’s original defense has been out, and it's still 16th in the nation allowing 276 yards per game. It’s not quite fair to look at things this way, but FSU lost to Clemson on a big James Davis run, lost to NC State late in the fourth quarter, lost to Boston College by five after shutting down the Eagle offense in the second half, and lost to Maryland on a blocked field goal. Those are four games by a touchdown or less and by a total of 19 points. Bowden might not be as far off from being an ACC contender as many think, as long as there are a few tweaks to the coaching staff like ...

But KeepHoustonNutt.com isn’t as much fun … I’m not saying Larry Coker should stick at Miami, but isn’t it funny what happens sometimes when impatient fans don’t get their way? Where are the Lloyd Carr, Phil Fulmer, and Houston Nutt bashers this year? Firing top assistants is sometimes a desperation move, but it certainly made a difference at Michigan, Tennessee and Arkansas.


But I do wish I could get my teeth that white … I don’t live in New York and don’t buy into the rule that the rest of the country has to care just because something big happens there. Fine, I’ll buy that Derek Jeter is the real deal Holyfield and deserving of the attention, but I appear to be the only human being who not only has no interest in anything Tiki Barber does, but also can’t understand why the media world can’t wait to get its hands on him full-time. Retire, don’t retire, whatever. He’s a very good running back who doesn’t appear to be a complete idiot. That’s it. I'd much rather see Clinton Portis hosting the Today show.

“My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over” … Temple broke its 20-game losing streak with a 28-14 win over Bowling Green meaning all things are now possible. The Owl win gives me hope that I can break my home losing streak of 163 consecutive days without my wife bringed me a KFC Famous Mashed Potato Bowl (720 calories, 32 grams of fat, 2,390 milligrams of sodium) while dressed up like a Texas pom or USC Song girl.   

If you don’t live on a farm, can you let the clocks stay put so it’s still light out before dinner time? ... Everyone set their clocks back on Saturday for daylight savings time. It's easy to remember ever year. When Navy loses to Notre Dame, you gain an hour.

Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with Anna Nicole Smith … For one week, I've declared a moratorium from using the phrase “the offense should go for the jugular” every single time there’s a big turnover.  

And I promise, you won’t have to endure any TV ad spots for this campaign …
Since the University of Hawaii isn’t promoting QB Colt Brennan, let me be the one to get the ball rolling: he’s really, really, really, really, really good. As the only mainland American who watches Hawaii football on a weekly basis, what Brennan is doing with the attack is scary. I know, the negative campaigns will complain that he’s averaging 367 passing yards per game with 33 touchdowns, five interceptions, with no picks in the last four games, while completing 74% of his throws because he plays in the WAC. It helps, but he also threw for 350 yards and two touchdown against Alabama. In his last six games he has thrown 5, 5, 4, 5, 5, and 5 touchdown passes.

Yes Tommy, getting through the SEC unscathed is impossible, but that doesn’t include Ole Miss … It ends here. I was going to rant about how everyone was about to do the “Clemson is the best ACC team” thing even though it wasn’t going to win its own division, and then came the shellacking at Virginia Tech. The same goes for Auburn, who was being hailed by the pretentious as the SEC’s best team last year, even though LSU won the West. Auburn went on to get dumped by Wisconsin 24-10 in the Capital One Bowl. If the Tigers don’t win the West, I don’t want to hear anything about it being the league’s best team at the end of the year.

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
Anyone who’s ever had to take a collegiate-level argument and persuasion type of class has had to do this: come up with the argument that you’re 100%, sky-is-blue certain you can win, and then create the counter-argument that could beat you. Another part of the exercise is to take an unwinnable position (Hitler was really a sweetie, Pepsi is better than Coke, Tom and Katie’s marriage won’t be a sham), and win. The point is to strengthen your skills of persuasion by understanding the other side of your debate.

With that in mind, I’m now going to attempt to do the impossible, and without a net, and try to convince you that Ohio State might not be the number one team in the country. Note the word might. Before your head explodes, Buckeye fans, I voted Ohio State in the top spot and do believe this is the best team in America. With that said …

10. 2005 USC, 2002 Miami and 2000 Florida State
In 2000, everyone handed the red-hot Florida State Seminoles the national title before playing Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. The Sooners won 13-2. The 2002 Miami team was being hailed as an unstoppable juggernaut before losing to Ohio State in the classic 2003 Fiesta Bowl. ESPN ran a whole series on how the 2005 USC team was the greatest team ever before Vince the Longhorns had other ideas. Of course, you surely remember how the 2003 Oklahoma team couldn’t be beaten until Kansas State applied a 35-7 whupping in the Big 12 title game. If one thing is constant in college football, it’s that things almost never go according to form. Just ask Ohio State because ...    

9.
We've seen this before
The 1998 team was better than the 2006 version, but it lost in a shocking upset to Michigan State. The 1996 team was a juggernaut that had the national title there for the taking before losing to Michigan at home. The 1995, 1979, 1975, 1973, 1970, and 1969 teams were all, arguably, better than this one, and they couldn’t close late in the year. Obviously this is a different team with a different coaching staff in a different era, but as good as it is, we’re not talking about a killer on the all-time scale. Could this team beat the 2005 version that lost two games? It’s debatable.   


8. Run defense
NIU’s Garrett Wolfe ran for 171 yards against OSU in the opener. Texas, who for some reason abandoned the ground game in the 24-7 loss in September, rumbled for 172, and Penn State’s Tony Hunt ran for 135 yards. The Buckeyes would’ve beaten Michigan State no matter what, but it didn’t help Sparty that it was without Javon Ringer. The stats are misleading since most teams get down against TOSU (The Ohio State University) and have to start chucking it, but that doesn’t mean a good running game wouldn’t work against a solid, but not impenetrable, defensive front. It would be interesting to see what would happen if the Buckeyes had to deal with a team with a phenomenal running game like West Virginia, Clemson, Arkansas or …

7.
Wisconsin
Part of the nastiness of playing in a big-time league is having to sidestep several landmines. Wisconsin might not be better than Ohio State, but it’s growing into one of the Big Ten's best teams as the season has gone on. Forget the sleepwalking performance against Illinois, the Badgers have the defense (ranked seventh in the nation and second against the pass), and the running game that could’ve given OSU a fight … if they played. The Buckeyes miss Purdue and Wisconsin this year off the Big Ten schedule.

6. The offense has only faced two defenses with a pulse 
Troy Smith was magnificent against Texas and struggled against Penn State. It’s one thing to beat a top defense once in a while, and it’s another to face good defenses week in and week out. No one outside of the Longhorns or Nittany Lions had the line or the pass rush to generate any sort of pressure on the future Heisman winner. Granted, Smith's mobility has allowed him to get out of dangerous situations, but …

5. The Big Ten isn’t exactly the SEC this season
Florida has had to face the nation’s No. 1 (LSU), No. 14 (Georgia), No. 18 (Alabama), No. 24 (Auburn), and No. 31 (Tennessee) defenses, and still has to face the No. 37 (South Carolina) and No. 16 (Florida State) Ds. Would Ohio State beat all those teams? In a one game shot, I think so, but ask the Gators about the cumulative effect of playing a nasty defense week in and week out. Ask LSU what it's like to play road games at Florida, at Auburn, at Tennessee and at Arkansas.

4. The best wide receivers quarterbacks the Buckeyes faced were …
As far as the receivers, the two best were Limas Sweed of Texas and James Hardy of Indiana. Quarterback-wise, Colt McCoy has improved by leaps and bounds since the September 9th game and is making far better decisions, but he wasn't nearly as good in the early meeting with OSU. Drew Tate and Drew Stanton have been major disappointments. That’s it as far as the decent quarterbacks the Buckeyes have faced, not to mention the receivers. We still haven’t seen what the secondary can do against a team with a high-octane passing attack like Tennessee, Notre Dame, Louisville, or just about anyone in the Pac 10. It’s not a stretch to suggest that Penn State would’ve won on September 23rd if it had a mature, developed big-game quarterback.

3. The Texas and Iowa wins might not have been that great
Remember, we’re just talking theory here. Ohio State cemented its spot at number one after impressive performances at Texas and Iowa. As it turns out, Iowa is totally average, and Texas, while improved since earlier in the year (as is Ohio State), got bombed on by Baylor and Texas Tech and came within an eyelash of losing at Nebraska. Fine, so Texas really is good, and that 24-7 win in Austin is the best by anyone so far this year, but that’s the only truly impressive victory on the résumé, and will be until the Michigan game.

2. The BCS computers
The cold, calculating, unfeeling, uncaring computers in the BCS formula are supposed to take all subjectivity out of the equation. How many of the six have Ohio State No. 1? One. Who’s number one in five of the six polls? …

1. Michigan
If you’re going to give Ohio State the benefit of the doubt and say it doesn’t blow out the decent teams (Bowling Green, Michigan State, Indiana and Minnesota don’t count) because that's not its style, then the same has to be said for Michigan. Run defense? No. 1 in America allowing just 28 yards per game. Wisconsin? Win, 27-13. Impressive road win? 47-21 over Notre Dame in a game that wasn’t even that close. If Ohio State is No. 1 in the nation, then Michigan is No. 1A. Fortunately, November 18th is just around the corner.

Unless it’s the 19th time The Fugitive or Jarhead is being shown today on Showtime, I don’t want repeats … I want talk of a possible rematch between Michigan and Ohio State for the national title to stop, and I want it to stop right now. The two are playing in a few weeks. That’s it. That decides it. The loser shouldn’t get a second chance, the winner shouldn’t have to prove itself again, it’ll be done. Over. I’d rather see Boise State play the winner than see the two tussle again. College football is great because the regular season matters. There’s no excuse to have a 1996 Florida-Florida State do-over (the Gators beat the unbeaten Noles 52-20 in the Sugar Bowl for the national title after losing 24-21 in the regular season finale) even if it's a classic.

With that said, it’ll be interesting to see what happens if Ohio State wins by a last-second field goal. You’ll get some who’ll argue that they’d like to see what would happen if the two played on a neutral field. If Michigan wins, or it’s a blowout either way, forget about a rematch. However, if we have an Oklahoma-Oregon scenario with one of the teams losing on a botched call, get ready for part two.

“I’m feeling a bit verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves. I’ll give you a topic. The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, Roman nor an empire, discuss." ... My e-mail debate of the week: The most instantly forgotten major championship in recent sports history: 2006 World Series, St. Louis over Detroit vs. 2004 NCAA Basketball Championship, Connecticut over Georgia Tech. I've been arguing against the World Series for the last few days. No one watched, noticed, or cared. The second it was over, everyone was talking about USC, Red Auerbach, and the NFL.

Provocative musings and tidbits to make every woman want you and every man want to be with you (or vice versa).
- Searching for the ultimate, last-second, easy Halloween costume? Bill Lumbergh of Office Space. Suspenders, big glasses, an Arrow collared shirt, and a coffee mug. Anyone who gets who you are on sight will think you’re a god.
- With Adrian Peterson out, Texas QB Colt McCoy is the Big 12 Player of the Year, and there’s not even a close second.
- I rip on ESPN all the time, mostly for being goofy, but kudos to whoever decided to give an inside look at the replay booth during the Connecticut-Rutgers game. That was far more interesting than any 97 channel, 394 camera angle Full Circle thing.
- Three under-the-radar teams that are starting to turn it on and will be “hot” going into next year: Maryland, Kansas State, and Cincinnati
 
My Heisman ballot this week would be … 1. Troy Smith, QB Ohio State, 2. Mike Hart, RB Michigan, 3. Colt Brennan, QB Hawaii, 4. Brady Quinn, QB Notre Dame, 5. Pat White, QB West Virginia

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated:
Good ‘n’ Plenty ... Underrated: Kit Kat
2) Overrated: Rhett Bomar … Underrated: Paul Thompson
3) Overrated: Ear flick … Underrated: Wet willie
4) Overrated: Carolina’s Steve Smith ... Underrated: USC’s Steve Smith
5) Overrated:
Navy QB Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada ... Underrated: Washington State PK Romeen Abdollmohammadi
  
Sheer hubris run amok … The three lines this week that appear to be a tad off. I’m creeping back. Missouri’s loss to Oklahoma prevented a perfect week, but I’m feeling these three. Going 9-12 so far, here’s the official kiss of death for three teams … 1) Kansas -3 over Iowa State, 2) Louisiana Tech +3 over North Texas, 3) Florida Atlantic +16 at Middle Tennessee

 
Sorry this column sucked, but it wasn’t my fault … I was searching for the World Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party before the Florida – Georgia game, but since it obviously doesn’t exist anymore, I stopped into a Hooters. I’m still buzzed.