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College Football Season Wrap: What’s Really Wrong with the Playoff; Buckeye Big Ten Dominance

by on December 12, 2019 8:55 AM

 

Now that the regular season is done and the first bowls are just a little over a week away, it’s a good time to look at the College Football Playoff and examine the Ohio State dominance of the Big Ten. 

While the four teams in the playoff were not controversial, some of the decisions on the bowl pairings were not so popular with some fans of the hometown team. For those arguing that Wisconsin’s three losses should keep them out of the Rose Bowl, one could argue that Minnesota, with a matching 10-2 record, had a head-to-head win over Penn State. Truthfully, from a visibility standpoint, Penn State would’ve been better off playing Alabama in the Citrus Bowl at 1 p.m. on New Year’s Day. 

At its core the College Football Playoff/New Year’s Six bowl system is flawed. No, we don’t need an eight-team playoff. This year the dividing line was so obvious that only the most radical of the eight-team advocates would argue otherwise. 

And before arguing that this year is different, consider some facts. The average margin of victory in the 10 playoff semifinal games has been 21.4 points. Just two of the 10 semifinal games have been one-score games while three of them have been decided by more than 30 points. 

Another round with weaker teams would give us more blowouts. And across the previous five seasons the “bubble team”, the No. 5-ranked team, has lost four of their five bowl games, killing the argument that they might have belonged in the playoff.

So what is the biggest flaw in the current system? It’s the schedule. Consider these questions: 

1. How many New Year’s Six bowl games are being played on Jan. 1? 

2. When is the Orange Bowl? 

3. If Penn State wasn’t going to the Cotton Bowl would anyone here really know that it is being played on Dec. 28?

The answers to those questions are:

1. Two of the New Year’s Six games are played on Jan.1.

2. Dec. 30.

3. No.

There was a time when New Year’s Day was set aside for the biggest bowls and that ended the football season. It was tradition and it gave a sense of order and balance to the college football calendar. Now you need a guide to find when these games are played. This year the semfinals are on Dec. 28 and the Championship game is played on a random MONDAY night in January (Jan. 13 this year).

That Monday night format needs to change. A game on a Saturday or Sunday could create a Super Bowl-esque all day event to help the championship game transcend the sport. The trick would be coordinating that date to avoid conflict with the NFL playoffs.

*  *  *

Moving from the playoffs to the Big Ten, the rest of the conference needs to find a team to catch Ohio State. After three straight Big Ten titles the gap with the competition is widening not narrowing. 

The latest run of Ohio State ascendance in the championship game era began with the arrival of Urban Meyer. Had Ohio State elected to take their NCAA Bowl sanction in 2011 rather than 2012, Ohio State’s undefeated 2012 team would’ve squared off against Notre Dame in the national championship game. Given the Irish’s performance in that game Ohio State would’ve been the national champs in 2012 in addition to the title they won in 2014.

Since 2012 Ohio State has racked up a 68-5 record against the Big Ten and a 99-9 record overall. Those are obscene numbers. In those 8 seasons only Michigan State (2x) has won more than once against the Buckeyes. And Ohio State has not lost a game in their division since 2016.

Since the East/West split in 2014 the numbers are even stronger. In those six years Ohio State has swept their division four times and has gone a combined 34-2 in the East, including a 16-2 record against Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State.

How do you break the Buckeyes’ stranglehold? 

The hallmark of dominant teams in any conference is a reliance on, and control of the conference footprint states in recruiting. Then they go and find players elsewhere to plug in for needs at certain positions. That is how Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma have gotten it done as well.

Ohio State has done it with mostly Big Ten state talent. In their current run of three Big Ten Titles roughly 49 different players have been full-time starters on offense and defense. Thirty-three of them are from Big Ten states. The other 16 players hail from Texas (5), Florida (3), California (2) and one each from North Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas, New York, Utah and Georgia. 

Next year will be a critical one for the rest of the conference to catch the Buckeyes. But that is next year. For now, we close the book on the regular season and enjoy the gluttonous buffet of bowls before winter brings the boredom of the college football offseason.


 

 



State College native and Penn State graduate Jay Paterno is a father, husband and political volunteer. He’s a frequent guest lecturer on campus and at Penn State events and was the longtime quarterbacks coach for the Nittany Lions. His column appears every other Thursday. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JayPaterno
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