There are lots of ways to spin the implications of Ohio State’s prospects for being able to win the national championship in light of its upset loss at Penn State.
One conclustion is that it is ``inconsequential,’’ the word ESPN analyst Danny Kanell used. That’s a word that made me sit up straight when I was catching up on college football after the Cubs had gone where no other Cub team had gone for 71 years.
I would argue that ``inconsequential’’ is not the best choice of word.
I agree that Ohio State can still win the national championship by the most logical scenario: The Buckeyes win out, defeating an unbeaten Michigan in their regular-season finale on Nov. 26.
But Penn State’s stellar win brought lots of consequences.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
This one looms largest: If Michigan ends up 7-2 in Big Ten play, while Ohio State and Penn State are 8-1, the Nittany Lions are your East Division champions by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker.
If all three have one loss, Penn State loses the first tiebreaker, overall record, because of its nonconference loss to Pitt. And then Ohio State wins the head-to-head tiebreaker with Michigan.
Yeah, Michigan is not likely to lose before it goes to Ohio State. Then again, the Buckeyes weren’t likely to lose anything more important than a coin toss a week ago.
This is the Super Bowl for reeling Michigan State, which can salvage something from a disastrous season by beating the hated Wolverines in Spartan Stadium on Saturday.
And what’s Iowa, chopped liver? The Hawkeyes will take their shot at the Harbaughs under the lubricated lights at Kinnick Stadium on Nov. 12.
Iowa also will have an opportunity to derail the ``Penn State/East Division Champion Express’’ when it goes to State College on Nov. 5.
Let’s not get carried away here. The Nittany Lions had a win for the ages on Saturday. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to win out.
And here’s another implication for the Buckeyes’ path to the national championship game. An unbeaten Ohio State was tracking for the No. 2 seed. A one-loss Ohio State could wind up as the No. 4 seed. Would you rather play Alabama for all the marbles, or just some of them?
And here’s a serious piece of shrapnel in the fallout from Ohio State’s misstep:
If the Buckeyes and Michigan had gone into their Big Game unbeaten, it was possible that both could earn berths in the four-team College Football Playoff. They could have looked like the best two teams outside of Tuscaloosa.
The only way that could happen now is with a Domino Theory more convoluted than the one that got America embroiled in Vietnam 50 years ago.
To sum up: Yes, Ohio State most likely will have the opportunity to compete for the national championship despite its loss at Penn State.
But that loss changed many things. Including the Big Ten’s hopes for landing two teams in college football’s Final Four.
In addition, these implications, which are a big deal, diminish the argument that a four-team playoff would diminish the impact of regular-season shockers like Penn State’s upset of Ohio State.
Did the Nittany Lions and their fans enjoy the moment any less because it wasn’t a knockout punch? Do you really want to see a team like Ohio State, which might be the nation’s best team, eliminated from consideration because it lost to an inspired opponent in October? Would you rather have a national champion who wasn’t challenged as seriously in the regular season?
The four-team playoff is adding value, including tons of terrific nonconference matchups, to the college football season.
The eight-team playoff, which will be here sooner than later, will add even more. I’ll save that conversation for another day. Just know that it’s going to happen. Nobody turns down a printing press that churns out greenbacks forever.
GETTING HIS IRISH UP
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly was not pleased that his boss, AD Jack Swarbrick, tried to quell the unrest at Notre Dame’s miserable 2-5 start by saying Kelly will be back, no matter what, for the 2017 season.
``I was disappointed, actually,’ ’’ Kelly said. ``Any time your athletic director has to come out and say that, as a head coach you're disappointed that any kind of comments like that have to be made. I didn't ask him. That was his decision. I clearly understand what he was doing. But for me, it's disappointing that you have to make those comments.’’
Seems like everybody's disappointed under the Golden Dome this fall.
ODDS AND ENDS
@ The Buckeyes may have dropped in the polls, but Las Vegas still believes. The latest Bovada odds to win the national championship: Alabama 8/5, Ohio State 9/2, Michigan 6/1, Clemson 7/1, Louisville 9/1, Washington 9/1, and LSU 20/1.
Oklahoma is 33/1. Auburn, Nebraska, West Virginia and Wisconsin all are 40/1. We'll get a lot of clarity on the unbeaten, and under the radar, Cornhuskers in the next two weeks, when they travel to Wisconsin and Ohio State. Win those, and Nebraska's odds will improve big-time.
@ Amid all the swirl about Kelly, and with this already shaping up as a big year for coaching changes, I was reminded again of this amazing stat: Since 1979, Iowa has had exactly two head coaches, Hayden Fry (1979-1998) and Kirk Ferentz (1999-present).
Over that span, Notre Dame has had seven coaches, Alabama has had eight, and USC nine. Illinois also has had nine, while Ohio State has had five head coaches and Northwestern six. And that’s not counting short-term interims or people like Mike Price and George O’Leary, who were hired, but never coached.
@ Fry, by the way, is 87 and living in Mesquite, Nev. He's had some health issues, but returned to Iowa City for a statue dedication in September.
My favorite Fry quote was actually an interpretation of his Texas accent by former Northwestern coach Gary Barnett, who said that when Fry talked about the Badgers, it was a geography lesson: ``it sounded like they were from West Consin.’’[/membership]