Babb Bits: Who Belongs?

We are a couple of days away from the BCS selections. There's been plenty of talk regarding who the pics will be, but there's also been plenty of talk about what teams actually deserve to be there. Charles Babb takes a look at who should go and who shouldn't, along with a comparison between this year's Ohio State team and the 2002 version.

BCS and the Future of the Sport

This weekend is D-Day for college football and the powers that be. D-Day as in decisions – decisions which will impact the present but also decisions determining the future course of the sport.

Right now bowl committees and the college football sporting world are awaiting results from championships games in the SEC, Big 12, and ACC to determine who will play where. If all goes as anticipated and Texas and USC win – there will be four teams vying for two at large slots in the BCS. Once those are filled, the rest of the bowls will make their selections and fans feverishly will make travel plans.

So what does this have to do with the future of the sport?

Two years ago in a decision that has already hurt the quality of the game, the BCS removed strength of schedule from its formula. When the Buckeyes nearly ended up in the championship game over Oklahoma and USC was locked out in favor of LSU, the media threw a tantrum of obscene proportions. How could this have happened they cried? Remove the strength of schedule they demanded.

Remove it they did, and now we see the result.

Notre Dame and Oregon are both sitting pretty. The Irish have two losses and the Ducks just one, but looking at who they have played – it is no wonder. Choosing both of these two teams to play in the BCS (which is a possibility) would be a slap in the face to all the sport has stood for since its inception. While Ohio State was playing Texas, Oregon scheduled I-AA foe Montana. While Auburn played teams like Georgia Tech, South Carolina, LSU, Georgia, and Alabama, Notre Dame faced Pittsburgh, Michigan, Michigan State, USC, and Stanford…

The fact of the matter is that if strength of schedule were still part of the mix and politics removed from voting, both Notre Dame and Oregon would likely be far behind the Buckeyes and the Tigers – behind Miami, UCLA, Georgia, and probably even Alabama.

Look at their schedules in comparison to those of Ohio State and Auburn





Miami (7-4)

W 34-14

Pittsburgh (5-6)

W 42-21

Houston (6-5)

W 38-24

Georgia Tech (7-4)

L 14-23

Texas (11-0)

L 22-25

Michigan (7-4)

W 17-10

Montana (8-4)

W 47-14

Mississippi State (3-8)

W 28-0

San Diego State (5-6)

W 27-6

Michigan State (5-6)

L 44-41

Fresno State (8-3)

W 37-34

Ball State (4-7)

W 63-3

Iowa (7-4)

W 31-6

Washington (2-9)

W 36-17

USC (11-0)

L 13-45

W. Kentucky (6-5)

W 37-14

Penn State (10-1)

L 10-17

Purdue (5-6)

W 49-28

Stanford (5-6)

W 44-20

South Carolina (7-4)

W 48-7

Michigan State (5-6)

W 35-24

USC (11-0)

L 31-34

Arizona State (6-5)

W 31-17

Arkansas (4-7)

W 34-17

Indiana (4-7)

W 41-10

BYU (6-5)

W 49-23

Washington (1-10)

W 45-21

LSU (10-1)

L 17-20 (OT)

Minnesota (7-4)

W 45-31

Tennessee (5-6)

W 41-21

Arizona (3-8)

W 28-21

Mississippi (3-8)

W 27-3

Illinois (2-9)

W 40-2

Navy (6-4)

W 41-21

California (7-4)

W 27-20

Kentucky (3-8)

W 49-27

Northwestern (7-4)

W 48-7

Syracuse (1-10)

W 34-10

Washington State (4-7)

W 34-31

Georgia (9-2)

W 31-30

Michigan (7-4)

W 25-21

Stanford (5-6)

W 38-31

Oregon State (5-6)

W 56-14

Alabama (9-2)

W 28-18

Combined record of Opponents 72-49 (59%)

Combined record of Opponents 58-62 (48%)

Combined record of Opponents*

56-54 (51%)

Combined Record of Opponents*

59-51 (54%)

*Excludes Division I-AA opponents.

Notre Dame has had exactly one game against a decent opponent on the road. That was Michigan, and had the Wolverines not played like the Three Stooges with a questionable call to end a probable touchdown drive, they still would have won that game. Notre Dame faced four teams with a winning record with a 1-1 mark against ranked opponents, and both losses came at home. In fact, their biggest claim to fame is a loss. You heard that right – a loss. It was the close call against USC. When Notre Dame is really good, they don't have to point to a loss to make their season legitimate; they point to quality wins. Their other loss of course was against Michigan State who isn't even eligible for a bowl. Meanwhile, the Ducks have a pretty record but were absolutely blown out of the water by USC in Eugene with the final margin of 32 points. Worse, the Pac Ten as a league appears as strong as a wet noodle with defenses that couldn't stop a ball if it was rolling uphill.

Auburn and Ohio State, playing in arguably the toughest two conferences in the sport, have come through a vastly more difficult schedule, losing only two games by razor thin margins – against the #2 (Texas), #3 (Penn State), #5 (LSU), and #24 (Georgia Tech) ranked teams in the BCS. Both have fantastic defenses and over the course of the season have developed an offense to go with them. They aren't just beating people right now; they are dismantling them. They faced better competition, came out with an equal record, and their teams look to be playing their best football instead of limping past a Stanford with a last minute win or barely beating a 4-7 Washington State.

Take out politics, petty voting, personal likes and dislikes, and Auburn and Ohio State end up in the BCS.

It's not even close.

If the BCS and powers that be choose Notre Dame and Oregon over Auburn and Ohio State, it will send a clear message -- play the weakest teams you possibly can. Toss out the tradition and history of the sport in favor of a few cheap wins, and you will be rewarded.

Designing a Defense

This season one of the persistent questions among fans has been, ‘Just where does the 2005 defense rank among the great ones at Ohio State?'

While my perspective is perhaps controversial, I would rank this unit well below the 2002 defense. Though the 2005 defense is very good and probably the equal of the 1996 and 2003 versions, there have been breakdowns in tackling, pressuring the opposing quarterback, and forcing turnovers. To illustrate my point on why I think this year's unit is borderline great, but not quite there, I'd like to pose a question:

If you were given a chance to draft the best players from both 2002 and 2005, who would you take at each position?


DE Will Smith or Mike Kudla?

DE Darrion Scott or David Patterson?

DT Kenny Peterson or Marcus Green?

DT Tim Anderson or Quinn Pitcock?

OLB Robert Reynolds or A.J. Hawk?

MLB Matt Wilhelm or Anthony Schlegel?

OLB Cie Grant or Bobby Carpenter?

CB Chris Gamble or Ashton Youboty?

CB Dustin Fox or Malcolm Jenkins?

SS Mike Doss or Donte Whitner?

FS Donnie Nickey or Nate Salley?


NB Will Allen or Brandon Mitchell?

DT David Thompson or Joel Penton?

Out of the 13 starters and key reserves, I would choose 10 from the 2002 team and possibly more. The only player from 2005 certain to make the cut would be A.J. Hawk, and he started against Penn State in 2002.

What made that 2002 unit so dominant? Why would I favor them in a battle between the two teams?

In a word, speed.

After nearly every game, opposing coaches, players, and fans were simply in awe of the speed of that team. Shell-shocked, they admitted film simply did not do that unit justice. Scout team preparation in no way, shape, or form could simulate the NFL-type quickness at multiple positions, and it truly was NFL-quick. Every starter from 2002 was either drafted or signed a free agent contract at the next level.

Offenses were stymied. They couldn't break off long chunks of yardage. They couldn't gain the corner on running plays to the outside. When testing the interior they found Peterson and Anderson whipping their men waiting for the hapless running back. Passing across the middle was perilous at best and foolhardy at worst with Doss headhunting and Wilhelm ranging back to tip (or intercept) balls in the air. On the outside Gamble picked off balls left and right like…like a converted wide receiver. If they wanted to sit the quarterback in the pocket and test Fox they suddenly found one of a host of Buckeyes greeting him with bad intentions. If they tried to slow down the rush with a delay or screen, it was foiled by the speed of Grant or savvy of Wilhelm and Smith.

The 2002 defense was wicked.

With 2005 nearly gone and 2006 rolling inexorably around, the question is – can the Buckeyes go back to the future? Was the 2002 defense a once in a lifetime group, or can it be built on a yearly basis?

At the risk of making a complete fool of myself, in my next article I'll describe exactly how I believe the Buckeyes could be as dominant (or nearly as dominant) in 2006 as they were in 2002 even with significant personnel losses they will suffer due to graduation.

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