Cus Words: How Do You Like Me Now?

Well maybe there is a redeeming quality to the BCS: Some years your team is not the one that gets left out unfairly. The Buckeyes are in, and this edition of Cus Words looks at that, how what goes around comes around, previous OSU-SEC matchups and just what changes the current chairman of the BCS thinks could come about some day.

What we learned last week:

The BCS isn't all bad.

OK, maybe that statement is a little tongue-in-cheek, but I can't help but think Monday morning was a great one to wake up as a Buckeye fan (or one of LSU, for that matter).

Not only was it two days after the conclusion of the college football season that surely did the most yet to bring about the fall of the Bowl Championship Series as it is currently configured (more on that later), but yesterday was just one day after Ohio State came out a major winner in the yearly BCS sweepstakes.

That is to say, the BCS rating system tabbed Ohio State as one team to play for the national title even though the Buckeyes lost less than a month ago and fought perception problems all season.

That alone would be nice but then the silly BCS machine went one better and decreed that the Buckeyes' opponent would be none other than LSU, the once-thought-invincible champion of the Southeastern Conference.

What more could Buckeye Nation ask for?

At this time a week ago I wrote that Ohio State was in a win-win situation because it would either play for the national title or get a chance to knock off one of this young century's true 800-pound gorillas of the college football world, USC.

A win in one of those contests would yield a national title, while victory in the other would bring perhaps even more national respect and be the best way to launch a run to the 2008 national crown.

Instead of having to choose between knocking off a perceived kingpin or playing for the national title, Ohio State will get the chance to do both.

Oh, and the Buckeyes get to exorcise another particularly frightening demon that will be in its 365th day of haunting them by the time the next title game kicks off in New Orleans because LSU is not some warmed-over champ from the Big 12 or the Big East but rather the ruler of the SEC.

What could be better?


But the nation is angry…

While plenty of teams across the nation are feeling bad about being left out of the title game this year, Ohio State owes none of them any apologies.

Call it payback.

Although few outside the state borders may remember or have even noticed, Ohio State was the first team to get slighted by the BCS.

In 1998, John Cooper put together his finest team, a selection of studs on both sides of the ball that easily was the best in the nation that year, one that would have given Jim Tressel's 2002 bunch a run for its money any day of the year.

Yet all that '98 team could have accomplished was lost when Michigan State came to town Nov. 7 and left with a 28-24 upset.

Ohio State dropped to seventh in the polls and lost control of its destiny, much like Tressel's crew this year.

Two weeks later the Buckeyes dominated Michigan before taking another position the current group can relate to: They sat at home hoping for some help.

And wouldn't you know, they got plenty, just not quite enough.

Texas A&M knocked off Kansas State in the Big 12 championship and Miami (Fla.) stunned UCLA on the season's final weekend, but Tennessee held off Mississippi State in the SEC title game.

That all meant that when the numbers shook out, a once-beaten Florida State team was selected to play the unbeaten Vols.

Never mind that Ohio State had the same number of losses as the Seminoles and most pollsters spent the majority of the season believing the Buckeyes were the best team in the land.

Ohio State lost later in the season, a sin that proved unforgivable.

The Seminoles went to the Fiesta Bowl and put up a meek fight, thus allowing Tennessee to claim the national title.


Got to believe it's getting better?

While the Buckeyes are sitting pretty this season, it seems inevitable another year will come along in which they have a legitimate claim to a spot in the title game but get sent elsewhere.

However, if more people start listening to Mike Slive, the chairman of the BCS and commissioner of the SEC, the likelihood could be greatly diminished.

Speaking to reporters on a teleconference immediately after the BCS bowl lineups were revealed, Slive offered hope for those disenchanted with the way the BCS currently does business – specifically, that it allows two and only two teams to enter the postseason with a shot at the national championship.

Asked if the presence of a two-loss team (LSU) in the title game highlighted a problem with the current system, Slive turned the debate in a different direction.

"I don't think that it's so much the system as it is the year," he said.

In Slive's view, this kind of result was inevitable this season given the way the top slots in the polls were shuffled throughout the season.

That reality raised an alternate question: "Is this year an anomaly, or is this year a precursor to what we might see in the future?" Slive wondered. "And then trying to analyze that question leads us to the discussion we have had on numerous occasions about whether this format needs an adjustment."

The specific adjustment Slive had in mind was the so-called "plus-one" model, a system of using two of the current BCS bowls as national semifinals that would lead into a national championship game one week later.

Slive mentioned his interest in such a phenomenon last year on the same teleconference, and his curiosity has apparently not waned in the meantime.

Asked Sunday night if more crazy seasons like 2007 could foster a plus-one, Slive said, "It's very possible."

Do not get too excited, yet, however.

Any progress is still at least four and possibly eight years away. That would be the respective lengths of the BCS bowls broadcast rights contracts with Fox and ABC.

"It would seem to me that not only do we need to finish the Fox contract, but it would take that long to work through a process if there were to be a change," he said.

Nevertheless, 2007 could be a bellwether event in terms of how the BCS does business.

"I think it starts out with some conversations amongst the commissioners and then I think all of us who are looking at it have to decide whether or not it's something we think, after looking at it, has significant value and (is) worth bringing in, and then ultimately working through that process," Slive said.

"It's a decision made by each conference. Each conference votes what it thinks. Internally it brings to the table what it thinks is appropriate for the format, and then we would see what would happen there, but each conference has to decide for itself. That would really mean… the recommendations and thoughts of the athletic directors for the presidents to make the final decision."


Familiar foes and unfriendly confines

Ohio State's old preferred postseason destination was the Rose Bowl for a date with a Pac-10 team.

The Buckeyes are just 6-7 in such contests, a number many OSU fans will tell you they feel is skewed by the fact the opponent is generally playing what amounts to a home game.

And there is probably something to that – Ohio State is 2-0 in Rose Bowls played against teams who do not make their home California.

Even now, though, the Buckeyes can't seem to escape the phenomenon of having to play a team on or very near its home turf.

LSU's Baton Rouge campus is less than 100 miles from New Orleans in Louisiana.

The Buckeyes also are no strangers to facing an SEC team in a bowl.

In fact, despite Ohio State's long-time Rose Bowl tradition, the Buckeyes have lost more postseason games against SEC teams than they have to those from the Pac-10.

The Buckeyes are 0-8 against the SEC in bowls with all the losses coming in the past 30 years. The nightmare began Jan. 2 1978, when Bear Bryant's Alabama Crimson Tide crushed Woody Hayes' penultimate Buckeyes squad 35-6 in the Sugar Bowl, and stretched famously to last January's title game debacle against Florida.



Marcus Hartman is a staff writer for BuckeyeSports.com and Buckeye Sports Bulletin. He can be reached for comment, cursing or questions via email at mhartman@buckeyesports.com.


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