To rematch or not to rematch?




 
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November 19th, 2006  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: To rematch or not to rematch?




RALPH D. RUSSO

Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Michigan provided a new plot twist for the Bowl Championship Series - and another great debate for college football fans. Since the far-less-than-perfect system to determine a college football champ was put into place eight seasons ago, there's never been a rematch of a regular-season game for the national title.
The Wolverines made a case for that Saturday with an inspired effort at No. 1 Ohio State that came up just short. The Buckeyes won the showdown of unbeaten Big Ten superpowers 42-39, but they didn't do enough to eliminate their archrivals from the championship chase.
To win it all on Jan. 8, Ohio State might have to beat the Wolverines again.
"It would be great for us, but it's not up to us," Michigan quarterback Chad Henne said.
Poll voters and computers will make the call, and for now the BCS standings say: "Play it again."
Michigan was in second place in the BCS standings released Sunday, but just barely ahead of third-place Southern California. The Wolverines better root for USC to lose if they want another chance to play Ohio State.
A rematch doesn't seem fair to the Buckeyes - split with Michigan and finish No. 2 in the country?
But since the goal is to have the best two teams play for the BCS title in Glendale, Ariz., how can you pass over the Wolverines? Southern California, Florida, Arkansas and maybe even Notre Dame, all like Michigan with one loss, will try to make the case for doing just that over the next two weekends.
Florida coach Urban Meyer already has started lobbying against a rematch.
"I think that'd be unfair to Ohio State and I think it'd be unfair to the country," Meyer said Sunday. "You're going to tell Ohio State they have to go beat the same team twice, which is extremely difficult?"
What if a rematch happens?
"If that does happen, all the (university) presidents need to get together immediately and put together a playoff system," Meyer said. "I mean like now, January or whenever to get that done."
If the Wolverines do finish in second place in the final BCS standings on Dec. 3, it won't be the first time a team didn't win its conference and played for the national title.
In 2001, Nebraska didn't even reach the Big 12 title game, but the Cornhuskers made it to the BCS championship against Miami - and were soundly beaten 37-14 in the Rose Bowl.
Oklahoma was being talked about as one of the great teams of all time when it rolled into the Big 12 title game in 2003. That talk ended when the Sooners were thumped by Kansas State. Still, Oklahoma played LSU in the Sugar Bowl for the BCS title. LSU took the top spot in the coaches' poll with a 21-14 victory, and USC was The Associated Press national champ after it beat Michigan 28-14 in the Rose Bowl.
After that season, the BCS changed to emphasize the polls more - to try to prevent another split title.
There also was talk after that season about keeping teams that didn't win their conference out of the national championship game, but Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said Sunday there was no support for such a stipulation among BCS officials. He said they came up with scenarios where a team that didn't win its conference would be worthy.
"Those instances may be extreme, but they do exist," he said.
Michigan appears to be a good example.
Maybe the other contenders will make the decision to rematch or not to rematch obvious.
USC (9-1) plays Notre Dame (10-1) next week at home, and UCLA the week after in Pasadena, Calif. The Trojans appear to be rounding into form. A 23-9 victory over California on Saturday night earned them the Pac-10's automatic BCS bid.
A Notre Dame win over USC would be a step toward Ohio State-Michigan II. A second loss would drop the Trojans out of the race and the Wolverines' 47-21 victory at Notre Dame in September should end any argument for the Fighting Irish playing the Buckeyes.
Even Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis knows jumping Michigan will be tough.
"But with an impressive win over USC at the end of the year, could that do enough to do the trick? Right now that's possible," he said Sunday. "Because there's a lot of bias that people have. Do they want to see a rematch? Do they not want to see a rematch? I really don't know how everyone else thinks."
That leaves the Southeastern Conference's best. Arkansas (10-1) and Florida (10-1) will meet in the SEC title game on Dec. 2, but the Gators and Razorbacks have work to do next week.
Arkansas is home Friday to face LSU, which might be the best two-loss team in the country. Florida is at Florida State on Saturday, and a win over the Gators would make a sad season a whole lot happier for the Seminoles.
Florida and Florida State played in the last rematch to decide a national title, back in 1997. The Seminoles beat Florida 24-21 in Tallahassee in November, then had to face the Gators again in the Sugar Bowl. But that year the Gators were No. 3 entering the bowls. Not until Ohio State beat No. 2 Arizona State in the Rose Bowl did Florida-Florida State become a national title game.
The Gators took the rematch 52-20 and their only national title, and Florida State coach Bobby Bowden still burns about it.
"It made me sick to draw them in a darned bowl," Bowden said Sunday.
As for Michigan this season, Bowden said, "They had their chance."
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, predictably, dodged the rematch question after the game of the year.
"There can't be many teams in the country better than Michigan, but I'm not going to get into it," he said.
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IT'S A WRAP: By the time Troy Smith gets to Phoenix, he'll be a Heisman Trophy winner.
The Ohio State senior made one last statement with another brilliant performance against Michigan on Saturday.
Smith threw for 316 yards and four touchdowns while setting career highs for completions (29) and attempts (41) in the 42-39 victory over the Wolverines. Michigan fans can only thank heavens that Smith, a senior, won't be back next season. In three consecutive victories over the Wolverines, he's thrown for 857 yards.
Overall in 2006, Smith has thrown 30 touchdowns and five interceptions, and in Ohio State's two 1 vs. 2 matchups he threw for 585 yards and six touchdowns against Texas and Michigan.
The rest of this voter's Heisman ballot is subject to change. But for now:
2) Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas.
3) Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech.