The Buckeyes do not play this Saturday, but there are still things to discuss, which come after the jump.
Michigan State’s loss to Iowa on Saturday creates a 4-team logjam on top with Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin. It could effectively be a three way tie for a conference title for the first time since 2000, when Michigan, Nerdwestern and Purdue split the honor. Of the four teams on top, Ohio State and Iowa have the toughest stretch and one will knock out the other before the season concludes. Michigan State (Minnesota, Purdue, @Penn State) and Wisconsin (@ Purdue, Indiana, @Michigan, Nerdwestern) will have comparatively light schedules to finish out the season.
As such, it may be helpful to review what the tiebreakers are for these situations.
— In case of a two-way tie for the Big Ten title, the winner of the game between the teams is the conference representative to the BCS bowl. After that, it comes down to whichever team has the better winning percentage in all games. If there is still a tie, the representative will be the highest-ranked Big Ten team in the final BCS standings.
— There is no provision for the old way of breaking the tie based on which team has most recently been to the Rose Bowl (or any other bowl).
— If three teams tie, and if one team defeated the others, then it is the representative. If two of the teams defeated the third, then that third team is eliminated and the representative is determined based on the two-team tiebreaker. If the three-team stalemate is still not broken, then the best overall winning percentage decides it, followed by the highest BCS ranking.
— Should four teams tie, the same checklist is followed: head-to-head, best overall winning percentage and highest BCS ranking.
Some points are easily discerned.
First, Iowa is at the greatest disadvantage. They will host Ohio State and have the opportunity to knock them out, but it’s difficult to see Wisconsin losing again before the season is over. As such, if Michigan State has a “Sparty, No!” moment still left in it, Iowa loses on the tie-breaker. Of the top four teams in the Big Ten, Iowa has the only out of conference loss (to Arizona), which will hurt the overall winning percentage.
As such, Wisconsin has a considerable advantage: it has an important tie-breaker over whoever wins in the Ohio State, Iowa game and it has the BCS to its advantage. Ohio State is #2 among Big Ten teams in the BCS at the moment, and it doesn’t seem feasible that we can surpass them (especially not when they beat us) if both sides win out1. All Wisconsin needs is to hope that the winner of the Ohio State-Iowa game doesn’t lose a second conference game (e.g. Iowa beats Ohio State, but loses to — say — Northwestern in the week before to leave Wisconsin alone with Sparty).
Most importantly, Ohio State needs to win out to guarantee at least a share. After losing to Wisconsin a few weeks back, that should be the realistic goal since the Buckeyes can not control anything else. If Ohio State privileges the conference’s guaranteed BCS nod, it needs Wisconsin to lose and Michigan State to win out. This assumes that Wisconsin will not be surpassed in the BCS by Ohio State if both sides win out. With intransitive outcomes (Michigan State > Wisconsin > Ohio State = Michigan State > Wisconsin…) in a three way tie, the BCS becomes the tiebreaker and Wisconsin heads to Pasadena. Ohio State will beat Michigan State in the BCS if that’s what’s left separating those two teams. If Wisconsin wins out and Michigan State drops one more, then we lose the tie-breaker straight up.
The easiest thing to hope for is Iowa, Michigan State and Wisconsin all losing a game or two more, but we can not feasibly expect that given the schedule. Importantly, Ohio State winning its next three games will keep the streak of consecutive Big Ten championships alive, even if we are left hoping that the Sugar or Orange Bowl reps take us as an at-large.
Chimdi Chekwa Named Jim Thorpe Award Semifinalist
Chekwa will have the opportunity to join the ranks of Malcolm Jenkins (2008) and Antoine Winfield (1998) as Buckeye defensive backs who have won that particular accolade. It’s an exciting prospect, but Chekwa will need to step it up if he is going to win it. He’s been serviceable for Ohio State this season, but a national accolade like the Thorpe Award is the stuff for elite corners. Chekwa had breakout games against Miami and had a great game against the Gophers. More will be needed to increase his odds of beating out a guy like Prince Amukamara out of Nebraska or Iowa’s Tyler Sash.
Whatever the case, it’s still a prestigious honor to even be mentioned as a candidate for the award this late into the season. Congratulations are definitely in order.
Poking Just A Little Fun At Some Programs We Don’t Like
Ohio State fans weren’t too thrilled about losing to Wisconsin, which is understandable since this was supposed to be a national title season in which perfection was expected. We fell short, and there were considerable frustrations among fans for getting run over by the Badgers. Ohhh well.
But that all pales in comparison to what’s going on in Ann Arbor (again) and South Bend (again). Michigan had the week off to prepare for Penn State’s anemic offense, made just a bit more anemic by being led by a walk-on sophomore. The result? Michigan conceded 41 points to Penn State in the defeat. It gave birth to what may have just surpassed crying Michigan fangirls as my favorite Michigan image.
Do you remember Penn State fans bemoaning every square inch of the offense? From the true freshman quarterback (or, in this case, walk-on after Bolden’s injury for the sake of this exercise), to the ineffective running game led by the now-maligned Evan Royster, to the disappearance of receivers like Graham Zug and to the offensive line that couldn’t block anyone? Well, here’s the box score from the game. The walk-on quarterback was 17/28, for 250 yards and a TD (no INT). Royster had a career day, carrying 29 times for 150 yards and 2 TDs. Graham Zug equaled his season output to that point in the Michigan game, grabbing 3 for 32 yards and a TD (he’s one pace to finish with 122 yards on the season). The 75th ranked total offense in college football put up enough yards that, if it were par for the course, would count for top 25 nationally. Ouch. Read around the Michigan blogosphere. The natives are restless.
Still, I think I’m actually more intrigued by what’s going on in South Bend. While it would be improper to make light of the unfortunate accident that led to the death of the undergraduate assistant on the scissor lift videotaping their practice in what may have been unsafe conditions2, the Irish took to the field to try to honor him. They lost to Tulsa, whose head coach called it the biggest victory in program history. Yet, when programs like Navy, Connecticut, Syracuse, Boston College, Air Force, and Pittsburgh have done that in recent years — sometimes just straight embarrassing the Irish — it just comes off as another victory against another BCS team, like, say, Mississippi State or Kansas. While that loss was eye-opening, the loss to Navy the week before was probably even more curious. Some of you may remember that I was in Dallas on business for that week, and couldn’t watch that particular game3, but the Fighting Irish were blasted by the Middies.
That much may not be surprising, but hearing Notre Dame coaches talk about (Brian Kelly, DC Bob Diaco) the Navy offense was. Without exaggeration or hyperbole, they understood nothing about Navy’s offense. I encourage you to read the full thing, as there are video breakdowns. Here are just a few gems.
That is Navy Offense 101. It’s the absolute basics; the bread and butter play run in every game out of every formation. If Diaco and Kelly hadn’t seen it before, then I have no idea what film they’ve been watching, or if they even watched any at all. That isn’t even hyperbole; they thought that Navy’s fullback ran through the A gap. And that was their plan– to send the inside linebackers crashing into the A gap that nobody was running through. That just made those LBs easier to block as either the fullback or quarterback ran right by them and into the secondary.
Seriously, that’s it. There were some other things tossed in here and there, and we’ll get to those in a minute… But that’s why the fullback and quarterback combined to rush for 300 yards. What’s almost as incredible as this horrible game plan is the fact that despite Kelly’s assertion to the contrary, Notre Dame never adjusted. Those ILBs kept running into the A gap for the entire game. Once or twice Te’o scraped outside to make a play in the backfield, and I’d think,”OK, now we’ll see something else.” But we didn’t. Notre Dame would go right back to the same old thing on the next play, and the Mids would pick up a big gain. Navy never faced 3rd down with longer than 6 yards to go all afternoon, and even that they only saw once. It’s as if the Notre Dame staff flipped on the film projector on Monday morning, said “Oh crap WTF is this,” and decided their best defense would just be to complain about cut blocking and hope for some sympathy from the officials.
The offensive breakdown/beatdown of Kelly and Diaco concludes with:
I’ll be honest with you; I’m a little less excited about the performance of the Navy offense than I was on Saturday. Not because they did anything wrong (they didn’t), but because against that defense, they probably would have succeeded no matter what they did.
His pessimism was warranted. Navy lost to Duke the next week. They averaged 6.1 yards a carry against Notre Dame and just 4 against Duke.
Anyways, one more RichRod sad panda face for the road… from the same moment: