Ladies and gentleman, it’s August and the first college football matchups of the season are upon us… sort of. While we’re still about 3 weeks (3 weeks!!!) away from the first games, the wait for the first round of the “Best of What’s Left” tournament is over. For those of you who missed it on Monday, the tournament is a way to decide which team Buckeye fans should be rooting for in this year’s BCS Championship race.
As I mentioned in Monday’s article, here are some of the details:
I’m not going to predetermine the winner. I pledge to you that I will sit down and weigh each match up individually. Fake tournament integrity is of the utmost importance to me.
To qualify for the tournament, a team must meet the following criteria:
- Be ranked (or have received votes) in the preseason USA Today coaches poll. I know the poll is garbage, but it works as a starting point.
- It must not be named Wisconsin, Notre Dame, or Michigan. Sorry, it’s my poll and you guys don’t get to play.
I have assigned each team a seed of 1-4 based on how likely I think that I am to choose them. Criteria to determine the winner of each match up will include: how likely they are to win the title, how easy/hard it will be for me to root for them, and how I happen to be feeling that day.
Now, let’s get to the first-round matchups!
USC v. Clemson
This matchup was an easy one for me. USC is entering the season as the consensus top non-SEC team, and the Trojans only seem to be getting better. The Trojans recently lured Penn State’s best offensive player, running back Silas Redd, away from Happy Valley, and will pair him with senior quarterback Matt Barkley and one of the best 1-2 wide receiver punches in the country. From an on-the-field perspective, the only thing that could hold the Trojans back is a relatively thin defensive line. From an off-the-field perspective, the Trojans have two things working for them in the BWL tournament. First, they are our brothers in sanctions. They’re coming off a two-year bowl ban and are still dealing with massive scholarship reductions. Winning the national title would be a giant middle finger in the face of the NCAA, and I’m ok with that. Second, and I may be alone on this, I like Lane Kiffin. He’s really toned down the over-the-top persona that he had in Tennessee and I’ll be damned if he isn’t bordering on likeable.
Clemson, on the other hand, is a little short on storylines. They have an offensive that is fun to watch when it’s clicking (Tajh Boyd passed for almost 4,000 yards last season), and they play in a very winnable conference. Of course, the most fun thing about Clemson is that any game has the potential to turn into a five-alarm dumpster fire. While exciting, that’s not quite enough to get them past the Trojans.
3. Virginia Tech
One thing that you have to remember about the BWL tournament is that, at its core, it’s about rooting interest. That means that a big part of who wins each matchup is based on which team will be more fun to watch. In this matchup it’s not all that close. Virginia Tech is a very good program, and a very consistent program. They always have a passable quarterback, a good running back or two, a solid defense, and great special teams. This year is no exception. That consistency is a double-edge sword, though. In fact, I feel like in the decade or so since Mike Vick graduated, I’ve been watching the same exact team every season. And that team is never quite good enough to win the big one.
Arkansas, on the other hand, has been full of excitement ever since Bobby Petrino sent his side piece flying off of that Harley. Now at the helm for the Razorbacks is former Michigan State coach and noted self-slapper John L. Smith. Smith will have plenty to work with in Tyler Wilson and a studly group of receivers that ranked 15th last season in passing offense. The Razorbacks will also be getting back stud tailback Knile Davis who missed all of last season with an injury. As any Buckeye fan who watched the Sugar Bowl knows, SEC defenses are in trouble. I love points and I love John L. Smith. Arkansas will have plenty of both and that’s why they’re moving on.
1. South Carolina
I’m going to be short and sweet with this one. I have been an unrepentant Steve Spurrier fan for as long as I’ve followed college football. Forced to rebuild after losing one of the two greatest players that it has ever had, and in a conference with USC and Oregon, Stanford’s national title chances are slim. It’s Steve Spurrier versus a tree, and the tree never really stood a chance.
Winner: South Carolina
3. Florida State
In one corner you’ve got the Oregon Ducks, probably the most fun offense in the country to watch the last few years. Going from watching a Jim Bollman offense to a Chip Kelly offense last year was like turning off your NES and plugging in a PS3… a whole different experience. FSU, on the other hand, was a middle-of-the pack offense, but had a great defense that gave up an average of 15.1 points per game.
As far as rooting interest goes, Oregon has the edge. I feel like I shouldn’t like them, but I can’t think of a good reason why. They’re fun to watch, we beat them in our bowl matchup, and they handed Wisconsin a loss in the Rose Bowl last year.
The saying goes: offense wins games, but defense wins championships. Well, that may prove true, but not in this round.
1. West Virginia
Of all the matchups, this is probably the one I went back and forth the most on. West Virginia is a one-seed for three reasons: they’re pretty good, they’ve got a fun offense to watch, and Dana Holgorsen is one of the funniest running jokes in the world of CFB-related internets. Bama is in as a four-seed because I couldn’t leave them out and I really didn’t want to rank them any higher. The thing is, the more I thought about it, the harder it was to pick against the Tide. As dominating and frustrating as their program is, they’re exactly what I’m hoping that the Buckeyes will be under Meyer (minus the oversigning, of course). On the other hand, West Virginia is now in the Big 12, and I can’t see them running through that conference unscathed. That’s why based much more on “actual chance of winning” than “rooting interest” the Tide pull this one out in a thrilling 9-6 battle of field goals.
This matchup was another one that didn’t require too much thought for me. Georgia is a pretty good team, but I’m not sure if they’re much better than the fourth or fifth best team in the SEC. However, if it can muster any sort of consistency at quarterback, Texas has enough talent to win the Big 12 outright. I’ll be honest, I like the Longhorns. Much like OSU, Texas is a giant school with a rich tradition and a passionate fan base. The only difference is that it’s full of Texans, which means I probably wouldn’t last long there. Anyways, as I said on Monday, Mark Richt has obviously lost control of the BWL Tournament and his Georgia Bulldogs have been eliminated.
I’m going to start this off by saying that I don’t hold a grudge against LSU for 2007. The two teams were evenly matched, and the Tigers executed better. They won, and that’s fine with me. Still, I wanted to eliminate them in the first round. Unfortunately, they were paired up with TCU and I can’t think of a single thing that the Horned Frogs do better than the Tigers, except maybe run drug rings. Oh well, I guess that means more Les Miles, which is always a good thing.
3. Michigan State
I know, I know. Why are these guys even in the tournament? I thought that we didn’t give a damn for the whole state of Michigan. Well, I look at it this way, someone has to win the B1G, and I’d much rather it be Sparty than Michigan or Wisconsin. I mean, to be honest, I really don’t mind MSU. They’ve beaten us once in a decade, they share our hate for the Wolverines, and their coach Mark Dantonio was the defensive coordinator for some very memorable seasons of Buckeye football.
But will that be enough to move them past Oklahoma? Realistically, with senior QB Landry Jones leading the way, the Sooners are probably a better team than the Spartans. The problem is, to root for OU, I would have to watch OU games. That means I’d have to hear Boomer Sooner about 100 times per game. Aside from Hail to the Victors, there is no fight song that bothers me more. Sorry guys, but that’s a dealbreaker.
Winner: Michigan State
Come back Wednesday for round two!