Columbus, Ohio – Saturday night callers to 97.1. The fan here ranged from the desperate to the incorrigible with a healthy dose of booze. These comments were not full of patience or perspective.
Hours earlier, the Michigan Wolverines had run over Ohio State for the second straight season, this time a 45-23 emasculation that left Buckeyes fans in a rage and searching for scapegoats.
Not surprisingly, they settled on head coach Ryan Day, and sports talk radio served as a lavish, albeit messy, outlet for OSU’s fourth-year head coach.
His shooting day, despite his 45-5 record at the school, was a record-breaking opinion. The absurdity, not to mention its improbability, didn’t matter.
Such is the pain that comes with losing to your most hated opponent in college football, with hours after defeat only the beginning of the 365 days of darkness to come.
Things never get better until the next time offers a chance to change the narrative.
Which, in this case and this season, may not be a full year away.
It doesn’t take much circumstance for a College Football Playoff committee to leave to set up a near-instant game next month and give the world “Ohio State-Michigan, Part II.”
Start with this, it’s likely that even with a loss, Ohio State will still be in contention for a playoff spot. The Buckeyes are projected to come in at No. 5 penultimate on Tuesday.
They’ll trail some standings at Georgia, Michigan, TCU and USC, all of whom must play a conference championship game this weekend and risk losing while the Buckeyes sit at home idle with a virtual bye.
We suggest that the team that does not play the 13th game should not be allowed to return to the field because one of the top four teams lost the 13th game. It places an undue burden on the more accomplished team and actually rewards the weaker team.
However, the committee has historically disagreed with this reasoning. In 2017, Wisconsin fell 12-0 from fourth in the world rankings after losing the Big Ten title game. No. 5 Alabama, with an 11-1 record, took the lead despite not playing.
It could easily happen again, with USC and possibly even TCU in danger of going out of the playoffs with a loss this weekend. Ohio State would come back next with support.
In the meantime, Michigan could easily become the world’s number one seed, possibly overtaking Georgia this week.
The Wolverines’ best win – at AP No. 5 Ohio State – is better than Georgia’s best win – at home against No. 7 Tennessee. Michigan’s second best win – at No. 8 Penn State – also bests Georgia’s second best win – against No. 15 Oregon.
As such, there is a relatively clear path for the committee to finish with No. 1 Michigan and No. 4 Ohio State… in Atlanta for the Peach Bowl on December 31st.
Which means… oh my god.
Ohio State and Michigan have played annually since 1918—except in 2020. The game has been in either Columbus or Ann Arbor. Since 1934, it has been staged in late November, always the regular season finale.
It was a buildup to the season after which it was either a happy or painful outcome to throw away. This is the tradition.
However, in the above scenario, the game will likely take place on New Year’s Eve in Atlanta. Michigan, as the top seed, would choose the semifinal matchup site and would definitely go to that site over Glendale, AZ. Teams could also end up 2-3 and play in Arizona (assuming Georgia was the top seed).
All of which would make this whole thing sound weird.
Day will get a chance to instantly make up, in a higher-stakes game than last Saturday’s game. An opportunity to retool the defense, make more aggressive decisions in the fourth and replace that new disappointment could change everything.
Of course, Michigan would probably be healthier — it was basically without its top offensive player (running back Blake Corum) and defensive player (pass rusher Mike Morris). And while the Wolverines prevailed, there’s no doubt a lot of Jim Harbaugh would do it differently, too.
Replaying games is not without precedent in college football.
Georgia and Alabama played in both the SEC Championship and National Games last year. The 2011 season ended with a rematch of LSU-Bama in the BCS title game. In either case, the original loser ended up winning.
As the league moves away from its divisions and hosts title games with its top two teams, that will happen increasingly—both TCU-Kansas State and USC-Utah are rematches this year. And when the national matches expand to 12 teams, things like this can happen more often.
Until now this is One, shortly after that Game?
Not only was Saturday a victory for Michigan and a loss for Ohio State, it felt like a landmark, seismic moment in a storied, storied rivalry.
Now we’re upset and one committee’s decision to restart it, much sooner and in a farther stadium than anyone, even those depressed Buckeyes radio callers, could imagine.
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