After four weeks of the college football season most fans feel as if an undefeated SEC team is a shoe in for the 2014 BCS National Championship game. This isn’t really up for debate as the SEC has won the last seven BCS titles. The bigger debate is who will play the SEC champion if several teams go undefeated. The major contenders right now include Oregon, Ohio State and Clemson. Clemson has a propensity to lose a game they should not so I will save that argument for last. The more interesting argument is Oregon vs Ohio State. If these two teams go undefeated who deserves to play an undefeated SEC champion in the title game this year?
The Argument for Oregon
The Oregon Ducks have been a stellar program over the last five years. Even though they lost head coach Chip Kelly to the Philadelphia Eagles after last season the offense has not skipped a beat. Oregon has been known as having a new age offense that moves the ball up and down the field quickly. The “Quack Attack” has revolutionized the way some teams play college football. Instead of snapping the ball with less than 10 seconds on the play clock teams are trying to snap the ball as quickly as possible. The Oregon offense doesn’t even get into a huddle. This is much different from traditional football which is to huddle after every play and take time to work down the field. The traditional way to play college football usually keeps possessions at five to eight minutes. Oregon often scores in less than two minutes.
Oregon has played in a national championship game in the last five years. There is little argument that Oregon was the most competitive team to play an SEC team in the national championship game. In fact, Oregon had a very good chance to win the 2010 National Championship. Other teams like Texas and Notre Dame were blown out in the national championship game by SEC teams. This matters to voters because they want to see the best possible game in the Rose Bowl on January 6th, 2014. Last year the college football world was burned when Notre Dame was dominated by the Alabama Crimson Tide in the national championship game. A team from the midwest did not match up well with the dominate SEC champion. This is one of the reasons some diehard fans feel as if Ohio State should not get a chance in the BCS title game. Oregon has a much faster paced offense and they have competed well against SEC and southern teams in recent years.
Another argument for Oregon is the entertainment factor. The Nike creator, Phil Knight, graduated from Oregon and he has a field day creating their uniforms. You never know what you are going to get when Oregon runs on the field. From personal experience, watching an Oregon game has a lot to do with the uniforms and the off the field antics from the Duck mascot. Entertainment is now a very important part of college football. After a 2013 BCS National Championship game that was not entertaining at all voters will want to put in a team that will keep eyeballs glued to the TV. The ratings for the championship game last year were terrible because Alabama had it wrapped up by the middle of the second half.
Oregon may not be the second best team in the country by the end of the season but they might be the best choice to play Alabama, or any SEC champion, in the BCS national championship game for entertainment purposes alone. Even if Oregon goes does 14-0 or 21-0 you can almost guarantee they will continue tossing the ball all over the field as quickly as possible. If other teams get down by more than two touchdowns the game is all but over. Even though this did not matter in the past it does today. Advertisers want eyeballs on the game and one way to keep eyeballs on that particular channel is to put Oregon in the game knowing they will not slow down and never be out of it.
The Argument of Ohio State
Ohio State has been in a national championship in the last decade and they were blown out by an SEC school. In 2006 the Ohio State Buckeyes went into the BCS National Championship game undefeated and heavy favorites versus the University of Florida. Interestingly, the current Buckeye head coach, Urban Meyer, was the Florida head coach in that national championship game. Some people may remember the game because Ted Ginn, Jr. returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown but ended up hurting himself on the play. After that play the game was all but over because Florida dominated. There was nothing Ohio State could do to compete with the speed of Florida. When all was said and done Florida defeated Ohio State 41-14.
The fact that the Florida speed dominated the Big 10 champions makes many people wonder if this will happen again. Well, that argument is not necessarily valid as Ohio State is now coached by Urban Meyer who runs the spread option. The spread option was perfected at Florida with Tim Tebow. Meyer ended up stepping down from the University of Florida for health reasons. He took over the Ohio State coaching position last year and led the Buckeyes to an undefeated season. This has changed everything in Columbus, Ohio. Meyer has proved to be one of the best coaches in college football when his heart is in it. At this point in his career it looks as if his heart is still in it at Ohio State.
When Urban Meyer has his types of players on the field he can compete with anyone in the country. This is the main argument for Ohio State being in the championship game if they run the table. The other side of that argument is the depth of Ohio State. Every year there will be injuries. The fact that this is Urban Meyer’s second year means that many of the backups are not his recruits. One of the biggest issues with B1G football is the lack of speed. Urban Meyer recruits speed but he only has two recruiting classes at Ohio State for the 2013 season. If a key linebacker or defensive end goes down he may have to insert someone that was not necessarily his recruit. The lack of depth and speed is a cause for concern when it comes to the backups.
If Ohio State can remain healthy they can compete with any team in the country. In the second week of the season we saw a major injury to the Ohio State Buckeyes roster. Braxton Miller, the starting quarterback, has been out the last two weeks due to an injury. If these injuries start to add up in Columbus I personally feel as if we would see a national championship game similar to 2006 if the Buckeyes play the SEC champion. Urban Meyer is definitely an SEC style coach but it takes several years to fill the roster with speed. Ohio State is still a year or two away from having the potential to go two deep with any team in the country. Their starters are very talented but it is the backups that I worry about.
The Argument for Clemson
An interesting player in the 2014 BCS National Title race is the Clemson Tigers. Clemson has a huge advantage over Oregon and Ohio State because of their non conference schedule. If Clemson runs the table this year they will have beaten two of the top SEC teams – South Carolina and Georgia. If Clemson can go undefeated they have every right to be in the national championship game. They will have victories over South Carolina, UGA and Florida State this year. That is enough for me to say they are the second best team in the country behind any undefeated SEC team. No other team, outside of the SEC, will have beaten schools of this caliber.
That said, Clemson is known for losing games they should never lose. In past years they would beat the great teams and turn around and lose to Virginia or Wake Forest. Some people feel as if Clemson is over that hump but I will believe it when I see it. I really do hope that Clemson runs the table because I live in the heart of ACC country. It would be nice to see the ACC well represented in the national championship game. It has been too long since the ACC has had an appearance in a big time game. When they have appeared in a BCS game they often lay an egg and make the conference look bad. Let’s see how Clemson plays the rest of the year and we may address this conversation again. At this point, I have to see Clemson win the games they should to put them in the national title talk.