Good Morning, Prince Myshkins
January 9, 2007

I'll admit it: I'm a space nerd.  I love to read any books on NASA, the space program, the space race, anything involving mankind's exploits in space.  Did you know, for example, that the computing power of the combined consoles NASA used in the flight control room to put a man on the moon was about the same as a current day laptop computer.  And that the computer used in the lunar lander had only slightly more computing power than an average digital watch.  Amazing but true.  The scientists and engineers who developed our space program go beyond genius when one describes their intellectual exploits. 

But their intellect pales by comparison to that of another group of influential people: the sports media.  How else can one explain the final BCS standings?  These men and women who manage to inject complexity into the simplest things in life, and distill the most complex issues into an easily repeatable but wholly indigestible slogan on a daily basis constantly amaze me with their ability to amaze me. 

In case you missed it, last night the previously #2 ranked Florida Gators administered an epic beat-down of the previously #1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, 41-14.  If anything, the game wasn't even that close.  Yet the sports media have delved into the minutiae of statistical anomaly and added a whole new world of perspective on what seemingly was an ass-kicking for the ages.  Through careful study, they have come to the conclusion and would have us believe that if those two teams played 101 times, they would split the series 50/50 with the deciding game finishing in a tie. 

First, they uncovered the fact that Ohio State was probably affected by such a long lay-off from their last regular season game.  It makes all the difference in the world, apparently, that Florida got to play for two more weeks and only had to wait 4 full weeks (instead of 6) before they got to play again. 

They also disclosed that practices leading up to bowl games are not as closely regulated by the NCAA as they are during the pre-season and the regular season, something that clearly was a factor in the Buckeye's dreadful showing.  Obviously, the Ohio State University chose a gentlemanly pace in their practices rather than the obviously urgent regime the Florida team used.  Those ruffians from Florida should be ashamed for practicing so hard.   Huzzah for those genteel Buckeyes for not taking advantage of this obvious loophole in the rules.

And poor Ohio State, losing their star wide receiver and special teams returner Ted Ginn so early in the game.  Why, he single-handedly balanced the scales of team speed in favor of Ohio State.  His injury meant that Florida's advantage in team speed increased from 10 players on offense and 11 on defense to a full 11 players on each side of the ball.

Hmm, maybe that last one went a little too far.  Ted Ginn is a fast guy, perhaps the fastest in college football.  But saying Ted Ginn would have been the difference maker is like saying Willie Gault was the key to the 1985 Chicago Bears success.  If I recall correctly, Ginn was not among the finalists for the Heisman Trophy.  I also seem to recall that there was no outcry, not even a murmur that he should have been there.  However, I do recall that Ohio State QB Troy Smith was one of those finalists and also happened to be the one voted as the best.  They may have to rethink that vote after he passed for a total of 35 yards last night.  Florida's team speed also seemed to expose the fact that we probably shouldn't expect too much more that what we saw for his pro career, unless it takes place in Canada or Europe.  So maybe they are reaching a just a tiny little bit thinking that a wide receiver would have made any difference with that QB.

As a matter of fact, the entire Ohio State offense netted a total of 82 yards.  I'm sure there is some really complicated calculation that I could never comprehend that will prove that a team that couldn't muster 100 yards of total offense in its biggest game of the year is better than every other team in the country, including the 12 of the previous 13 teams on Florida's schedule who, with the exception of Western Carolina who lost 62-0, all managed to top 100 yards total offense.  Several of them, in fact, topped 300 yards, including Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas Vanderbilt, South Carolina and LSU. 

Maybe it has something to do with Ohio State's vaunted defense and special teams.  They were quite dominated too, but perhaps their is a top secret bonus factor that is incorporated when the opposing team dominates all phases of the game.  Maybe it's like a pinball machine where you have to hit a specific bumper to get the big bonus, and you only get the bonus points in the rankings if the other team racks up exactly 370 yards of total offense, as the Gators did. 

My simple mind can't begin to extrapolate all that went into Ohio State coming away from last night's apocalyptic meltdown as the #2 ranked team in the country.  I look at what has transpired over the last 4 or 5 months and think, "gee, it's pretty simple: the Big Ten is over-rated, Florida was simply a much, much better team than Ohio State and there are probably several other teams that are better, too".  My mind can't possibly grasp all the non-linear thinking and metaphysical calculus that has to take place to reward the Big Ten with two teams in the top five and three teams in the top 10.   What does a Big Ten team have to do to get treated like the rest of the country?  For example, LSU was ranked #9 when they played on the road at what was then #2 Auburn.  They lost the game 7-3 even though they had a chance to pull it out in the closing seconds.  As close a game as you can get, on the road playing a very tough team.  They dropped 6 spots in the standings the next week.  West Virginia, ranked #3 at the time, lost a shoot-out with then #5 ranked Louisville at Louisville.  They dropped from #3 to #10.  Ohio State just lost a game on neutral ground, a game in which they quite ably demonstrated they did not belong on the same field as Florida, yet they only dropped to #2.   I must not be smart enough to understand how awesome you have to be to look like a mediocre high school team playing against a professional team.

Or maybe the other bowl games were simply illusions.  Maybe #4 LSU's 41-14 rout of Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl really wasn't as dominating as it seemed, especially in the second half when they gained eleven times as many yards on offense as the Irish (330-30).   And maybe USC's 32-18 drubbing of #3 Michigan in the Rose Bowl was an illusion as well.  Maybe Dwayne Jarrett running wide open for two full quarters was all part of Michigan's clever plan to diffuse the rest of the Trojan's offensive game plan.  I think it worked too: the Trojans only had 48 yards rushing the whole game.  Who cares that they passed for nearly 400?!.  Me, I look at those games and have no doubt that both LSU and USC and possibly undefeated Boise State are better teams that Ohio State, who's best win this season now appears to be its visit to Texas to play a team that was starting a freshman quarterback in his second collegiate game, a team that finished the season with three losses.  I look at LSU's actual game against Florida in the Swamp, where after only one week's preparation they eked out a mere 320 yards of total offense and keep the score 14 closer (despite 5 turnovers) than the Buckeyes, and wonder what key statistic am I overlooking that makes the Buckeyes so much better?  I doubt I will ever know. 

And then I look at the record of the Big Ten over the past 20 years...
Since 1990, the Big Ten has won one national title in basketball (Michigan State in 2000).  They haven't boasted a College World Series champ since 1966, and have won just two national titles in football in the last twenty years.  If you exclude Penn State's championships when they were an independent, you have to go back to 1968 before you find any additional football champs from the Big Ten.  Yep, it's got to be me... I'm missing something in that 2-5 bowl record this year because the Big Ten is clearly deserving of the respect the pollsters, the talking heads at ESPN and the rest of the sports media lavish on them.  I wish I was that smart.

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