OSU demoted as SEC bias works again

John Gilbert

St. Scholastica star quarterback Zach Edwards not only filled the record book, he was the star of the Sixth Annual FCS Bowl. Photo credit: John Gilbert
St. Scholastica star quarterback Zach Edwards not only filled the record book, he was the star of the Sixth Annual FCS Bowl. Photo credit: John Gilbert

All is well with major college football. The NCAA tournament pairings are finalized, and the University of Minnesota is off to play powerhouse Auburn in the Outback Bowl, while Wisconsin faces Oregon in the Rose Bowl — a game that could be the highlight of the whole New Year’s Day array.
At least, all is well among the big-shot media types and college coaches who had the final say on how the rankings would work to place 1-through-3.
Me? I’ve got a huge question to ask all those voters on the NCAA selection committee as well as on the major national polls.
One week ago, Ohio State was ranked No. 1 in the land, with Louisiana State and Clemson right behind, and all three of them were undefeated as they went into their respective league championship games.
Repeatedly, through the years, I have whined about the obvious favoritism shown by ESPN, and therefore the national pollsters, toward the Southeast Conference and to a lesser extent the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Big Ten suffered by that favoritism, and so did the Big 12 and the Pac-12. Those are the Power 5 conferences that are a cut above when it comes to the controversial playoff.

So when Ohio State was elevated to No. 1, I was impressed. Alabama had lost, and was out of the running as the committee’s annual favorite — even making the final foursome when failing to reach the SEC playoff game as one of the two division winners. But not this year. And what a breakthrough it was to have Ohio State No. 1.

The pivotal fact here is that the top 3 are in a class by themselves. The No. 4 team wound up being Oklahoma, which is a strong team and the Big 12 champion. But they are a full rung below the top three, the unbeaten triumvirate of Ohio State, Louisiana State and Clemson. It’s not as though facing Oklahoma is a gimme, but the other game, with the other two of the top three, should be a fantastic battle.

The SEC playoff final was between LSU and Georgia, and LSU whipped Georgia 37-10 in an impressive performance. The Big Ten playoff was between Ohio State and Wisconsin. The Buckeyes had just finished brushing aside Penn State 28-17, Michigan 56-27 in a huge rivalry game, and then spotted a very good Wisconsin team the first 14 points and a 21-7 halftime lead before scoring 27 unanswered points to claim a 34-21 triumph.

That was Ohio State’s 19th consecutive victory, and they had completed a season in which they played and beat five teams ranked in the top 25.
So on Sunday morning, I turned the television to ESPN to see where Minnesota might be headed and the Golden Gophers opponent. Instead, I watched two hours of alleged experts boasting and gloating over what a great job the committee had done, and what great games the NCAA semifinals would be — LSU against Oklahoma and Ohio State against Clemson.

Wait a minute! What? It went unexplained how and why Louisiana State had managed to leapfrog over Ohio State to claim the No. 1 slot. Just a week or so earlier, the unheard of happened, when OSU jumped to No. 1 even though the regular polls had LSU No. 1. The committee, I reasoned, had realized that Ohio State was the best team in the country and properly made the Buckeyes No. 1. But now they were changing it?

The experts all mentioned that Ohio State was perfect and had played such a rugged schedule, but they said that LSU had improved so much on defense, which they showed against Georgia, that it was a cinch the Tigers should be No. 1.
They were right on one count. LSU improved more defensively, because Ohio State didn’t have to improve. The Buckeyes are sound in all phases of the game, so they didn’t need any improvement to advance to 13-0 by taking over the game and beating a potent team like Wisconsin.
I think LSU is an outstanding team and played an outstanding game to win the SEC playoff. But there has to be some rationale for the committee to demote its own No. 1 team, the undefeated Ohio State
Buckeyes. It perturbs me greatly, but there’s nothing we can do about it. The big thing is that if the committee, and the national pollsters, are still partial to the SEC, they got their way.
LSU should beat a good, but not great, Oklahoma team, while in the other semifinal, Ohio State and Clemson should have a colossal battle. Flip a coin. I would like to see Ohio State beat Clemson, but that will be a tough challenge. I would also like to see Oklahoma surprise LSU with an upset, but it will be an upset, make no mistake about it.

Come to think about it, Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurt was miffed when he lost the starting job, so he transferred to Oklahoma for his senior year. And here he is, calling the signals for Oklahoma and possibly giving the Crimson Tide a tiny connection to torment LSU.

EDWARDS STAR IN BOWL

It seemed like a nice gesture when St. Scholastica quarterback Zach Edwards got the chance to go to the FCS Bowl at Stetson University in Deland, Fla., last weekend. It is a nice reward for Division III
standouts who work just as hard as their more heralded Division I brethren. I figured it would be great if he got a chance to get in and play a couple of series.
Edwards, who is from Henry Sibley, has had a phenomenal career at St. Scholastica, He has been named first team quarterback on three
straight UMAC all-conference teams, he has passed for 90 touchdowns and accounted for 101 total touchdowns, while compiling a career total of 696 complete passes fore 9,024 yards.  This season, he accounted for 3,105 yards, 32 touchdowns, and 238 points. This season, he twice completed a school record 36 passes in a game, and he passed for 509 yards in one game, with 529 total yards.nly

So yes, he deserved to go play in such a post-season gathering. But he not only played, he came home having been named the game’s most valuable player.