You're not going to believe this but they're still playing college football. They played another game Monday night, a week after the college season should have ended. Or at least Florida played one. Not sure what Ohio State was up to.
The Gators spanked the Buckeyes, who had been No. 1 since preseason, 41-14. In some circles the win is enough for Florida to be declared national champion, though there are folks who'll argue for Boise State, the only undefeated team in Division I-A. Around here we know the true champion is Central Washington.
The Gators were quicker, faster and hungrier and they hit harder, but if there was one part of the game in which Florida really dominated, it was coaching. Ohio State's Jim Tressel had his clock cleaned by Urban Meyer, who, bless him, gladly accepted the national championship and then said the only way to really decide the title among the top handful of teams is "to go play the game."
After the game's first play, a 93-yard touchdown on the opening kickoff by Ted Ginn Jr., who spent the rest of the game on the sidelines with a strained left foot, Ohio State looked outschemed, outclassed and thoroughly confused. Florida routinely snapped the ball to three different players. Buckeyes defenders cocked their heads like baffled puppies.
The Buckeyes kept making dumb penalties and allowing jailbreak pass rushes that resulted in five sacks of Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, including one that resulted in a lost fumble at the Ohio State 5 and the Florida touchdown that turned a bad start by the Buckeyes into a rout. Florida quarterback Chris Leak, the game's MVP, spent the evening throwing passes to receivers who were about 10 yards away from the nearest white jersey.
Your Heisman Trophy winner hit four of 14 passes for 35 yards and an interception, plus the five sacks for a loss of 51 yards. Those count against rushing yardage in college football, but out here in reality, Ohio State's net passing yardage was minus 16. Smith would have fared better by taking a knee 14 times is how bad it was.
Even that opening touchdown likely wouldn't have happened without a horse-collar hold from behind on Florida's Reggie Nelson by Roy Hall, which sprung Ginn to the outside and which went uncommented upon by Fox's announcers despite happening in the open field in the center of the picture on two different replay angles. It took former Gator Emmitt Smith, working the halftime desk, to point it out.
Didn't matter much. All that score did was make the game seem closer than it was for most of the first half.
Tressel's biggest coaching blunder, going for it on fourth-and-1 at the Ohio State 29, trailing 24-14 with 3:50 to go in the second quarter, is going to go down in history as a judgment error. Just a coaching miscalculation. It wasn't. It was blind, wide-eyed panic.
If you're going to panic, goes the biz-school saw, panic constructively. What was the upside here for Tressel? Punting four plays later from the 33 instead of the 29?
The downside is what happened. Florida had a short field, and despite a defensive stop short of a first down by OSU -- its first of the game on the sixth Florida possession -- the Gators added to their lead with a field goal.
On Ohio State's first snap after the ensuing kickoff, Smith was sacked by defensive end Jarvis Moss. Florida recovered at the 5, and that was the ballgame.
So what's it all mean, this full-on beat-down of the wire-to-almost-wire No. 1 team in the nation by a team that needed a shocking upset 3,000 miles away just to get into the title game? You're probably ahead of me.
It means Florida's the champion, of course. The Bowl Championship Series is the system in place, pretty much everybody involved has at least tacitly bought into that system, and the system says Florida. None of this "Boise State is the real champion" stuff.
It also means that three times in the past six years the BCS has offered up a Championship Game that was a blowout.
It's one thing if a title game at the end of a tournament is a rout. At least both teams plausibly played their way in. But when a system pulls two teams from the multitudes and places them in the final by fiat, that final had better be a damn good game more often than not. A lot more often. It had better be a fluke, rather than routine, for one of the teams to look like it doesn't belong.
The frequency of pretenders getting to the title game is one more reason to dislike the BCS, which brings us to about 1,800.
Eventually, the BCS is going to collapse under the weight of its own stupidity. That stupidity was in full flower this year, with the Boise State upset over Oklahoma and the Florida pole-axing of Ohio State combining to illustrate beautifully that judging teams on paper and declaring that two and only two will play for the title just doesn't work.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Props for Fox, Brennaman [PERMALINK]
Regular readers know that Thom Brennaman is one of my two least favorite baseball announcers, but I have to say he's just fine doing college football. Not excellent, but just fine.
His tone, which is pretentious and stentorian in a baseball context, comes off sounding a lot more appropriate to the college football atmosphere. Maybe it's just that he doesn't have time to draaaaawwwwwww out those lonnnnnnnnng syllables. I don't know.
That said, college football fans deserve better for the ultimate game than Brennaman and analysts Charles Davis and Barry Alvarez, whose contribution was precisely zero. Fox ignores college football all year, so it doesn't have a stable of announcers ready to go.
But it has plenty of talent on the NFL side, and while some of those guys are busy with the playoffs, Fox only did one NFL game this weekend, so a few of them should have been free. Dick Stockton and Daryl Johnston would have been a vast improvement over Brennaman and Co.
Still, as usual, Fox did solid work broadcasting the football game. Fox is good at football. There were copious, useful replays, no gratuitous shots of Fox series casts sitting in the stands pretending to enjoy themselves, no jokey interviews with visiting celebs or advertising mascots, no annoying cellphone ads masquerading as brainless "fan polls."
The terrific work Fox does on football makes it all the more maddening that the network is so awful at broadcasting baseball. It's not that Fox is incompetent, as it appears to be during baseball broadcasts. It's that the network just doesn't like baseball.
When Fox respects the product, as it does with football, it plays it straight, and look what happens. Good television is what happens.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Best moment of the game [PERMALINK]
It doesn't take long for fans to become, well, long-suffering fans.
Ohio State was the preseason No. 1. The Buckeyes had been No. 1 all year. They beat everybody, steamrolled most, whipped their opponents, including two teams ranked No. 2 at the time, by an average score of 36-10.
Now it's early in the fourth quarter of the BCS Championship Game and Ohio State's losing 34-14. Florida has a fourth-and-goal at the 1. The Gators are going for it. Fox's camera alights on a group of Ohio State fans. They're grim, but not just grim.
They're frustrated. Annoyed. They look like Cleveland Browns fans. They look like fans of my alma mater, California, and I don't mean in the last couple of years. I mean for most of the years since Pappy Waldorf.
The look on their faces says, "They're totally going to score on us here. Of course they're going to score."
So it has taken less than 50 minutes of football to turn these fans of a juggernaut into long-suffering types. Damn Buckeyes, they're thinking. Hopeless. Poor us, rooting for such a sad-sack team.
Welcome to the world of most of the rest of us, friends. I know some of you probably are Cleveland Browns fans, but it's hard to be confronted with that sort of thing when you're wearing the scarlet and gray, isn't it?
Maybe you should practice the chant popular in the Cal student section during my student days, which was stolen from the movie "Meatballs." It goes, "It just doesn't matter! It just doesn't matter! It just doesn't matter!"
Previous column: NFL wild-card weekend
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -