Where I Stand On a Rematch
Astute commenter Ben posed a great question looking over my Ballot for the Blogpoll.
"[Other] than your very obvious desire [not] to condone a rematch, how can you justify the top 3 [OSU, USC, UM]?"
Well, Ben hit part of it on the head. I don't want to condone a rematch, I'll admit that. Michigan had it's shot and missed. Years ago when Florida beat Florida State in the National Championship Game in a rematch, I remember feeling kind of, well, blah about it. There were plenty of good reasons to put Florida in the NC game, but there were a host of other reasons not to. The rematch left kind of a hollow feeling because these teams had already settled this match up on the field once before. (If there are parallels here please remind me and I'll publish them).
There is a scenario where I would put Michigan in the NC game, but more on that in a second.
With regard to the rankings game, I had USC ranked above Michigan for a majority of the year until they lost to Oregon State. The Trojans slept walked through that game and paid the price. Since then they've played pissed. They destroyed Stanford, then #21 Oregon, and then #17 Cal. USC played what I thought to be a decent team in Cal this weekend and put them away only allowing a single offensive score. This is a very good, very balanced team. Can they hang with OSU? I don't know. They haven't played yet. People can point to all the points USC gave up before they finally lost. Fine. Since then they've played lights out with an intensity that was lacking early in the year. In their last 3 games (two against ranked opponents) they've given up 19 points. Is there an Achilles heel? Sure, USC turns the ball over too much. But their defense has been up to the task even with those extra minutes on the field.
I think the resumes are pretty comparable. Besides ND and Wisconsin, Michigan's base resume and USC's base are pretty even. USC molested the #5 team in Arkansas by a far wider point margin than UM over ND (albeit without McFadden in the lineup). They lost by two to Oregon State, Michigan lost by three to OSU. Michigan's loss is better, but I think USC's schedule is better.
Another factor dropping Michigan a spot is the age old caveat of needing to win your conference to play for a championship, which Michigan didn't do. Remember how pissed everyone got when Oklahoma went to the MNC game a few years ago when they lost the Big 12 championship game? On that basis, barring a two loss PAC 10 team winning out, USC should probably go.
With regard to the other contenders, I am not impressed by Florida or Arkansas. The Hogs are one dimensional and Florida has three different teams that take turns showing up each week. SEC fans can argue all they want, but the two teams in the SEC championship aren't as good as USC (proven on the field) or Michigan. Florida's been too much of a wildcard all year for us to have any clue how they'd match up. I think the Auburn game is a fairly good example of how Florida plays against good defenses. OSU's defense is far better than Auburn's, IMO, and I don't think Florida would even come close to matching Michigan's offensive output against OSU. Don't get me wrong, I like both teams. I just don't think they're better than Michigan.
Notre Dame doesn't enter the equation nor does Louisville. After what Rutgers did to Brohm there's no way the Cards hang with Michigan or Ohio State. The Irish pose the only other real choice. Even so, Head to Head Michigan beat ND, badly. Notre Dame can't be ranked or be taken ahead of a team it lost to. Norte Dame isn't in OSU's class in the remotest sense. I've watched a lot of Notre Dame football this year and they do not have the defense to make it agame. OSU's offense is better than Michigan's and their defense ain't bad either. If Michigan smoked ND at home, I cringe at the thought of the score of an OSU blow out of ND. ND just doesn't have the horses on defense.
My basic thought is USC or Michigan plays in the Championship game against OSU. If USC loses, Michigan is clearly the best of the once beatens (based on record, stats, and head to head against it's MNC slot competition and best team in the country) and should go. If USC wins out, which I expect, their schedule is superior, they go.
Here's a final piece of the rationale. If USC wins BIG Michigan's biggest "look how good we are" argument goes out the window. Michigan says look at our record. If Michigan and USC both beat the tar out of ND, then the tie breaker really is "have you played Ohio State yet?" Michigan has, and lost. USC hasn't, so they get a crack. While not critical, Arkansas losing to LSU then beating Florida in the SEC championship would help. But, if USC loses, two loss disqualification and Michigan goes.
Right now USC is the most complete team out there that hasn't lost to Ohio State. That's it in a nutshell.
Let me know your thoughts.