Monday, November 19, 2007

Leader in the Clubhouse

Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer in history (hold on there, Tiger, you'll get your turn). And since he went to Ohio State, a golf analogy would be apt here.

After their Big Ten-clinching victory over Michigan, the Buckeyes became the first team guaranteed to have no more than one loss in the regular season. Kansas is technically there, too, but the Jayhawks aren't quite finished yet.

So the Bucks can light up a cigar in the clubhouse and watch the numbers on the leaderboard recede. You see, the 2007 season is a lot like the U.S. Open. You want to get the hell off the course with as little damage done as possible and then watch everybody else still on it taking doubles and triples down the stretch.

That's where Ohio State is. Safely tucked in at No. 5 in the latest BCS standings. Rest assured the Buckeyes will move up. Just how much? That remains to be seen.

Will Ohio State jump West Virginia should LSU or Kansas stumble? It's possible, especially if the Mountaineers continue their cavalier attitude about holding onto the football in their final two games -- even if they win both. Is Missouri guaranteed a place in the BCS championship game if it beats Kansas this week and then Oklahoma (or Texas) in the Big XII title game? Not at all. The voters will keep a critical eye on all the remaining contenders, particularly on their flaws.

What hurt Michigan last year might very well help Ohio State this year. The Buckeyes have done their work, and all of their conference brethren have as well. The fact that their only loss was to an Illinois team that finished strong with a 9-3 record will become more illuminated because that may be the best loss suffered by a one-loss team.

In a season with so much turmoil and uncertainty, there are only two things you can be pretty sure about at this juncture: 1) If LSU and Kansas remain unbeaten, they will meet in New Orleans for the BCS national championship. 2) If (1) does not materialize, the voters -- not computers -- will divine who gets into the game, as they did last year. The current BCS system, in place since 2004, has all but neutered the computers when it comes to Nos. 1 and 2 by allowing the pollsters to hold almost all the cards.

Elsewhere in BCS wonderland, the hopes of a WAC representative in a BCS bowl were all but dashed by Ohio State's victory. The Warriors, at No. 15, may have already climbed to the top of Mauna Kea and can't go any higher. Hawai'i's only hope appears to rest with a Tennessee upset of LSU in the SEC title game, or a Connecticut victory over West Virginia -- but neither guarantees anything. Boise State's quest for a repeat trip to a BCS bowl is deader than Generalissimo Francisco Franco.

So there's a lot of think about while working over your turkey this Thanksgiving Day. And of course, make sure you have your Rooting Guide handy -- the Guru promises to have it delivered by Wednesday -- so you don't tragically end up pulling for the wrong teams.

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