Able or not, Buckeyes have earned a shot

12/03/2013 10:49 PM

12/03/2013 11:37 PM

It made for riveting television, you have to admit.

How often do you see somebody drive a stake through a real-life vampire’s heart?

OK, maybe Alabama’s Nick Saban really isn’t college football’s version of the legendary Nosferatu. But friends of mine who have worked alongside him swear his social skills are comparable.

That sad-sack, constipated look on Saban’s face as Auburn’s Chris Davis crossed the goal line with the stunning touchdown Saturday will remain one of the season’s enduring images.

War Eagle faithful were euphoric. To those watching at home, it was like seeing David slay the giant in HD.

ESPN’s designated Boswell of the Southeastern Conference, broadcaster Paul Finebaum, called Auburn the new “America’s team.” But I’d advise to tap the John Deere brakes on that one.

People weren’t so enthralled last weekend with the Auburn story — though it’s a good one — as much as they enjoyed watching Saban and the Crimson Tide football machine spectacularly implode.

Auburn’s 34-28 victory was hailed in 49 1/2 states. But I doubt you’ll find similar consensus as the debate boils anew over who should play for the BCS championship.

It seems only fitting that in the BCS system’s final season, one last set of toes will be stepped on.

So, whose cleats should it be? Ohio State’s? Florida State’s? Or a one-loss SEC champion?

In other words, what would Condoleezza Rice do?

The former Secretary of State will be part of the committee that picks next year’s four-team College Football Playoff field. But make no mistake — the problems are going to be the same.

How do you measure Ohio State’s perfect season against the path the SEC champion had to take? Does the strength of a school’s schedule even matter?

It is supposed to, in a perfect college football world. But, as TCU fans saw in 2010, undefeated teams have been left out of the title game before.

Strength of schedule has always mattered when selecting bowl matchups — except when it hasn’t.

By its charter, the BCS only promised to deliver America a worthy championship game, as determined by computers and the random votes of media members, former coaches and administrators.

There’s a distinctly human element involved, in other words. And there likely always will be.

History tells us that no one-loss team has ever been voted into the championship game ahead of an undefeated team from a legacy BCS conference. Will the voters honor that history, or will they agree, as Auburn’s athletic director Jay Jacobs said, that it would be “a disservice to the nation” if the SEC champion was left out?

That’s exactly the kind of talk that could backfire on the SEC. After seven SEC national champions in seven years, people are tired of the Bubba Gump script.

The unbeaten Buckeyes have earned a shot at the national title. But here’s my problem:

Florida State, fleet and relentless, has destroyed opponents all year. The Seminoles’ closest game was a 14-point win over Boston College. Six FSU opponents were held to seven or fewer points. The average score for Florida State this season has been 53 to 11.

We’ve all seen what could happen next. Florida and LSU beat plodding Ohio State teams to end the 2006 and 2007 seasons, and Alabama raced past Notre Dame, crafted in the Midwestern tradition, in 2012.

One more chance? Well, why not?

Next year’s committee needs to know where the Big Ten fits into all this. Is the Big Ten still even relevant in the national champion picture?

What would the Buckeyes’ record have been this year had they played Missouri’s or Auburn’s schedule?

This year the best answer might be to just let the two undefeateds play. And, by all means, for Condoleezza and the gang, file away the results.

About Gil LeBreton

Gil LeBreton

@gilebreton

Whether it's pondering Moose McNuggets at the McDonald's in Norway or chasing Lance Armstrong up some mountaintop in France, Gil LeBreton has been entertaining Star-Telegram readers for nearly 30 years. He's covered 21 Super Bowls, 14 Olympic Games (summer and winter), saw Muhammad Ali box, Paul Newman drive a race car and Prince Albert try to steer a bobsled.

Gil also once briefly held the WBC Junior Welterweight title belt -- he had to, because the guy he was interviewing, champ Bruce Curry, had to suddenly step into the men's room.

Email Gil at gilebreton@star-telegram.com

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