Polls don’t matter in September. Let’s get that out of the way. They’re empty posturing allowing schools to beat their chests and prematurely proclaim their place (or potential place) atop the college football mountain while straddling the smoldering ashes of FCS teams. With that said, they are a point of pride. You don’t want to see your team drop week-to-week, particularly after they win convincingly.
Alas, that’s exactly what happened to the Buckeyes this past week. A 42-7 blowout of the San Diego State Aztecs wasn’t enough to stave off Oregon, ultimately allowing the Ducks to jump the Buckeyes in the Coaches Poll (the only vote at this stage factored into the BCS formula). Apparently winning by at least three TDs in your first two games isn’t enough to impress anyone around here. That’s why I’m putting together this proof for the pollsters. So listen up coaches…here it goes.
To start, Ohio State scored a total of 44 points in the first quarter of their games this season. That sounds impressive (and it is). In comparison, Oregon’s much ballyhooed high-powered offense totaled a nearly identical result at 45 points in their first two quarters. This stat is telling, as the first quarter of a game against a weaker opponent is still when a team has their foot on the gas (first string still in, gameplan operating at full potential). After that first quarter – particularly after a first quarter with a huge lead – a coach might cycle in less experienced players to build depth and/or button up the play-calling to keep their cards close for tougher upcoming opponents.
That may have been what happened against Buffalo. Due to play-calling, personnel, coaching or a mix of all three, OSU ratcheted back the WOW against the Bulls. There’s no denying it. With that said, there’s also no denying Ohio State wasn’t dropped in the Coaches Poll after their week one performance. At that point, the men with the headsets (unless you’re Brady Hoke) felt the Buckeyes were still the second best team in the nation. All was right in the world.
Then came week two. A healthy C.J. Barnett and an unchained Bradley Roby allowed the defense to play with a little more freedom, ultimately resulting in a far more dominant performance by the Silver Bullets to couple with a second straight 40 point game. The Buckeyes won by 35 while only giving up one TD. In Charlottesville the Ducks were busy unleashing their own beatdown on Virginia, winning by 49 while also giving up only one TD. Let’s call these two scores a wash (unless you really want to be a stickler about one team scoring two more TDS in a blowout). Both offenses dominated, both defenses dominated, end of story.
These are of course fairly similar results with a few key differences; paramount of course is the aforementioned flip-flop of position in the polls. Oregon’s win must have appeared more impressive to coaches, but why? The Ducks were playing an away game across the country, but the difficulty ends there. Virginia is a bad team that happens to operate in a major conference. On paper, a win against an ACC squad looks better than a win against a MWC team, but Virginia won only four games last season, and just squeaked by BYU in their first contest.
The Aztecs are equally as bad, losing to Eastern Illinois in their first game, so again let’s call this a wash…both opponents weren’t quality.
However, what isn’t a wash is the personnel the Buckeyes and Ducks had to play with. Oregon had QB Marcus Mariota under center to the tune of 199 yards and 2 TDs through the air with 122 yards and 1 TD on the ground.
On the other hand, the Buckeyes’ head signal caller was knocked out of the game after seven plays. Forced to rely on their backup QB for the entirety of the game, OSU cruised to victory.
In short, both Oregon and Ohio State played equally bad teams and beat them convincingly. However, one did so with their first team guy, the other spun gold with their backup. One team showed they’ve got a helluva team, the other showed they’ve got a helluva team with equally impressive depth.
Yet, the team that showcased their embarrassment of riches at the signal-caller position fell in the polls, while the other merely performed to expectation and climbed.
So what’s the deal coaches? You of all people should take note of a team that can dominate in the face of a little early-season adversity. Yet, you failed to show it in your week three poll. Take it into account. Ohio State looked the part of a contender without a full deck…and this guy has yet to take a snap.
Think it through in your next poll, we’d all really appreciate it.