Counterpoint: Defiling Yourself for Conference Pride is Pointless and Bad

By Ramzy Nasrallah on December 26, 2018 at 1:05 pm
Nov 3, 2018; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones (9) receives congratulations from quarterback Shea Patterson (2) after he scores a touchdown in the first half against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

®Rick Osentoski | USAT Sports

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"Ohio State fans should root for every Big Ten team this bowl season, including That Team Up North."

This bold statement from the Christmas Eve op-ed by Good Guy David Regimbal was earnest and meant well. His take is wrapped in the frustrating sadness of Ohio State winning its conference for the second straight year yet landing on the outside of the College Football Playoff field, also for the second straight year.

I get it. Sadness sends us off in search of answers. We want justice. We need solutions.

But if only the B1G had the same national respect as the SEC it would be playing this weekend in Miami or Arlington instead of next year in Pasadena ain't it. Here are the Sagarin conference rankings - by division and determined by NASA-grade nerd math - at the present. TL;DR national respect had nothing to do with Ohio State's exclusion.

CONFERENCE STRENGTH 2018
SAGARIN RANK CONFERENCE DIVISION TEAMS RANKED IN S&P TOP 25
1 (82.22) SEC WEST Alabama, Mississippi State, LSU, Auburn, Texas A&M
2 (80.30) SEC EAST Georgia, Florida, Missouri
3 (79.17) B1G EAST Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State
4 (78.01) PAC 12 NORTH Washington, Washington State
5 (76.88) BIG XII Oklahoma, West Virginia
6 (76.08) ACC ATLANTIC Clemson, Miami
7 (75.64) B1G WEST Wisconsin
8 (73.35) PAC 12 SOUTH Utah
9 (73.29) ACC COASTAL N/A
10 (66.81) MOUNTAIN WEST MOUNTAIN Utah State

The champion of the best non-SEC division in football didn't make the playoff. That suggests it wasn't a conference perception problem. It was a team problem. We all saw that in real-time. Not even love was strong enough to blind us from this team's shortcomings.

Sure, B1G East anchors abound, they're not going away - and you cannot cheer them into relevance either. There's Rutgers, whom Jim Delany brought into the conference like herpes after visiting a Pattaya brothel. There's Maryland, another disease Delany contracted on a different, equally-stained mattress (right on the floor without any bougie box spring; the transaction always matters more than the optics when you're incapable of feeling shame).

There's Indiana, who has a high school coach running its football program because at the highest level of university administration, winning football games is not a priority. IU is a school that will fire Tom Crean one season after winning the conference and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen while retaining Tom Allen, a coach who has no market value outside of any place that employs guidance counselors.

Three of the four participants are in the playoff despite the MEDIOCRE conferenceS they belonged to.

And then there's late-stage Mark Dantonio, who has his friends and walrus grandpa comfortably collecting paychecks while trying to execute a strategy predicated on winning games 14-13 every Saturday. That's over half of college football's best non-SEC division. We haven't even broached the B1G West, which is just a sliver worse than the division Clemson won. Yes, it sucks out loud - except for whenever Ohio State is on the road facing one of its extra-mediocre ambassadors.

Despite all of that, Ohio State is not in the playoff for entirely Ohio State reasons. B1G East anchors can exist simultaneously with this team's historic shortcomings.

The good news is you don't have to root for three of those anchors this bowl season because they aren't participating in it. You don't have to root for any of them! Root for whomever you choose, if it feels good. I'm going to root for Michigan to disintegrate into a pile of unfinished General Studies degrees in a bowl game where it's unable to field a full team. You do you!

Here's a handy chart showing the reasons why playoff-worthy Ohio State, peaking at the right time - again - isn't participating in the playoff:

♫ WE'LL GET INTO THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF OR KNOW THE REASON WHY ♫
THING THAT KEPT OHIO STATE OUT OF THE 2018 COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF OSU PROBLEM B1G PROBLEM
Losing by 29 points to a 6-6 Purdue Team IN PRIME TIME  
putting a mediocre jr. high defense on the field for 10 games  
VISIBLY & CONSISTENTLY MEDIOCRE RUSHING OFFENSE DESPITE STARS  
FACING NORTHWESTERN (S&P RANK: 80th (!) ) FOR THE BIG TEN TITLE  
13 Games: 107 penalties for 1007 yards (126th in FBS)  
Being in the news for all of the wrong reasons this season  

Imagine going 12-1 despite that chart. Imagine being good enough to win a dozen games despite having a philosophical catastrophe for a defense, uncoached or invisible linebackers - and being by far the sloppiest team in the country that doesn't play its home games in Tallahassee. That's your 2018 Ohio State Buckeyes in a nutshell, somehow still a legitimate playoff contender.

And national title outsider, but not because the rest of the Big Ten didn't hold up its end of the bargain. Had the Buckeyes been inspiring just 50% of the time they instead left us scratching our heads this season, Oklahoma's objectively worse defense would be busy preparing to get lit up by a team worse than Alabama.

The Sooners won a bad conference on their way to the playoff. Clemson won a worse conference on its way to the playoff. Notre Dame is an ACC program masquerading as an independent (Independents rank 13th in Sagarin) and 2018 is a banner year for Yankees fans with the Dallas Cowboys and Fighting Irish all advancing into the postseason. Three of the four participants are in the playoff despite the mediocre conferences they belonged to. Granted, their commissioners probably try harder, but whatever.

OHIO STATE MISSED THE PLAYOFF BECAUSE OF HOW IT PLAYED FOR THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE SEASON, AND ESPECIALLY IN WEST LAFAYETTE.

Rooting for a conference has its genesis in America's southern states, which historically rank from 41st to Mississippi in just about every metric. Consolidating and aggregating pride emerged out of geographical and cultural necessity. The intention here isn't to mock the South for reliably becoming Alabama fans each December and Kentucky fans every March - it's to point out that this custom was never intended to spread into the colder states. There's no basis for this, especially if you're an Ohio State fan.

And yet here we are, discussing if pulling for Michigan or Penn State might have some intrinsic value to your team. B1G went 7-1 last postseason and it didn't matter. This year's Buckeyes were the stupidest team I've watched in my life. And I love them and will root for them just as hard as I will despise and root against their closest enemies, because the only reason we defile ourselves by emotionally attaching our personal worth to the whims of teenagers and their multi-million dollar supervisors is for naked, immeasurable happiness. None of us have to be here.

So if rooting for Michigan brings you pleasure, sure man - do it. I'll be on the other couch cheering for your sadness.

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