By Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
So much for the regular season.
If any insight was offered during the pre-bowl part of the 2016 college football campaign, the last few weeks have proven this: it meant little outside of machine-like Alabama proving its dominance yet again.
Think about it. Clemson, currently awaiting a revenge date in the national title game against the Crimson Tide this coming Monday night, looked imminently beatable almost every week. Southern California appeared to be an embarrassment in the making after opening with a 52-6 loss to Nick Saban’s bunch. The Big Ten rose up from the recognition ashes to gain acclaim as the nation’s best conference, and caused all kinds of commotion in playoff discussions with four – count ’em, four – teams actually considered viable for two available spots entering the final weekend.
Now? Well, it’s pretty apparent the second-ranked Tigers were not going to be denied another crack at the Tide, that the ninth-ranked Trojans might be the third-best squad in the country and that the Big Ten, umm, really wasn’t ready for prime-time.
A 3-7 combined mark in bowls by member schools is clear evidence of that.
Granted, two of those losses came against Clemson, which whipped No. 3 Ohio State 31-zip in the Fiesta Bowl, and USC, which slipped by No. 9 Penn State in the Rose Bowl.
Otherwise, pretty much ewww …
Even Michigan’s exciting one-point loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl wasn’t much to speak of when you consider the Wolverines were being touted as a very likely counterpart to Alabama next week for much of the season and were ranked five spots higher than the Seminoles.
When your best candidates for top performance are Northwestern beating Pittsburgh in the Pinstripe, Minnesota muddling its way past Washington State in the Holiday and Wisconsin outlasting a non-Power 5 school in Western Michigan to win the Cotton … that ain’t saying much.
Clearly, the Buckeyes had no business being in the playoff. In hindsight, that game for the ages against Michigan was nothing more than a battle to determine which squad was leaking the least amount of oil down the stretch and/or which would benefit the most from officials’ blunders.
By season’s end, Penn State really was the conference’s best team … and it still wasn’t good enough to get by USC, a team that didn’t even play in the Pac-12 title game.
But the Nittany Lions were the most worthy Big 10 candidate for the Final Four, no question. Not only had they beaten Ohio State, but they were the hottest team in the circuit, having won nine in a row to close out the regular season.
Oddly, they deserve to jump a spot in the final rankings, from five to four, behind Alabama, Clemson and USC, thanks to putting on such a thrilling display in Pasadena.
Ohio State? Michigan? Neither deserve to be in the final top four. Not now.