Does anybody remember this? Like, seriously. Am I the only person who remembers this happening?
On September 6th, 2014, the Virginia Tech Hokies — who finished 7-6 in 2014-’15 — defeated #8 Ohio State — the eventual National Championship winner — by two full touchdowns, at The Horseshoe. My childhood dream school that I attended in 2008 and 2009 because growing up I loved watching Michael Vick, won by a full 14 points on the road to the team that would win the National Title four months later.
What is going on here?
The narrative for the Buckeyes was that “they just lost Braxton Miller” and “JT Barrett was making his first start,” and that’s all true. However, the argument loses credibility when you consider Ohio State just managed to defeat Alabama (by most accounts the best team in the country this year) and Oregon (by most accounts the second best team in the country), with their third-string QB making his second and third career starts, by a combined score of 84-55. It’s excessively counterintuitive for a college football team — or any team, really — to get progressively better the further it gets down its quarterback depth chart.
That said, why I think Ohio State is the worst champion in collegiate football history has nothing to do with how they performed on the field down the stretch; they won the games they needed to win, were put in the playoff, and ran the two-game gauntlet. They earned it on the field.
That isn’t, however, justification for their inclusion into the four-team playoff.
On October 11, roughly a month after Tech’s triumph in Columbus, #9 TCU lost a 61-58 thriller on the road to #5 Baylor, dropping the Horned Frogs just two spots in the poll the following week. In the middle of October, TCU and Ohio State were ranked 11th and 12th, respectively, in the Coaches Poll.
After that loss to Baylor, TCU obliterated the rest of its schedule. Sans inch-ing out a 31-30 win against #20 West Virginia in Morgantown, they won the rest of their games by a combined 203 points (+33.8/game). That takes into account wins against #15 Oklahoma State, WVU and #7 Kansas State, and doesn’t factor their early season win vs. #4 Oklahoma. TCU lost one game the entire season, by three points, on the road facing the #5 team in the country.
Ohio State’s case, meanwhile, isn’t nearly as strong. They lost by two touchdowns, at home, to a Virginia Tech team who absorbed losses to East Carolina, Boston College, Pittsburgh and Wake Forrest. After TCU’s only loss of the season, the Buckeyes started out behind them in the polls and, in spite of playing a weaker schedule down the stretch, managed to leapfrog the Frogs into the College Football Playoff.
So, although it won’t happen in the polls, I think TCU would be totally justified in receiving first-place votes, as there is certainly a reasonable doubt to who the best team in college football was during the 2014-’15 season. I’m not one of those truthers who believes there was some conspiracy to keep them out of the CFP; instead, Ohio State’s inclusion maintains the NCAA’s blatant transparency in what its really after: money. It’s the same as when the BCS system was still in place, and it will be long after the championship field inevitably expands to eight teams.
Sure, there’s a completely reasonable scenario that could have played out if TCU played Alabama. They may have gotten destroyed. Hell, maybe they would have won, and later lost to Oregon or Florida State in the title game. No one knows.
Ohio State is not the worst team to ever win a championship for their coaching or third-string quarterback, it’s that they shouldn’t have had the opportunity to capitalize on in the first place.