This year’s college football playoff presented us with a microcosm of amazing storylines. From underreported Cinderella stories to whiny, complainy fan bases and a team that continues to get into situations it shouldn’t be allowed, the national playoffs gave us all plenty of fodder.
How ESPN/ABC/Disney managed to not put the Cinderella stories of LSU coach Ed Orgeron and LSU quarterback Joe Burrow front and center during the event still shocks me.
Burrow entered the transfer portal after not winning the starting job at Ohio State. So of course colleges were lined up to grab Super Joe.
Nebraska, a place Burrow really wanted to play because some family members played there, wouldn’t give him the time of day. Cincinnati was the most likely landing spot until LSU’s Orgeron managed to lure him to the Bayou.
Imagine that. A future Heisman trophy, all-world caliber quarterback almost ended up at Cincinnati. And his coach, Orgeron, was never really LSU’s first choice to be a head coach.
Orgeron had a bad run at Ole Miss where his squads managed a 10-26 record over three years. He did serve as interim coach at Southern Cal and did well, but got passed over for the head coaching gig. He took over at LSU in the interim role when Les Miles got canned.
LSU fans wanted a big hire, but the Bayou Bengals settled for Orgeron after failing to attract some big-name candidates. So a quarterback and head coach hardly anyone wanted team up to help put together one of the best seasons in college football history. If it wasn’t real life, most people probably wouldn’t even believe it.
And the Disney conglomerate which loves the rags-to-riches storyline failed to capitalize on this one.
Speaking of failure to capitalize, how many more times are we going to give Oklahoma a free pass into a meaningful postseason game?
Granted they only had one regular-season loss, but did the selection committee not give any thought to how many times Oklahoma has been put in this same situation. Since Oklahoma won a snoozer of a national championship game over FSU in 2000, the Sooners have played in seven BCS or playoff games. Their record, a perfect 0-7 with several blow outs and other lackluster performances.
Some people, including myself, get upset when an overrated team like Notre Dame gets a playoff spot. But I’m livid that for some unknown reason the rest of the world hasn’t figured out that Chokelahoma will continue to show up and do just that, robbing other teams of a chance.
In 2004, everyone got to watch the beat down that Southern Cal laid on them while undefeated Auburn was on the outside looking in. And yes, Oklahoma has played some close games. But close doesn’t count, and the last time they won a meaningful post-season game, some of their current players weren’t born.
I’m not saying Oregon or another team would have beaten LSU, but I guarantee at least that team would have shown up. Oklahoma looked like they were barely going through the motions.
Yes, a few of their star players were hurt or suspended. So what? Georgia had something like 15 players not on the field against Baylor and still whipped the Bears. By the way, Baylor almost beat Oklahoma twice when the Sooners were full strength.
Now let’s look at Ohio State. The Buckeyes deserved their slot in the playoffs, but they’re here for another reason.
In the hours following Clemson’s comeback win over the Buckeyes in the semifinals something strange happened. There were a couple of calls both overruled or initiated by replay per the NCAA rulebook that didn’t go the Buckeyes’ way. I have issues with ejecting a player for targeting when it was unintentional, but that’s the way the rule is written.
Numerous people across the social media universe went nuts over the officials some even claiming conspiracy theories to get Clemson into the championship. Ohio State’s Athletic Director tweeted a sports journalist telling him to let everyone know he was very upset about the calls.
An NFL referee even weighed in calling the calls egregious which I think is hysterical. NFL officiating has been so bad for several years now that maybe this ref should worry about his own league. You know the old adage about not throwing rocks when you live in a glass house?
Several years ago Ohio State beat Miami in the BCS finals. The game went into overtime and the Hurricanes appeared to have stopped the Buckeyes offense late, claiming a second-straight national crown. I was in a newsroom in South Florida watching the game and helping put the newspaper to bed that night.
On that fateful play, I said out loud that the referee could call pass interference if he wanted to. The very pro Miami newsroom heckled me for about three seconds until a referee reached in his pocket and tossed the flag. The penalty flag was very late, and when it flew the newsroom exploded in rage. Moments later the Buckeyes capitalized by scoring and winning the national title.
Needless to say, Miami fans had a beef with the call. Although this happened well before social media began, plenty of Ohio State fans took to web sites defending the call. It’s even possible to still find posts with a picture of a crying baby with the Miami logo emblazoned across it as a response to Miami fans complaining about the call.
Although there is no clearly accurate account, there are sites that report when then Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel was asked about the call by someone with Miami ties his quick response was, “If the officials called it, then it was a penalty.”
The Buckeyes could learn a few things from Clemson.
We all know now that LSU beat Clemson for the national title. And much like the semifinals there were a few calls, no calls and replies that had some effect on the outcome. One of Clemson’s best defenders got ejected after a targeting call, and a Clemson touchdown was inexplicably called back for a questionable pass interference call. That and an LSU touchdown drive got extended thanks to a call and lack of replay on another play.
Needless to say the Tigers, the orange and blue Tigers that is, could have had some legitimate beefs. That being said, LSU was the better team and deserved to win.
But what I found most interesting was Clemson’s AD didn’t take to social media or send texts lambasting officials. When Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was asked about the close calls and no calls in the post game press conference, he mentioned he’d like to see the calls again but quickly added something that speaks volumes. “That’s football.”
I hope some lessons are learned here. For the playoff committee, please find us someone other than Oklahoma. For Ohio State, instead of whining and complaining take your lumps and move on. You’ve gotten the benefits of weird calls plenty of times; this time they didn’t go your way.
And congratulations to Burrow, Orgeron and LSU for putting together a magical, amazing run that was fun to watch, and let’s be honest. It would have been impossible to believe if we hadn’t all witnessed it.