Let me start this by saying that Ohio State made its own bed and is getting exactly what it deserved during the 2012 season.
No matter whether you believe that the former players that took benefits, the university administration that downplayed it or Jim Tressel, who covered it up, are to blame for this year’s bowl ban, rules were broken and there are consequences to be paid. But after the Buckeyes put together the most unlikely unbeaten season in school history with Saturday’s 26-21 win over Michigan, the fact of the matter is that OSU’s transgressions have robbed college football of what would likely have been one of the highest-rated championship game matchups in recorded history.
A Notre Dame/Ohio State championship game would feature teams that boast the No. 1 and No. 4 national fanbases according to a 2011 New York Times article and would likely dwarf the 21.6 rating that USC and Texas earned in the 2006 Rose Bowl, which is the highest-rated BCS game since the Bowl Championship Series came into existence.
Ohio State routinely draws huge television numbers for its biggest games. The Buckeyes have seven of the Top 30 viewership numbers among BCS bowl games and its 2006 regular season showdown was the highest-rated college football game since 1993.
Notre Dame is Ohio State’s equal when it comes to drawing television viewers, although their recent struggles have kept them out of the big BCS bowls where the viewership skyrockets. College football generally battles with the NFL playoffs for viewers during bowl season, with the championship game getting its rightful share of the Nielsen pie on title night, but a meeting of this magnitude would drive exposure to heights not seen since the Penn State/Miami 1987 title game when 70 million households tuned in to see Miami get its comeuppance.
Granted, neither team is considered the best team in the country, and nor should they be. Notre Dame is a two-loss outfit, escaping when officials inexplicably did not award Stanford a game-winning touchdown in overtime and also missed a penalty for having two players with the same number on the field at the same time during the missed field goal that would have won the game for Pittsburgh.
Ohio State narrowly escaped Purdue and Wisconsin and benefited early in the year from its under-the-radar status, as no one expected last year’s 6-7 team to have anything rivaling the success it has enjoyed this year. But those facts aside, those teams are the last unbeatens in the country and would be matched up in the title bout if the Buckeyes were eligible.
College football has plenty of momentum going for it in the media and in the consciousness of the nation, but if you don’t think the people in NCAA headquarters wouldn’t gladly take a matchup like Notre Dame and Ohio State on championship night, you think wrong.