Over the final month of the college football season, we are poised to see some enormously lopsided box scores. Only two teams can compete in the final BCS National Championship Game, and those outside the top two will have no choice but to manhandle their opponents as efficiently and convincingly as possible.
If this means throwing the ball late in the fourth quarter to the dismay of the frustrated coach on the opposite sideline, or keeping starters in well past the point they need to be, so be it.
What other choice is there?
The candidates for such anticipated box score destruction appear obvious. With the latest BCS rankings, Alabama again checked in at No. 1, while Florida State and Oregon continued their weekly swap. The Seminoles held down the No. 2, jumping the Ducks to reclaim the position they held when the rankings debuted a few weeks ago.
Have no fear, Oregon fans. A win over Stanford would propel the Ducks back into the No. 2 spot, and at that point they might not look back.
The assumption, of course, is that all undefeated teams will win out going forward, and that an ancient football formula will decide once more which unbeaten teams get to play for it all before the four-team playoff is realized.
In all likelihood, that will not be the case. Perhaps this will be the year where the BCS is not bailed out by chaos—a fitting way to create a chaos of its own—although upsets will come. Until they do, however, teams like Ohio State, Florida State and Baylor should do their best to convince us that they belong in this ultimate showcase.
And, wasting no time at all, it would appear that Ohio State has already started campaigning.
Hindered with a schedule that is worsening by the week—the Northwestern win is losing significance fast—the Buckeyes have started destroying inferior competition. At No. 4 in the BCS, they have no choice.
Over the past two weeks, Ohio State has outscored opponents 119-14. The 63-14 victory over Penn State in Week 10 prompted many to question whether Urban Meyer was running up the score, assuming the position of coaching villain that many have bestowed upon him.
A lightning rod for every decision and non-decision, Meyer is often unfairly targeted every time he takes the sideline or the podium. In the instance of the last few weeks, however, Meyer is doing the only thing he can. Win and win large, despite the fact that he has denied doing anything of the sort.
“I don’t really look at winning with style points; I just want our guys to play,” Meyer told the Associated Press (via Lansing State Journal). “The biggest issue I have is the injury component, that’s why we pull them out in the third quarter. Then there’s also great coaches on the other side. I’ve been on that other side at other times. You take those (factors) all into consideration.”
There is no debate here, no need to break down late play-calling or assess when the backups saw the field. Ohio State has nothing to be ashamed of, regardless of the intent.
The Buckeyes need help to play in the title game, and no run of blowouts can change that. But with teams like Stanford, Baylor and others with more trying schedules maneuvering behind, Ohio State needs every style point it can muster. It’s a clichéd term, but points do matter when voters, computers and polls meet to create the formula still in play.
And it’s not just Ohio State. If Oregon beats Stanford in Week 11, Florida State will need to follow a similar path, one that will require likely help—and more specifically, a loss—regardless of how badly it beats teams going forward.
Baylor could find itself in a similar position, although the Bears will enter a difficult stretch of games where coming away victorious will be the priority over margin of victory. With the way Art Briles’ offense works, those two could come hand in hand.
Regardless of the teams put in this position, don’t blame them for worrying about more than just a victory. For some, winning all of the games on the schedule simply isn’t good enough.
The notion of running up the score and other unwritten rules is often amplified to an unnecessary degree. Although embarrassing an opponent is never in the blueprint, doing so will have voters clapping like seals. It's eye-catching, even if it's for the wrong reasons. No team will be docked for winning by as many points as possible, which is why the strategy applies.
This cold-hearted approach is a reality of sorts, but it’s also a product of the current system in play.
For teams on the outside looking in, or those that could be soon enough, one or two more touchdowns may not actually matter. In an effort to hopefully crack the system in its final season, however, what else can they do?
In the instance of 2013, style points may not actually matter. Until they don't for sure, however, expect wide margins and angry oppositions. Even if such efforts will go unanswered, teams (and coaches) have been put in a position where they have no choice but to fire every bullet in the gun. And then throw the gun.
It's not a matter of embarrassing a team; it's doing whatever possible to catch the eyes of someone who could potentially have a change of heart. If these two somehow get tangled along the way, that's not on the teams. That's on the system that made it so.