Meyer Says Ohio-State Michigan Rematch Wrong

Within minutes after the final seconds ticked off the clock and Ohio State had beaten Michigan in this year’s version of the game of the century, the ESPN Game Day crew was on the air, lobbying hard for a January rematch in Glendale, Arizona in the BCS Championship Game. If the ESPN crew gets their way and there is a rematch, Urban Meyer thinks that it is proof that a playoff system is needed.

Talking to the media on his Sunday morning teleconference, the Florida football coach said that if ESPN and all the other talking heads lobbying for a rematch get their way then there “should be a playoff system next year.”

Meyer sees things from a different perspective than most coaches. He was the head coach at Utah two years ago when his undefeated Utes had to bully their way into a BCS game. At the time, there was no provision in the BCS system for a team getting a shot at one of the big dollar bowl games other than members of the Southeastern, Big Ten, Pacific Ten, Big Twelve and Big East Conferences as well as Notre Dame. Utah made it uncomfortable for the BCS by running the table in the regular season, allowing the Utes to elbow their way in to the Fiesta Bowl where they played (and beat) Big East champ Pitt.

Meyer is also the coach at a school that has benefited from a bowl game rematch. In 1996, the Florida Gators lost to Florida State, 24-21, in Tallahassee in their final regular season game. The Gators won the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta the next week and were pitted against undefeated FSU in a Sugar Bowl rematch but there was no guarantee that either Florida or FSU would win the national championship until Ohio State beat undefeated Arizona State in the Rose Bowl. That changed the dynamics of the Sugar Bowl, allowing Florida a second chance which the Gators used to hammer FSU, 52-20, for the only national championship in UF history.

“I think that what happened in 1996 was a lot different because you didn’t have the BCS, you simply had voting at the end,” said Meyer. “I don’t think that’s right either.”

Meyer doesn’t like the idea of second chances in the system that’s in place. He feels badly for Michigan but says, “they had their chance.”

To rematch those two teams for the national championship would mean a double jeopardy situation for Ohio State.

“I think that would be unfair to Ohio State and that would be unfair to the country,” he said. “I don’t believe that’s the right thing to do. You’re going to tell Ohio State that they have to go beat the same team twice which is extremely difficult.”

Ohio State and Boise State are the only unbeatens left in college football. Ohio State’s place in the BCS championship game is secure. If Boise State wins its final game with Nevada next Saturday, the Broncos will be in a BCS game but due to the Western Athletic Conference’s lack of overall strength, it won’t be a match against Ohio State.

That leaves several one-loss teams making their case for the slot in the BCS game opposite Ohio State. Southern California is presently ranked third in the BCS standings but the Trojans still have games with one-loss Notre Dame and UCLA remaining. Florida is in fourth in the BCS standings and the Gators have games remaining with Florida State on Saturday and the SEC Championship game with once-beaten Arkansas the next week.

Meyer thinks that if Southern Cal and Florida win their final two games, they can state their case for the championship game. Should Arkansas win the SEC title game over Florida, Meyer doesn’t think the Razorbacks could be considered under the present system because they were beaten badly in Fayetteville by Southern Cal. Notre Dame’s chances are diminished by a 26-point loss at home to Michigan and then there is Michigan, which lost to Ohio State.

“I think for USC you could make a case for them and you could make a case for us.” he said. “I think Arkansas would be a little more difficult to make one because head to head they got beat by a team [Southern Cal] that’s right there, same thing with Notre Dame. I think they’d have a hard time with that. Not that they’re not deserving but they got beat at home by a substantial margin and the same with Arkansas. I think they’re both excellent teams but the one team out there is the University of Florida and probably Southern Cal but Southern Cal got beat by an unranked team. We went into a hostile environment [top ten ranked Auburn], played our heart out and we were on the six yard line and failed to get it done.”

Meyer said that both Florida and Southern Cal have played tough schedules and if either or both win their final two games, they should be in the national title hunt.

“Especially if they win their last two games I think that USC and Florida are the two teams if they take care of business they deserve a shot,” he said.

Meyer knows that who makes the championship game is out of his hands and in the hands of sports writers and other selected voters along with a handful of computers that can be manipulated based on the data that they are fed. Already there is pressure for an Ohio State-Michigan rematch being applied on the people that do make the decision.

“I’ve already seen it happen … I’ve seen the lobbying begin,” Meyer said.

Meyer doesn’t believe there would be a rematch if the decision were left to the people who actually have to play the games.

“I would say that if it was up to the 117 Division IA coaches there would certainly not be a rematch but I don’t believe it’s up to them,” he said.

And what happens if there is a rematch?

“I do believe that as this thing moves on we do need a playoff system,” said Meyer. “If that happens, then it’s over. All the presidents need to get together immediately and put together a playoff system like now, in January or whenever to get that done.”

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.