Sunday, December 6, 2015

Chalk talk

First things first this morning, since it's Sunday and confession is good for the soul: Iowa is not who we thought they were.

We thought the Hawkeyes' 12-0 record was as phony as Monopoly money, that they would crumble at first contact with a Real Contender. We figured the Real Contender (Michigan State) would roll them like a drunk in an alley once it got down to cases.

But the Big Ten championship game last night turned out to be a glorious war to the end, and it took a drive out of legend for the Spartans to finally put away the Hawkeyes, 16-13. It was a knockdown, drag-out throwback Big Ten slugfest -- somewhere Bo and Woody had to be high-fiving and say, "Now THAT'S football!" -- and Michigan State's 22-play, nine-minute drive to finish it was its double-fisted signature.

Five times the Spartans converted a third down to keep the drive breathing. Once it needed Connor Cook's keeper on fourth down to do it -- which, thanks to Iowa's barbed-wire defense, he barely made. Then the Hawkeyes stuffed Sparty on the one on second down. Finally, on third down, it took a Herculean, mano-a-mano effort from running back L.J. Scott to crack the end zone for the winning score, a play that will no doubt go down in Spartan lore simply as The Run.

It was everything a conference championship game should be, and presumably it bled the last bit of drama from the College Football Playoff. Michigan State will be in, and, by virtue of easier wins in the SEC and ACC title games, so will Alabama and Clemson. Oklahoma, already in the Final Four, will likely stay there.

That leaves Ohio State out of the mix, which frankly is where the Buckeyes should be. You build your case a week at a time in this deal, and frankly the Buckeyes didn't build much of a case until the last Saturday of their season. You can't, or at least you shouldn't, bring your "A" game one week out of 12 and expect to get in, no matter how good potentially people think you are.

This doesn't, of course, mean that the committee won't do something crazy and put the Buckeyes in anyway. But the way Iowa fought Michigan State to the end would make that a hard thing to justify. As would Alabama and Clemson breezing to relatively easy wins over Florida and North Carolina in the SEC and ACC title games. A USC upset of Stanford in the Pac-12 championship might have given the Buckeyes some daylight, but that went dark when the Cardinal breezed 41-22.

So it's likely a chalk deal: Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma, Michigan State. The only thing left to determine, presumably, is the order.

The Blob's best guess: Clemson, Alabama, Michigan State and Oklahoma, No. 1 through No. 4. And one last confession.

I've really got no idea.

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