Although head says Michigan, heart wants USC in title game

The Kickoff

November 22, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

If I were living in a purely subjective world, it would be easy to rationalize a lifelong fan's desire to see Southern California play Ohio State in the Bowl Championship Series title game.

The Trojans probably will end up in the No. 2 spot in the BCS standings if they defeat Notre Dame this week and UCLA a week later. Neither game is a lock, but there's a pretty good chance the Trojans and the Buckeyes - who have a pretty good historic rivalry themselves - will face each other Jan. 8 for the big crystal football.

There are a couple of reasons that would be OK, other than my desire to have a personal rooting interest in the ultimate outcome of a great college football season. The Trojans didn't create this system, and they were victimized by it three years ago, so turnabout is fair play. They also will have played a grueling schedule that already includes victories over five highly ranked teams.

As I said, you can make a case for USC playing in the biggest game of the year, but you can make a stronger case that it won't be the biggest game of the year if the Trojans are playing in it.

If Michigan does not get a rematch against Ohio State on a neutral field, then the biggest game of the year was played Saturday. The Buckeyes' 42-39 victory lived up to all the hype and more, then shined in stark contrast to USC's sputtering victory over No. 9 California on national television later the same day.

It should really be as simple as this: Michigan lost a heart-stopping game on the road against the No. 1 team in the nation. USC's one loss came against Oregon State. That pretty much ends the debate for objective me, though subjective me might point out that the Trojans - if they win out - would finish with consecutive victories over Oregon, Cal, Notre Dame and UCLA, which would be quite impressive.

TV commentator and former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie made an interesting point Saturday. He said the true national championship game had just been played, because No. 1 and No. 2 met at the end of a regular season when both teams were at their best. There is no telling what will happen after the Buckeyes go six weeks between games.

USC could end up winning the title, even though - right now - Ohio State is a vastly superior team. It just makes more sense for the Buckeyes to play Michigan again - though, whoever said the BCS had to make sense?

Crazy eight

Now that Alfonso Soriano has made the market with his eight-year, $136 million contract, the likelihood of the Orioles coming out of this offseason with a big-name acquisition has diminished dramatically.

Soriano's contract almost certainly will boost the price of slugger Carlos Lee, who supposedly is on the Orioles' dance card this winter, into the $100 million range.

I have this image in my head of Peter Angelos at the next big baseball meeting, pounding his shoe on the table and telling his fellow owners they don't know the first thing about running a team. At that point, the other 29 owners - all wearing black T-shirts - will stand up and walk out.

What are the odds?

Since I've improved my record to 9-1 against the spread in games involving the Ravens, I'll throw the question out to all of you probability buffs. If the betting line is a theoretical 50-50 proposition, what are the odds against picking nine of 10 against the spread?

You didn't know there was going to be a math quiz, did you?

Meet the new boss ...

Everybody's talking about how Brian Billick has reinvented himself, which is a fancy way of saying that he's winning this year and he wasn't last year.

I realize Billick made some changes in the way he presents himself at the request of owner Steve Bisciotti, but the confident guy who decisively took over the offense a few weeks ago was vintage Brian, and the results speak for themselves.

... same as the old boss

The best example of that is the way Billick has re-established Jamal Lewis as the pounding, go-to running back who makes it tougher for opposing defenses to keep pressure on quarterback Steve McNair.

By the way, can you tell by the subheads that I've been to see The Who in concert twice in the past few weeks?

Thursday picks

Because there are three games on Thanksgiving Day and this is my last column before then, here are my picks for the three Turkey Day NFL games:

Dolphins (-3) at Lions: There is some evidence that the Dolphins can actually play a little, but they aren't good enough to go on the road off a three-day break and give points. Lions.

Buccaneers at Cowboys (-11): Perfect letdown opportunity for the Cowboys, who will win but not by that much. Bucs.

Broncos (-1) at Chiefs: Broncos hit the road after a tough Sunday night loss to the Chargers, but the Chiefs barely beat the lowly Raiders at home. Obviously, somebody knows something I don't. Broncos.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

The Peter Schmuck Show airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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