Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Ohio State Granted NFC Playoff Berth

With one week remaining in the NFL season, two postseason berths are still available in the AFC. However, a surprise decision from the league office means that all the NFC playoff teams have been decided. Commissioner Roger Goodell announced today that the Ohio State Buckeyes will be the sixth seed in the NFC.

In explaining the decision, the commissioner cited the unworthiness of the five 7-8 teams who had been in contention for the last NFC slot. The New York Giants were in the best position, despite losing six of their last seven contests. Three weeks ago, the Green Bay Packers were 4-8 after a 38-10 loss at home. The Atlanta Falcons have dropped four consecutive home games - the last of which snapped a four-game losing streak for the Carolina Panthers. Not to be outdone, the St. Louis Rams fell seven times in an eight-game span this season. As Goodell remarked of the 7-8 group, "That's the worst quintet since New Kids On The Block!"

The league decided to reward Ohio State for being far more consistent. Therefore, no one needs to waste time analyzing complex playoff scenarios for undeserving recipients. One NFL insider admitted, "at a certain point, I had no idea what the tie-breakers were. I just figured the team whose website got the most hits would get in."

The development means that the Buckeyes will be taken out of the BCS national championship game. Instead, a month-long debate will be settled as Michigan and Florida actually get to face each other on the field. Wisconsin will take the Wolverines' place in the Rose Bowl, preserving the traditional Big Ten-Pac 10 matchup with USC. The trickle-down effect for Big Ten bowl participants means that either the Insight Bowl or the Champs Sports Bowl will be cancelled. No one is expected to notice.

As the #6 seed, Ohio State will go on the road to take on Philadelphia or Dallas. After dealing with Eagles fans, any future trip to Ann Arbor would be considered a walk in the park. However, storylines would be particularly abundant if the Buckeyes take on the Cowboys. It would be OSU's second high-profile trip to Texas this season, and Dallas wide receiver Terry Glenn could face his old school. Also, if the Ohio State band gets to play at halftime, it would love for Terrell Owens to dot the "i" in Script Ohio. No athlete is more committed to the letter "I."

Participating in the NFL playoffs will pose huge challenges for a team accustomed to college competition. The Buckeyes will not get to play in Arizona, where it has made a habit of winning postseason games. Also, as a precaution, coach Jim Tressel plans to sit Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith at the start of the game. After watching Carson Palmer last year, Tressel became convinced that any Heisman QB making his NFL playoff debut with an Ohio team would get injured during the first series. Most fans do not expect a college team to be competitive against an NFL opponent, but a Carolina Panthers official disagrees. He remarked, "Chris Weinke lost 17 starts in a row for us. Don't you think he'd be more confident in a Florida State uniform?"

Ohio State is definitely a longshot as it enters the NFL playoffs. However, last year the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl as a #6 seed. No matter how far the Buckeyes go, they will represent something that many thought was impossible: a college football team in a playoff.