COLUMBIA — It’s college football’s championship week, which means there’s another hotly contested debate about who belongs in the BCS championship game.
Florida State will likely travel to Pasadena, Calif., for the BCS title game if it beats Duke in the ACC championship game on Saturday. The debate is whether Auburn deserves to jump Ohio State if it beats Missouri on Saturday in the SEC title game. Currently, the Seminoles and Buckeyes are ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the BCS standings, respectively.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier votes in the USA Today Coaches Poll, so he’ll have some small say in who gets the top two spots in the BCS title game. The Coaches Poll comprises one-third of the BCS formula, with the Harris Poll and computer rankings the other two factors.
Spurrier declined to reveal his vote, saying he’ll wait until it’s made public next week. He did offer one insight this week.
“You know what I think is interesting? Everybody is picking on Ohio State. Their schedule was ranked tougher than FSU’s,” Spurrier told The Post and Courier. “Did you know that? Everybody’s picking on how Ohio State hasn’t played anybody. I said, ‘Well, what about FSU?’ They beat Clemson, and that’s about it.”
In fact, Ohio State has the 61st toughest strength of schedule, five spots higher than Florida State’s in Jeff Sagarin’s computer rankings. The Sagarin rankings are one of six computer rankings that enter the BCS formula.
Florida State has beaten three teams that were ranked in the top 25 this season, including two in the top 10. However, Clemson is the only team the Seminoles beat that are currently ranked in the top 25.
Ohio State beat two teams that were ranked in the top 25, though Wisconsin remains the only victory over a current top 25 team.
On paper, Ohio State also has the tougher championship game matchup Saturday. The Buckeyes play No. 10 Michigan State in Indianapolis, while the Seminoles play No. 20 Duke in Charlotte.
Both schedule strengths pale compared to the three SEC teams that fill out the top 5.
Auburn beat four teams that were ranked in the top 25 (three currently), Alabama beat three (two currently), and Missouri beat five (two currently). Each lost one game — to a team that’s currently ranked in the nation’s top 14. Auburn and Alabama’s defeats came against top six opponents on the road, while Missouri’s was a home loss to South Carolina in the Gamecocks’ miraculous second-half comeback.
“I don’t know how it’ll play out,” Spurrier said. “I do have to make my vote public, so I’ll wait until then.”
Strength of schedule is important. Margin of victory is another matter.
Florida State is ranked first in Sagarin’s “pure points” standings, which is based on scoring margin. Ohio State ranks ninth. The Seminoles’ 12 wins have come by an average scoring margin of 42.5 points per game, and none closer than two touchdowns. The Buckeyes’ victories have come by an average scoring margin of 27.9 points per game, including a one-point win Saturday against unranked Michigan.
Even against weaker competition, Florida State has passed the proverbial “eye test.” At times, Ohio State has not.
Of course, after consecutive miracle finishes on the Plains, Auburn’s “eye test” is something altogether different.
“How about that Auburn win?” Spurrier said Saturday night after South Carolina’s win against Clemson, referring to the Iron Bowl. “It looks like Auburn could be the team of destiny.”