Target On Backs of Buckeyes

With handicapping legend Tony Salinas


Don't assume that South Carolina over Alabama is the only big upset we'll see in the BCS race this year. Recent history has made it clear that it's difficult for even the best teams to run the table when they have a big target on their backs.

In fact, the first big name team to lose often has time to rise back to the top of the heap because all the other powers end up suffering losses as well.

Maybe the schedules are so easy for Boise State and TCU that those mid-majors won't have to worry as often (though anything can happen on any Saturday). Ohio State will certainly have some challenges ahead, starting this Saturday Night at Wisconsin. In fact, that matchup has a lot in common with the South Carolina upset of Alabama:

  • Both Alabama and Ohio State had struggles two weeks before the "target" game. Alabama had to rally to get past Arkansas in a tough road game. Ohio State was in a dogfight with unheralded Illinois until the very end.
  • The week before the "target" game, both powers had a peak outing. Alabama dominated hated Florida from start to finish. Ohio State went for the jugular early against Indiana and never had to break a sweat. Easy wins have a way of creating overconfidence at just the wrong time. Ohio State will have to guard against that this week. Alabama failed miserably, and didn't get serious until they were already trailing 21-3.
  • The "target" game was on the ROAD against a bowl caliber team that's been getting respect in the rankings. That just has "upset" written all over it. We're not talking about a road trip to Kentucky or Northwestern, The #1 team in the nation has to travel to face somebody with top 25 talent...and therefore a team that can play like a top 10 team when fired up for their most important game of the season.

It's worth noting though that even if Ohio State plays great this Saturday Night in Madison, they'll STILL be targeted by dangerous opponents throughout the rest of the season. They won't quite have the gauntlet Alabama was going to be facing in terms of week-after-week-after week of power squads aiming to hurt them. The Buckeyes won't be gifted a spot in the BCS championship game. They'll have to earn it.

As I always mention when discussing "targeted" teams, we're looking at this scenario in all the major conferences too. It's not just about making the BCS game:

  • Oregon has survived Stanford, but will run into a few thrills in the Pac 10 before the year is over. The Ducks have a target on their backs for sure.
  • South Carolina now has one because they were the giant killers in the SEC. Foes will want to make a name for themselves by taking out the Gamecocks. LSU has a smaller target because they keep pulling wins out of their, um, hats.
  • Oklahoma and Nebraska are on pace to win their divisions of the Big 12. They have targets on their backs as a result, with plenty of talented foes coming up. Both of those teams will have to face reinvigorated Oklahoma State and Missouri. Nebraska will deal with a grouchy Texas squad this week.
  • Florida State may have put a target on their backs for the first time in years with that big win over Miami this past Saturday Night.

It goes without saying that Boise State and TCU have targets as well. TCU is in the tougher Mountain West Conference. Boise better not get complacent or they'll find themselves staring an upset in the face in a flat week too.

I'm looking forward to all the great underdog situations coming up in the next few weeks in college football. Several more potential thrillers are on TV again this Saturday. Letdowns and lookaheads are about to have a dramatic impact in the college game as well.

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You need to handicap football as if the ODDSMAKERS have TARGETS ON THEIR BACK! Do that, and you'll be extra motivated to GET THE BEST OF IT!


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