Ohio State has admitted it used ineligible players last season, and has decided to vacate every win from 2010 -- including the Sugar Bowl. It is too late to go back now, but the Buckeyes ended up hurting two other programs in the process:
Michigan State and Boise State.
Those two schools got passed over for an at-large bid into a BCS game in favor of Ohio State. Now we must pretend the Buckeyes' game against Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl never happened. Remember the hand-wringing back in December when Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State all finished with one loss? Plenty of debates ensued about which schools were most deserving of BCS bids. Wisconsin got into the Rose Bowl as the highest finisher in the BCS standings. Ohio State nabbed the at-large bid. Michigan State got a lovely trip to Orlando and got pounded by Alabama.
Boise State, which finished right behind Michigan State in the BCS standings, was never truly considered. The Broncos got to play in Las Vegas in December against fellow non-AQ Utah.
We now know things should have been different. Never mind that Terrelle Pryor and his four teammates should never have been allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl. Had Jim Tressel been honest when he found out his five players had violated NCAA rules when they took improper benefits from a local tattoo parlor owner, they most certainly would have been forced to serve suspensions at the start of 2010.
That would have most likely altered the course of the 2010 season. Let us just say for argument's sake the five players were given the same punishment -- five game-suspensions -- to be served at the start of the season. That means they would not have been eligible to play against Miami in the second game of the year, a game that very easily could have gone a different way. Who knows what the distractions would have done to the Buckeyes? Several other teams had players suspended for NCAA violations, including North Carolina and Georgia, and they fell apart.
Woulda, shoulda couldas do not mean much right now, but it is just galling that one of the four available at-large BCS spots went to a team that used ineligible players. What would have happened if Ohio State was out of the mix? There could have been a serious debate about whether the final at-large spot deserved to go to BCS No. 9 Michigan State or No. 10 Boise State. For a team like Boise State, getting into a BCS game is never a sure thing.
No one-loss non-AQ teams has ever gotten an invite to a BCS game. Would the Broncos have been worthy even with a loss to Nevada? The Spartans had their own question marks as well, because of some of the close games they ended up winning. You can say what you want about Boise State, but you can bet TV ratings would have been high for a Broncos-Arkansas game in the Sugar Bowl. You can guess why.
Non-AQ vs. SEC = must-see TV.
Instead, we will always be left to wonder "what if?"