Bradley’s Buzz: How do you solve a problem like Michigan?

Brutus Buckeye dances on the field before Ohio State takes on Nebraska at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 6, 2021, in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Brutus Buckeye dances on the field before Ohio State takes on Nebraska at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 6, 2021, in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Ohio State doesn’t need more fans. It’s the flagship school – THE Ohio State University, don’t you know – of our nation’s seventh-most-populous state.

(People-wise, Georgia’s No. 8. And looky here: The UGA Bulldogs are one spot below OSU in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings, though they finished one point ahead of the Buckeyes on Dec. 31, 2022. And yes, I missed my calling. I should have collated fun facts for almanacs.)

The CFP has a committee of 13. This means Ohio State has a dozen new rooters. For 12 of the 13 members – the exception is Warde Manuel, who as Michigan AD presumably still pulls for the Wolverines – the Buckeyes could be the difference between a blissful holiday season and a maize-and-blue hellscape.

Michigan is ranked No. 3 by the CFP. Four teams will make the playoff. Michigan is being investigated by the Big Ten and the NCAA not for having stolen signs but for having traveled to opponents’ stadiums – according to the Washington Post, the most frequent stops were Columbus, Ohio, and Athens, Ga. – in the effort to discern which signs to steal.

Of the media’s first eight questions on the teleconference following Tuesday’s CFP ratings reveal, six involved Michigan. Interrogators wanted to know how the committee planned to handle villainous U-M and if Manuel remains a member in good standing. (Answers: It’s business as usual, and yes, he is.)

From the semi-prosecutorial Question No. 4: “I’m curious how you can properly determine that Michigan is the No. 3 team in the country if you didn’t discuss whether part of their dominance is using information they shouldn’t have had.”

That was Tuesday. On Wednesday, ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported: “A vast majority of Big Ten coaches expressed their frustrations with the ongoing signal-stealing investigation of Michigan in a video call with commissioner Tony Petitti.” A source asked Thamel: “What are we waiting on? We know what they did.”

On Thursday, Thamel reported Big Ten athletic directors held a similar session. This isn’t going away.

On Tuesday’s teleconference, CFP executive director Bill Hancock sought refuge in due process, saying: “You have to remember that these are allegations at this point and not facts, and so there’s no substantive evidence that anything happened that might have affected the game.” While technically true, it misses the point.

MLB will never live down the Astros stealing signs – which IS forbidden in baseball – en route to winning the 2017 World Series. In MLB’s defense, it didn’t know the Astros were cheating until after the fact. The Big Ten, the NCAA and the CFP cannot plead similar ignorance. But is a conference apt to penalize a member that, with an invite to the CFP semifinals, would earn $6 million for said conference?

As for the NCAA: When’s the last time that toothless body didn’t take Due Process as an excuse to Do Nothing? And, strange as it sounds, the NCAA might lack jurisdiction. The CFP runs itself.

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Michigan rescinded a contract extension for coach Jim Harbaugh. Said Harbaugh: “I wouldn’t say that’s accurate,” which isn’t the same as saying it was inaccurate. Apparently the school has been given pause by these allegations-if-not-facts, though the extent of its concern hasn’t gone beyond suspending “analyst” Connor Stalions, the frequent traveler making $55K.

The CFP will unveil three more sets of rankings – and hold three more teleconferences – before Michigan and Ohio State meet in Ann Arbor on Nov. 25. (Penn State could upset Harbaugh’s team next weekend but probably won’t.) Unless/until the Wolverines lose, they’ll be the talking point from here to New Year’s Day.

And now you’re asking: What SHOULD be done? And this is me saying, “No idea.” If sign-stealing isn’t a violation of somebody’s rules, is the attempt to steal signs a disqualifying offense? Who does the disqualifying? Would Michigan go to court to fight such disqualification? Would Michigan disqualify itself? How long before Harbaugh signs a new contract – to coach the Chicago Bears?

Ohio State, our nation turns its pleading eyes to you. We’ll even do the semaphore to “Hang On Sloopy.” There’s an “O,” and an “H,” and an ...

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