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Column: Why is Dabo Swinney making such a big deal out of Ohio State’s six-game season?

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Dabo Swinney is college football’s ultimate gaslighter.

Clemson v Notre Dame Photo by Matt Cashore-Pool/Getty Images

Alright, friends. We have made it through Christmas and my half-birthday — which is celebrated as Boxing Day in many other countries — and we are now able to fully focus on Friday’s College Football Playoff semifinal, the 2021 Sugar Bowl between the No. 2 Clemson Tigers and the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes.

Now that we have gotten through all of the mirth and merriment that epitomizes this past week, it’s time to get serious and focus on this godforsaken game that for the next four days will bring me nothing but misery, dread, and likely a bit of heartburn. I have to tell you, I am not looking forward to this game; the latest in a recent line of contests between our beloved Buckeyes and Darth Swinney’s Clemson Tigers.

If you didn’t listen to our Christmas Eve episode of the “Stick to Sports” podcast, Tia Johnston and I made it very clear how we feel about Clemson’s head coach, but my apprehension about this game isn’t born of Dabo’s rank hypocrisy and sanctimoniousness (although that doesn’t help).

Instead, it is because — quite honestly — I’m tired of watching my favorite team lose to them, and I’m not feeling super great about this year being any different. When the two teams met up for last season’s Fiesta Bowl, I felt very good about the Buckeyes’ chances. But even though that game was just 366 days ago (don’t forget, this was a leap year), it feels like it’s been a century since that ill-fated Justin Fields pass to Chris Olave was picked off in the end zone.

And, in my estimation, this OSU team just isn’t as good as last year’s version was. Now, they wouldn’t necessarily have to be in order to avenge that loss to the Tigers, because they aren’t playing last year’s Clemson team. But, while I still think that the 2019 Buckeyes were better than the 2019 Tigers, the losses that the latter has suffered — Isaiah Simmons and Justyn Ross to name a few — have not been nearly as damaging as those the Buckeyes have endured — Chase Young, J.K. Dobbins, Jeff Okudah, Damon Arnette, Jordan Fuller, etc.

So, even as the year began, I thought that OSU would have to play catchup, but I assumed that whatever deficit that Ohio State began the season with could be made up through the course of a completely normal 12-game regular season plus a Big Ten Championship game. After all, I knew the depth of talent on this Buckeye roster, and I (mostly) had faith in this coaching staff to develop said talent into a team that could beat anyone. In fact, that’s what I predicted at the beginning of the season.

But, friends, not only did Ohio State not get that completely normal 12-game regular season, they didn’t even get half of it before they took on the Northwestern Wildcats in the B1G Title Game. Now, Dab-izzle would like you to think that by only playing six games the Buckeyes should not have qualified for the College Football Playoff because they have not properly suffered through the college football gauntlet in the same way that their CFP brethren have.

Now, we will put aside the shameless hypocrisy surrounding the fact that just three months ago, William Christopher Swinney is quoted as saying that he wasn’t at all concerned about the disparity between the number of games played by B1G teams and their counterparts from other conferences, because its offensiveness pales in comparison to the intellectually dishonest argument that he is trying to pull over an unsuspecting public’s eyes.

For a while, I struggled to figure out why Gumbo was making such a big deal out of this even to the point that he ranked Ohio State at No. 11 in his final coach’s poll ballot. We already know that his whole stance is bullshit, since September Swinney laid out a pretty compelling argument against December Dabo’s ludicrous stance, so why make this a thing?

If it were almost anyone else, I would say that it was to try and lobby to keep the Buckeyes out of the CFP, but given Clemson’s track record against OSU, I am pretty confident that Clemson isn’t afraid of the Buckeyes, I mean, why would they be?

Then there’s recruiting. Recruiting is usually the rationale behind everything done in college football, but I just couldn’t come up with an angle to justify it through that lens, and obviously he’s not purposely trying to give Ryan Day bulletin board material. So why is Dabo Smarmy continuing to push this at every opportunity? And then it dawned on me.

Yes, I am sure that he thinks that his team will beat the Buckeyes on New Year’s Day, but in the off chance that they don’t, after all of his playoff proselytizing, he’s now got a built-in excuse. The more he pumps up this conspiracy theory that Ohio State doesn’t deserve a spot in the playoffs since they have had the unfair advantage of having three games canceled and multiple players test positive for COVID, the more he can rationalize a potential loss to the media, his team, his fans, and his recruits (see, I told you everything comes back to recruiting).

It’s not that Blabo is afraid of the Buckeyes, it’s that — like the slimiest of politicians — he is using faux morality as a way to bend a narrative to benefit him personally. This is not about keeping the playing field level for all of the student athletes, this isn’t about keeping players and staff members healthy, this is solely about him being able to have a ready-made excuse to spin if things don’t go his way in New Orleans.

This is the worst kind of Machiavellian maneuver, because (as he always does) he packages up his incredibly self-serving stance as some sort of moral imperative that compels him to rise and stand on the side of truth, justice, and the American way. But, as we all know, it’s complete and utter bullshit. He’s just looking to cover his own backside. And that’s fine if that’s how you want to play things, Billy Chris, but don’t disrespect what the group of coaches, players, and staff members at Ohio State have gone through and accomplished this season simply so that you can start talking about how the system was rigged against you if you happen to lose on Friday. He’s priming the pump just in case he needs to set his disinformation campaign into high gear beginning in his postgame presser.

And what’s more is that once you get past his priggish protestations, you realize that his entire argument is asinine. Yes, of course playing fewer games means that players won’t have as many opportunities to get hurt, and that players won’t be as physically worn down as they would have been in a full season. No person with half a brain is denying that, but to pretend that the conversation stops there is wholly disingenuous.

And you want to know how I know that Coach Snake Oil Salesman is full of it, because any coach as talented as he is knows full well the importance of the other side to that coin. He is one of the best coaches in college football and has one of the best staffs in the sport as well, so he knows what type of progress can be made by having those extra games and extra weeks of practice. He knows how valuable having twice as much film to break down can be in the development of a team replacing as many key contributors as Ohio State is this year.

Dabo knows all of this. But do you hear him acknowledging any of it when discussing how ethically offensive it is that Ohio State has skated to the playoff having played just six games? Of course not, because it doesn’t fit his narrative. He is attempting to manipulate the media — and by extension fans, players, and recruits — into thinking exactly how he wants them to think as a means of getting them to do exactly what he wants them to do. Dabo Swinney is a gaslighter, and he’s really good at it. He’s been doing it for years while promoting this phony aw-shucks, pizza party personality.

And you want to know why this really chaps my ass, fam? Because the exact thing that Dabo Swizzle is purposely ignoring is probably the reason that the Buckeyes are probably going to get waxed in a few days. They are at a substantial on-field disadvantage because they haven’t had the opportunity to get inexperienced players as many game or practice reps as they would have in a regular season. The coaches haven’t had as many opportunities to try out different configurations, personnel groupings, or rotations that they would have if they had played as many games as Clemson has.

Again, Dabo knows all of this, yet he is trying to convince the college football world that his poor, lowly team is the one being put upon; that his team is the one that will have to muster up a Herculean effort to overcome the unfairly fresh Buckeyes.

Bullshit. He knows he’s got Ryan Day exactly where he wants him. Dabo’s team is better, and even if he loses, he can pretend like it was the system that conspired to screw him and he can hand-wave the loss away as if it never happened.

“Gaslighter, denier. Doin’ anything to get your ass farther.”