The regular season is over and the Buckeyes are 12-0 for the second year in a row. Their school record winning streak now sits at 24 straight games. After a thriller in Ann Arbor, the scarlet and grey now travel to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game and a date with the Michigan State Spartans. We’ll look back, ahead and farther forward. It’s Wednesday, let’s rumble!
The Game blues
As much as we all tried to say we expected a tough game, it didn’t seem like many of us actually believed it could possibly happen. I’m no different. After seeing Michigan the past couple of weeks and reading their stat-lines, I felt a blowout was imminent. We were reminded by the Wolverines just what rivalry is all about.
I certainly don’t mean to talk them up or give them much time in this column at all, but credit goes where it is deserved. Brady Hoke had his team ready to play and they performed for him. The Wolverines were not intimidated, they kept the Buckeye coaching staff guessing and turned the Silver Bullets greatest strength against them by keeping the Buckeye defensive line in check for the majority of the game.
The team up north reminded us of several things on Saturday: 1. Never count out your rivals and 2. Anything can happen, that’s why they play the game.
Last bit on the blue: Devin Gardner played his greatest game as a Wolverine in what amounted to the Super Bowl for them. He’ll be back next year, will he be this Devin Gardner or the one we saw all during the regular season? And challenge it all you want, Hoke made the right call in going for two. There was no way they were going to stop the Ohio State offense and he knew sooner than later his own offense would be faced with the clock striking midnight and turning back into a pumpkin. Turns out it happened a lot sooner than he thought.
The Game magic
I feel bad for the people that took to Twitter, message boards and conversation with others and could only damn the Buckeye defense and talk about how a 1 point win over a 7-5 team would somehow be damaging to them in the polls. I feel bad because they missed one hell of a football game. They missed a classic in a series that is loaded with traditions and classic games.
The Buckeyes and Wolverines engaged in football’s version of warfare in Ann Arbor. They traded runs, hits, tackles, even haymakers and body shots. The 109th version of The Game had us all on the edge of our seats and finished with heart palpitations and a jubilant release of nerves. How good did it feel when Tyvis Powell intercepted Devin Gardner and you exploded up off the edge of your chair or up into the air because you were already on your feet?
Forgot what that was like, didn’t you? It’s what makes championship seasons magical and it’s the memories you never forget. Thank you to the 2013 Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines for putting on an amazing show!
The Game: What happened, quick hitter style
To determine what happened and why/how Michigan was able to hang around we have to again revisit two factors: Rivalry, records mean nothing actually isn’t just a cliche, and this was literally the Wolverines Super Bowl. To be fair, I think they stunned our guys more than a little bit. I don’t know if it was a case of looking ahead, reading your own press, watching the game films and becoming overconfident or whatever it was, but I think it was pretty clear the Buckeyes as a team over-valued themselves and under-valued the opponent. Combine that line of thinking with a talented team (TTUN is loaded with 4 and 5 star recruits) that finally plays to their potential and you have what we saw on Saturday.
But it wasn’t all bad. Carlos Hyde had a record day and combined with Braxton Miller to be the first duo of Buckeye runners to go over 100 rushing yards in The Game since sometime in the 60′s when all they did was run and then run some more.
Despite completing only 6 passes, Braxton Miller was outstanding in displaying the quarterback intangibles of leading his team and keeping them focused. He’s also lucky he wasn’t thrown out during the second quarter melee for coming onto the field like Marcus Hall did.
Jeff Heurmann is a weapon and he needs to be used more often. He’s a matchup nightmare for Michigan State and would be against Florida State’s undersized linebackers as well. Not to mention he is deceptively quick and seems to have a knack for getting open.
The scrum that ensued in the second quarter should have never happened. How long were the officials planning to allow 5 Wolverines to circle Dontre Wilson, talk smack and push him around like a pinball before the true freshman lost it and took a swing or shove back? And what exactly were they expecting to happen once Wilson responded and had his helmet ripped off his head? I know the ejections had to happen, but the whole incident could have been avoided if the officials had stepped in right away.
Speaking of the ejections and the scrum, Marcus Hall made a fool of himself. Regardless of whether it was what we were all thinking or not, his action was not cool and he needed to control himself. That being said, I can’t imagine at 22-23 years old how I would have reacted in that moment with that level of intensity and in that particular game either. I know for sure there were a lot of people calling Hall’s action not very classy and I can’t disagree. I’m not excusing it by any means, but try and think back to what you were doing at 22 and maybe cut the kid a little slack. Besides, it will make great t-shirts and meme’s for the foreseable future that we all will have a blast laughing at. Or at least I will.
One last thing on the fight: Did you think that maybe that would wake up the Buckeye defense and end up being a positive thing? How… why… I don’t get how those guys weren’t focused and determined to clean some clocks next time out on the field. Instead we got more of the same from the front 7 especially. That was a little disappointing.
The Buckeye defense was gashed and gave up over 600 yards of offense. In the end, they made the play that they needed and won the game. I’ve said it for a few weeks now, all they need to do is be good enough to win. Saturday they were good enough to win and nothing else matters.
It has become a phrase of comic relief. Much in the way you tell a child not to touch a hot pan on a stove-top, when they commit one of their classic foul-ups people tend to call out “Sparty, no!” and laughter follows. This year, Sparty has managed to stay out of its own way and is having an UN-Sparty-like season finishing 11-1 and in the Big Ten Championship game. And their defense is assuredly no laughing matter.
The Buckeyes roll into Indy with the conferences best scoring offense, yardage offense and rushing offense. Michigan State comes in with the conferences best scoring defense, yardage defense and rushing defense. It’s strength on strength in a battle for the BCS.
I won’t pretend to know as much about MSU as I’d like to, but I’m watching clips and reading up on them. One thing I’ve noticed and it is abundantly clear is that this team as a whole is no joke. If you’re expecting a shootout in Lucas Oil Stadium you’d better reconsider. This is the best defense the Buckeyes have faced all season by a country mile and possibly the best it’s seen since USC in the LA Coliseum in 2008. Yeah, they’re that scary.
The Spartans do lack a little luster on offense, though. What else would you expect from a unit coordinated by Jim Bollman. That said, I think you’ll notice a huge similarity in Mark Dantonio’s 2013 Spartan team to some of the Jim Tressel Buckeye squads we saw while he was here as defensive coordinator with Tress: Brutally intimidating defense, solid special teams and an offense that won’t lose the game but probably won’t make many highlight reels either.
My biggest fear is that the Spartans, like the Wolverines, will play above their pay grade. Think about this: How long can you (MSU) listen to people on your own campus talk about how it doesn’t matter how good you are you’re still going to eventually have to play Ohio State and you’ll get bludgeoned? How many times can you listen to the media talk about how you’ve essentially played your season and won the right to be the Buckeyes sacrificial lambs in Indianapolis as they steamroll their way to Pasadena for the national championship game? It’s very similar to what Ohio State is experiencing on the national level being told SEC teams with 1 loss are more deserving than them to play for the national title.
My advice to Urban Meyer and the staff? Find a way to shock them by pulling out something early that they haven’t seen and are in no way prepared for and hit them hard. We learned last week that if you let someone hang around and give them hope anything can happen.
The biggest key to winning against Michigan State and in the national championship or Rose Bowl, and you can take this to the bank, will be how much the offensive and defensive lines want to exert their will on their opponent. Forget all the fancy stuff, it’s still won and lost up front.
After the miracle that was Auburn returning a field goal as regulation expired for a touchdown to beat top ranked Alabama, the Buckeyes rightfully moved into the number 2 spot in the Bowl Championship Series poll. But don’t look now, one-loss Auburn is on their tails.
Here’s how it’s going to go down: Win and they’re in. I don’t care if Ohio State wins by 21 or 1, just win the game and they will see their name in at worse the 2 spot when the final BCS poll is unveiled Sunday night.
And I don’t care if Auburn wins the SEC title game over Missouri by 40, they aren’t undefeated and the Buckeyes are.Saturday night when the polls are cast for the last time the voters will look at their ballots and choose between undefeated Ohio State and one loss Auburn/Missouri and make the right call in selecting the Buckeyes. You can’t pass on an undefeated BCS school with the history of Ohio State and a coach like Urban Meyer for a one loss team. Just won’t happen… right?
Wrap it up
Let me see your war face! We’re going to battle in Indy on Saturday night and you better be ready! Until next week, Go Bucks!
Metallica track of the week
We’ve been going extremely high energy and thrash to power us through the final weeks of the regular season. Why not stick with what is working? Let’s go back to easily the best thing I saw this summer, Metallica’s surprise “secret” set under the name Dehaan at Orion Music and More on Belle Isle in Detroit where they played their entire first album start to finish even tuning to the original guitar tone settings from 1983. In keeping with the destruction theme, here is No Remorse!