Fiesta Bowl: Connecticut vs. Oklahoma

Written December 31st, 2010 by Jay

Don’t forget to join us on Saturday for our All Day Livechat! We promise to talk about HGTV’s Rose Parade coverage if that will help your decision making…

Connecticut (8-4, 5-2 Big East) vs.
Oklahoma (11-2, 6-2 Big 12)
January 1, 2011 8:30 PM EST ESPN*

*Don’t forget to check out the marathon live blog on The Buckeye Battle Cry for all the New Year’s Day bowl game action!

History: The 40th playing of the Fiesta Bowl matches the Connecticut Huskies against the Oklahoma Sooners.  Since 2007 the game has been played in Glendale, Arizona at the University of Phoenix stadium, which contains a natural grass playing field (or, if you’re really a turf enthusiast, it’s Tifway 419 Bermuda hybrid planted in early May 2006 using stolons in an 11″ bed of USGA sand mix with inclusions, according to the bowl’s official website).  The Big 12 currently is the chosen conference to send a representative each year, and it’s well worth it, as both attending schools receive a payout of $17 million.

The University of Phoenix stadium - where you need to be able to trust the guy who's in charge of the "Move Field Out Of Stadium" switch

Arizona State won the inaugural Fiesta Bowl back in 1971, as well as the games in 1972, 1973, and 1975.  Ohio State appeared in its first Fiesta Bowl in 1980, a 31-19 loss to Penn State.  The Buckeyes rebounded with a victory over Pittsburgh on January 2, 1984 (coincidentally, the day of my birth – how appropriate!).  Ohio State would not visit Arizona for the game again until that fateful night in 2003 that resulted in a double-overtime victory over the Miami Hurricanes and our first national championship in over 30 years.  Last year’s contest pitted Boise State against TCU, and ended in a relatively low-scoring 17-10 win for the Broncos.

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Bowl Crap

Written December 9th, 2009 by MaliBuckeye

As promised (or threatened. Whatever.), today we start the three part exploration of the “National Championship” process, including a look at the money trail on the current system, and a discussion about the relevancy for the whole thing. Much of this is from my work on an earlier site; I’ve updated it as best as possible because you deserve the best.

Because, it’s not enough to point fingers- I want us to really know the facts. First, we figure out how we get to where we are today.

Let’s start off by remembering that as the game was in its formative stages, it was more prestigious than “professional” football. There were major concerns that almost had the game banned, and it was only “Papa Bear” Halas’ ability to sign Illinois legend Red Grange to the Bears that gave the NFL any credibility. College football is big now, but it used to have no competition- no NFL, no NBA, no PBA.

The Roughrider

The Roughrider

And, college football existed before the NCAA (it was founded to address football’s issues)- which is may also be why the NCAA has never had a ‘champion’ for football. It’s also important to note that the NCAA basketball tournament has always existed (although, at one time it was less significant than the NIT, but that’s another post), so there’s always been sanctioned “championship”.

In this context, the first thing to realize is that (once upon a time) everyone was OK with the media or others deciding this and letting folks know.

You know an obnoxious Notre Dame fan who’s obsessed with all of their national championships? Or a Mich1gAAn fan with the same obsessions? Or even an Army fan who remembers when they were good (it’s true)? Back then, it was up to sports writers (like the Heisman, the MVP for the season) to make that determination.

But they weren’t the only ones- there were multiple “champions”, designated by differing groups. For instance, Ohio State has five “official” championships and seven other ones. So the idea of a “true” champion is mostly a modern one- our ancestors were either OK with the complexity, enjoyed the debate, or simply had better things to do. My vote is the latter- there just wasn’t 24 hour coverage online and on cable of sports (not that I’m complaining).

California women are hot

California women are hot

At one point, though, things got complex when the good folks in Pasadena decided to host a little game in 1902 in order to raise awareness for tourism and for their parade. That first game was Michigan and Stanford (I know, but it’s true), and saw Michigan win 49-0. But the Rose Bowl wasn’t always a Big T1e1n and Pac-10 event; one of the most famous moments in college football occurred in a game against Georgia Tech and Cal (I know, because my grandfather listened to it on the radio).

With the success of trips to California, other cities soon got into the act- Florida and Texas soon hosted bowl games of their own. To ensure a crowd, these games began to approach conferences in order to set up the best match ups and provide a vacation spot for fans from the east coast, the Midwest, and the plains states.

In all of this, though, the idea of “championship” never came into consideration. Even through the 80′s, there were split “championships“, as the Associated Press and Coaches Poll would select different teams. But any attempt to change the bowl alignments to facilitate a better process went out the window with the 1984 anti-trust decision that allowed for colleges (and conferences) to negotiate their own television deals (which is why Notre Dame has their own deal with NBC).

Because conferences were creating their own contracts, they were working to create the television rights for their bowl agreements. All the NCAA could do was “recognize” these bowl games (meaning “allow student athletes to play, and member institutions to participate”). “Recognizing” is not “sanctioning”.

This leads us to our next discussion regarding the financial realities of the current system, but let’s finish with a quick summary:

  1. NCAA never had a national champion for college football
  2. Bowls have never about championships or playoffs (only money; first from tourism, now from television)
  3. The NCAA is limited in their ability to change the bowl process and create a playoff now due to legal precedent

Next in our journey: Follow the money… The major barrier to making any changes. And why it’s not as lucrative for your alma mater as you might imagine.

Troy Smith is way, way better than you

Written August 26th, 2009 by Jeff
This picture marks the one and only occasion in which a Michigan player actually got within 8 feet of Troy Smith

This picture marks the one and only occasion in which a Michigan player actually got within 8 feet of Troy Smith

We had a couple of interesting pieces to publish today, so the countdown had to wait until the street lights went on….thanks for your patience!

There’s only ten days left until the Ohio State Buckeyes take the field for the opening game of the 2009 season.  Now is the time that you begin to literally taste the excitement.  You can begin to smell the air in Ohio turning crisp, that genuine aroma of fall that you don’t truly recognize if you’re not from the midwest.  To me, that is the actual essence of college football.

Day #10 could have had so many great athletes recognized here at The BBC.

  • Rex Kern,  QB from the legendary teams of 1968-1970.
  • Art Schlichter, the brash QB from 1978-1981
  • Rich Spangler, the sure-shot kicker from 1982-1985

Or we could just go with the guy that still thrills us all here in Ohio and still gives them nightmares in that state up north.

Yeah, let’s go with Troy Smith.

Ohio State football has long been a force, and no single man can be credited with being the savior of the game (well, maybe Woody).  But earlier this decade things did not look so good for us until Troy Smith returned the Buckeyes to greatness.

Justin Zwick was our quarterback in 2004, and we struggled a lot with him at the helm early on.  It actually took a 55-yard FG at the buzzer to beat lowly Marshall.  More than half of Zwick’s passes ended up incomplete or in the hands of our opponents.

Then the losses started coming.  An OT loss to Northwestern showed just how bad things were about to get.  The murmurs about removing Zwick for Smith began to turn into screams.  The next week, a loss at home to Wisconsin started Buckeye fans into panic mode.  Tressel felt the heat to make a switch at QB.

Against Iowa, with the Buckeyes trailing 17-0, Zwick fumbled the ball deep in his own territory, and the change was made.  Troy Smith took over during Ohio State’s worst slump in over a decade and the weight was now on his shoulders.

Smith won 5 of the remaining 6 Buckeye games in 2004, turning a 3-3 Zwick team into an 8-4 Alamo Bowl champion….and a complete destruction over #7 Michigan, 37-21.

In 2005, his starting record was 9-1, which included a come-from-behind win at Michigan 25-21 and a 34-20 Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame.

Then came the dream season of 2006, in which the Buckeyes ended up 12-1.  Smith’s final home game was known as the “Game Of The Century” between #1 Ohio State and #2 Michigan.  Guess who won?

Wanna know just how much we love Troy Smith in northeast Ohio?  We actually didn’t mind that he got drafted by the Baltimore Ravens.

  • Smith’s record as a starter was 25-3.
  • He became only the second QB ever to go 3-0 against Michigan.
  • He was the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner
  • He has a National Championship ring
  • He gained over 1,000 yards….against Michigan alone.

But none of those stats are as pretty as it is to actually watch the man in action.  Thank God for YouTube….

“The Catch” against Michigan, 2005;

The play that won him the Heisman against Penn State;

The entire day against Notre Dame;

And then there’s this collection of dominance over Michigan….Troy’s in WAY too many of these clips;

Troy Smith, thank you for all you did for us.  This day is for you.

10 days left!

Two weeks, one day…

Written August 21st, 2009 by MaliBuckeye

Yup, we’ve reached day fifteen of our “Countdown to Kickoff”!

Today, AJ Trapasso drives us into the stratosphere on our way to the final two weeks of…

(No kickers this time? Are you kidding? Do you know how much research I’ve put into Gilman industries? Ah, well…)

Mr. Byars, I believe this is yours...

Mr. Byars, I believe this is yours...

Today, we honor the pride of Calumet City Illinois, home of Ray’s Music Exchange. A coach’s son, former Illinois High School Player of the Year, and a fifteen year NFL veteran, Michael J. Tomczak.

Like our day 19 honoree, he stepped into big shoes, following Art Schlichter’s assault on the passing record book at Ohio State. And yet, when he graduated, he was second only to his predecessor in many of the same categories; in spite of helping his tailback set his own record for most rushes in a season in 1984.

1983 saw Tomczak and the Buckeyes travel to Norman Oklahoma to battle the then #2 ranked Sooners. As this video from OHD shows, Oklahoma couldn’t win that big game either.

As that season came to an end in Tempe, Tomczak showed amazing poise in leading the winning drive against the Pitt Panthers with 2:39 on the clock. Here’s all 89 yards of glory:

What a throw to Jemison. And what is it with tOSU and Tempe?

During his senior year, he ended his career as all Buckeye players should (and most have, lately), with a victory over MACh1gAAn:

This resulted in a New Year’s trip for Ohio State to Pasadena, a trip they have made only one more time. As someone who lives within 10 minutes of the Rose Bowl, I’m looking forward to this trend changing ASAFP. Otherwise, I’m moving to Arizona.

Back to Mike.

His NFL tenure was mostly as a backup, although he did have the opportunity to exhibit his guitar skills on the way to New Orleans. His career ended with the Lions practice squad, but he’s best known as the reliable counterpoint to “Slash” during his seven year stint with the Steelers.

Mike, you done good. Thanks for bringing us one step closer to kickoff.

Matt Wilhelm – “None shall pass”

Written August 1st, 2009 by Jeff
Nom nom nom

Nom nom nom

When compiling a list of the best linebackers ever to play at Ohio State, the list is long. Spielman, Cousineau, Hawk, Laurinaitis, Gradishar, Pepper Johnson, etc etc etc.

While he rarely shows up on the list of all-time best LB, Matt Wilhelm is one of my favorites. And on his next-to-last play of his career, he saved a National Championship for us.

In the Fiesta Bowl in 2003, Miami was facing third down and goal from the Ohio State 1 yard line. The Buckeyes led 31-24 in the second overtime, and the Hurricanes had to score a touchdown or lose the game.

QB Ken Dorsey turned and handed the ball on an off-tackle run to Quadtraine Hill. He was hit at the line of scrimmage by Wilhelm, but kept his legs moving. Hill’s momentum kept him moving forward to the 1-foot line, and Wilhelm used his upper body strength to force the ball carrier backwards. He stayed on top of Hill and rode him to the ground, keeping him just shy of the end zone. Miami would fail on fourth down when LB Cie Grant forced a bad throw from Dorsey into the end zone and the title was ours.

Matt Wilhelm, you are our guest of honor today!

35 days until kickoff!

Keith Byars only needs one shoe to kick your ass

Written July 26th, 2009 by Jeff
So manly, he once scored a touchdown without the lower half of his right leg

So manly, he once scored a touchdown without the lower half of his right leg

With 41 days left before the kickoff to Ohio State football 2009, there was only one way to promote the day. We found the greatest player ever to wear the jersey at that number, Keith Byars.

In 1984, Byars rushed for over 1,700 yards and 22 touchdowns. In one game against Illinois, he set the single-game record by carving up 274 and five touchdowns. And yes, the legend is true….he scored one of those touchdowns with only one shoe on. The other came flying off halfway down the field.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to locate that video online anywhere (OHD is slacking off), so please enjoy the 99-yard TD by Byars in the 1984 Fiesta Bowl;

Wanna see something really wicked? Here’s Byars as a pro, completely destroying Pepper Johnson. Hardest hit I’ve ever seen….

41 days until kickoff!

The glory days of Brandon Schnittker

Written July 24th, 2009 by Jeff
Brandon Schnittker begins his career-long run

Brandon Schnittker begins the longest run of his career

Brandon Schnittker wasn’t widely known outside of the diehard Buckeye circles. He was a great blocker and when you’re lined up in the same backfield as a freshman RB who has 1,300 yards on the season, you just KNOW you’re not getting the ball very much. So his stats are not going to dominate the world.

But one glorious day, he had an amazing catch that began the most important drive Ohio State may have ever known.

November 23rd, 2002. Ohio State is 12-0 and with only 8:40 to play in the season, the Buckeyes are trailing Michigan 9-7. Tensions are high because the Buckeyes have had a season filled with late victories pulled out of thin air….will this be the one time that we can’t will ourselves to the win column? Also, this was still in the days when we would ALWAYS seem to lose our National Championship hopes to that state up north.

Ohio State took over on their own 37-yard-line. With Mike Nugent as our kicker, we were looking to get inside the 25 of Michigan to win this game and get to the Fiesta Bowl.

On the first snap from center, QB Craig Krenzel stepped back and fired a pass to our top WR Michael Jenkins. But the pass never reached Jenkins’ sticky fingers. Schnittker, who had been running a pattern to try and draw coverage away from Jenkins and Chris Vance, found himself in the path of the ball. He snagged it and used his strong legs to power himself further up the field, into Michigan territory at their 43-yard-line.

The roar of the crowd as Schnittker rumbled upfield was intense, and the drive would not be in vain. Krenzel’s legs, a brilliant pass to He Who Shall Not Be Named, and a 3-yard scamper by Maurice Hall broke the goal line and Ohio State took a late lead 14-9. That lead held up and Ohio State went on to win the National Championship.

Thanks to Tom, here’s the video of the drive….

Sports Videos, News, Blogs

That’s my biggest memory of Schnittker. He intercepted a pass intended for his own teammate. And I love the guy for it.

43 days until kickoff!

The elite program in The Big Ten

Written July 20th, 2009 by Jeff

This is a stat I have been admiring for a long time, and it just keeps growing….

Despite what some will say about our beloved Buckeyes, there is one factor which still makes us the best team in the NCAA.

We do NOT lose to teams we should beat. Period. There is no Appalachian State in our loss column.

Take a look at our last four seasons. Ohio State is 43-8. That number 43 stands out loud and clear….but even more impressive is the 8. Take a look at those 8 losses, look at who defeated us, and you’ll see what I mean.

2005 – lost to Texas. Texas went on to win the National Championship
2005 – lost to Penn State. Penn State went to the BCS and beat Florida State
2006 – lost to Florida. Florida won the National Championship
2007 – lost to Illinois. Illinois went to the BCS, in the Rose Bowl
2007 – lost to LSU. LSU won the National Championship
2008 – lost to USC. USC went to the BCS and beat Penn State in the Rose Bowl
2008 – lost to Penn State. PSU went to the BCS, in the Rose Bowl
2008 – lost to Texas. Texas was a BCS team that year, winning the Fiesta Bowl

All 8 losses were to BCS-Bowl teams that year, and three of them won it all.

So yes, we’ve lost some high-profile games. But ask yourselves this, fans of lesser schools….have YOU lost to a team you should have defeated in the last 4 seasons?

Ohio State hasn’t. That’s what makes us elite.

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