Michigan State fans: not too bright. Well, not these ones, anyway. It appears that some Spartan fans are angry about getting "snubbed" by the BCS despite having been the team that "convincingly" beat one-loss Wisconsin. To channel their anger, they have erected billboards throughout the state of Michigan like the one pictured to the right. In their mind, it should be the Michigan State Spartans headed to the Rose Bowl, and not the streaking Badgers who beat everyone else in the Big Ten like a red-headed stepchild, including our beloved Buckeyes. But never mind the fact that Wisconsin trucked the Big Ten's entire upper tier while Michigan State lost to Iowa by approximately a million points, Spartan fans just don't understand the rules:
Ultimately, the tiebreaker that determined the Big Ten's Rose Bowl participant came down to the BCS final standings. Wisconsin was ranked the highest followed by Ohio State and then Michigan State.
Ohio State received a Sugar Bowl invitation while Michigan State ended up without a BCS bid and will be going to the Capital One Bowl in Orlando to play Alabama on New Year's Day.
So, in other words, the selection followed a long-agreed-upon-and-adhered-to process in which the Big Ten utilized BCS standings to determine the Rose-Bowl bound champion at the end of a season with multiple one-loss squads. Wisconsin had a clear advantage in the BCS standings over Sparty, and beat the Buckeyes head-to-head, so it's a moot point. If there's anything to be remotely angry over, it's that Ohio State got selected to play in the Sugar Bowl before they did. But even then, it's hard to blame the Sugar Bowl Selection Committee for wanting to take the Buckeyes over the Spartans, if only because Buckeye football is a proven commodity with a mobile fanbase and a guaranteed ratings draw.
Sparty has one more chance to prove everyone wrong, I suppose, in the Capital One Bowl, but isn't Alabama basically a more talented Iowa?
Jim Tressel: (Master?) Motivator. Most of you out there will likely remember stories of the "Hater Tape" prior to the 2007 MNC game against LSU. Basically, Tressel and rest of the coaches put together an extended clip of all the Buckeye haters in the world - Mark May chief among them - refusing to give the Buckeyes a chance against the Tigers. It got the team fired up and angry, but perhaps they were a little too angry; the result was an unfocused, penalty-prone, mistake-filled night by a Buckeye team that roared out of the gates and whimpered heading home with its ninth loss to an SEC team in nine postseason games. Well, JT is at it again:
Tressel produced a fan's e-mail the other day that said Ohio State couldn't compete with and didn’t belong on the same field with an SEC team. That’s timely since the Buckeyes take on Arkansas of the SEC in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4.
It's far more subtle than the "Hater Tape" he compiled prior to the LSU game, and hopefully it will have a more subtle effect (i.e., no incredibly stupid personal fouls, roughing the punter, etc.). Pre-game hype is mostly mixed, as Arkansas isn't quite on the level of the talented Florida and LSU squads that rolled Ohio State in years prior, so I imagine Tressel has a very limited pool of hate to draw from. That's probably for the best; I'd rather the team not enter the game feeling like they have the weight of the program on their shoulders. I want them to have fun and end the streak.
More on that other team up north (TOTUN). It's looking like the Buckeyes' stiffest competition from the rest of the Big Ten this year will come from Mark Dantonio's Michigan State Spartans, who are using a solid year to bolster a recruiting effort that, up until this year, has been more average than not relative to the rest of the Big Ten. The Spartans are definitely in contention for St. Vincent-St. Mary cornerback Doran Grant, whose father played in East Lansing years ago, as well as OL Aundrey Walker, a Glenville kid who you'd think would therefore be an insta-Buckeye. Unfortunately, that's not so: Walker has the Spartans at #1 on his list right now. Jim Tressel and Co. have done a bang-up job in recruiting this season, but would probably like to keep the fence they've built around Ohio's elite talent properly mended after losing Trey DePriest to Alabama and Jordan Hicks to Texas over the past two seasons. Landing one of these guys would do a lot to assuage fears over the durability of said fence.
"I can't keep up on the annoying message board memes: do we struggle more against spread teams or pro-style teams these days?" Perhaps stating the obvious, The Dispatch's Ken Gordon writes that Arkansas' offense is a vastly different beast from the spread teams the Buckeyes have faced in each of the past two bowl games:
Arkansas has an offense in the classic sense, with the towering Mallett preferring to stay in the pocket and launch to a fleet of talented receivers. The Razorbacks also have the country's best tight end, John Mackey award-winner D.J. Williams, and 1,000-yard running back Knile Davis.
"Sometimes they have a fullback in there, sometimes they have two tight ends in there, three tight ends," Ohio State linebacker Ross Homan said. "So it really is kind of a smash-mouth game they can play at times.
Depending on which media/message board meme you buy into, this either screams "DEAAAAATH!" or instills confidence that the Buckeyes can stop the 'Hogs. Arkansas does not run, as popularly believed, an air raid-esque offense; they like to run the ball and in fact prefer to have it as a consistent option so that they don't become as one-dimensional as, say, Texas Tech or Hawaii. Bobby Petrino was a coach in the NFL, which prizes balanced offense above all else, for a reason, regardless of how briefly he was willing to hold onto the job. This article raises a good point though: arguably the most intriguing parallel between the Sugar Bowl and the last two Buckeyes bowl games is that in each game, the Buckeye D has been tasked with stopping a top-10 offense with a veteran signal-caller at the helm. They mostly succeeded, holding both Texas and Oregon to some of their lowest point and yardage totals on the season. Doing the same to Arkansas would mean holding them under 20 points and 420 yards of offense for the first time all season.