Good morning, Buckeye fans! It's Wednesday of the fourth week in November, meaning we are one day away from the holiday that centers around the holy alliance of food and football.
And just in case you've forgotten, which I know you haven't, we are three days away from the 108th installment of The Game.
As someone who vacillates between blind optimism and hardcore cynicism1 (and everywhere in between) when it comes to my sports teams, I remain indecisive about my prediction for Saturday's game. If we somehow found out, even through vague and slightly nonsensical Tweets from current players, that Tressel spoke to the team this week, I would feel about 1000% better.
Either way, I'll be in Ann Arbor, possibly getting rained on, and more than likely, facing harassment from Wolverine fans with eons of pent-up frustration. And the keys. So many keys.
Meanwhile, in Bristol, Connecticut, Urban Meyer will rub his hands together and cackle with glee as he glances at the rest of the Big Ten and then takes a look at an Ohio State roster that will include young players such as future Heisman winner Braxton Miller, soul-destroyer Ryan Shazier, and top recruit Adolphus Washington.
I hope the rest of the conference thoroughly enjoyed Ohio State's one-year sabbatical from dominance. Though I sort of feel like Urban taking over the program is like Voldemort seizing control of Hogwarts2, I recognize a coaching coup when I see one. And he will soon own every other B1G coach's head on a stick.
PASSION PIT. Responding to Fickell's comments yesterday about The Game and how "it's about passion and will...You don't win these types of games based on talent", Adam Rittenberg lays out the case for talent trumping the importance of passion, even in rivalries.
Rittenberg uses the Rich Rod Era as evidence to back his claim. While true that a team quarterbacked by Tate Forcier isn't going to be swimming in competence, he forgets that Fickell played during the 90s. Cooper was defined by fielding superior teams who routinely met defeat, sometimes embarrassingly so, at the hands of their northern nemesis.
Obviously, those 90s Michigan squads would have waxed the floor with Rodriguez' bunch. And for the most part, Tressel's teams were more skilled than UM's. He also emphasized The Game, much like Hoke is attempting to do, and he made sure the players appreciated its significance.
The nuance of rivalry games is that sometimes the most talented team wins, and sometimes, the "whoever wants it more" cliché holds up. Both matter, and hopefully, the Buckeyes will channel their innate, if not always well-executed, talent to passionately send Fickell off with a victory, Earle Bruce-style.
ONE-GAME SEASON. More than in recent years, when BCS berths and B1G titles were on the line, this season lives and dies for Ohio State on Saturday. With a win, the year will become salvageable. It will give the youngsters something to build on for next season and the seniors, who have had a rough ending to an otherwise successful career, can leave without knowing the sting of losing to Michigan.
However, if they get beat, this already disappointing season becomes one in which we pray that Will Smith comes along to flash us with a neuralyzer3. Their record would fall to 6-6, the worst since 1999 when they ended the season as such.
Fickell claims the Buckeyes have a one-track mind:
"The most important thing is this is Michigan week," Fickell said. "That's where we're focused. That's what we want to talk about ... who cares what the records are. Just like we've always said, it’s a one-game season. It's always been about a one game season."
Besides ensuring that a world where Ohio State loses Michigan remains alien to second graders, a W would perhaps keep OSU away from a bowl that airs on ESPNU4 and would eliminate the Wolverines' chance at a BCS bowl, which is ridiculous anyway. There's still plenty of motivation for the players so long as they haven't mentally packed their bags.
PEOPLE ARE CRAZY AND TIMES ARE STRANGE. The Detroit Free Press' Vince Ellis writes how in one calendar year, Ohio State and Michigan have undergone a Freaky Friday-like body swap. One is 6-5; the other is 9-2. One team seems to be regressing; the other seems to be progressing. One team will deal with a regime change; the other has a more stable situation.
Recently, none of that is unfamiliar territory for The Game. What's unusual is the two programs have switched positions and quickly.
Taking public speaking lessons from Terrelle Pryor, Brady Hoke said, "It's life. Things change every day. Babies are born. People die. I mean, things happen all the time." Well, he's not wrong. People are born and people die. Right now, even. It's the circle of life. So hakuna matata.
AIN'T NO SMOGGY SMOKE ON ROCKY TOP. Yesterday the university revealed that some alterations have been made to the upcoming football schedule. Gone is the home-and-home series against Tennessee that was supposed to take place in '18 and '19, a casualty of the 9-game B1G season that begins in '17.
While it's possible that the two schools will reschedule at a later date, so Ohio State fans can orchestrate mock S-E-C chants when the Buckeyes win, North Carolina and Florida A&M have been added. The matchups against UNC have been planned for '15 (in Columbus) and '17 (in Chapel Hill). The Rattlers will collect their paycheck in '13, when they will sacrifice themselves in Ohio Stadium.
The meetings with Virginia Tech ('14 and '15) and Oklahoma ('16 and '17) are still a go. At the moment, Cincinnati is the only nonconference foe on the docket for '18, though that will obviously be amended at some point.
BASKETBALL BITS. When the BB team tips off tonight versus VMI, it will be their second of three games in five days. It's a stretch of contests that Sullinger compares to March, because of the packed schedule, not the competition. Corey will have a preview up later today, but two areas that the Buckeyes are confident in are their inside game and creating turnovers.
Three of Ohio State's future opponents played last night in the Maui Invitational, including next Tuesday's adversary, Duke. The Blue Devils defeated Michigan 82-75 in a battle of rosters replete with super-annoying players and kids of well-known dads. One stat Matta and staff should pay attention to is Duke's three-point shooting. They made 11 of 21 from behind the arc against UM.
Duke will take on Kansas, who beat UCLA 72-56, tonight in the championship game. Michigan and UCLA will vie for third place.
In Lady Buckeyes news, the women's BB team improved their record to 3-0 after a 73-50 win over Howard yesterday. Tayler Hill was the leading scorer with 18 and Darryce Moore chipped in with 15.
I LINK I CAN. Another stomach-churning Jerry Sandusky update... Jeff Svoboda's pal Josh shot a high-grade Mirror Lake video last night... Wesley Witherspoon, a Memphis player who is presumably British, made a dumb... Brady Hoke's least favorite team got the best of Miami (OH)... A Community Easter Egg three years in the making (six seasons and a movie)... Hollywood is sexist?!?!... Amy Poehler's pitches for female-starring comedies... So that's why I procrastinate.
- 1 I was pretty insistent that Urban Meyer would not be the next head coach, because I had already seen how this type of story plays out elsewhere (Michigan), and quite frankly, some fans really reeked of desperation in their pleas for Urban and I prefer playing it cool. Then, a website I trust broke the news and my skepticism turned into a desire to troll the message boards of every other Big Ten school.
- 2 RIP, Tresseldore.
- 3 With the exception of this play.
- 4 I'd be shocked if Ohio State and Florida don't face off in a bowl. The story line is too irresistible, and as such, money, money, money.