Final Destination

By Ramzy Nasrallah on August 21, 2012 at 1:00p
RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE RABBLEIf you could play the greatest game of your life, you would play it that day. - Michigan RB Rob Lytle on The Game

Last season Ohio State lost three November games in a row. 

Over the prior ten seasons Ohio State had lost four November games in total. Jim Tressel's Novembers were generally perfect, especially in the grand finale department.

While the entire 2011 season demonstrated how vital Tressel's presence was to the success of Tresselball, that November slide put a fitting capstone on the most unenjoyable year of Ohio State football ever. The Buckeyes had not lost three November games since 1999, which until last season was its most recent football catastrophe.

This November is already tinged with a degree of spoilage regardless of its outcome because it's Ohio State's finish line. It's already been decided. 

There won't be any jockeying for postseason position and you won't enjoy a six-week buildup to a bowl opponent. A postseason ban is actually worse than being too lousy for bowl eligibility: At least being a bad team comes with half a season of tension. Must. Get. To. Detroit.

The 2012 Buckeyes will enter November with no postseason tension at all. No tension, no shine, no brass ring, no spoils: November.  

This implies that Ohio State will enter its final football month loose and relaxed. What is more likely to happen, with nothing to chase in the distance, is that Urban Meyer will have to manufacture tension to coincide with his players' natural ambitions of playing competitively.

In short, with the season's end rapidly approaching, Ohio State's November meetings will each be adorned with urgency and importance like never before. We'll just make these our "bowl" games.

WOOOO WE GON GET YOU TROJANSHere you go, Illini. Have a Rose Bowl trip. It's on us.

And wouldn't you know it: Ohio State's November this season just happens to feature the three programs that have derailed the Buckeyes more than any other: Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Prior to last season, the last time Ohio State had lost any football game in November it was to Illinois, and those Buckeyes were undefeated and ranked #1. And the game was in Columbus, as it is again this November.

The Illini are 6-4 in their last ten visits to Columbus, yet they've lost their last nine in Champaign to the Buckeyes, including last year's Walrusball special when Ohio State completed only one pass yet still left town with the turtle

Illinois will likely enter November with designs on another Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl-ish destination, and meeting the Buckeyes in their historically-preferred setting would go a long way toward upgrading that prize.

Tim Beckman will undoubtedly show his players footage on top of footage on top of footage of triumphant Illinois players celebrating in the Horseshoe. It's not like it's hard to find. Six and four in their last ten. Illinois. It's damn near impossible to believe.

At the same time, Meyer can show that same miserable footage to his own team through a different lens for motivational purposes. HOORAY, PSYCHOLOGY!

The Illini's improbable success in Columbus is matched only by Ohio State's inability to execute a sane and responsible game plan at Purdue this entire century. This is why the odd apprehension that comes with an Illinois visit is similar to the strain you feel when the Buckeyes venture to America's Afghanistan off of I-65, which they don't this season - Purdue visits the Buckeyes in October.

I FOUND THIS ON THE INTERNET AND PRINTED IT FOR THE GAME. I SHOW IT TO YOU NOW.Smug Badger is smug, but on this evening he was correct.

After the Illini pay their visit, the Buckeyes get their bye week. This rest comes ahead of the meeting with Wisconsin for the second year in a row. The Badgers' bye comes while the Buckeyes play Illinois, which leads into their game with Indiana - and that may actually clinch the division for them ahead of its meeting with Ohio State.

Since Barry Alvarez arrived, the Buckeyes are 4-3-1 at Camp Randall, but with an average score of 18.38 to 17 making Madison the most HNNNNNNNNNNNNG conference venue for Ohio State over the past two decades.

As fun as it would be to see the Hoosiers take the Leaders Division crown in Ohio State's year out of contention, it's a very good bet that Wisconsin will already have that trip to Indianapolis locked up when they play the home-bound Buckeyes.

That doesn't mean Wisconsin will tread lightly, though. This isn't the NFL, you guys.

But the Badgers, unlike the Buckeyes, will have to be looking ahead. Ohio State is followed by a trip to State College to serve as the opponent for Penn State's own Final Destination game. That comes one week before playing for the Rose Bowl against the Legends champ.

This means the Buckeyes are the first hurdle in a furious three-week finish for Wisconsin. Not only is this year's Leaders Division title holder an open secret, it's entirely conceivable that Wisconsin could limp into the B1G championship game trying to avoid a third straight loss, thrilling Jim Delany to no end.

Just hit him hard. See how he falls.The Buckeyes separated Denard from the ball in his last visit.

That leaves Ohio State back in Columbus for its final game of the season and the last game for several seniors being denied the traditional winter encore. The 2006 version of The Game may have been the biggest one ever, but the 2012 version is the most important one in several years. 

Only the 2001 game in Ann Arbor that Tressel used to shape the rivalry for a decade is comparable. Meyer losing his first Michigan game would earn Brady Hoke his second win over Ohio. Ed. In this context we're referring to the Buckeyes since Hoke has never beaten Ohio.

Michigan should either be playing for that same Indianapolis trip the Badgers will have booked at the beginning of the month against Indiana, or at worst jockeying for position in the B1G's crowded January 1 bowling schedule. Those two goals have one thing in common: They pale in comparison to the importance of Michigan winning in Columbus for the first time in a dozen years.

Ohio State's postseason ban allows The Game to be played in a very rare, natural and organic state - at least on the home sideline - for the first time since 1988 when the rebuilding Buckeyes were already eliminated from postseason contention. It has always been the only game that matters, but in 2012 it is the only game that matters.

Catch up on everything you need to know ahead of the season kickoff.

The outcome of the Michigan game isn't diluted with bowl positioning or B1G championship game implications. It is the rarest opportunity for an Ohio State team that isn't terrible to approach its rivalry game with no other distractions riding on the outcome.

It's been suggested ever since the NCAA ruled that Bobby DiGeronimo made Ohio State a repeat offender and stamped out its 2012 postseason that Michigan became the Buckeyes' de facto bowl game. That's a little too simplistic. 

Bowl games are generally poorly attended, overhyped affairs inflated with manufactured story lines. Ohio State playing Michigan is none of those things. No bowl game on the horizon only thickens the certitude of the Buckeyes' finale. 

But as far as winning November goes, the Buckeyes get a tough mix of recent nemesis and historical adversary. Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan should represent the most challenging late-season Ohio State scheduling in years. 

Even with nothing to play for, the final month of the season won't provide the Buckeyes with a soft landing. November already looks like a playoff as it is, but without the benefit of a prize.


Comments Show All Comments

buckeyeEddie27's picture

Kinda reminds me of this.    (turn up volume, its pretty quiet for some reason)
EDIT:  adult language in clip.

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

MAN it is going to be a great November!  First we get to watch baby Bret cry on the sidelines as Urban and company dump about 50 points on him, then we get to watch Flounder get a very good ass whoopin in the Shoe.  I'm guessing he'll know first hand the difference between Ohio and Ohio State after that one!
It's 10:50 PST and Michigan still sucks and Hoke is still fat.

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

SLVRBLLTS's picture

I didn't think I could possibly be more pumped for next saturday, but you managed to make it happen. Thanks Ramzy!

"Because we couldn't go for three"

buckeye76BHop's picture

I'll drink to that!  Thanks Ramzy.

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

BrewstersMillions's picture

Being from Illinois and knowing a hand full of Illinois alums, I am in a tough spot each season the Bucks and Illini go at it. Win with ease and I can't revel at my friend's expense because as one person put it after the 40-2 laugher a few years ago "You are supposed to do that to us in the Shoe". Should my beloved Bucks LOSE to Illinois I hear it for YEARS. YEARS. My Freshman year I lived through the Kurt Kitner thing and heard about that win (over a very mediocre OSU team for what its worth) until Juice Williams beat OSU in 2007 (A game I'm still hearing talk from). Even narrow OSU wins are ammo for Illinois fans. The 2002 game is still discussed with anger from my U of I friends who to this day hold that Walter Young was interfered with on what could have been a game winning TD. Whats more, a win over OSU validates any season in the eyes of Illinois fans. Their loss in the Rose Bowl in 07\08 was a national embarrassment but to them it was a great season because the Illini beat the Buckeyes. I certainly didn't think losses to Florida, LSU and Texas hurt any less because the Bucks had beaten Michigan that season but then again, I'm a fan of a team whose annual expectations exceed participation trophies and hand me down Rose Bowl's....
God I hate Illinois.

doodah_man's picture

Much in the spirit of Hoke (calling us Ohio) never cease to call them Illin Noise. It drives them nutz....

Jim "DooDah" Day

"If I were giving a young man advice as to how he might succeed in life, I would say to him, pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.” --Wilbur Wright, 1910

buckeye76BHop's picture

To Brew:  I sure hated watching that game in 2007 at the shoe when they came out of no where and beat a then undefeated #1 OSU.  I was sitting at 27AA for that...and couldn't believe what my eyes saw that day.  

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

BrewstersMillions's picture

Ick. And the way it ended had to be so disheartening to watch live, just the utter helplessness you had to have felt sitting there live....Gross.

Triv's picture

I too was there and had we not called timeout on 4th and 1 when they were lined up to punt but instead went for it after the timeout, I believe we would have won that game.

Sorry Urban, Woody is still my favorite

Bucksfan's picture

I did not realize the Illini's 6-4 record in Columbus.  That's a bit shocking.  As dominant as we've been, you're right to point out how Illinois, Wisconsin and Purdue seem to be in a back-and-forth with Ohio State.  Hell, throw Penn State in there, too.  Maybe it is a good division for us...highly contentious, probably not as easily dominated as we thought when the B1G split was announced.
The lack of a post-season really is a downer for me.  I know some can get really psyched up no matter what we're playing for.  But for me it's hard to ignore the fact that Big Ten play DOES have a goal, it DOES have a purpose, November DOES mean something.  And usually, it means titles and showcase bowls.  But this year, it's not going to be as fun.  What if we lose to Wisconsin and beat Michigan?  Yay, but November will come off as sort of a failure in the faux division race.  What if we lose both?  What if we go undefeated in those 3 games?  Yay.  But it's not supposed to be fun.  The NCAA grounded us.  Being grounded isn't fun.  I'm not going to act like it is.  But I will be watching and cheering anyway.

OSUBias's picture

Watching Juice Williams and Mendenhall convert what seemed to be 80% of their 3rd downs and 100% of their 4th downs in the 4th quarter was one of the hardest ways to see a Buckeye team lose. We'd been spoiled by a defense that was stellar against the run and had amazing 3rd down efficiency, and they just could NOT get a stop. Illinois killed like 8 minutes in the 4th; it was like death by a thousand cuts.
Honestly, give me a game like Florida or LSU where we get steamrolled in a short period of time and the game is essentially over (1st quarter against Florida, maybe early part of the 2nd, 2nd quarter against LSU). Watching OSU have like 15 opportunities to make plays that would give us a chance to win on that drive in the 4th against IL and having us go 0-15 was so exhausting. It was "get hopes up....hopes dashed....3rd and 7 gets my hopes up....8 yard gain kills them....4th and 2 hopes up, 6 yard gain kills hope." At least in the NC game debacles I was numb from shock to the point that nothing on earth seemed like it could ever raise my spirits again (Fla), and I was expecting it as soon as it happened (LSU). Illinois I was still EXPECTING us to make a play, and for the first time in 2.5 years of Big Ten play we couldn't do it.

7 yards and a cloud of dust is a beautiful thing

BrewstersMillions's picture

Illinois got a pick with 8:09 to go and never gave it back. The entire time I kept saying "Laurinitis has to make this play" and he never did. I debated shutting my phone off by I took my medicine that night.

tennbuckeye19's picture

Ugh. I would be quite okay if I never hear the name Juice Williams ever again. Or Mendenhall for that matter. Stupid Illini. 

Maestro's picture

Laurinaitis couldn't shed a blocker to save his life in that game on 3rd downs.  It was so painful to watch I darn near killed my dog.  Not with physical harm, but with my yelling.  She was on the brink of a heart attack many times in my estimation

vacuuming sucks

Triv's picture

If you watch the replay of the LSU game, it is one play from going into overtime actually. Granted we lost by 14, but in the fourth quarter LSU was punting up by 7 I believe and an OSU player had the easiest blocked punt he could have possibly had. Untouched to the punter. He missed the ball however and took out the punter. 15 yard penalty and they scored on that drive. Block punt touchdown would have tied the game and it would be a totally different football game from then on

Sorry Urban, Woody is still my favorite

OSUBias's picture

That play actually happened in the third quarter and they were up by 14 at the time. They then went up by 21 after the ensuing TD. We got it back to 14 twice after that.
Regardless, it never felt like we had a chance to get back into the game. Same way in the Florida game. That's more what I was referring to. Both of those games the other side had all of the momentum, all of the confidence, made all the plays, and expected to make all the plays (I'm talking about they both seized momentum). It never felt like we really had a chance to get back in those games. The Illinois game CONSTANTLY felt like we were one play from being back in the game, and we could never make it happen.

7 yards and a cloud of dust is a beautiful thing

Nutbuck1959's picture

If past games are ammo, bring up Keith Byars in the epic comeback game (that was Illinois wasn't it?). Missed my buddy's wedding pictures (I was best man) over that one.

Pam's picture

I am not usually a sore loser, but when it comes to the '07 Illinois game, I am bitter to this day. The refs should not have been working after they were reported to the BIG for the way they officiated the Purdue/PSU game. I was screaming at the TV "Fumble"!! and couldn't believe it when UI got the ball back. It was a cluster f^&k after that. Was there even one holding call in the 4th against them? Those ref's IIRC, never called another BIG game.

BrewstersMillions's picture

Eh, I'm not one to blame refs at all. Especially over the course of a 60 minute game. One blown call or two certainly stands out because you remember it the most but over the life of a full tilt, there are dozens of plays that shape the outcome. I've always bought into the fact that one play does not decide a game and a missed call (even really big ones) aren't the lone difference between a W and an L. If a team converts first downs for a full 8 minutes with essentially 2 plays like Illinois did, one call doesn't really cause me too much distress. OSU had 5 or 6 shots to close that drive out and didn't. I tipped my hat to Illinois on that one. OSU knew what was coming, Illinois knew OSU knew what was coming and still proceeded to make plays at will against one of the best defenses JT ever put out on a field.

Pam's picture

The BIG did confirm that it was a fumble. UI scored on that drive and the game was decided by 7 points, so it was a really really big call. My biggest problem was that the crew should not have been working that day. There was too much controversy from the week  before and one of he refs had just declared bankruptcy with gamblings debts over $100k. The #1 team losing at home would have been a nice bet. For me the whole thing stinks and I am still mad.

BrewstersMillions's picture

Well thats certainly an angle I was unaware of but I won't call it anything more than a team out playing a better team. It sucks because there are few things more embrassing than being the fan of the #1 team in the country and watching them lose at home in a month your beloved coach has his way with each and every season. It sucked and like I said, that one call stings a ton, but if OSU's defense answers the offense's quick strike in the first quarter with a stop of their own and Illinois can't score so fast we might be singing a different tune all together too. Football is a funny, weird, crazy game and can be looked at through the lens of 'the butterfly effect' until you are blue in the face. One play makes not a game for me.

Enzo's picture

I usually don't like blaming the refs either. But that one play changed the entire complection of that game. And the first and only holding penalty against Illinois didn't come until the middle of the 4th quarter. Illinois was the most penalized team in the Big Ten that year, by far. I didn't look this up, but I think they were called for at most 3 penalties all game. There's a reason there were gaping holes up the middle on 3rd and long and it wasn't because of Illinois' clean O-Line play.
This and me not wearing my lucky OSU boxers doomed the Bucks.

BrewstersMillions's picture

1 penalty for 10 yards.
Illinois was the third least penalized team in the B1G that year and the 11th least in the country.
They measure in penalties per game.
Todd's 3 INT's matter way more to me. That's three bad plays vs. one blown call.

Pam's picture

I remember Ken Gordon saying those ref's needed to look up the definition of holding. If there wasn't a problem, why wasn't that crew allowed to call another BIG game? The BIG also did an investigation to see if the game had actually been fixed, but said they found no evidence. Then to add insult to injury, the UI players went out and danced on the Block O causing a scrum with our players. Both schools got reprimanded and fined $10k. What a mess.

BrewstersMillions's picture

Ya, the whole thing sucked from opening gun to 10K fine. I'm not saying the refs didn't suck. They did. OSU did a lot of shooting themselves in the foot too. As for holding...well...anyone who played in the interior at any level will tell you the same thing. I played ball for years on both sides of the line and held every play and was held every play I can remember. Sometimes its called a ton, sometimes its not at all. Only the blatant 'reach out and grabs' are called but even those are missed too. I won't hate on the refs. OSU had 8 minutes to make 1 play and didn't. Number one team in the country at home shouldn't even be in that position to where a missed call affects the game. Same argument I have about the Chris Gamble Defensive Holding play. Miami fans still whine about that call. It wasn't PI. It was, however, defensive holding-and the fate is still the same...the larger point though is the big bad, NFL quality Canes should have never been in a position for that play to matter that much, or happen for that matter. Same with this OSU team. They were head and shoulders better than the piss ants from Champaign but each squad played to the level of its competition. Bad refs or not, OSU should have handed Illinois their heads in that one.
AS for the act of stomping on the don't want it done, send the team to the locker room in tears. I'm content with any celebration that comes after one team bests another, assuming its not violent.

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

That game would have gone completely differently if the correct call of fumble had been made.  I can't think of a bad call right at the beginning of the game that had a larger impact on how the game went.  Not that it wouldn't have been a tough game, but Illinois took a lot of momentum punching us back after OSU scored so quickly to start the game.  If OSU had taken the ball back and then a 14-0 lead, you have a different game that OSU probably wins.  I don't stress over it because the bowl game we ended up in wouldn't have been any different, but we wouldn't have needed to hope for like 26 different upsets for it to happen.

Class of 2010.

acBuckeye's picture

Take it a step further, Ramzy..... it looks like Illinois is actually 7-4(!!) in their last 11 trips to Columbus...... WTF?!?! How does that happen? And we have won precisely 2 out of the last 6 games in West Lafayette, with one of those wins coming in the last minute. My head is spinning as I try to process that.....

osubuckeye4life's picture

There is something in the air and water in West Lafayette. It's the only possible explanation. 
The Illini have always been a pain. They seem to play like supermen in the shoe and it's nearly impossible to complete a forward pass in Champaign. 
Wisky had our number for awhile. It's always a pain going to Camp Randall and they have had a decent amount of sucess in the Shoe. 
Tress's other main krytonite was games after bye weeks. 
Anyone have the tOSU record from 2001 to 2010 after bi weeks?