This is The End

By Ramzy Nasrallah on December 4, 2013 at 11:15a
58 Comments
oh god no

Dee Miller's face buried in Ohio Stadium back when its field was still encased by a running track.

Michigan State’s Renaldo Hill snatching away Joe Germaine’s 4th down pass in the end zone as the clock expired. Your previously immortal Buckeyes losing at home for the first time in two years.

Both of those catastrophes coming via Michigan teams they were favored to beat by more than two touchdowns. That second, wholly undignified setback going down during the inaugural season of the Bowl Championship Series.

It was 1998. This was the beginning.

Fifteen years later the BCS is being put out to pasture just as the Bowl Coalition and the Bowl Alliance that preceded it. There has been a big shakeup late in its rankings just about every season since it started, but that was the only big shakeup that had Michigan State's fingerprints all over it.

That was 1998, which will always be about that damn Michigan State game.

The Buckeyes have to pull off the State of Michigan Sweep to get to return to the title game, and this time the Spartans are visibly blocking the path instead of surreptitiously lurking for an ambush. They have the opportunity to leave their fingerprints all over BCS again.

When they met in that first BCS season, the Buckeyes were at the top. When they meet Saturday in the final BCS season, they're right where they need to be once again. They just need to stay there.

When the season began there were rumblings about the Buckeyes getting the chance to hate twice; facing Michigan in Ann Arbor and again seven days later in Indianapolis for the B1G title. It was a common and obvious fantasy in the final year of Legends and Leaders.

But this is also the final year for the BCS. Michigan isn't as appropriate or fitting of a foe as Michigan State is to close out this era. Ohio State's run of (soon) ten BCS bowls and (hopefully) four title shots began with that stumble inside the old running track 15 years ago.

This final chapter presents a familiar nemesis - and it ain't the Wolverines.

whyyyyyyyyy

An hour prior to Hill's game-ender there were no thoughts of a Buckeye rally. The number one team in the country was cruising.

Ohio State led 24-9 late in the 3rd quarter with Michigan State punting deep in its own territory. None of the Buckeyes’ games leading into November had been even remotely competitive. They had crushed three ranked teams by almost 60 points and absolutely mangled everyone else on the schedule.

And they were beating up Michigan State through halftime, as expected. Ohio State was prolific in every facet of football heading into that game. They had scored plenty of style points, but that didn't matter back then. No one talked about style points in 1998.

There was no SEC dominance, either. The overused cliché wasn't SEC speed, it was Florida speed - Miami, Florida State and Florida were the teams perceived to be too fast for everyone else. The Big Ten wasn't shabby, either: It won half of the BCS bowls that season, including a third-consecutive Rose Bowl.

YOU MEDIOCRE DREAM-KILLING BASTARD1998 MSU QB Bill Burke, Ohioan. Connor Cook is too.

But there were plenty of similarities to today, both on the national landscape and very close to home: Ohio State was in the conversation, and Nick Saban - who coached that 6-6 MSU team which failed to gain bowl eligibility - was a part of it, though only through that one-week cameo; not as his current recurring character.

Mark Dantonio, who leads this year's 11-1 MSU team was Hill's position coach in East Lansing 15 years ago when the BCS began. Fifteen years prior to that he was a grad assistant in Columbus.

Florida State, the only team currently ranked higher than the Buckeyes, was right there in the thick of it then too. The Seminoles had grown roots in the top five during The Florida State Decade (that's why it's called that) and by that November it had beaten five ranked teams.

It had also suffered a very bad loss at NC State. FSU needed help to get to the title game and MSU came to its rescue.

When it came time to choose between the one-loss teams to face undefeated Tennessee, Florida State was at the top by virtue of a BCS formula that wasn't nearly as complex as the current one. Florida State lost in September, not November. Kansas State, Ohio State and UCLA had all taken fresher losses much later in the season.

Style points didn't matter as much as timing did. Think about how that has changed in 15 years, considering Alabama has lost four November games over the past three seasons.

The dawn of the BCS era was less about aggregating ESPN viewing audiences teams by conference strength, debating bad wins and good losses or manufacturing contrived talking points. It was about pulling together regional, fragmented rivalries that had produced split and multiple national champions for several decades.

That's still what it is now, and that is also what the festering ESPN-driven BCS fervor has become. But if you're a Buckeye with a long memory and a drivers license, 1998 doesn't spark thoughts of the BCS in its infancy.

No, 1998 will always be about that damn Michigan State game.

Looking forward to Michigan isn't a one-season anomaly. It's a standard, accepted and understandable flaw in the Buckeye hivemind. Looking forward to Michigan twice was the anomaly.

But as Ohioans have howled in unison more times that they can remember, they don't give a damn for that whole state. This also means the school in East Lansing, however benign it has been historically compared to its sibling from Ann Arbor.

The Spartans have beaten the Buckeyes just six times over the past 40 years (they've beaten Michigan six times during the BCS era alone). Four of those wins - 1987, 1988, 1999 and 2011 - came against arguably the four weakest Ohio State teams of that span.

The other two - that disaster of 1998 and the one that preceded it in 1974 - were absorbed by the number one team in the country. Your Buckeyes are currently number two in the final season of the BCS.

It's 2013. This is the end.

This week Dantonio is delivering this history lesson to his team to help them understand that the task they have Saturday night has been completed by lesser Michigan State editions, and that they can close out the BCS era with the same euphoria in which they opened it.

That history cannot be lost on the Buckeyes either. They have to pull off that State of Michigan Sweep in order to accomplish their goal for the season. They have to leave their fingerprints all over the final season of the BCS.

And they have come way too far for 2013 to also be only remembered for that damn Michigan State game.

58 Comments

Comments

Jonnferrell's picture

Nice story.  I was there that day.  That's exactly how I remember it. . . that damn Michigan State game

"I'm still hungry." --Brady Hoke

Buckeyeneer's picture

Me too. <Obligatory Neutron Man crying pic>

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes
THE Ohio State University

byblosbuck's picture

I don't miss cooper,but i do miss his daughter doing interviews.She was better than kirk.

gumtape's picture

prettier too, but it is close

just another psycho, irrational, delusional Ohio St fan

TBDBITLinWIScantSON's picture

I was hanging over the edge of the shaky south stand "railings" in the corner where the ball was picked. was stunned.
got a cab and went downtown to the BB King concert that night. was a good change of pace, to help forget what just happened. In fact, I still don't think i've dealt with those feelings. They're buried deep. But we were all used to that kind of crap happening with Coop.
Sparty did have a formidable D-line that year.

WB

Scott K's picture

That damn game was my last until 1 in 2010 and 3 in 2012. Terrible feeling leaving the stadium.....

"There's a fine line between stupid, and....clever.  David St. Hubbins/Nigel Tufnel

Jonnferrell's picture

I was that way after the Oklahoma game back in 1977.  I was stunned and so was Woody.  First time I ever saw those big foamy cowboy hats and I wanted to make those buttholes eat them.  LOL  I was also at that damn MSU game.  Same feeling--but at least there were no foam cowboy hats.

"I'm still hungry." --Brady Hoke

XUbuckeye's picture

Great write up Ramzy. Just need to take care of business against that damn Michigan State team. Fitting way to end the BCS era for the Buckeyes... Redemption baby.

"So when you get knocked on your butt, get up, get over it, and then next time, kick their ass." - Woody Hayes 

Oyster's picture

This is not a Cooper team.  As time has passed, I have grown to like him, but he couldn't win against ttun, bowl games or the big games.  This aint your fathers John Cooper led team.  I don't see it as redemption, I see it as the continuation of the 'Year Two Success' the current coach has experienced.

RedStorm45's picture

Won a Rose and Sugar Bowl.

Oyster's picture

2-10-1 and 3-8 in bowls while at OSU.  I stand by my above comment about ttun, big games and bowls. 

RedStorm45's picture

So, he did win 5 of those games that you said he "couldn't."  Clearly, he could at times.  Also, I recall dominating two pretty "big games" against Notre Dame in the '90s.  In addition, Ramzy points out what the '98 team did to ranked teams.  He couldn't CONSISTENTLY win those games, but "couldn't" at all?  That's just ignoring what took place.

Buckeyeneer's picture

That is the second worst loss of my lifetime after the disaster in the desert.

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes
THE Ohio State University

Maestro's picture

Word

vacuuming sucks

NitroBuck's picture

Agreed, but it was the worst loss I've ever attended.

Ferio, tego

Stinson's picture

"The height of human desire is what wins, whether it's on Normandy Beach or in Ohio Stadium." -Wayne Woodrow Hayes

Doc's picture

Come on Buckeyes, Beat Sparty!  Please don't let the ghosts of MSU's past be resurrected in Indy.

"Say my name."

ZBuckeye's picture

Great article, as usual.
Weird shit tends to happen against Michigan State, man. Be it 1998, the Ted Ginn game, 2005, and I think I'm missing another game.
Hell, I remember in 2005, Ashton Youboty's blocked FG/return for a TD at the end of the half against MSU is really what changed the complexion of our season. That was also the famous John L. Smith halftime blow up game
"OUR COACHES ARE SCREWING THIS UP, GOD DAMMIT!"

nm_buck's picture

Oh. Hell. Ya.
History will not repeat itself.  Last week's game was our letdown game.  I have a feeling our defense will be on a mission Saturday night.  Just a feeling.

Earle's picture

Jim Morrison nods approval:

Italics are for emphasis; an ellipsis represents an unfinished thought.

Oyster's picture

Jim Morrison?             Never heard of him.

Hovenaut's picture

Can you picture, what will be
So limitless and free
Desperately we'll need
Due revenge over Sparty

Senior year of undergrad in '98. Got drunk to numb the shock of that loss, and watched Oliver Stone's The Doors later that night to help break on through.

"Success - it's what you do with what you got" - Woody Hayes

thirtytrap's picture

Don't respond I keep telling myself of the 98 game. I would be kicked off here 
aaaaaaawwwwwgggggf!!!!!!!!!!  

BenedictineBuck's picture

I vividly remember that game. I was a teenager watching with my dad as was our Saturday tradition and we were joking about how much we were dominating the game. That last play is still burned in my memory. They say time heals all wounds......they are wrong!!

Because we couldn't go for three!!!

thirtytrap's picture

Thank you very much I am now chasing small fury creatures around my yard with my weedeater!!!!!!

raki's picture

Copper and Urban there is no comparison, Now anything can Happen but Urban is 3-0 against the Team from the state up north and copper was 2-10-1 against TTUM. Enough said.

Maestro's picture

Actually, Urbs lost to scUM in the 2008 Cap One Bowl.

vacuuming sucks

Oyster's picture

Carrs last game.  Hart, Long and a few others seniors who played their hearts for Carr.

BuckeyeEd's picture

That was one of the greatest games I ever witnessed. Looked like a totally different TSUN than the one we witnessed all year (sound familiar)......It was Carr's last game I think.

thatlillefty's picture

That's the only time I can say, I really cheered for meechigan's football team. Seeing them beat Florida on Carr's last game was pretty sweet.

Oyster's picture

I think we were all fans of that team that day, especially considering the dislike the vast majority of us had for the other coach at the time.

Maestro's picture

Have to admit I was pleased with the outcome of that game.

vacuuming sucks

dlb72osu's picture

 
Not being a Cooper apologist but he did beat ttun another time, as the coach of ASU in the Rose Bowl, I do believe. Rumor had it back in 1988 that victory is what got him hired at tOSU.

I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
- Invictus

Baroclinicity's picture

I'm not sure what I would be thinking right now if it turned out we had to play Michigan again.
I still have no idea how we lost that 1998 game.  And it was the manner that we lost... at home, giving up a huge lead. 
*shudder*

RedStorm45's picture

Wasn't it Nate Clements on that dreadful punt return in '98?  Ughhhhhh.

NitroBuck's picture

I believe so.  The Bucks were up 24-9, and the Bullets 3 & outed MSU deep in its own territory.  Then the shanked punt bounced off Clement's back as he ran down field with MSU's gunner, and the gunner recovered it.  I just remember turning to my friend saying "This is really bad...freaky bad.  Stuff like this changes games...like kismet".  Unfortunately, it is probably the most prophetic thing I've ever said at a sporting event.

Ferio, tego

TMac's picture

The Buckeyes turned the ball over 5 times that day!  NO Turnovers this Saturday Buckeyes!! You can get them, just not give them!!

SweetBabyJames's picture

hopefully for michigan st on saturday
the kids will be playing thier hearts outs AND THE COACHES WILL BE SCREWIN IT UP!!!

Jdadams01's picture

If they played that game 100 times, OSU would've won 99. That stupid game.

andretolstoy's picture

Some people just don't know how to leave well enough alone. You had to go and bring this nightmare back and draw a comparison. Damn journalists! : )

albinomosquito's picture

The parity between the past and this present season is incredible.  Just when we start feeling invincible, history is there to remind us that our success can and will eventually come to a tragic end.  Hopefully the supreme being will grant us reprieve until next year.
As always, thanks for the perspective Ramzy.  I hope our boys are up to the task.

ChazBuckeye's picture

Great read as usual.  Loved this point, what an interesting aspect to think about;-)

"Style points didn't matter as much as timing did. Think about how that has changed in 15 years, considering Alabama has lost four November games over the past three seasons."

Nothing to do with ESPN...nothing at all;-)
As far as the two schools up north sweep, Make it Happen Buckeyes!  Leave your fingerprints in the sands of time that is the end of tBCS era!

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

Maestro's picture

and actually Bama has only lost 3 November games in the past 3 seasons if you include this season.  5 in the past 4 seasons including this season.
I wouldn't include 2010 as part this argument necessarily since Bama played in the Cap One Bowl that season.

vacuuming sucks

TennesseeBuckeye's picture

Before '98 there was 1972 and 1974. Perfect seasons ruined. If the Bucks go out and play tough, we'll be fine, if however they don't MSU is good enough to hurt us.

I may not be able to outsmart too many people, but I can outwork 'em.
Woody Hayes

DudeNick4's picture

That was my very first Buckeye game... I was 12.

Bucks Forever's picture

This was the same day as my birthday party. Never had another birthday party on gameday again.

southernstatesbuckeye's picture

So...you think this is the end?
No, my friend...THIS is the end:

Seattle Linga's picture

Give me a Break 
Give me a Break
Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat Bar

gobucks96's picture

Didn't coop call 12 running plays in a row on that final 4th quarter drive?

INTLBUCK's picture

Yes, I believe he did.
I was at that game. My only trip to the Horseshoe that year, and the only one I have truly regretted my whole life.  Walking out of the stadium was surreal, like a funeral. It was the first time I ever experienced true PBD - "Post Buckeye Depression"
May UFM be the cure to PBD. 

ohiostbux5's picture

I don't think we ran at all the last drive despite having time outs. If memory serves, we ran every play the drive before, including 4th and 1 up the middle when Joe Montgomery got stuffed. Then on the final drive we threw every play.

Jason Gruber's picture

This game was on my 18th birthday of my senior year. My football team had just been knocked out of the playoffs by Mike Doss and his Canton McKinley brethren. I was consoled in loss by the fact that the Buckeyes would not lose ever again. That team was amazing. They steam rolled everyone that year. I had always hated that team up north, that day I started hating that other team up north. 

"You win with People" Woody Hayes

causeicouldntgo43's picture

Thanks Ramzy for taking us back to a time when mark May was still nursing his wounds from a 72-0 ass kicking, when Paul Finebaum's radio show had 12 listeners and nobody outside of Tuscaloosa gave two shits about his opinion on anything, when a double barreled bird hoisted in the heat of the most intense rivalry game in CFB would be brushed off as a minor indiscretion and not treated as a source for righteous indignation, when Florida only had one National Championship, when a 24-0 team from a power conference wouldn't even be questioned about whether a 9 win, 2 miracle, and 1 loss team such as Auburn circa 2013 should jump them.
On the other hand, that era was damn painful, right Mr. Cooper?

741's picture

Great article as usual. The 1998 game still pains my Buckeye soul - even more than the 41-14 ass whooping we received at the hands of Urban and co.
All that aside, wtf is Michael Thomas doing mugging for the camera like that? #trillionaire

llong83's picture

WHy in gods name would we even post this. I've talked my self out of the horrible stomach uneasiness I've had for the last 48 hrs...and now its back!!! Le Duche!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

Buckeyes...or Nothing

Larryp713's picture

I remember hearing about this game. It was my wedding reception, I was in line shaking everybody's hand, and one of my friends said: "Did you hear about the Buckeyes? Lost to Sparty." That was tough. That damn Michigan State Game.

Respectfully,

Larryp713

741's picture

Have you taken possession of your balls back yet?
 
(P.S. I am not the DV.)

TheSweaterVest's picture

But they don't have Plaxico or Robaire Smith this year.  Or Nate Clements's helmet.