It is late December 2006. Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin sit at 1, 3, and 5 in the AP rankings, respectively. A large portion of the country is asking for an all big ten national championship in a rematch of the amazing 1 vs. 2 Ohio State Michigan game, as these were “clearly two best teams in the country”. In a word, the Big Ten is atop the college football world, we were what the SEC is now. As it turns out, both of these teams get absolutely destroyed in their bowl games. You can blame Troy’s Heisman hangover, a long layover, Ted Ginn’s injury, too much Hype, a bad matchup against a great coach, whatever. The fact is we got blown out that night. I think if you play that game 10 times, the buckeyes would win 6, but that’s not how it works. The kings had fallen, and they ripped their pants on the way down. It was an embarrassing performance in two spotlight games for the big ten, and the country took notice.
A year passes. An Ohio State team, coming off a home loss to Ron Zook’s fighting Illini, somehow finds their way into a national championship game. At the time, all of us buckeye’s are beyond excited to have a chance at redemption against an SEC foe in the championship game. In retrospect, it may have been for the worse. A clearly overmatched Illinois team gets blasted by USC in the rose bowl. Ohio State gets beat again, this time by LSU in Louisiana, and again the score looks bad. Was the game closer than it appeared? Probably. A dropped TD pass and a few costly penalties made it look worse than it was. But…that doesn’t matter. The big ten, former king of the college football world, had lost 4 straight BCS bowls in blowout fashion, and a new king had stepped into their place.
The 2008 season begins. Cue Michigan collapse. The murmurs of an overrated Ohio State program ring ever louder. Ohio State makes a trip out to Southern California in “the” game of the 2008 early season slate. Ohio State is without star tailback Beanie Wells, and true freshman Terrelle Pryor is getting his first snaps in a meaningful game. Ohio State get’s owned 38-3, in what was perhaps the most one sided buckeyes loss I have ever witnessed. Suddenly, the murmurs become statements. Statements made by everyone with a microphone across the country. Ohio State is king of the big ten, an overrated, weak conference, that cannot compete with the nation’s elite. Can you blame them? What’s the old saying, once is a coincidence, twice is a trend, three times is a pattern? Florida, LSU, USC. Ohio State loses their other spotlight game of the season at night in the shoe against PSU, as freshman Pryor has a costly fumble late in the game. The bucks still manage to get into the fiesta bowl, where they play a hungry Texas team, spurned that they were left out of the NC game, in very controversial fashion. The bucks come close to making a statement, but an Anderson Russell missed tackle with less than a minute left allows the opportunity to slip away, relatively unnoticed by the nation. Penn State loses by 2 TD’s in the rose bowl to USC. The big ten is 0-6 in their last 6 BCS bowls. The SEC has won all 3 NC’s in that span. The king is dead, all hail the new king. This perception not only hurts the big ten in the rankings, but also on the recruiting trail. The problem snow balls.
The 2009 season rolls around. Another early season statement game, another loss, this time the Trojans beat us at night in the shoe. At least this one was close, with a botched 4th & goal TD call perhaps gifting USC the victory, but it is a sad day when Ohio State fans are left feeling “at least this one was close”. Ohio State again advances to a BCS Bowl. “Ohio State will get blown out by Oregon!” “They can’t match up with Oregon’s speed!” “Once again, the buckeyes will be exposed by the nation’s elite!” The buckeye’s win in Pasadena. Nobody outside of Ohio seems to notice. Iowa also wins the fiesta bowl.
2010. This year’s spotlight out of conference game is Miami (Fl). Are they USC good? No, but they are the #12 team in the country. Ohio State beats them pretty handily, again, nobody seems to notice. Ohio State loses one game all year, and finds themselves playing the SEC’s second best team, Arkansas, in the Sugar bowl in Louisiana. “Ohio State will get blown out by Arkansas!” “They can’t match up with SEC speed!” “Once again, the buckeyes will be exposed by the nation’s elite!” The Buckeyes win. Suddenly, a faint murmur is heard.
2011. Tat gate. The murmurs stop. The team that the bulk of the nation sees as an overrated program that inherits a BCS bowl due to a week conference has been climbing back to the top, and here comes a reason to completely discredit that climb. “Ohio State has still never beaten an SEC team in a bowl, they’re overrated.” Ohio State, in disarray, has their worst season in a very, very long time. With their flagship program out of the picture, the big ten struggles.
2012. Limbo. Urban Meyer takes over the buckeyes and leads them to an undefeated season. Unfortunately, the schedule is weak and sanctions kept the buckeyes out of a bowl game, so the country could conveniently ignore it. With their flagship program out of the picture, the big ten continues to struggle. The SEC, meanwhile, has won 7 national champions as dormant contenders, Ohio State, USC, and Texas, continue to sleep, for various reasons.
And here we are. 2013. The perception is still that we’re overrated and our schedule gives us no opportunity to prove the country otherwise. Three games: Florida, LSU, and USC, the most recent 4 years ago, have left us in this spot. Nobody seems to remember that we’ve won our last 2 BCS bowls against teams that the nation thought would “blow us out” because Tat-gate gave them a convenient reason to forget. All we can do is wait and hope we get an opportunity to prove ourselves once again.