Playing the what if game is fun and dangerous and in most instances unhealthy, but it's the offseason and desperate people do desperate things.
I was driving home from Tennessee last week and as I rolled through the green hills of Kentucky I played this game: If I could go back in time and somehow change the result of just one regular season or conference title game (foreshadowing), which would it be.
The first game that came to mind was an odd one. I thought about how hard I took the loss to Texas in Week 2 of the 2005 season. I was so bitter about the defeat that I actually rooted for USC in the BCS title game the following January. I took a lot of Ls that year.
I wouldn't change that loss, though, because a few weeks later Penn State knocked the Buckeyes out of title contention with its first White Out.
Older fans have a number of games to pick from. There are two handfuls of losses to Michigan during the John Cooper era, and the 1998 Michigan State game.
The ones that stick out to me (essentially, losses that took place while I was in high school and beyond), are here:
- At Wisconsin, Michigan, 2003
- Penn State, 2008 (I was there... that Terrelle Pryor fumble...)
- USC, 2009
- Michigan State, 2013 Big Ten Title Game
- Michigan State, 2015
- Iowa, 2017
- Purdue, 2018
I ended up deciding on Michigan State, 2015. The 2003 losses cancel each other out because it's uncertain whether eliminating either would have gotten Ohio State into the national title game. The same goes for the '08 and '09 losses to Penn State and USC.
The inexplicable losses to Iowa and Purdue the last two seasons stung, but they also showed Ohio State didn't have the defensive scheme to hang with Alabama or Clemson in the playoffs.
That leaves the Michigan State losses in '13 and '15. The Big Ten title loss was brutal, as it ended Urban Meyer's 24-game winning streak, but it likely gave Ohio State the motivation it needed to make its run at the first-ever playoff in 2014.
That's why I wound up deciding on Michigan State, 2015. That Buckeyes squad was absolutely loaded, deserved to be in the playoff and absolutely had the horses to repeat at national champs.
What regular season game would you change?