Hello fellow buckeyes! I frequent this site almost daily, but I usually stay pretty quiet. I have some things I'd like to say. Last night's basketball win against Duke has helped cleanse the pallet just enough that I think I'm ready to talk.
I don't really have my thoughts organized too well, so I'll try not to let this scarlet and gray stream of consciousness ramble too far.
First, let me start by saying I'm not a sunshine & rainbows or gummy bears & carpet squares type of guy. Saturday sucked. I haven't really had a good night's sleep since, if I'm being honest. (I realize that is irrational and unhealthy... but I'd wager there are more than a few buckeye fans on this website who can relate.) That being said--as a coach myself--I do feel I'm at least a little immune to the reactionary nature of fan-hood. Things are never as good as they seem after a win, or as bad as they seem after a loss. If you would have polled the fan-base after our 56-7 beat-down of the spartans, a pretty sizable portion would have told you our buckeyes were unstoppable and ready to trounce Georgia. Seven days later, you'd think the sky was falling. I realize we had another--very telling--data point enter the equation in Ann Arbor... but it was the same buckeye team that beat #7 by 49 the week before, and #19 by 28 the week before that.
*I realize there's also the self-loathing portion of the fan base who would tell you "I knew this team was bad the whole time!", but I just can't relate to these people. I call them "anti-fans"... you know the type... it almost feels like they're rooting against the buckeyes half the time, just to prove they were "right" about their hot-takes and criticisms. If at any point you've called this 10-2 team "trash" or demanded something like "we need to blow it all up and start over" after our first big ten loss in 3 years... well then this post probably isn't for you, feel free to give it a skip and move along with your day.
That being said, this team has major flaws. Major, major flaws. But guess what--with the possible exception of Georgia (who's toughest opponent to this point is #20 Clemson in week 1... who they beat by 7)-- every team has flaws. This year reminds me of 2007, when we had a 2 loss national champion. I think the team that wins it all this year will be a flawed team, whether that's Georgia, Alabama, Michigan, Cincinnati, or Oklahoma State. Flawed teams can win championships... they still count as champions.
Let's change gears for a second and rewind the tape. I want you to think back to last year before we played Clemson. They beat us in 2013, then they destroyed us in 2016, and stole one from us in 2019. They were arrogant... Dabo ranked us 11th... and we were pissed off. The buckeyes channeled that energy and played their best game of football since late 2014. We saw the best possible version of our eleven warriors, brave and bold, in the sugar bowl. We showed Clemson--and Dabo--who we were. We hit harder, we blocked better, we were laser focused. We executed... thoroughly. That was less than a year ago.
Disrespected hate is a pretty damn good motivator, and motivation is a hell of a drug.
We were on the other side of that on Saturday.
Remember how bad 3 losses in 6 years to Clemson felt? Imagine losing 15 in 16... and if we're being honest... that one exception wasn't as fulfilling as it could have been for the maize and blue. That 6-7 Ohio State team had the fight beat out of them long before Braxton Miller overthrew a wide open Devier Posey late in the 4th quarter. I think I saw the soul leave that team's body with a missed extra point in West Lafayette a few weeks before. The last time Michigan beat an Ohio State team with any championship aspirations was in 2003... 18 years ago... There were adult Michigan fans who had literally never seen their team beat a *good* Ohio State team before last Saturday.
Whether they're right or not (and they're not) they felt 2016 was stolen just like we felt 2019 was stolen. Our "He took 3 steps!" is their "JT was short!". "We'll hang 100 on 'em" was posted on figurative bulletin boards in the same way Dabo's final--ever--coaches' poll ballot was.
From pre-planned Hurricane parties in 2002 to "basic defenses" in Oklahoma in 2016... That stuff matters. Clearly.
As much as Ohio State was out-physical'd, out-tough'd, out-coached... at the heart of all that is they were out-hungry'd. One team looked like they were waiting their whole lives for that game. The other team looked like they just wanted to get out of the snow. You know which was which.
With that perspective, I'm probably a little more forgiving than the average fan when it comes to Saturday. It's still bad, and flaws still need to be addressed. Changes will justifiably be made because of that game. But... it's also fair to say that things lined up well for a talented and extremely motivated Michigan team to take advantage of a flawed Ohio State team. If this were the time of Legends and Leaders... we'd be running the game back in a dome on Saturday, and I'd give the buckeyes pretty good odds. If the hunger and motivation scales were balanced... the wolverine claws don't look quite as sharp.
Here's another thing about me: I'm kind of a statistics/math guy at heart. One game is a really small sample size. The nature of high stakes college football has conditioned us to believe in absolutes. "well.. they beat us... so they're better." A look at any other sport--where teams often meet several times throughout the season--would remind us that isn't necessarily true. That's part of what makes college football so fun and intriguing... but if Ohio State and Michigan played a seven game series... my bet is it'd go 6 or 7 games.
Which brings me to the last chapter of this little rant. There's a non-zero chance we could see that rematch sooner rather than later. I'm a fan... what I think--or what I cheer for--doesn't matter in the slightest. I am going to cheer like hell for unlikely dominos to fall. I think on their best day, these buckeyes *can* beat anyone in the country. I'm not a defeatist, I'm a competitor. I'd happily risk getting clowned by Georgia if there's even a slim chance of being the 2021 version of 2007's LSU. What do you call a 2 loss national champion? A national champion.
Even more than a national championship, I want these buckeyes--especially the Chris Olaves of the world--to get a chance to run it back against the wolverines. As J.P. told Danny Glover in Angels in the Outfield, "It could happen!"
"Don't get your hopes up, bud." I hear you thinking. I don't care. Being a fan is all about hoping for the unlikely. It's fun to have something to care about, even irrationally. Because make no mistake... this whole thing we do every Saturday in Autumn is irrational.
Dream with me for a moment:
**Probably needs to happen**
Georgia beats Alabama by 14+ points. (I'll give this a 50% chance of happening this year.) I think Alabama has some major issues.
Cincinnati (looking more like the team who struggled with Indiana, Navy, Tulane, and Tulsa) with all the pressure in the world on them, loses to the second team with a pulse they've played this year. (Let's give this one a 20% chance)
2 loss Baylor beats Oklahoma St in a sloppy game. (30% chance)
.5*.2*.3= .03. A 3% chance is still a chance.
**Helps but isn't 100% necessary:
-Michigan beats Iowa by 14+ points and looks super impressive.
-Utah beats Oregon, but Oregon keeps it close and still looks like a good team.
If all of the above happens, you'd have two teams in: Georgia and UM.
Then there'd be two spots open for the following teams:
2 loss, currently #9, Big 12 champion, Baylor
1 loss, currently #6, Notre Dame
2 loss, currently #7, Ohio Sate
2 loss, currently #3, Alabama
1 loss, currently #4, Cincinnati
I think Baylor would be in... but the committee hasn't held the big 12 in very high regard. It's possible a 2 loss champion would be left out.
ND is interesting. "How could we jump a team in the rankings when neither of us played?" Well, our resumes are playing. If Michigan looks really good and Cincinnati loses, I think that could affect how the committee views each resume. I also think the committee would look for any reason to keep a coach-less team out of the playoff.
UC is in a one loss and you're out situation. Their schedule is just so poor.
Alabama is also interesting. They have the big win over Ole Miss (comparable to our MSU win), but they also have 3 REALLY close games against average/bad teams that they *could/should* have lost: Florida, LSU, and Auburn. Ohio State's closest comparable blemishes are probably Penn St. and Nebraska, but neither were quite as dire straights as Alabama's trio of close calls. I think Bama and OSU would have very similar resumes... and it's important to note Ohio State was ranked in front of them before last week, when they both had 1 loss.
All said, The committee would have to just like Ohio State more than 2/3 of Baylor, Notre Dame, and Alabama. Seems quite possible. Try to remember what you ate for breakfast in 2007.
**Note** If the committee likes Ohio State better than Alabama and Notre dame, then the winner of the Big 12 championship no longer matters, and the 3% chance is instead a 10% chance... which doesn't sound too bad...
Ok back to reality on this Wednesday that feels like a Monday. None of our speculation matters. Just have fun and cheer for who you want to cheer for. Go bucks!