Wednesday, November 14, 2007

When to speak...and when not to.

I think I have chosen wisely.

Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite thing on this earth, besides my relationship with family and friends, is following my Ohio State Buckeye football team. I was born in Columbus; quite literally in the shadow of the Horseshoe. I've followed the team intensely for almost 10 years now. The screen saver on my computer has said "Ohio State...YOUR 2002 National Champions" since the day I bought it. My loyalty to OSU is so consuming that I refuse to claim allegiance to any professional sports team.

Cameron Clark once wrote about what it takes to be a true fan. Among a few other items on his short list, he said you know you are a real fan when you physically hurt after your team loses. You carry that sadness around with you for hours even days after your team suffers a defeat. Cameron, as he is so often, is right. I felt that way when the Fighting Illini came into our back yard last Saturday and embarrassed THE Ohio State Buckeyes in front of a national audience.

Gone are the dreams of returning to the BCS National Championship game to possibly avenge another embarrassment suffered at the hands of the Florida Gators last year in Glendale, AZ.

Lost is the hope of another unbeaten regular season.

Deflated is the aim of showing the nation that the Big Ten is still a tough conference filled with blue-chip talent and superior coaching.

Yep, last Saturday I didn't feel anything like I do now - thankful!

Illinois did the Big Ten AND Ohio State a big favor by winning that game.

Let's be honest here. I love my team, but seriously! Watching the Buckeyes climb the rankings by default week after week made me uneasy. Sure, Todd Boeckman was throwing the deep ball pretty well and Chris "Beanie" Wells was running down people's throats, but something just didn't feel right.

Should they be this highly ranked so soon?

Didn't we just see this?

Do I really want to see another inflated Buckeye team get to the National Championship only to get trounced by a wholly better squad?

No way!

The Buckeyes started their 2007 campaign needing to answer two question marks that are their NFL-depleted offense and a defense that got lazy by late November. It never really happened.

They were never tested as a team. They looked better than they really were because of their incredibly lax non-conference schedule (Youngstown St., Akron, Kent State, and Washington) and a cake-walk for the first half of their Big Ten schedule (no opponents ranked in the BCS when they played).

Here's the truth about this year's installment of the Scarlet and Gray.

Ohio State plays in a conference that is going through some rough times. While it's not OSU's fault that the Big Ten is a Big Joke right now, blasting cupcake teams does not a good measuring stick make! It's to the point where if you don't win the conference title outright most years, something is terribly wrong!

They lost a great amount of team speed and offensive firepower when Smith, Ginn, Gonzalez, and Pittman left for the NFL last year. This year's version of offense needs this year to get a real pattern going. They are sporadic at best, disappointing at worst. This was an admitted rebuilding year, it just didn't bite them in the butt until now.

The defense faced a legitimate dual-threat quarterback in Isaiah "Juice" Williams for the first time this season and it showed. It is not impossible to stop a mobile quarterback in college football, it just looked that way on November 10. And let's not forget the last time the Buckeyes faced a legitimate dual-threat we remember how that one turned out? Tim Tebow (and Chris Leak) chomped Ohio State to the tune of 41-14 in the BCS Championship game.

I've been leery of the validity of my team's success all season long. My closest friends will note that I've not been keeping a running, online tally of weekly game stats and team news like I have in years past. You've not heard me tout so-and-so for a Heisman. I've done no trash talking this season (well, except to those pour Michigan fans...and they deserve it). There are no guts in existence big enough to allow me to spout off about how impressive the Big Ten has been.

We still have to face Michigan in THE Game so we'll see what happens. I'm picking the Good Guys by 7 which would put us in the Rose Bowl to likely face Arizona State if Oregon wins out (please, for the love of God, win out).


This true fan will keep his O-H-I-O mouth closed.

I think I have chosen wisely.


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