Monday, December 3, 2007

O-H No!

Saturday, November 10th was a bitter sweet day for me.

At about 11PM, The Fighting Illini were dancing at midfield in the Horseshoe - and dancing on the grave of our fallen hopes of an undefeated Big Ten season. Try as they might, OSU's offensive efforts could not make much headway against linebacker J Leman and the rest of his "pack of hyenas".

It's never easy to watch your beloved, hometown team lose (never mind losing at home), when you are as emotionally invested in the Buckeyes as I am. Even if the loss is expected, the sting is the same. Watching the University of Illinois players jump for joy at our expense was deflating.

My sports-induced depression lasted for about 30 hours.

I bounced back, however, when Ohio State dropped to 7th in the BCS standings. Relieved? Yep, you read that right. Shocked? Well, Let me explain.

Unlike throngs of card-carrying members of Buckeye Nation, I'm not bewitched. I have not fallen under the spell of Beanie Wells, Todd Boeckman, and Brian Robiskie. While I watched every game this year rooting for my brothers in Scarlet and Gray, I viewed them with a certain amount of suspicion. They were outplaying their pre-season expectations but their opponents were sorrowfully over matched. Love them as I do, the latest version of "Woody's Warriors" would be embarrassed yet again if they went to New Orleans to play on January 7th. [For more on the Buckeyes' stance across the national landscape I direct you to my previous post]

So on November 11th when OSU fell from #1 to #7, I breathed my first unrestricted breath since mid-October. Gone was the pressure of living up to higher than reasonable expectations for this still untested OSU squad. That target on their backs; gone! Now the focus could shift from the Crystal Football to the Big House and L-l-l-l-l-oyd Carr's Michigan Wolverines.

And "L" they did. Chris Wells had 222 rushing yards - the most of any Ohio State back in the history of The Game - and led his team out of Ann Arbor with a soggy and sloppy 14-3 win. Winning the Big Ten conference title and climbing slightly in the BCS to 5th, it was highly unlikely that OSU was going anywhere except Pasadena and the Rose Bowl to face USC...just like old times. We were safe from national championship shame!

My solace didn't last.

From November 17th to December 1, the four other teams who stood between Columbus and the Big Easy lost - most notably #1 Missouri lost to Oklahoma and #2 West Virginia did the unthinkable and laid an egg AT HOME to 4-7 Pittsburgh on the same night.

I nearly fainted.

Thanks to the inability of four other teams to get the job done, Ohio State jumped from #5 to #1 and backed into the National Championship game by doing nothing more than watching TV. Now, they find themselves doing battle against SEC champions LSU to play for the AllState National Championship...and I'm conflicted.

On one hand, my team has won 11 of its 12 games this season. It played for and won its conference championship. They played and defeated four BCS ranked teams, including going to Happy Valley at night to play Penn State. They have Jim Tressel as their coach. Six other teams failed to bolster their case for New Orleans by losing when it counted most. And they have 41-14 as motivation to get the job done this time around (During the summer leading up to this year, Jim Tressel changed the code to the weight room to "41-14" so his players wouldn't forget why they were putting in the long hours in the off season).

...and yet...

The Big Ten is, at best, the fourth best conference in college football this year. OSU played three in-state cupcakes during their non-conference schedule. They were given the #1 ranking when the BCS first came out on legacy alone which put them in a position to remain competitive. The only true test they faced beat them at home by a touchdown. They are not the best or second-best team in the country...more like 8th or 9th.

I don't know.

When the Buckeyes take the field on January 7th and I root my heart out all the way down to the final play, will I still be able to look myself in the mirror the next morning, win or lose, and know that I was acting in reality?

Why couldn't we have dropped further after November 10?


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