I was thinking about posting some thoughts on the Northwestern game, but really: who cares? The offense went back to firing on all cylinders. The defense gave up too much yardage on screens, but adjusted nicely at halftime and finished strong. Plus, they forced a ton of turnovers. The team missed two extra points, but if they had missed every extra point, it still wouldn't have mattered. Northwestern was a nice tuneup, but that game means nothing now, because this is the week of The Game. And it will be huge.
Ohio State, meeting all our hopes, enters the week undefeated, with a national championship game berth and a Heisman trophy at stake. Michigan, contrary to all my cheering, hoping, and insulting, is also undefeated. But while I don't like the happiness an undefeated season brings to Michigan fans, I must admit that it makes The Game that much bigger. How much bigger? Well, let's just call this the biggest Ohio State-Michigan game ever.
I've been on campus for three Ohio State-Michigan games. In 2003, Ohio State lost convincingly, finishing off a decent season, but one that never really met expectations. In 2004, Troy Smith ran wild as we went crazy in Block O. The win put a positive spin on an otherwise down year. And, of course, there was last year's comeback win, resulting in much spontaneous yelling and celebrating out in the street. There were major differences year to year in terms of expectations and the state of the teams, but the importance of the Michigan game was a constant. In short, if you beat Michigan, you had a good season. If you didn't, you didn't.
Let's look at 2003 and 2005. In 2003, Ohio State was coming off a championship season, and they were expected to be even better. However, they lost to Wisconsin and then to Michigan, for Jim Tressel's only loss to that school up north. They still made it to the Fiesta Bowl and won, finishing the year 10-2.
Last year, expectations were pretty standard: a Big Ten title, a shot at the national championship with some luck. However, early losses to Texas and Penn State pretty much ended the national championship hopes. The team finished strong, though, as they beat Michigan and went to the Fiesta Bowl, beating Notre Dame to finish 10-2.
The Buckeyes had identical records in both seasons, went to the same bowl both years, and won both years. Yet, if you're like me, you regard 2003 as a disappointment, and 2005 as a success. What's the difference?
Well, you could argue that expectations were higher in 2003, and you'd be right. But I think the real difference is the Michigan game. The Buckeyes won in 2005; they lost in 2003. This one game is the difference between success and failure.
So here we are again at Michigan Week, this time with a berth in the national championship on the line. It's Ohio State-Michigan, and it's also 1 versus 2. This is as big as it gets.
I just hope my professors don't expect me to do anything productive this week.