Saturday, October 14, 2006

Not this time, Sparty

Eight years ago, like this year, the Ohio State football team began their season ranked #1 in the nation. As I lived in Las Vegas at the time, I was unable to watch many Ohio State football games from the comfort of my own living quarters. So almost every Saturday morning I went to a sports bar inside Sam's Town to watch my favorite team.

In 1998, like this year, the Buckeyes were cruising along with their #1 ranking secure heading into the Michigan State game.

Won 34-17 at West Virginia (8-4)
Won 49-0 vs. Toledo (7-5)
Won 35-14 vs. Missouri (8-4)
Won 28-9 vs. Penn State (9-3)
Won 41-0 at Illinois (3-8)
Won 45-15 vs. Minnesota (5-6)
Won 36-10 at Northwestern (3-9)
Won 38-7 at Indiana (4-7)

Like usual I headed to Sam's Town to watch the Ohio State game versus Michigan State, but an employee kept changing the channels on the TVs, always leaving the Ohio State game on some invisible TV. I kept asking the person in charge to put my game on one of the TVs, but I didn't have much luck and missed most of the first half.

In the second half, Ohio State blew a big lead: 24-9, I believe. After beating each of their first eight opponents by at least 17 points, somehow Ohio State allowed a mediocre Michigan State team to stay in the game and take the lead. Down 28-24 late in the game, the Buckeyes drove to about the Spartans' 10 yard-line and had their chance to get a touchdown and win a game that should have been over by halftime. They didn't do it. The Buckeyes lost 28-24 and dropped all the way down to #8 (a drop that could never happen to Florida, USC, Nebraska, Florida State, or any of the other non-Big Ten teams that have held the #1 spot over the years).

Including the loss to Michigan State, the Buckeyes finished the season as follows:

Lost 24-28 vs. Michigan State (6-6)
Won 45-14 at Iowa (3-8)
Won 31-16 vs. Michigan (10-3)
Won 24-14 vs. Texas A&M (11-3) (Sugar Bowl)

With lucky-ass Tennessee the only remaining undefeated team following the regular season, the question became: Which one-loss team will the Volunteers play in the Fiesta Bowl for the national championship? Well, even though everyone with a brain knew Ohio State was the best team in the country by far, it was no surprise that Florida State (who lost 24-7 to North Carolina State) received the #2 ranking and the right to play Tennessee for the championship. They had no business playing in that game, which they proved on the field, but they're Florida State, so who cares?

If Ohio State had just beaten MSU like they were supposed to, it never would have been an issue. Michigan State has a history of big upsets and big chokes, and the 1998 game was certainly one of their biggest upsets, if not thebiggest upset.

Not gonna happen this time, Sparty. Y'all have the talent to beat OSU and the OSU players are only human, but they have a combination of assets that makes them almost impossible to beat: they're ridiculously talented, they're deep, and every player on the team is a team player. The 2006 Ohio State football team respects every opponent, and they don't look beyond the next game, no matter who they're playing.

They won't lose today, and they probably will not lose this season.

My Prediction: Ohio State 45, Michigan State 13.