Sunday, December 8, 2013

Buckeyes Stumble

Pat Forde:
If you want to know how badly the Big Ten championship loss wounded Ohio State, consider this:
After Michigan State had finished harmin' Ohio, the Buckeyes bagged "Carmen Ohio."
At a school that takes its traditions seriously, that will be considered sacrilege by some fans. Under former coach Jim Tressel, the ritual was non-negotiable: Win or lose, the team would gather postgame before the marching band and sing the song, written more than a century ago by an Ohio State student.
For 24 games under Urban Meyer, that continued. Game ended, players gathered, song was sung. Meyer, a self-proclaimed lover of Buckeye lore, was always front and center, flanked by players on either side.
Made for a nice photo op, at the very least.
Of course, for 24 games there was never a loss, never a chance to test the commitment to tradition in a time of adversity.
Saturday night, that changed. Saturday night, Meyer's Buckeyes finally lost – and did so in shocking fashion. They fell behind the Spartans 17-0, roared back for a 24-17 lead, then were hit with another 17-0 flurry in a devastating 34-24 loss.
National title aspirations vanished. The program that had dominated a diminished Big Ten finally played an opponent of consequence – and was exposed as a cut below championship mettle.
This part is brutal:
This game reinforced what many of us suspected: Ohio State's winning streak was a house of cards, built on soft competition. The non-conference schedule was awful, and the conference has been at a low ebb. For this team to have skated into the BCS championship game would have been a disservice to college football.
The Buckeyes hadn't played a single top-10 opponent since Tressel's last game as coach, the 2011 Sugar Bowl. Their victories shouldn't have impressed anyone, but poll voters are seduced by brand-name programs with perfect records.
And so, after scraping past a hugely disappointing Michigan team by one point last week, a team ranked second by the polls and BCS computers came to Indy with everything within its grasp. Just win this game – in front of a crowd that was 70 percent scarlet-and-gray – and the Buckeyes would go to Pasadena and play for the national title.
It was all right there for the taking. And they blew their chance, ceding a spot in the title game to Auburn – and giving the Southeastern Conference a shot at a great eight straight championships.
The Big Ten has not been very good for a while now.  I think the Buckeyes are lucky they weren't exposed by a non-conference opponent in the BCS Championship.  The four team playoff makes things more rational, but it probably ought to be a requirement for power conference teams to play a serious non-conference opponent each season, so you can tell who the pretenders are.

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