Every college football team, it seems, has a down game. At least once a season, good football squads seem to come out flatter than a partially deflated pigskin. When you combine the down game with weather conditions that work against the more skilled team, very good teams can lose games they are expected to win.
Today’s game between Ohio State and Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois was a down game for the Buckeyes. Ohio State seemed out of sync from the first whistle, and the conditions didn’t help matters. The weather was awful, with strong winds gusting up to 50 miles an hour and rain coming sideways, making it practically impossible for the Ohio State aerial game to get started. As a result, the game became a low-scoring, hard-hitting, one-dimensional contest with each team focused on running the ball. The conditions reminded me of another down game–one I had the misfortune of watching in person–when Michigan State upset the defending national champion Buckeyes 17-14 in brutal weather conditions to keep the Men of the Scarlet and Gray from making the playoffs and defending their title.
But, unlike that Buckeyes team, this Ohio State team found a way to surmount their down game, in ridiculous conditions, on the road, and notch a win to keep themselves undefeated. They won even though C.J. Stroud’s passing statistics were pedestrian in the buffeting wind, because the offense didn’t turn the ball over, C.J. Stroud made smart plays with his legs, the Buckeyes’ run game kept plugging, and the Buckeyes’ defense avoided any breakdowns that would have made it possible for the Wildcats to spring a huge upset.
Did Ohio State look pretty, or dominant? Nope. But they won a down game, and that’s the important thing. Now it’s time to enjoy that colossal Georgia-Tennessee matchup, with the pressure off.