To Urban, And The Defense

Well, it doesn’t get much better than 12-0 and a win over Michigan.  Okay, it would be nice to have a bowl game in our future . . . but that wasn’t an option.  12-0 was the best we could do, and we did it.

I give a lot of credit to Urban Meyer.  He took a 6-7 team and turned it around.  He got it playing with passion, and he got it to believe in itself.  He had a great senior class and good coaches to help him, but Urban Meyer set the tone.  Obviously, we hope that he continues to recruit and coach as well as he did this year.  If he does, the future for Buckeye Nation is bright.

And how about the Buckeyes’ defense?  When they missed the tackle on Denard Robinson that allowed the long TD run at the end of the first half — and Robinson’s incredibly annoying spoon motion — I got a bad feeling.  But the defense rose to the occasion in the second half, belting around the Michigan offense, forcing Robinson to fumble, stopping him on crucial plays, delivering crushing hits, forcing turnovers, and sucking it up as the offense muffed opportunity after opportunity.  With the way the defense played in the second half, Ohio State should have won this game for two TDs or more.  This big win goes to the defense — and to Carlos Hyde, for finally grinding out those tough, classic Big Ten first downs on the ground that salted away the victory.

I also need to give kudos to Michigan.  One reason this game is the best rivalry in college football is that, year in and year out, the games are close and incredibly hard fought, no matter the records the teams bring to the game.  This year was no exception — a nail-biter filled with bone-jarring hits and great plays.  Every time the Buckeye defense forced a turnover in the second half, Michigan’s defense rose to the occasion and denied the Buckeyes the score that would have put the game away.  Michigan was in the game at the end only because their defense played tough-as-nails defense.  Anyone who watched the awful Michigan defenses during the Rich Rodriguez tenure has to give Brady Hoke some serious props for bringing the Michigan defense back to its roots and traditions.

For now, though, we’ll raise a glass to Urban Meyer, the Ohio State defense, and a much-cherished win in The Game.  Beating Michigan never gets old.

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It’s Michigan Week, Bitches!

This week comes but once a year

When Buckeyes see their duty clear

And college football e’er bewitches

It’s Michigan Week, all you bitches!

And before this week shall pass

We’ll kick with glee Michigan ass

On Saturday at the Horseshoe

We’ll trounce the dismal Maize and Blue

And then a stein of beer we’ll raise

And toast to good old Woody Hayes

Then spray the ‘Shoe with chlorine

To rid the scent of Wolverine.

Let’s go, Bucks!

It’s Michigan Week!

This has been a dreadful season for the Buckeye Nation.  We’ve seen our coach, Jim Tressel, resign under fire.  We’ve dealt with an embarrassing NCAA scandal that cut out the heart of our offense.  We’ve watched the Buckeyes give up big leads, fritter away games, and play like pretenders rather than contenders.

But all of that means nothing this week, because Ohio State is playing Michigan.

To be sure, this year The Game has a different feel.  For one thing, it’s coming after Thanksgiving, rather than the weekend before.  For another, Michigan is the favorite for the first time in years.  But so what?  This is a game where the records get thrown out the window.  And if the Buckeyes can somehow beat the Wolverines, a dismal season will be salvaged.

The Wolverines are playing The Game at home, and everyone expects them to win.  They crushed Nebraska last week, their offense is clicking, and their defense is dramatically improved.  The Buckeyes, in contrast, have lost two in a row.  Yet . . . how will Michigan react to the high expectations?  They’ve lost to the Buckeyes six games in a row, and every Wolverine fan thinks this is the year for the Maize and Blue to get some serious payback.  If Ohio State can score some points and keep the game close, the pressure may work to the Buckeyes’ advantage.

We’ll find out come Saturday — and until then we’ll enjoy the excitement and taunting that make Michigan Week so special.

 

Finishing Strong

Ohio State won another tough Big Ten battle tonight, beating arch-rival Michigan 62-53.

The game was a tale of two halves. In the first half, the Buckeyes were out of sync offensively.  They turned the ball over and could not hit open shots.  They scored 23 points, had several defensive breakdowns, and went into the locker room trailing after what was surely their worst half of basketball this season.

In the second half, the Buckeyes successfully pounded the ball inside.  Jared Sullinger again was a man among boys, pulling down strong rebounds and somehow getting the ball in the bucket despite being double- and triple-teamed.  Aaron Craft bounced back from a sloppy first half to make some key inside buckets, William Buford knocked down some key shots, Jon Diebler played tough defense and ably fed the post, and David Lighty again showed his athleticism with great rebounding and defensive play.  All of the Buckeyes displayed their stamina in the second half, too, because Coach Thad Matta did not make a single substitution.  The Buckeyes scored 39 points in the half, pulled away from the overmatched Wolverines, and would have scored even more had they not been thoroughly mediocre from the free throw line.  Free throw shooting and fatigue will be a concern for Ohio State fans as the team comes down the stretch of the Big Ten season.

Ohio State now stands at 23-0.  Equally important, they have swept the season series with the Wolverines — and beating The Team Up North never gets old.

Seven In A Row, And Counting

Yesterday, on a cold and blustery day in Columbus, the Ohio State Buckeyes pulverized the Michigan Wolverines, 37-7.  The win in The Game was the seventh in a row for Ohio State over its archrivals.

Buckeye bagpipers at French Field House

At Ohio Stadium it was a festive atmosphere from start to finish.  A troupe of bagpipers walked among the tailgaters at the French Field House lot playing Carmen Ohio.  Brutus rode by, hanging out of the window of a pickup truck and pumping up the raucous crowd.  Inside the Horseshoe the 105,000 fans also had their game faces on, heckling and booing the Michigan band, cheerleaders, fans, and anyone else who dared to wear maize and blue.

When the game finally began, Ohio State started slowly.  Michigan, on the other hand, moved the ball.  Then the Ohio State defense forced a crucial turnover, Ohio State finally broke through to score 10 points, and when Michigan answered with its one touchdown Jordan Hall broke Michigan’s back with a return for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff.  After that it was no contest.  The Buckeyes methodically ground up the Wolverines, forcing two more turnovers and pounding Michigan on the ground.  The only thing that kept the game even remotely close was the absurd refereeing, which punished college kids for making the “O” sign and negated Boom Herron’s brilliant 99-yard touchdown run with the worst downfield holding call in college football history.

The team and band sing Carmen Ohio after the win

Although Michigan has struggled this year, this nevertheless was an impressive win for the Buckeyes.  The offense did not play its best game, yet still Terrelle Pryor, Boom Herron, Dane Sanzenbacher, DeVier Posey, and their teammates scored 30 offensive points — and could easily have scored more if Coach Tressel had not called off the dogs in the fourth quarter.  The defense, on the other hand, played one of its best games.  It held the high-powered Michigan offense to its lowest point total of the season and pretty much shut down the Wolverines after they scored their lone touchdown.  The Buckeyes clearly wanted to contain Denard Robinson, and for the most part they succeeded.  When Robinson went out with an injury, every Buckeyes fan breathed a sigh of relief.  Although Tate Forcier is a decent quarterback, he is a much easier player to defend.

At the end, as we listened to the team sing Carmen Ohio and looked at the scoreboard memorializing a decisive victory over the Wolverines, it was a sweet moment.  Beating Michigan never gets old.

The Game, 2010 Edition (A Weather Update)

Weather conditions clearly can influence football games, and The Game is no different.  The most celebrated example is the 1950 Snow Bowl, when a freak blizzard hit the day of the game and Michigan won 9-3.  That loss led to the firing of Ohio State’s coach and the hiring of Woody Hayes — and the rest is history.

This morning it is cold in Columbus — and more importantly from a football standpoint, there is a sharp, frigid breeze blowing from the west.  It was tough to make headway when Penny and I turned west on our walk, and I would expect that the wind also would make it tough to pass, or punt.  According to The Weather Channel forecast, the wind is expected to be blowing at 17 mph from the west come game time.

Jim Tressel tends to get very conservative when the wind is a factor; if that tendency holds true to form I expect Ohio State will really focus on running the ball.  Michigan Coach Rich Rodriguez, on the other hand, has nothing to lose.  Windy or not, I think we will see the full Michigan playbook today.

The Game, 2010 Edition

Tomorrow is The Game.  I’ll be there, sitting in the Horseshoe in Section 12A.  The game will have the traditional noon start and the weather will be crisp and cold, with highs in the 30s and lows in the 20s.

Other than the start time and the weather, I don’t think there is much that is predictable about this edition of The Game.  Michigan has a great offensive player in lightning quick QB Denard Robinson, who is rewriting the Michigan record books.  Robinson is easily the most explosive offensive player that Buckeyes will have faced so far this year.  With Robinson at the helm, the Wolverines have scored points in bunches.  Michigan’s offense will pose tremendous challenges for the Ohio State defense.  No team that has faced Michigan so far this year has shut down the offense, and I don’t expect the Buckeyes to do so, either.

On the other side of the ball, it is fair to say that the 2010 Michigan defense is not very good.  In fact, for those of us who grew up with the rivalry in the ’70s when Michigan always fielded a stout, hard-hitting defense, Michigan’s current defense is virtually unrecognizable.  The 2010 Wolverines have given up an average of more than 39 points per game in Big Ten play and have — statistically, at least — one of the worst defenses in college football.  In last week’s Michigan loss, Wisconsin ran the ball again, and again, and again, and Michigan simply could not stop them.  You have to think that Ohio State will be able to move the ball and put points on the board.

There is a lot to worry about in this game.  Teams that can score always have a shot at an upset; if Ohio State gets sloppy and puts the ball on the ground or wastes scoring opportunities, Michigan could get ahead and stay ahead.  Although Ohio State is a prohibitive favorite, this rivalry has seen lots of upsets over the years, and Michigan may be due.  The Wolverines have lost six in a row to the Buckeyes, and must be wondering whether a loss tomorrow would cost head coach Rich Rodriguez his job.  Let’s hope that this year isn’t the year the Wolverines break the streak.