Dear Ohio State fans,
Before you read any further, be aware that this isn’t going to be a hate-filled message gloating amidst the fact that the country doesn’t get to watch you play in college football’s biggest game of the year. Many of you reading already figured as much, as you know who I am. But also be aware that I’m also not an apologist; nowhere in this letter will you see me vehemently defending Ohio State’s inadequacies.
The Buckeyes deserved to lose to Michigan State on Saturday night. Or perhaps a more proper way to phrase it: Michigan State deserved to win on Saturday night.
Put down that broken Budweiser bottle. That serrated kitchen knife, too. Those items are no way to go out. Besides, “Ohio ’til you die”, right? You can’t go down swinging if you don’t get a chance to see the pitch thrown.
More than likely, the school with one of the most loyal and supportive fan bases in the country will still get a chance to play in a BCS bowl. That’s you guys, in case you forgot after reading the back-stabbing messages of some of the “fans” that were less than enthused with your entire team last night.
You’ll still go to that game and hope with every ounce of energy that the Buckeyes don’t come out unmotivated to play in a “lesser” contest. Because how bad would that look?
If you’re lucky, you’ll draw a team not named Alabama. That team probably won’t have a great defense and looks to punish teams with a great offense (know who I’m referring to?). As encouragement, that label still applies. Great offense, that is. Only one team gained more total yards on Michigan State’s defense than the 374 that Ohio State posted on the Spartans.
Fifteen years from now, all the seniors that don’t get to watch their school play for a national championship will look back on this game with disdain, but it won’t eat at them annually as it may with the guys who, you know, actually played in the game.
In case you don’t remember, this happened in 1998 against the same team. And I’m quite sure that there are plenty of Class of ’99 Ohio State graduates still running around on this planet who haven’t croaked due to grief from the events that transpired on November 7, 1998.
Actually, let’s stay on that topic for a little while longer. There are some similarities between the 1998 and 2013 Ohio State football teams. Both were ranked No. 1 in the nation up until the Michigan State loss. Both scored 24 points in the loss to the Spartans. And both were denied even a Rose Bowl bid as a result.
But that’s where the similarities end. The 1998 squad was really, really good. Like seriously good, not “might be, give us a chance to prove it to you” good. The Buckeyes that season defeated five ranked opponents. The team was led by Joe Germaine and David Boston on offense, Andy Katzenmoyer and Antoine Winfield on defense. They had it all. Good offense. Good defense. Good conference. This was a team that would have been capable of beating the eventual national champions, Tennessee.
But not the 2013 squad. No, Urban Meyer’s offense may have been clicking through its first 12 games, but there was a dark secret that, well, wasn’t really all that much of a secret. The pass defense stank. Ranked No. 104 in the country after last night. That’s like three or four days without a shower stink.
In case you’d like to argue that, I’ll list off the quarterbacks who threw for at least 250 yards against the Buckeyes this season:
Jared Goff, California (371 yards)
Joel Stave, Wisconsin (295 yards)
Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois (288 yards)
Devin Gardner, Michigan (451 yards)
Connor Cook, Michigan State (304 yards)
Blame whoever you want for it, but for good quarterbacks cutting through Ohio State’s defense this season was like slicing through butter. Easy and smooth.
I’m sure you all remember the national championship last season. And how the media in love with Notre Dame’s resurgence made sure to let everyone know that the Fighting Irish weren’t going to let Alabama stomp all over that top ten overall defense.
Well, Alabama did, and out the window went a lot of respect Brian Kelly had worked so hard that season to regain for Notre Dame.
For the better part of 12 months, Urban Meyer has been building up the Ohio State football team, with two undefeated regular seasons to buffer against the critics. Wounds take time to heal, and it appeared as though the Buckeyes’ wounds, caused partly by Meyer’s Florida team in 2007 and then opened and salted a year later by LSU, were nearly healed.
But then comes Michigan State. Opens those wounds right back up, right?
Wrong. What Michigan State did was rip the scab off the healing wound. Sure, it hurts, but even if it bleeds, it’s not that bad.
What Florida State might have (hell, probably would have) done in the national championship game is take a switchblade to that healing wound and completely negate the two-year healing process that Meyer had conducted. Strength-of-schedule be damned, the Seminoles have absolutely obliterated 12 of the 13 opponents on its schedule this season. The offense is good. The defense is good. The coaching is good.
Go back and take a look at the quarterbacks who threw for over 250 yards against Ohio State this season. Think Jameis Winston wouldn’t be able to do just as well as, if not better, than those guys against the Buckeyes? Because Winston is the only Heisman contender of the bunch, and the only one in the top ten nationally in passing yards per game this season.
I know it sounds bad, but the Buckeyes are better off avoiding the inevitable.
“But I’d rather play for the national title and lose all the respect I had gained this season than not at all,” you say?
And be the butt of jokes all of next season? Ask Notre Dame if that was fun. Oh yea, and you’re already hated by the national media, right? I’m sure they would brush off a flat showing in the national title game because, you know, at least you got there.
The 2013 Ohio State football team is a good squad. Don’t ever let the media, critics or anyone else tell you it isn’t. But also don’t assume that “good” equates to “great”. The Buckeyes are not a “great” football team. It has too many weaknesses on defense which were exposed not only last night, but against inferior competition earlier in the season that quite simply didn’t have the defensive clout to bring them to the forefront.
Florida State vs. Auburn is a more intriguing matchup than Florida State vs. Ohio State. Additionally, Ohio State vs. Clemson, which will probably be your 2014 Orange Bowl, is a more intriguing matchup than Florida State vs. Ohio State.
So get up and dust yourselves off. You’re Ohio State; this isn’t the end. Just ask the Class of ’99…they saw a national title brought to Columbus just four short years later.
And if that doesn’t work for you, hey, you’re going to be No. 2 in basketball this week.