Ok, so Ohio State is going to kill us Saturday. Hopefully the weather is decent and the tailgating is great, because I'm not sure there's going to much of a game. The only thing to wonder about inside TCF Bank stadium will be if there'll be more Ohio State fans than Gopher fans, and if the Buckeyes can cover a massive 25 point spread.
We're used to getting trounced by OSU, but I'm not sure people have given enough appreciation for what Jim Tressell has accomplished at Ohio State. It's pretty freaking amazing. Yes, in the negative "what have you done for me lately?" society we live in, people seem to want to focus on them losing two national title games, or getting knocked out of the national title chase this year. But he DID win a national championship against a Miami team that was one of the best teams we've seen in decades (seriously, go back and look at how many guys on that Hurricane team played in the NFL. Holy moly) and are still in contention for their SIXTH STRAIGHT BIG TEN TITLE! SIX STRAIGHT! Just thought I'd bold and all caps that to emphasize how amazing that is. Any fanbase of any team in any conference would take that in a heartbeat (just ask Florida and Texas).
Anyway, to preview the bloodbath we talked to Jay from the excellent Ohio State blog The Buckeye Battle Cry...
The Daily Gopher: Will the Buckeyes win their 7th straight conference title?
The Buckeye Battle Cry: At this point it will be a significant challenge for the Buckeyes to claim another conference crown. Michigan State currently leads the pack, and obviously if the Spartans pull off an undefeated season they claim the Big Ten title. However, their remaining schedule has Iowa (away), you guys, Purdue, and Penn State (away). Iowa will obviously be a tough game, and although Penn State is in a bit of a down year, you can't count the Nittany Lions out when going into Happy Valley for the last game of the season. Unfortunately, even if we assume that the Spartans drop at least one game, Wisconsin's remaining schedule consists of Purdue, Indiana, Michigan, and Northwestern, making it reasonable to expect the Badgers will win out. Therefore, even if we don't lose the remainder of the season, it looks like Wisconsin would beat us out in the end if MSU does not.
TDG: You're coming off a blowout of Purdue. Was that payback for last season?
TBBC: The blowout of Purdue was probably equal parts payback for last season and taking out our frustrations from losing to Wisconsin. Given the manner in which we lost to the Badgers, it's likely that some serious butt-kicking was going on in practice over the week leading up to Purdue. Also, we know that if we're going to have any shot at the Big Ten title you alluded to above, there can be no more games where we are giving up an early lead or letting teams hang around.
TDG: Terrelle Pryor is the best QB Ohio State has had since...?
TBBC: The obvious choice here is Troy Smith. It's hard to get better than a Heisman Trophy winner, and I don't think you could reasonably say at this point that Pryor has exceeded Smith's accomplishments. The less obvious choice is Todd Boeckman, who Pryor took the starting job from in the 2008 season. Boeckman put up fairly strong numbers when he led the Buckeyes in 2007, and a lot of fans liked him as a "true quarterback." However, in the end you probably have to give the nod to Pryor, who has continued to improve and has three years as the starter to Boeckman's one (if we consider Pryor as the primary starter for the 2008 season).
TDG: I was surprised OSU lost to Wisconsin. What happened?
TBBC: First, a kickoff return for a touchdown happened. Then, two more touchdowns happened. Then, Reggie White disguised himself as a white man and adopted the name J.J. Watt (and/or our offensive line sort of fell apart). Both Ohio State and Wisconsin are more suited to defensive, grind-it-out games, so each successive touchdown we gave up to the Badgers in the first quarter was like exponentially increasing the mountain we had to climb. We did manage to stage a decent comeback, but spotting Wisconsin 21 points was just too much to overcome. Wisconsin is obviously a solid team, so come-from-behind wins are unlikely, and unfortunately we put ourselves in that position.
TDG: Doesn't seem like Buckeye fans are too pleased with the performance of tailbacks Dan Herron and Brandon Saine. Is that fair?
TBBC: It's fair to say that Buckeye fans at least want to see more from Saine and Herron. Both have great talent, but fans feel like that talent just hasn't broken out and been displayed on a consistent basis. Although it feels odd to say this, the displeasure seems to be with the overall running attack, not the individual performances of the backs that form the running attack. If there was one featured running back you would be more likely to associate a name with the performance of the running game, but with a dual-back approach, you can't single someone out, literally. If you could, then your dual-back approach would quickly turn into a single-back approach.
TDG: Thoughts on the new division alignments for next year?
TBBC: As expected, most of the thoughts surrounding the division alignment from an OSU perspective focused on our rivalry with Michigan and when we would play them each season. Now that the dust has settled in that respect, the rest of the division breakdown doesn't prompt any strong reactions. We'll play Illinois each season, which preserves another traditional rival, and we'll draw Wisconsin once each year as well, which, in light of this year's game, could end up building an interesting dynamic between us and yet another school "up north" (not that there are many Big Ten schools south of Columbus to choose from). Things may actually be more interesting from your perspective, as you will be among the school's now contending with Nebraska on an annual basis.
TDG: I'm a hockey fan so I have to ask: I feel like Columbus could be a great hockey town, but there's never been a good team to cheer for. Will NHL hockey survive there?
TBBC: Columbus residents probably like having the Blue Jackets in town because it provides some entertainment for the evening when you want to take in a game, but for the most part people aren't interested in the team in the sense that they talk about "The Jackets" at work or feel like they are a major part of the city. For better or worse, Ohio State football dominates the Columbus sports scene. Columbus is a growing city, so it's possible that interest in our NHL team will pick up if we have a few winning seasons in a row, but this is not a sure bet. Dining and arts are a big focus in Columbus, with professional sports as more of an afterthought.
TDG: More tortured pro sports fans: Minnesota or Ohio?
TBBC: You've got to go with Cleveland....err, Ohio on this one. You can throw in Cincinnati if you want, but they're basically just gravy. Terrible, runny gravy.
TDG: Who do you think the best candidate for the Gopher football head coaching job? How about Mike Leach?
TBBC: Sure, this might take some getting used to, but it would certainly shake things up. It seems like it might be a good fit in the sense of a "new day" in the Big Ten, with conference expansion and finding new ways to compete. Leach would get to coach in a major conference, in a new stadium, and probably wouldn't have to face endless concern about controversy like he might face at a school like Ohio State.
TDG: It would be the biggest upset in the history of humanity if Minnesota won Saturday, so I'm not even going to bother asking who you think will win. But will Ohio State beat the Gophers by more than 25 (that's um, a totally random number I came up. Really. Just a pure coincidence it's the point spread for the game because, you know, gambling isn't legal.)?
TBBC: Well, nothing ever ever ever will be a bigger upset than Appalachian State over Mich1gAAn, especially if we have anything to say about it. :)
But, yeah. Sorry. If Purdue was any indication, the forecast is predicting a severe beat-down headed your way. Anything could happen though. We just hope "anything" doesn't.