When this season began for The Ohio State Buckeyes, sadly, most of us immediately began talking about Next Year. This season was a “development year” that was going to allow coaches to identify talent, develop said talent, and create a powerhouse for years to come. It is a bowl ban year, after all. There are no milestones. There are no moral victories. There are no expectations.
Well, I do not know about you, but that was my exact mentality after the dust settled around Urban Meyer being hired while the “meaningless” season was approaching. We talked incessantly about the youth on this team and what could come of it in years to come. Most of us talked about what the coaching transition would be like and not only how it would affect the players, but affect the actual game-plans. Two games into the season, we even started talking about how awful this team looked on both sides of the ball and loss predictions came rolling in shortly thereafter. All fair and warranted points.
Problem is (if there is such a thing), we were all wrong. Here we are headed into Week 12 with an Ohio State team that is currently riding a high of an undefeated season sitting at 10-0 with just two games left. No chance of a B1G Championship. No chance of a BCS bowl bid.
So is it all lost? Of course not. But honestly, I expected to know a little bit more about this team than I currently do. I expected the passing game to develop more through both Braxton and several wide receivers. Outside of the linebackers, I expected the defense to be pretty stout and use some of the senior experience to help develop the youthful recruits learning their role. Maybe that is a lot to ask in just 10 games given the state of the team and lack of true tests by solid opponents. The one thing we did learn from this team is their crazed desire to win at all costs.
This Saturday, Ohio State goes into Camp Randall to face a Wisconsin Badger team that forcefully stole the Buckeyes’ title run on October 16, 2010. Truthfully, “curb-stomped” might be a better descriptor for how that night went and this team is as vengeful as Buckeye Nation.
“I don’t want to go on record saying I hate Wisconsin more than Michigan, but I hate Wisconsin just as much as Michigan,” junior wide receiver Corey Brown said. “Every year since I’ve been here, they’ve been a nightmare. They ruined our perfect season (in 2010).”
These final two games of the season allow all Buckeye players and fans alike, to brush off the ash on the glowing coals and let that fire erupt in what has become enormous rivalries.
This literally has nothing to do with ineligibility during the upcoming B1G Championship or a BCS bowl game. If ever there was a year where I thought the Buckeyes were overrated based upon the rankings and was somehow happy about being ousted during bowl season, this would be the year. Personally, I would be fearful of a match-up with pretty much any team in the SEC outside of Tennessee and Kentucky. I’m sure that sentence was as tough to read as it was to type, but it really is true. This team is too young, with too many holes to play in a major bowl game and come out successful. It has become painfully obvious that the B1G field of play, especially this season, is not well enough equipped to compete at such a level.
But the fun of this is that none of that matters right now. There are literally no other detractors from going into Camp Randall and exacting revenge in front of their own fans for what they did to us two years ago. I am not sure if that link brought back terrible memories like it did for me, but coupled with this, you should be ready for Saturday afternoon. I do not care if that is not football related, it is the hatred for Wisconsin teams all around that has brought this to a rivalry state.
“It’s interesting hearing our players talk about it, especially guys that have been in some of those big games,” said Meyer, about the series. “This is a rivalry game, and it’s a rivalry game because you have to understand who you’re playing and what they’ve done the last few years.”
With Ohio State leading 6 games to 5 over the past 11 years, that is exactly what this has become, a rivalry. Will it have the feel of ‘The Game’? Certainly not, but you can be sure that given the recent history between these schools coupled with Bret Bielema calling out Urban Meyer’s recruiting tactics, that the bad blood will be pumping through each team on Saturday afternoon.
*images courtesy of host.madison.com and horseshoeinsider.com