**Quick note - Today will be part 2 of a 2-part mini-series for "The Showdown At The 'Shoe" aka USC vs. Ohio State. Dr. Jeffrey A. Glenn aka "JAG" is an award-winning dentist here in the Cincinnati area who is also a world-renown (2-time) Ohio State Buckeye fan. Its now time for the Buckeye gospel. Thanks JAG!**
Well, I admit that this is an exaggeration, but, the people in Columbus and Buckeye fans around the country don’t feel that it’s a very big one. November 18th, 2006 was a glorious day for Big Ten Football. Its two most decorated programs, Ohio State and Michigan, were facing each other with undefeated records for the first time since 1973 and were ranked #1 and #2 in the country for the first time ever. Led by Senior quarterback Troy Smith, (who would fly to New York to pick up the Heisman in a month), the Buckeyes pulled out a thrilling 42-39 victory that lived up to all the enormous hype. There was actually talk of a rematch in the BCS national championship game but, in a close vote, it was determined that Florida would be the sacrificial lamb as the Buckeyes took their 2nd National Title in five years and Michigan would go out to Pasadena to smash USC and show that they were deserving of the title game after all.
Um, somebody forgot to give Florida and USC the script.
Rose Bowl: USC 32 Michigan 18
BCS Championship: Florida 41 Ohio State 14
Bowl Record for Big Ten: 2-5
How could a conference fall so far so fast? Since then, Ohio State made it back to another title game the following season only to get pummeled by LSU. In 2008, they were smoked by USC in Pasadena and lost its 3rd straight BCS Bowl Game to Texas. Michigan has fared much worse. Their opening day loss to Appalachian State is arguably the biggest upset in modern college football history and their 3-9 record of 2008 was inconceivable as recently as two years ago. The Big Ten has lost its swagger and is no longer mentioned with the Big 12 and SEC as powerhouse conferences.
Now the Buckeyes are looking at a shot at redemption right in the face. USC is coming to Columbus for a rematch this Saturday. Not only is it the most important game on Ohio State’s schedule, it’s the most important game for the entire Big Ten Conference. In addition to the fact that Ohio State desperately needs a win over a highly ranked program outside its conference, the game is of utmost importance because none of the excuses that the Buckeye faithful trot out apply in this case.
1. It’s hard for us to concentrate on the Bowl game because the Michigan game is such a gigantic struggle and emotionally draining experience. (This is the 2nd game of the season).
2. We always end up playing in warm weather places in enemy territory. We had to play LSU for the National Championship in New Orleans, for crying out loud. We would detonate any top team who had the audacity, the unmitigated gall to come to our house. (This game is in our house).
3. We had a quarterback controversy last year that fractured and distracted the team early in the season. (No controversy this year; Terrelle Pryor is firmly established not only as the QB, but the most talented and important player on the team).
4. Our top running back, Beanie Wells, was injured and didn’t play. (The current starting RB, Dan "Boom" Herron, and all other key players are healthy).
In other words, it’s put up or shut up time. Our excuses are our own. The other Big Ten schools need to put their animosity aside and root for the Buckeyes as if their beloved Nittany Lions, Wolverines or Badgers were putting on the pads to face the Trojans. Major economic repercussions are at stake. Due to its past reputation and huge fan base that’s willing to travel and pump megabucks into local economies, the Big Ten has had two teams in BCS Bowls every year since its inception. This is worth millions of dollars in revenue since the BCS Bowl payouts and TV exposure dwarf the other bowls and all Bowl revenue is pooled and shared equally by the eleven conference members. If Ohio State loses badly again, it will be tough to make the argument that we deserve to have two spots and it will be official that we’ve become a 2nd tier conference. Additionally, ABC shelled out $300 million for the rights to Big Ten football games and they didn’t do it because they wanted to show a bunch of unranked teams with regional appeal. If that happens, you best believe that they won’t pony up that kind of cash again.
In the day and age that we live in now, this has become much more than a collegiate football contest. It’s a battle to establish superiority in revenue and exposure to all the top high school players who are watching the biggest games and dream of playing in them. In the old days, the Big Ten and Pac-10 were considered the premier conferences and were contractually guaranteed a monopoly on college football’s marquee game, the Grandaddy of them all, the Rose Bowl. The BCS Championship game will be held in the Rose Bowl next January. Only this time, there are no guaranteed spots. The two teams will have to earn it and the loser of this game will most certainly not be there.
FOLKS, ITS T-MINUS 24 HOURS UNTIL "THE SHOWDOWN AT THE 'SHOE"...WHO'S GONNA WIN? WHY?
-Jeffrey A. Glenn aka "JAG"