Saturday, November 30, 2019

I'm of two minds about this

So it's the day of The Game.  Nonetheless, I'm on the fence about it.  Sure I want Ohio State to win.  Naturally. The problem?  The 'rivalry' has become so lopsided that, for many, it's starting to lose it's luster.

Ryan Day has been a phenom.   He was offensive coordinator for two years under Urban Meyer, and was hired to replace him last year.  Many were willing to give him that obligatory 'rebuilding' year.  This was especially true since he was taking most of the team from last year that Meyer had.

Meyer is like LeBron James.  Or the Patriots.  He's proof that there's more to athletics than stats.  On paper, he's simply one of the best coaches of all time.  Period.  His win percentages, his national championship, his record against Michigan (7-0) - he's one of the best. 

But there was always something 'off'.  When we lost during his run, it was often in terrible, humiliating upsets or thrashings.  Some of our worst losses in a century happened under him.  Plus we often seemed to 'under-perform.'  The team he had after the National Championship was pretty much the same team.  In such cases, that should have put us right back into contention for the title. Instead it was a botched, sloppy, barely squeak by year with controversy and chaos.

Meyer showed that in the modern media era, you can amass a great statistical record and still leave people thinking something is missing.  Enter Day.  A man who doesn't look like a multi-millionaire college football coach, he is quiet, soft spoken, and unassuming. Because of that, fans were willing to let him have that rebuilding year and weren't expecting much.  Our hope was that he wouldn't lose too many games.

And then?  Wow.  One of the most dominating seasons in many a decade.  Ohio State hasn't just won, it's trounced.  From throwaway teams to top ten contenders, the Buckeyes this year have all but obliterated the opposition.  Even teams - like Wisconsin - we were supposed to struggle against were manhandled and beaten down.  In most games the opponents have been held to a few scores while our offense have wracked up dozens and dozens of points, often being able to put the game in the hands of the second and third string by the third quarter.

So now we're heading into The Game, one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports.  That Michigan is not the team it used to be is one problem.  Not since the 90s has Michigan really been what it used to be.  Plus both Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer had Michigan's number.  After John Cooper when over a decade and lost to Michigan almost every year, those coaches realized that if you lose every other game, make sure you beat Michigan.  And it worked.

But the downer is that many are beginning to see other teams as our emerging rivalries: Penn State and Wisconsin, while Michigan in many ways insists it has moved on to Michigan State or Notre Dame.  In fact, that could be a problem.  As culture warriors will tell you, if you insist there is no culture war, you'll lose to those still fighting it.  And just because Michigan has chosen to insist the game is no big deal doesn't mean OSU followed their lead.  Hence the lopsided record.  But when  OSU has won all but twice (and once was our broken season under penalty from the NCAA with a temp coach and a crippled program) in two decades, it is hard to maintain the excitement. 

So it's tough.  Michigan has got to win to keep the rivalry meaning something.  But this season Ryan Day and the Buckeyes have so exceeded expectations, being called by many in sports media the most solid and formidable team in the country, do we want it to be today?  Perhaps the greedy thing is that we win today, and lose next year.  But then, that's what we've been saying for over a decade.  We'll see.

In the end, we all want a good game, a safe game, and a fair game.  I think with that, if nothing else, we'll be happy.  Go Bucks!

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