Roots run deep on rivalry weekend.
Friday before The Game and if the excitement and hatred have not bubbled up within your soul to a frenetic level then there is something wrong with the scarlet blood in your body. It is strange what shape and feeling the rivalry has taken for me throughout my lifetime. I tried to think back to my first memories of Ohio State vs TSUN and it has to be as a kid watching my mom and dad go crazy as Marcus Marek intercepted a pass to seal a victory in 1981 – I was eight years old. The Game has absolutely become part of my culture and family tradition – as it has for all the fans associated with it – that is what makes being part of it so amazing and also what makes the hatred toward TSUN that much more potent.
First a little about the opponent – Brandon Graham will lead the way on defense and the guy is definitely the best player on the field, a senior with a non-stop motor – he will definitely bring it on defense as this will be the last time he suits up in the rivalry. Whoever on the Buckeye offensive line is matched up against him will need to step up. On offense TSUN is leading the Big Ten in scoring and second in rushing however with leading rusher Brandon Minor (the guy who scored the only touchdown last year) out with a shoulder injury and Carlos Brown also banged up I have trouble seeing a rushing attack getting traction against the Bullets. At QB Forcier will start but he has been banged around a lot and is a little dude so I would look for Dick Rod to use Denard Robinson (the third leading rusher) at QB to spell Taint and also attempt to keep the defense off balance – after all he is shifty and fast and the change of pace QB from Minnesota did have some success – albeit mostly against the second team defense. The rest of the team is basically a hot mess with no real threat at wide out, a serviceable tight end in Koger, Ezeh is a decent linebacker but has been exposed at times in both run support and pass coverage and the secondary has been on the wrong end of highlight reels all season long.
Things to focus on this week:
1) Preparation versus Overconfidence. This will mark the 106th time the Buckeyes have played scUM and as usual all the same cliches must be offered up. This is a one game season, throw all the rankings and records out the window, etc. The truth of the matter is the reason why these clichés apply is because they are true. No matter what you want to say about how spectacularly dysfunctional TSUN has been – they will be ready to play tomorrow. Even if Dick Rod is a chump the weenies held a “players only” meeting this week to motivate themselves – make no mistake they want this one very badly. So our team must come in prepared but no overconfident. Earlier this week Worthington got in on the smack talk a bit by saying that he wants TSUN to be better because it is not as much fun kicking a dog when it is down, and I have read several comments and articles saying that TSUN needs to be better the make the rivalry fun again. Well I call bullshit to all of it. I think all of these people forget the twelve years of Cooper futility and lack of readiness and understanding of the rivalry. I personally would like to see ten straight years of domination of them or more, I want them destroyed every year. In the words of Conan – I want to hear the lamentations of their women and children.
One thing the Buckeye Nation can count on is that Tressel does understand the rivalry and The Game. He always has the team ready to go for the hardest hitting game of the year from the opening kickoff. Say what you want about his offensive strategy – but going up to Ann Arbor with the Vest is the only way to go.
2) Weathering the storm. Mentioned above is that TSUN is actually leading the Big Ten in scoring. Most of the time this is done in the first half and then they systematically fall apart in the second half. With the game being played in the Big Toilet Bowl, and given the lackluster season that TSUN has had – I see them coming out and basically throwing everything at us right away in attempts to ride the emotion of the moment and keep the crowd energized. Whatever happens the Buckeyes must stay focused and not get rattled. There is no way this team matches up with us across the board athletically. So let the game come to us, don’t force things (especially Pryor) and we will be just fine. They started fast last year too and we even went in at the half with a lead of 14-7 before distancing ourselves in the second half. Forcing the issue early will only play into their hands, take their best shot and then knock them out.
3) Piling it on. Following up on the above. This is a game where I would like to see the points piled on. Even though I think Tressel going for 50+ is not realistic I sure would like to see it happen. The good thing is that Tressel normally saves his ballsy, aggressive, creative stuff for this opponent. Whether we use the “Buckwild” (aka – wildcat) with Boom or with Posey to throw passes, or let Pryor air it out if (when) our receivers can get behind their secondary or whatever – I am hoping to see the offense take the playbook to the next chapter. Not to say that it would not be just as satisfying to watch Boom and Saine pound it for 200+ yards and our offensive line dominate them. Either way – but points, points, points. Let’s go big in their house.
Prediction: OSU – 34 / TSUN – 14
This should be fun. GO BUCKS!!!
Also – a special note of condolences to the Spielman family. The hearts of the entire Buckeye Nation go out to them as Stephanie Spielman passed away yesterday after her fifth bout of breast cancer. As much of a warrior against the disease as her husband was on the field she and Chris did wonders for awareness and fundraising for the cause. If you feel so compelled you can donate the Stephanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research HERE.
How firm thy friendship….O-HI-O.