Knowing how cerebral the readers of this column are, I'm going to ask you to think for a second: Try and remember the last time you were as comfortable with the outcome of an Ohio State football game in the third quarter as you were against Indiana on Saturday…we'll come back to the correct answer in a second.
As Indiana football moves further and further away from the Antwaan Randle-El era, you have to really appreciate just how good that guy was. The talent level at Indiana hasn't improved – despite having nowhere to go but better – yet Randle-El was still dangerous on every play even with nobody to divert attention from him. Indiana football games are healthy for fans of the opposition, so yes, you may have realized during the third quarter of this past Saturday's game that the last time you felt this good during the latter stages of a Buckeye football game was at last year's rout of the very same Hoosiers.
Speaking of healthy, the last time Lydell Ross looked so dominant and sprang up from the turf after being tackled with such vigor was two years ago on the very same field (kind of; it had real grass then) in Bloomington. Even with the same guilty parties on the OSU offensive line doing their best imitation of turnstiles on so many plays, Ross was elusive, instinctive and effective with the ball, save for an untimely fumble. Most importantly, Ross played with the kind of passion and emotion necessary for an every-down running back. It's unfortunate that the least physical football team is now in the rear view of the Buckeye football schedule, because it was great to see four quarters of Lydell Ross playing like a prototypical Big Ten power back. We'll see if this was a turning point or merely an anomaly in November.
Aside from Ross and the lack of quality opponent, the most important thing to take away from this game was the demeanor with which this team took the field – it was as if they were sick of playing down to their competition and tired of playing poorly on the road, even if Memorial Stadium is always a Buckeye home game hosted by the state of Indiana. The last time Ohio State looked that ambitious on both sides of the ball in white uniforms when they weren't playing in Arizona was the first half of the Michigan game in 2001. Considering that the Tressel Model is to improve with every game and to culminate that improvement in the finale, one has to believe that the Indiana game could not be any better scheduled.
Scattered thoughts from Saturday:
2. The fact that Wisconsin is a confirmed fraud should serve as some well-used anger and motivation.
3. Maybe it's just pessimism, but I feel like every underperforming Penn State Nittany Lion (i.e., most of them) is going to have a career game this Saturday, and considering they need to win out just to make it to Detroit in December to play the MAC runner-up, it's not a good time to play at Penn State…as if there ever is a good time.
4. Is there a statute of limitations to the number of times you can change your uniforms during a single season, Purdue? They're going to be ugly no matter what you do to them. Changing them is as futile as Gene Keady's comb-over. Seriously, just decide if you want to be Georgia Tech or Wake Forest once and for all, and stick with it.
5. I would have a very hard time rooting for Tennessee to win any football game under any circumstance.
6. Does anybody else find it nauseating that beating Notre Dame is somehow seen by the media as some kind of special accomplishment? Lee Corso: "Florida State gets Notre Dame next week, so we'll see what kind of a team (the Seminoles) really are." Lee, media, everybody: Notre Dame has been insignificant in the realm of college football since 1993. The "good" Irish teams since then have been slightly better than average. Enough is enough. Notre Dame football has become Utah with tradition, a better fight song and an exclusive television contract. Beating them is no longer a big deal, nor has it been for quite some time; it merely makes those of us who know "life-long" Notre Dame fans that can't find South Bend on a map of Indiana with flashing arrows pointing to it smirk and roll our eyes.
7. I still join the ranks of the biggest Notre Dame fans in the world when the Irish play Tennessee.
8. My boycott of listening to Paul Keels' call of Ohio State games is now seven games old, and I don't even have a morbid curiosity to know just how pointless he's been this season.
9. There is no less deserving fan base in sports than that of the Florida Marlins, if you can even call their "fans" a base. Apparently you can be vaguely aware that your town even has a baseball team in August, yet be totally emotionally invested in said team in October. It's as disgusting and a shame that the actual players on their team are so likeable.
10. Indiana deserves a much better football team and tradition than it has had. Unfortunately, they're probably going to have to get quietly unsavory or knee-deep in junior college players to ever shake the 34-year funk off the program, because whatever they've been doing since Lyndon B. Johnson has not been working at all. At least Nick's English Hut is still the best college bar in the world.
Sinking the Bismark and toasting Vaughn Dunbar at email@example.com