It didn't feel at all like 1998, when Buckeyes were #1 in the BCS and a crappy lot of green-helmeted underachievers sneaked into Ohio Stadium and pulled the national championship out from under them. Perhaps if the Bucks had not already lost to a crappy lot of white-helmeted underachievers last month, the bad karma would have had its way – but alas for the men of Sparta, it was not meant to be. The differences between the infamous 1998 disaster and the 2003 spread-coverer were subtle but definite: 1998 was a late start on a cold but hazy day – yes, it was that surreal – while 2003 was a nooner, and everyone brought their stupid puffy coats with them, though it never got below 40 degrees (what are you people, Californians?)
In 1998, Paul Edinger kicked five field goals from midfield into a driving wind (I'm not looking at statistics – merely going off of my crisp memory). This year, their guy kicked a fairly long field goal that would have been good from 70 yards. Before Steve Bartman was the turning point that inadvertently brought down the Chicago Cubs, Nate Clements and his back were getting hit in the back by an MSU punt, a play which hinged a big Buckeye lead into a big Buckeye choke. Nothing like that this time – not a dropped touchdown pass (2), missed wide open receivers (5), or flooded urinal on C deck (2) could take victory away from Ohio State. Not this year.
While it is admirable to see what John L. Smith has done with last year's unanimous conference embarrassment, it does beg a few questions: 1) Could moderate turnaround have been possible with any coach? 2) How did this team lose to Louisiana Tech, at home? 3) Where is the car wash that Bobby Williams is working at currently, and what has he done to the morale of the staff there?
Michigan State football will never be Michigan State basketball (it will never be Michigan State hockey either), but it could be what Michigan State football is every six or so years, consistently – an interesting, national contender. Without consistency, they'll continue to be what they are: Michigan's little sister who plays spoiler more often than they play for championships. This year, thankfully, they'll be playing neither in our world.
Scattered thoughts from Saturday:
1) Best offensive playcalling all year for Ohio State this weekend. The predictable plays were effective a lot of the time, I love Gamble coming out of the backfield (catch the ball, Chris) and throwing to the tight end always brings me to tears. The whole improve-with-every-game mantra is materializing. Too bad there are no big games left…
3) Oklahoma scored 77 points on Texas A&M, who scored over 70 against Baylor. Oklahoma plays Baylor next. Oklahoma is going to wear throwback uniforms again this weekend, only they're going to be the old Georgia Tech ones, and Baylor is going to wear the ones worn by Cumberland.
4) If you have even remedial BCS math knowledge, you are swallowing your pride and pulling for Michigan to beat Northwestern this weekend.
5) I'm dreaming of a system that uses the BCS rankings to determine the top eight teams at the end of the year, then have them play single-elimination until there is one team left. I don't care about determining the "true" champion – it's just that this is the only conceivable way that USC hype can be destroyed.
6) If you like great entertainment, Tivo ESPN College Gameday in the morning and watch it after all of the games have played out, and pay attention to Trev Alberts and Mark May's predictions. Classic illustration of why making a prediction and being wrong isn't a bad thing, but why doing so and being a totally pompous ass is.
7) Best moment of the weekend: Notre Dame kicking a field goal with no time left to beat Navy. There were flashbulbs going off in the stadium. A huge on-field celebration ensued. If a foreign adversarial country defeated the US Navy in battle, they'd throw less of a party. Dick Enberg says it best: Oh my.
8) Where have the great Heisman candidates gone this year? Larry Fitzgerald? Is this seriously the best we can get? He's a talented wide receiver playing for a team that lost to Toledo and at home to Notre Dame. Guys like Peyton Manning and Raghib "slowly turning into Rupaul" Ismail don't win the Heisman, but guys like Jason White and Larry Fitzgerald are somehow frontrunners? "Here's another great highlight of Larry Fitzgerald scoring against Kent State…and another against Ball State…can't wait to see what he does in the big game against Temple – what a hero." Years like this make me miss Ron Dayne and make me wonder what could have happened if #13 hadn't had his head stuck in his posterior.
Boarding a train to Neuroticville for the next two weeks at firstname.lastname@example.org