Archive for November, 2012

25
Nov
12

whoops.

I can think of at least three posts related to Saturday’s Michigan game, but we’re going to start with the one that will make this year’s edition memorable for me forever. We’ll get to the other stuff tomorrow.

These? These are important.

It could have been the lack of sleep. It might have been the altered schedule. It could have been the heroic amount of alcohol I had the night before.

But for whatever the reason, I was a bit off my game on Saturday. The tailgate party was a good one — except for the part about Suzette setting the sleeve of her coat on fire on the propane heater (Suzette was fine, her coat was not) — but I was struggling to hold it together from the time my alarm went off at 4:50 a.m. Saturday morning.

The early start was my idea, and we were in the lot close to 7:30, which had been my goal. And almost as quickly as we got set up, it was apparent that the day would be a struggle for me. Two examples:

  • It quickly became clear that the temperature was going to be cold enough that keeping my feet warm during the day would be a problem, even with the shiny, new propane heater. Did I bring my Sorels to Columbus? Nope, just my game Chucks and a couple pairs of socks.
  • What should have been a fairly simple cooking morning turned into a hassle. We had pancakes, and they should have been easy; Crappydad, as he does, had these well planned (instant batter, already mixed in the bottles; syrup warming in a pot of water on the stove). Fred had a pot in which to heat his delicious maple sausage. Mrs. Crappy and I had pre-cooked some bacon, which only needed to be heated in the morning. But: Our Coleman griddle wouldn’t stay lit. One bottle of gas for the Coleman stoves wouldn’t screw into anything but the non-functioning griddle. And because I didn’t bring our table from Pittsburgh, I was stuck making pancakes with our stove sitting on the grass outside Campbell Hall.

Frustrating things both, but neither one would have been enough to kill the day. Everyone ate, and seemed pleased with the food, and those little hand-warmer things took care of my feet all day.

One thing did work well. I wanted to start early — and finish early — to give my folks plenty of time to walk to the stadium. Michigan pregame stuff — senior day, Script (a special one this weekend, as a neighbor of my parents, Jocelyn Smallwood, was making history as the i-dotter), getting to hate on The Victors right there in front of me — is not to be missed. We did the toast, sent my folks on their way, and began packing up so the rest of us could head inside.

Truck is packed. I’m organizing the stuff I always take inside. And I am hit with a stunning, crushing realization.

I have no tickets.

—-

Two things.

  • I have a velcro Ohio State wallet that I take into games. I pack it in my sister’s old bedroom before each home game: driver’s license, my debit card, whatever cash I have … and the tickets. On Saturday morning, though, I couldn’t find the wallet. It wasn’t in with my tailgating stuff because I had taken it out the weekend before when we came to Columbus to watch the Wisconsin game with Matlock and the Coochie Doctor, and I hadn’t put it back. I am certain that if I had gone through that part of my preparation before we left the house, I would have remembered the tickets. But I was in a hurry, I couldn’t find the damn wallet, and didn’t think about that other, fairly important step.
  • It is almost like clockwork. As we pull down the driveway, someone — usually my mother — asks if everyone has the tickets. On Saturday, no one did. I have no idea why.

—-

OK. It’s about 11:15. Game time is listed at noon, but with all the extra stuff, will probably actually start around 12:10. I have to get back to my folks’ house. Right now.

But I am immediately presented with problems (and, fortunately, solutions):

  • My dad has the truck keys. But there’s always an extra set inside, and I can get in with the keypad on the door.
  • OK, I have the extra keys. But they don’t have a key to the lock Crappydad uses to lock the bike rack (he usually rides from where we park to the stadium, because it’s easier on his legs) to the truck. Miracle: He forgot to lock the rack to the truck on Saturday.

Once in the car and headed back towards Upper Arlington, I start thinking about the other things that could go wrong. I’m reasonably sure I won’t have trouble getting off campus — and I didn’t, reaching 315 south from the ramp by the OSU Medical Center without hardly stopping — but I have no idea if I’m going to be able to get anywhere close when I return.

But first, I’m concerned only with getting back to the house as quickly as possible. Our path home has been set for years, because while it’s slightly out of the way, it almost always keeps us out of football traffic after games; that ramp takes us to 315 south, which we follow to 670 west, the Dublin Road (Route 33) exit and that pretty much straight to my parents’ home.

And let me tell you, boys and girls: without revealing any incriminating details, I made that 10.3-mile drive in record time.

I got into the house without setting off the security alarm — given the way my day had gone to that point, it wouldn’t have surprised me a bit to screw that up too — grabbed the tickets and jumped back in the truck, all while saying a prayer to whatever Greater Being that might be paying attention that I could get reasonably close to campus after the trip back — and not get caught in any traffic.

McCoy Road? No problem, but I’m still miles away. Kenny? Nothing. I turned on to Woody Hayes Drive, and see signs that say “Parking passes only”: I’m expecting to get turned away before I get to Herrick … but no, I can make the right turn with no trouble. I’m panicking as I pass the cars parked along Herrick … but still no traffic.

I’m thinking the light at Herrick and Cannon is the point of no return; if I make it past there, I’m going to be OK. I’m probably the only vehicle the cops standing at that intersection have seen for a while; they look, but they don’t stop me. I turn left at the Neil Avenue Garage, wondering if I’m going to have to sweet talk the parking attendants to get back into our lot … and they’re not there.

In fact, the only people I see in the lot are Mrs. Crappy and Ann, Fred and Ethel’s awesome sister-in-law, who stayed with Mrs. Crappy while she waited on me; they were having enough fun, in fact, that they sent me ahead (once Mrs. Crappy secured her ticket in her hand) to the stadium.

I was just outside our gate when I heard the unmistakable roar that comes with an Ohio State touchdown. I had missed a bunch of stuff I wait all year to see — it especially killed me to miss Jocelyn’s Script — but my monumental mistake had cost us just one touchdown and only a few minutes of the game. I was panting when I reached our seats in 14C, but I took a healthy swallow from the flask I had shoved in my pants on the way inside, took a deep breath, and stood to cheer my Buckeye defense.

I needed breaks. I got them. And, via a circuitous, harrowing route, I made it home for the Michigan game.

A favor: If we text, tweet or follow each other on Facebook, set an alarm for 7 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 29. When that alarm goes off, by whatever means you have available, send me the following message: “Hey, dumbass — do you have your tickets?”

20
Nov
12

throw the kid out too.

19
Nov
12

distractions.

It wouldn’t be Michigan Week without a couple things beyond the actual game part of The Game. And yes, we have a couple good ones already this week.

Uniforms.

Maybe I’m mellowing with age. Perhaps my wary satisfaction of previous examples has caused me to relax somewhat on the issue of alternate uniforms.

And that’s a good thing, because Nike’s Moneygrab Alternate Uniform Freakout Program has returned.

Thanks, Eleven Warriors.

This is the pic that started circulating last week; it’s since been confirmed by the university. Apparently we’re going for an homage based on the 1968 team — the only one that hasn’t so far been honored by a throwback uni. The piping on the helmets and pants is wider, the jersey numbers are bigger and we’ll have to see what a “dull chrome” helmet looks like.

I’m still not entirely pleased with the whole idea that we need to have alternate uniforms of any kind — I know the kids dig ’em, and I realize that it’s probably a necessary part of marketing the program these days — but I’m mostly OK with these. As they have been in the past, the alts have enough basis in actual uniforms of the past, so we’re not just getting something completely out of left field on game day.

And, lest we forget: it could be much, much worse.

Expansion.

Hey, speaking of Maryland…

At some point this afternoon, officials in College Park, Md., will host a news conference in which they will announce that Maryland will join the Big Ten at the start of the 2014 season; apparently they’ll be closely followed by Rutgers, which will announce its move on Tuesday.

OK then.

Here’s why we’re adding two Eastern schools to our (mostly) Midwestern conference: television. The Big Ten Network will suddenly have access to two giant media markets — Washington and NYC — and that equals more eyeballs, more exposure and — here’s the important part, boys and girls, more money.

(Note: I’m not convinced that anyone in the D.C. or NYC markets actually give a shit about college sports. But, hey — money!)

The money, I’d guess is why the move is important to Maryland; it recently cut varsity sports to try to stem the financial losses suffered by the athletics department there. As for Rutgers?  The Big East — especially as a football conference — has looked like a loser for several years now, and if we’re going to ramp up conference re-alignments again, it might make sense for the Scarlet Knights to jump before their ship sinks entirely.

But if these additions make sense — on some level — to our new members, I’m not sure I can say the same for the existing ones. Maryland’s a great addition if we’re talking about basketball, but the Terps’ football history is spotty. Their last conference title came in 2001, and they’ve had a decent run of bowl games in the last decade (5-1, with the last appearance coming in 2010). With one exception, the entirety of Rutgers bowl history has come in the last decade, and they’ve put together a a 5-1 record in those games.

On the surface, not terrible. But then you think about the competition and you realize that these are Purdue- or Illinois-level programs at best; they’ll be good for a solid season or two every few years, but otherwise, we’re diluting a schedule that already seems a little thin to begin with. And with an actual playoff on the horizon, strength of schedule is going to be even more important that it is now.

Maybe the biggest thing is this: I was never a fan of conference expansion, but I was excited about the addition of Nebraska; good school, unmatched football tradition and solid athletics all the way around. The Huskers have held up their end of the bargain as well; depending on the outcome of this weekend’s games, they could be playing for the B1G title on Dec. 1.

In short: I was excited to add Nebraska as B1G member. I wish I could say the same about Rutgers or Maryland, but at the moment, I can’t.

19
Nov
12

one.

Ohio State has won 11 games this season. That’s put us in the No. 4 spot in the country as of this week. It’s earned us the only hardware we were permitted to win this season.

And it’s prompted a lot of discussion about where a 12-win team that’s not allowed a postseason game will end up in the rankings.

Twelve wins would be outstanding. It would serve notice to the rest of the conference about who will be the team to beat in 2013. The rest of the country will be on notice as well, and Ohio State could top preseason rankings next August.

This week, I am not interested in 12 wins.

I am interested in just one.

At the start of every football season, I do two things that take me all the way from the first game through the bowl game. I pick — or have someone pick for me — a buckeye, that sits in my right front pants pocket for the duration of the season. And I pick one of my bracelets that goes on my left wrist and does not come off until Ohio State’s season is over.

I was aware that there was no possibility of a Big Ten championship in 2012. I knew that there wouldn’t be a trip to a bowl game of any kind.

And the sting of losing in Ann Arbor — something I hadn’t felt since 2003 — was still painfully fresh.

I normally pick one of the generic bracelets for the season. I don’t want to de-value the other games, and I don’t want to feel like I’m writing off everything that happens in September, October or the first couple weeks of November.

But this season, obviously, is different. Saturday is our championship game. Saturday is the bowl game. Saturday is the opportunity to ease the pain from last November.

It’s been the one I’ve been waiting for. And that’s why I picked the bracelet that’s been on my wrist since Aug. 31.

One game. This game. It’s time.

18
Nov
12

the week.

16
Nov
12

no stinkin’ badgers.

When I went through Ohio State’s schedule back in August, one thing jumped out at me — I thought tomorrow’s game against Wisconsin was probably the toughest on the schedule.

Almost nothing about this season has gone the way I expected it to, but we’ve come full circle in respect to my initial assessment of this game.

Wisconsin hasn’t had a Wisconsin-esque season so far. They were firing assistant coaches just a game or two in. They couldn’t figure out who’s playing quarterback. And until sometime in mid-October, they couldn’t run the football, something that qualifies as a full-blown crisis in Madison.

But in the past few week, Monte Ball has looked like Monte Ball — and Wisconsin has looked like Wisconsin. And we’re back to the trip to Madison looking like a tough one.

Ohio State hasn’t played like I expected, either; they’re, uh, better. We’re in a position to clinch sole possession of the 2012 Pork Division championship with a win tomorrow, and take one more step towards an undefeated season.

This is the time of the year when things are supposed to be hard. The games are more important. The opponents are tougher and more focused. The weather can be pretty grim. And if you’re playing on the road? Ouch. Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium is one of the truly nasty places for opponents in the Big Ten and playing there in November multiplies the potential problems.

But. We’ve already played in the roughest road environment we can face in the conference. We’ve improved almost every week. Our defense is playing like an Ohio State defense. And our team seems to have embraced the challenge of a season without the possibility of a post-season reward. Striving for another undefeated week — and being one game away from an undefeated season — is enough of a goal.

Wisconsin has some motivation as well. I’m sure they don’t want to back into the Big Ten title game — their berth as the Pork representative is already assured — which they would do if they don’t win the division title outright by winning tomorrow.

And then there’s the matter of last year. I’ll never forget that game. I imagine they haven’t forgotten either.

We will get Wisconsin’s best shot tomorrow. Madison will be primed, as Columbus was a year ago, for what has become one of the conference’s better rivalries. And they’ll be playing to position themselves for the conference championship game and beyond.

But Ohio State has something bigger to play for. Not a bowl game. Not a conference championship. But for each other. And for the rest of the conference, so there’s no doubt who has the best team in the league, no matter what the NCAA has to say.

02
Nov
12

click. click. boom.

The song above is apparently a staple at Beaver Stadium; we heard snippets of it several times during Saturday’s game.

It’s also a pretty apt analogy for the game itself, especially if we’re talking about Ohio State.

First quarter: Click.

Second quarter: Click.

Second half: BOOM.

Here’s what I saw:

  • In the first half, Braxton Miller continued to look like he was trying too hard to not run; yes, we’re all concerned about his health — and we were all terrified last weekend against Purdue — but I think he can swing too far in the other direction. He’s a better passer than his predecessor, but he’s not a drop-back quarterback and his running game must be part of his offense.
  • But when he did run? Somewhere between being scraped off the field against Purdue and the start of the Penn State game, Braxton learned A) how to slide and B) where the sideline is.
  • And when he has room to run, he is magic.
  • I do not understand the special teams breakdowns. Ohio State — and special teams coordinator Urban Meyer — has been lucky that one of them hasn’t cost us a game so far this season. Against Wisconsin, or Michigan — or even against Illinois — it could.
  • The touchdown Ohio State gave up on the blocked punt was balanced out by Adam Griffin’s play to break up Penn State’s fake punt. Outstanding.
  • Does anyone else think Rod Smith looks a lot like Eddie George did in his first season or two? Big, physical, deceptively fast long stride? Even the occasional fumble?
  • We heard a lot of grumbling about penalties from those wearing white in Beaver Stadium. Penn State gave up 85 yards on nine penalties. Ohio State gave up 75 yards on seven. Hm.
  • To save the best for last: Saturday’s game against Penn State was easily Ohio State’s best defensive effort of the season. One stat: Penn State had 32 yards rushing on 28 attempts. That’s a good day.



2014 schedule

Aug. 30: vs. Navy at Baltimore, noon
Sept. 6: Virginia Tech, 8 p.m.
Sept. 13: Kent State, noon
Sept. 27: Cincinnati, 6 p.m.
Oct. 4: at Maryland
Oct. 18: Rutgers, 3:30 p.m.
Oct. 25: at Penn State, 8 p.m.
Nov. 1: Illinois, 8 p.m.
Nov. 8: at Michigan State, 8 p.m.
Nov. 15: at Minnesota
Nov. 22: Indiana
Nov. 29: Team Up North
Dec. 6: Big Ten Championship

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