The last time The Ohio State Buckeyes took the field, they were looking at a “win and in” situation. Instead of coming in and taking care of business, the Bucks looked unsure of their identity and unable to match the level of intensity brought on by the Rose Bowl Champion Michigan State Spartans. The result? I think we already know. Ohio State fell to 7 in the polls, lost their shot at a national title, and ended their 24-game winning streak under Urban Meyer.
So what do the Bucks have to play for this game? It seems as if the air has been let out of the balloon and this team’s demeanor towards the Orange bowl is not quite where it needs to be. The confidence level has been lowered, the cockiness of the players is not as high and all in part because the Orange Bowl simply is not the National Championship.
What the Buckeyes have to realize, and what they might already realize, is that this game means more than just another notch on their belts. The credibility of this program, and of the B1G, going forward relies on how OSU performs tonight. If Urban and co. come and and lay another egg, put up a subpar performance and lose there will be very little argument for them when it comes to the “Do they belong or not” discussion at the end of each season.
The Buckeyes need to win to prove that they deserve to be in the discussion every year, and that they deserve to play for national championships in the future.
Many will argue that this game does not hold that significance because Ohio State will always be in the discussion due to their prestige and history of success. From a fans perspective, I think that statement is moving farther and farther away from being true. Do I think that Ohio State was one of the top 2 teams this season? No. But, do I believe that the Buckeyes would be able to compete with anybody in the top 5 right now? Absolutely. If they lose tonight, what will make voters want to even put them in the discussion next year for the playoff? Their strength of schedule is not changing until the B1G improves and we will continue to see the same discussion each year until Ohio State proves that they can beat good teams on a big stage…
Tonights game holds a far greater significance than many may think and the Bucks need to be up for the challenge. With that, here are my keys to the game.
Keys to the Game
- Doran Grant v. Sammy Watkins — With Roby sidelined due to injury, Doran Grant is given the challenge of covering one of the best receivers in college football. After Grant’s lackluster game against Sparty, I think every Buckeye fan is worried about this matchup. If the Bucks are going to win, Doran Grant MUST shut down Watkins, or at the very least contain him. No big plays can be allowed.
- Ohio State’s front 7 Must Bring Pressure — Looking for a big game out of Bosa and Shazier. Noah Spence being suspended is a tough blow to the already thin defense. If Fickell can dial up a defense that will allow pressure, there will be a weight lifted off of the secondary’s shoulders. If they give Boyd time, he will absolutely make them pay.
- LET THE BIG DOG EAT — Carlos Hyde was noticeably frustrated (as were thousands of Ohio State fans) that he did not get more touches against Michigan State. Hyde has been a man amongst boys all season long averaging 7.7 yards per carry… 7.7 YARDS PER CARRY! LET HIM EAT TONIGHT TOM! Nobody can stop Hyde, just give the man the ball.
- A Good Start — This is probably the most important key to this game. The Bucks came out with less intensity and seemed scared of the bright lights in the B1G Championship. As a result, they fell to an early 17-0 lead and put themselves in a position of playing comeback. They need to deliver the first blow… and the second and the third. If they can spark confidence early, there should be no problem.
- Who Will Create the Most Turnovers? — For all of you gamers out there, I like to relate this game to a “Madden Game”. In other words, everybody likes to play offense, can’t play a lick of D and each team wishes they could try an onside kick after each score because it’s almost not worth it to be on defense longer than you have to be. But, when you’re on defense, you essentially win the game if you win the turnover battle. That is what I envision this game to be. The team that forces more turnovers win the game.
Final Prediction… Screw it, I don’t even want to try and predict this game. Just sit back and enjoy the show. It is going to be an entertaining game for any football fan. Go Bucks.