After a 27-24 overtime win in the Horseshoe Nov. 14 over No. 10 Iowa, the Ohio State Buckeyes are headed to the coveted Rose Bowl, a BCS bowl game, for the first time since 1996.
An early season loss to PAC-10 powerhouse USC and a loss a couple of weeks ago to the struggling Purdue Boilermakers had Ohio State fans wondering where the season was heading and even whether coach Jim Tressel had lost his magic. Then wins at Penn State and at home against Iowa, combined with a Hawkeye loss last week to Northwestern, clinched at least a share of the title and the likely trip to Pasadena.
What allowed the Buckeyes to get to this point seems to be a return to Tressel ball, which features a strong running game, stout defense and great special teams play. Two of the three aspects had been there all year, defense and special teams, though the special teams took a hit recently with the loss of the starting field goal kicker. The running game, however, had been missing in action. In the last four games, though, Ohio State has run for 200 or more yards in each of those games, and not just by relying quarterback Terrell Pryor. In that span, three of the four teams were bowl eligible, including Minnesota, while Penn State and Iowa were ranked in the top 15 at the time they played.
For the second straight big game, Pryor did not have any turnovers, nor did the running game depend on him to scramble for large chunks of yards. Ohio State running back Brandon Saine ran for 103 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Dan Herron ran for 93 yards and a score.
Defense and special teams weren’t stellar, and an Iowa 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown immediately after Ohio State took a 24-10 lead in the fourth quarter kept the Hawkeyes in the game. However, the Buckeye defense came through when it really had to in overtime, sacking freshman quarterback James Vandenberg and forcing the Hawkeyes out of field goal range. This forced a hail Mary pass to the end zone, which was intercepted. Ohio State field goal kicker Devin Barclay hit a 39-yard field goal to win it for the Buckeyes.
If Ohio State can beat hated rival Michigan in Ann Arbor Nov. 21, they will once again be the undisputed cream of the Big Ten crop. The Wolverines, meanwhile, have lost six straight Big Ten games after losing Saturday on the road at the Wisconsin Badgers. Being the best in the Big Ten seems to be a bit of a misnomer these days, as the conference has lost a lot of its luster, according to many national “experts.” The Big Ten doesn’t get any respect anymore, and maybe deservedly so. During last year’s bowl season, only Iowa was able to win a game, despite the Big Ten having six teams appear in bowl games. Ohio State, though, had a chance to beat Texas, a team many thought should have been in the championship game instead of Oklahoma.
So far this year, the Big Ten has seven teams being bowl eligible, and four teams ranked in the top 25. If Michigan beats Ohio State that would make eight teams eligible. However, victories in those bowl games will be what it will take to change the minds of experts and fans around the country and bring the Big Ten back to prominence.
The Big Ten Network