OSU fans can't wait for Texas game, for good reason
Posted: Tuesday May 31, 2005 12:04PM; Updated: Tuesday May 31, 2005 1:45PM
It'll be months before Ted Ginn's sophomore season begins, but Ohio State fans are already obsessing over the Texas game.
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If the Mailbag audience is in any way a representative cross-section of the college football public at large, there's no question Ohio State fans (at least right now) are either the most populous, the most fanatical, the most obsessive or, perhaps, the most bored.
Since I first put out the call for Mailbag submissions in mid-April, Buckeye-related inquiries have dwarfed those of any other team by at least two-to-one. Among the topics on OSU fans' minds: "Will Jim Tressel finally open up his historically vanilla offense?" "Can Ted Ginn Jr. win the Heisman?" "How will the Troy Smith/Justin Zwick situation resolve itself?" "Will the running game be better?" "Would you say our linebackers are insanely awesome or just ridiculously awesome?" And, the ever-present (and certainly not unique to Buckeye fans), "Why does the media hate us?"
Strangely, few have involved the question I've found myself wondering lately: "Which lineup will have more OSU players in it this season, the Buckeyes' starting offense or the Franklin County Sheriff's Office?"
No, the most popular topic among the Scarlet-and-Gray crowd these days goes something like this:
Will Ohio State's linebackers and defensive backs be able to shut down Texas quarterback Vince Young on Sept. 10? --Dave Mast, Columbus, Ohio
Rarely has there been so much anticipation so far in advance for an early-season game than there is for Texas-Ohio State, and with good reason. Once upon a time, a Miami would play a Notre Dame, a Michigan would play a Florida State, and it was absolutely, positively huge. These days, though, major, intersectional matchups -- and by that I mean two non-conference, top-10 teams that wouldn't normally face each other -- have become increasingly rare.
When you think about it, other than USC-Auburn in 2003, nearly all of the biggest early-season games the past five years or so have involved either teams from the same state (Florida vs. Miami in 2002 and '03), teams from the same conference (the annual mid-September Florida-Tennessee game) or teams that might have fit the above description in a previous era but in which aren't quite top-10 material anymore (Alabama's series with Oklahoma comes to mind).
Why have such marquee games largely gone by the wayside? Well for one, it's a lot more profitable for an Ohio State to play a home game against a Kent State every year than it is to schedule a home-and-home with Texas. The Horseshoe will be sold out either way (producing about $3 million in revenue), but with Texas the Buckeyes have to return the favor and visit Austin the following season, thus losing out on a home game (which is why most major programs will unfortunately use the recently approved 12th game to schedule an extra home date against another patsy). Not to mention facing the Longhorns is a much more risky proposition if you think you might have a shot at the national title. So give both schools credit for bucking the trend.
As for Dave's question, I'm not going to sit here in May and break down who might do what to whom when we really have no idea what either team will look like. Maybe OSU will have a completely different defensive scheme now that coordinator Mark Snyder has left for Marshall. Maybe Texas, knowing that OSU will be expecting Young to run like crazy, will have him throw 40 times. Maybe Young will get hurt in the Louisiana-Lafayette game and won't even be playing. Who the heck knows?
All that considered, however, I have no problem sitting here on May 31 and proclaiming, with utmost confidence: Texas will not win that game. That's right, folks, you heard it here first. Ohio State will beat Texas on Sept. 10.* This is nothing against the Longhorns -- who, as I'm sure you're already about to e-mail me and point out, I had ranked higher than the Buckeyes in my post-spring rankings. Texas is coming off an 11-1 season and returns 16 starters, so it deserves to start higher.
But I don't care who you are -- you don't go into the Horseshoe and win when Ohio State is good, especially not at night. Texas could conceivably turn around and win all the rest of its games -- yes, including Oklahoma -- but it's not going to beat the Buckeyes under the lights in Columbus, and neither would any other team.
* The author reserves the right to revoke his prediction under any of the following conditions: A) Another key Ohio State player accepts gifts from a booster and gets suspended; B) Cedric Benson and Derrick Johnson are suddenly granted an extra year of eligibility and return to Austin; or C) Someone steals all of Tressel's sweater vests and after suffering a panic attack, he fails to show up for the game by kickoff.
During January's Cotton Bowl, announcers kept mentioning how Tennessee and Texas A&M were almost mirror images, and that the winning team would be highly ranked going into this season. If A&M had won, would it be in the preseason top five and UT be out of the top 25? It's hard to imagine one game making that much of a difference. --Brian Morelock, Maryville, Tenn.
I can't imagine it would be a complete reversal, but I do think the lopsided nature of that game has a lot to do with the Vols starting in the top five, rather than the low top 10 or high teens, and A&M being "on the fringe" rather than firmly in the top 20.
In fact, although the Vols certainly look good on paper, I wonder if myself and other preseason pollsters are falling for the classic "bowl dupe." You know the kind -- there's at least one every year --- a team whose impressive bowl win lifts it to an unrealistically high preseason poll spot, after which it promptly flops. Recent examples include 2003 Auburn (TheSporting News' preseason No. 1, coming off a Capital One Bowl win over Penn State, finished 8-5) and 2004 Clemson (trendy top-15 pick, coming off a Peach Bowl rout of Tennessee, went 6-5).
On paper, the Vols are loaded and probably deserve to start in the top five, but following consecutive road trips to Florida and LSU they could very easily be 1-2 and out of the polls completely by the end of September.