I am probably running the risk of being negged into the stone-age but here goes.
Every year (except his rookie year) since Tressel arrive in Columbus OSU has seemingly been a threat to win it all. He got it done in 2002 (at least that’s what the refs say) while he fell just short in 2006 and 2007. This year, a substantial portion of the college football pundits penciled Ohio State into the national championship game. They were returning an experienced offense led by a Heisman candidate and a stingy and senior-laden defense. Their schedule lined up nicely (as it tends to do during their runs) with Miami, Penn State and Michigan at home and Marshall, Ohio and Eastern Michigan filling out the cream puff portion of their schedule. While I dread the unknown of our coaching staff I would argue that OSU losing (at some point during the year) is more important to our future than us beating Iowa (or PSU or Wisconsin for that matter).
How the hell can that be you ask?
Look at the composition of our roster on any given year and you will notice a trend; a sizeable percentage of Ohio born players. Our neighbor to the South have given us ancient greats: Bennie Friedman and Bob Chappius. All time greats: Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson. Recent memory multi-year contributors: Elvis Grbac, B.J. Askew, Prescott Burgess, Shawn Crable and Pierre Woods. And current and future contributors: Jordan Kovacs, Mike Shaw, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Roy Roundtree, Kevin Koger, Patrick Omameh, Jibreel Black, Christian Pace, Courtney Avery and the Talbott brothers.
As much as I agree that Ohio is THE worst state ever (I was born, raised and educated in Ann Arbor) it is clear that it serves a purpose. I got to thinking about this when I saw the post about Chris Wormley receiving his much coveted Michigan offer but also while thinking back on recruiting in the past few years. Tressel’s success has brought about Michigan pain on a number of fronts, some obvious, some less so. When Tressel brought his first OSU team to the Big House in 2001 he had one lone Michigan native on the roster, Craig Krenzel. Now he has Taurian Washington, Dionte Allen (via transfer from Florida State), Aaron Gant, James Jackson, Johnathon Hankins and Reid Fragel.
So what you say? We didn’t want most of those guys anyway you say.
Well aside from that being a sevenfold increase, look at the players and the positions they play. Gant is a safety, Allen is a corner, Jackson is a slot, Washington is an outside receiver, Hankins is a space eating defensive tackle and Fragel is a tight end. Aside from Washington and Jackson (who would be great in Rich Rod’s offense) those are all positions of need and would have given us some of the much needed depth we have been craving. While it may appear that I am blaming our recruiting or recruiters; that is not the case. For those who did not grow up in Michigan, the law of the land states that you do not go to Ohio State. Maybe Michigan State if Michigan overlooks you or your grades are shit. Maybe Notre Dame if you grew up Catholic or favor that private school atmosphere. Maybe Iowa or Penn State if you like their depth chart. Maybe Indiana if MSU overlooks you too, but never Ohio State, never.
So what happened?
Tressel happened. I work with teenagers on a daily basis and I can tell you they are as fickle as a man with five wives. The kids who are getting ready to make their college decisions grew up watching OSU beat us with regularity. Us grown folks would never be swayed by such a blip in time but that is the reality of the teenage mind. I don’t recall any specifics so I won’t name drop but I remember a host of top flight Michigan talent actually considering Ohio State in the last few years (with some obvious success on OSU’s part). I would read how some stud player from Detroit “grew up” an Ohio State fan and then have wait for signing day with a razor to my wrist in horror.
While losing Michigan players to the Southern Satan is intolerable, losing Ohio players, the ones we used to have a chance with, is almost as bad. While we have always had success with some high profile guys in Ohio, we are not as successful as we once were. Ohio State’s roster and current recruiting crop is littered with guys who would have once really wanted to go to Michigan but are now content to ride the pine in Columbus because we have lost some of our relevance in that state. This has been an increasing trend since 2002. It will only continue to get worse if Ohio State were to win it all again. Ohio State’s loss guarantees (I guess nothing is 100%) that they will not win the national championship (not that they would have, stay with me here) and in the process capture the hearts and minds of teenage prospects throughout the Midwest.
One last thing…I am not an English major or a historian so if there is something grammatically or historically incorrect I apologize. Enjoy.