Let's be honest. The Big Ten's reputation has taken a beating lately. The conference supremacy tides had shifted towards the SEC, and everyone watched as they struck up a deal with sports media giant ESPN. One conference, the Big Ten, was thought to have fallen the furthest. They certainly had become the most scrutinized. Before yesterday's Oregon/Ohio State game, 3 of the 4 ESPN panelists didn't hesitate to pick Oregon, even Ohio State's own Kirk Herbstreit.
For those that say Ohio State can't win the big game - I point to the 5-3 BCS bowl record, and ask, "How many BCS games has your team played in"?
For those that say Ohio State doesn't have speed - I say, "Grow up"!
For those that say the BigTen can't compete with the SEC - I forget the deadlock in bowls over the last 30, 20, and 10 year periods and ask politely, "Can we talk about teams now"?!?
Early Friday afternoon the Northwestern Wildcats and the Auburn Tigers clawed back and forth in one of the most exciting games of the Bowl season. Auburn survived 38-35. Later, the Penn State Nittany Lions and the LSU Tigers destroyed a perfectly bad football field in, yet another, down to the wire catfight. PSU prevailed 19-17.
The biggest winners Saturday were Terrelle Pryor and Jim Tressel. Pryor silenced his critics with 266 yards in the air and 72 more on the ground. When was the last time you saw a true sophmore Qb magnified this much under the microscope? The guy only passed for 2096, adding another 779 on the ground this season. Ohio State won 26-17. His partially torn knee ligament slowed him the entire game, but didn't affect his crisp short passes that led Ohio State to their first Rose Bowl victory since Joe Germaine connected with David Boston in the corner of the endzone against Arizona St.
After playing as close to the vest as possible all season - Jim Tressel opened up the passing game yesterday. Ohio State held a sizable advantage over Oregon when the Buckeyes had the ball, and Oregon loaded the box. It wasn't news to Jim Tressel. He came out of the locker room with 6 consecutive pass plays. Granted one of those pass plays turned into a key 3rd and 6, 24 yard scamper by Pryor. Unlike the other Buckeye criticisms, Tressel's had been internal. Buckeye fans wanted to see this 'unleashing of Pryor' weeks ago. I'd joke and say that it had gotten so bad that websites like firejimtressel.com were calling for his head, but I digress. Appearantly, it's all a big part of Jim Tressel's masterplan. Just after the game - Jim started TALKING ABOUT THE NEXT GAME It was hilarious. Just seconds after one of the biggest wins for his team in years, Tressel was talking about getting back to work. 30 seconds earlier he was turning around soaked in Gatorade and giving Doug Worthington and friends one of his fake smiles, as if to say, "You guys...."
For Buckeye fans - the season isn't over. It's never over. Later this weekend we'll examine the 2010 Ohio State football team - straight-up with line-up projections, depth charts, nfl departure odds, and longshots. The Nation never sleeps on it's football team. Yes, we will be better next year. Yes, we always say that.