If you’re an Ohio State Buckeye, a Michigan State Spartan, or a Purdue Boilermaker, you’re licking your wounds after tough losses. If you’re a Michigan Wolverine, a Wisconsin Badger, a Northwestern Wildcat, a Minnesota Gopher, or an Indiana Hoosier, you’re breathing a sigh of relief that you escaped with victories in tight games.
If you’re an Iowa Hawkeye, an Illinois Illini, or a Penn State Nittany Lion, you’re feeling pretty good about lopsided wins. Especially after that amazing win the Hawkeyes had last week where they blocked two consecutive field goals, Hawkeye fans must be feeling great about beating their in-state rival, Iowa State. The Illini beat up in-state rival Illinois State 45-17, even after Juice Williams was injured early in the game.
After yesterday’s Penn State game, at a neighboring tailgate with a satellite TV, we had the opportunity to cheer on Wisconsin as they won against Fresno State in second overtime. What a finish! We could say the same thing about the Michigan win against Notre Dame – we were home in time to watch the second half.
In fact, a friend of mine posted a picture on my Facebook wall from the stands at Michigan just before the end of the game. At least, I assume he was at the game since I know he has season tickets and he uploaded the photo from a mobile device. In any case, he was celebrating Michigan’s final drive to win the game.
So I commented on his photo, “9 seconds left…YES!!! Want you guys undefeated when we play you in Ann Arbor.”
Well evidently that didn’t sit well with one of his Michigan friends, because he sent me an apology via email about a post that he removed from his wall. He also told me with a grin that I could post scores on his wall at any time. We respect each other, and he knew what I meant. He also probably wants to see Penn State come into Ann Arbor undefeated. And he likes Penn State. Except when Michigan and Northwestern play us.
Here’s where I made a mistake. I replied via email, telling him that I never saw the insulting post. At the time Ohio State was up 10-7 against USC. So my reply included “Now OSU is beating USC 10-7. Go Ohio State! Sorry, but they’re Big Ten too!”
His response? “I cheer for all Big 10 teams except Ohio State…If the Trojans whip them 100-0, it’s not enough!!!”
Too late now, I recall that this friend, who has an undergraduate degree from Michigan and a graduate degree from Northwestern, had a particularly bad experience at Ohio Stadium several years ago that adds fuel to the traditional Ohio State-Michigan firestorm of intense rivalry. So now I owe him an apology. I shouldn’t have even mentioned Ohio State. I should have known better. In any case, my Michigan friend must be happy this morning about Ohio State losing to USC last night.
As for me, I’m not happy at all. Especially since the game was at Columbus, and Ohio State played well. You have to credit USC and the brilliance of Pete Carroll, as well as the poise under pressure of their true freshman quarterback, 19-year-old Matt Barkley. That final “drive” was an amazing feat against Ohio State’s defense. They had contained USC most of the game. This was a tough loss for Ohio State fans.
We always root for the Big Ten when they play non-conference opponents, especially an opponent as highly ranked as USC, who hasn’t lost to a Big Ten team under the Pete Carroll era. In fact, the TV trivia question last night was “When was the last time USC lost to a Big Ten team?” The answer? It was in 1996, when Penn State played USC at the Meadowlands. John Robinson was the coach.
So now the media will again question the strength of the Big Ten conference, and that doesn’t help Penn State in its national rankings one bit. It’s already begun!
Also when it comes to Ohio State-USC, it’s a matter of which team we like the best. We root for Ohio State because they’re Big Ten. We want to play the highest ranked opponents we can at any game. Just as we want to play an undefeated Michigan in Ann Arbor, we also hoped to play an undefeated Ohio State team at Beaver Stadium.
Also, Terry grew up in Ohio as an Ohio State fan, and so he doesn’t feel animosity towards them, unless an OSU win somehow affects Penn State standings. His passion for Penn State began in 1970 when he moved to Pennsylvania, and takes priority. But that old history is hard for him to totally dismiss, and it’s hard for me to ignore.
We also see no reason to wish USC any success, especially after our humiliating loss to them in the Rose Bowl last year. We would just as soon see them get out of national championship contention as soon as possible, and that didn’t happen last night.
But we have a lot of Big Ten games to play before November! In addition to Michigan, Iowa is still undefeated, so are Minnesota, Northwestern, and Indiana. Illinois, Ohio State, and Michigan State are still huge threats in conference play. And we really don’t know how good we are yet.
One game at a time, so they say! We have to beat Temple this week. And I need to stop speculating about the future and restrain from looking ahead.