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Everything in the world is about two things: emotion and perspective. When Ohio State was mired in a corner bar fight with Penn State at the local dive only the Nittany Lions frequent, the easy thing to say was, “This is a referendum on how the Buckeyes are not there, yet.”
That’s a lazy thought.
While every fan or Twitter savant likes to think he/she knows everything about the games that are played, the pure, unfettered emotion of the games and moments involved are completely lost upon them.
When LSU commits four turnovers and Ole Miss botches a last-10-seconds play, there’s not a sniff about bad football. Ohio State struggles with a team that lost to flaccid Michigan two weeks ago, and all of a sudden the Buckeyes are a referendum on the Big Ten’s struggles.
The above point speaks both to perception grown before any snaps are taken as well as the on-field part of the sport, not to mention all sports that often cannot be accounted for in numbers, statistics, or blogs.
It’s the emotion.
Penn State entered Michigan two weeks ago against a team that was unable to find its backsides with both hands. The Nittany Lions lost. They come home after a week off, at night, against a CFB Playoff-contending foe … and they nearly defeated them.
This wasn’t some “Why couldn’t Ohio State put a lesser team away?” situation; rather, it was more of a litmus test to how the Buckeyes would fare living in a season when every team they play will be making or breaking its season based on how it fares against them.
Initial test, passed.
These though, are the things that make college football special, and somewhat different from professional sports. The raw emotion and momentum of youth shows itself on a weekly basis, and it’s unfair to make sweeping generalizations any week on one team based on what its opponent did the week prior.
To wit, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett’s statistics won’t assault your football senses upon first glance, but unless you watch it, you don’t see the toughness, the somewhat obvious injury, and the resolve that helped lead his team to victory.
The numbers read 149 total yards and three of four Ohio State touchdowns, two rushing. Yet you look at Christian Hackenberg, who played a working man’s game at quarterback for Penn State, who registered an okay 224 yards passing but minus-27 rushing, which probably is the statistic that shows the most marked difference between how one guy can win a game in multiple ways and, on the other hand, what makes him special.
A lot of people will want to discount Ohio State for many reasons. Among them and in no particular order:
1. Virginia Tech isn’t good, so that loss looks worse by the week.
2. The Big Ten struggled in the out of conference season for two weeks, so that obviously cannot be changed, right?
3. This has to be a rebuilding year for Ohio State, right? I mean, right?
All of the above are pieces of a puzzle, but alone do not put anything together. Ohio State has improved enough in-season to be taken seriously, and those things happen. First impressions in sports should not, and cannot, be everlasting. Predetermined ideas of teams cannot be lumped into a bowl as fact.
Ohio State’s win over Penn State on Saturday night was impressive. It won’t show up where the national scribes laud the resilience of the Buckeyes to beat a desperate conference foe with still enough talent to be dangerous at its place at night.
Nah, it’ll be them barely beating a team which cannot beat anyone else right now.
The difference is in the details, and the details are the emotion of the games, of college sports. Every weekend is more different than anything else in sport. You get out of Dodge with a win, it’s impressive. You don’t … better luck next time.
Ohio State cruises on, whether you think it’s impressive or not.