But the offense gave Buckeyes fans a fright, turning the ball over twice in fifty seconds to allow the Spartan defense to score two touchdowns, making the final score much closer than it should have been.
Nonetheless, the Buckeyes passed the first of the final five regular season tests last week, allowing them to stay atop the major polls and the BCS standings.
So far, this has been a miracle season for the Buckeyes. As I've said repeatedly, I expected this to be a rebuilding season, a share of the Big Ten championship an outside hope. The team has outperformed all my pre-season expectations, giving thrills I never anticipated.
Tomorrow night will bring the biggest challenge Ohio State has had this season. The team goes into Happy Valley to face Joe Paterno's Penn State Nittany Lions. It was a night game at Penn State two years ago that dashed Buckeye hopes of a dream season. You can be sure that Joe Pa's team will be trying to spin another nightmare scenario again this year.
If the Buckeyes do win, it should turn a lot of detractors into believers, although it might not make them people happy.
Like the kid in my neighborhood I saw after Ohio State's win last Saturday. I decided to take a walk. The air was crisp and inviting, the leaves turning colors. The kid was catching football passes from his dad. He saw that I was wearing one of my Buckeyes shirts. This kid has never spoken to me before. But for him, the shirt must have been like a red cloth flung before a bull. "Michigan State should have won that game," he declared. I laughed; I thought a friendly laugh. But my response did nothing to soften his hostility. "I hate Ohio State." Now, he did say this with a smile. But he clearly meant what he said!
And we live in Ohio! But I suppose his reaction is symbolic to the visceral enmity that many people around the country have toward Ohio State. It's not unlike the hatred that some people have for the Yankees. Although the Buckeyes don't enjoy the kind of unfair advantage that the Yankees have in Major League baseball, Ohio State is clearly among the "haves" in college football, even in this era of increasing parity and resultant Appalachian State-style upsets.
The teams that play against Ohio State aren't immune to these feelings. The number one ranking the Buckeyes now enjoy effectively paints a target on the team's backs every time it hits the field. Each of the Buckeyes' four (or five, counting a bowl game) remaining opponents would love to make my neighbor kid's day by upsetting them. To them, the Buckeyes are a juggernaut who need to be knocked down a peg or two.
I get that. But to me, the Buckeyes represent my hometown, my state, and the only college to which I ever applied, the only college I ever wanted to attend.
My sentiments in favor of the Buckeyes are, I suppose, as irrational as those who hate them.
To all of which, I have a simple response...
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