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Big Ten Championship: MSU vs. OSU Roundtable Discussion

Jon, Ted, Andrew (Green Akers), and maybe a special guest (THAT'S FORESHADOWING RIGHT THERE) talk Sparty, the Buckeyes, and a bunch of other stuff.


With Sparty and OSU set to play for the Big Ten title this weekend, we thought it might be a good idea if the MSU and OSU writers on this site sat down and talked about the game.

But with our only staff MSU writer busy with his real job this week and only able to contribute spora--

//sound of glass breaking

//hard guitar riff and heavy drum beat



//Crowd goes wild, except Purdue fans. MSUlaxer27 poses and nods arrogantly at them, Marcus Halls them, and mouths 'scoreboard' while he enters the squared circle. He's wearing a customized Purdue home jersey with the number 1-11 and the last name 'Suck It'.

MSULaxer27: I guess I'll just start this off with a question. Jon, Ted: The Urban Meyer era at OSU has certainly met all expectations. He hasn't lost a game while he has been coach. He's literally playing for a B1G championship as soon as he is eligible and a win puts him/OSU into a NC, again as quickly as possible. How disappointed would you (and the fanbase) be with a loss on Saturday?

Ted: First off Joe, welcome back to OTE, nice to see you around again! But to get to your question, I'm not sure how I'll feel. Yes, everything you say is true, but let's face it, this is a great but imperfect team. I've really gone back and forth this year as to how good OSU really is, and I wonder what would happen if they played an FSU or an Auburn. Part of me thinks they'd do well...but then a defensive performance like we saw against Michigan happens. It's a team that's an offensive juggernaut, but that defense can be cringe-inducing at times. Part of me wants them to go to the national title game...but I'm still scarred from '06-'07, and a third loss would be crushing, both for me personally and for the conference as a whole.

But then I think about what Meyer has done in two seasons here, and what a national title would do for OSU, and that would be to shut everyone up about OSU not being able to close the deal. It would not only end that narrative, but it would set it on fire and burn it to the ground. Never mind the fact that as the BCS era closes, OSU owns the most BCS bowl appearances, the most BCS bowl wins, a national championship, and three title game appearances. Add in the X factor that Meyer brings in terms of his teams being prepared and ready to play in big games, and I can talk myself into seeing this through to the end.

But if they do lose, The Streak has been a great run and the Buckeyes are set up for long term success. If a national title appearance or championship doesn't happen this year, they'll be in the mix every year for the foreseeable future, and that's exciting in and of itself. Either way, it's a great time to be a Buckeye fan.

Jon: To be honest with you, after spending two straight seasons on the outside looking in at the national championship race, simply having the opportunity to control our own destiny makes me feel like we're playing with house money. If our offense gets stymied on Saturday and our defense hemorrhages yards to a Jim Bollman-led attack, we'll know without a doubt that we had no business being in the title game, and I'll be thankful for an BCS at-large bid and the opportunity to give our young players some invaluable big game experience. That result is far preferable to the fate to which I'd already resigned myself: running the table two years in a row and not getting a shot at the crystal.

Having said that, losing always sucks. Especially when the stakes are this high. Throw in the fact that I live two miles from the Rose Bowl, and an Ohio State appearance in Pasadena means the chance to host droves of friends and family from back east, and it's easy to see why this season would always feel like the one that got away.

Joe: Thanks Ted. Before I "left" I said MSU would go 12-0 [ed note: he did, however, predict that Purdue would go 1-11. Yeah, he was a two years off, but fuck it ROLL TIDE WOOOOO] Well, maybe I should stay away. Don't want to jinx anything.

I tell you Ted, personally I'm torn. I'm of course rooting for MSU to end the streak. At the same time, living down here in the heart of SEC country and I do mean the heart - I'm two hours from both Alabama and Auburn and have lived here during the entire run where the crystal football hasn't left the state - I'd almost take a MSU loss just to ensure that a team from this state doesn't have another shot at the National Championship. Lucky for me, the SEC championship should be over by halftime of our game we'll know whether or not it matters. That being said Mizzou's resume is about as strong as MSU's if you look a little deeper into it. They got a huge bump from beating UGA but haven't done much else to impress me to be the #5 team in the country (They beat 5-3 UGA - no other SEC victory was over a team with a winning conference record).

Do you think if OSU makes and wins the national title and doesn't beat a team from the SEC, that it will change the perception of the B1G any? People (media) largely consider OSU the only team from the conference worth a damn. Will wins by OSU and MSU in BCS games do anything to alter that?

And I hear you Jon. On the MSU side, we feel much the same way. Dantonio and Narduzzi have built a defensive juggernaut. To have this class (school record 40 wins) walk away without an outright B1G title and BCS win seems like a missed opportunity.

We know going into next year that in order to make it to the B1G title game in the future we will have to beat some combination of OSU, UM, and PSU in any given year to do so. Add the years we have ND on our schedule and we'll have to beat them as well to have any national relevance.

Since we joined the conference in 1953, we've beat those four in a single season exactly twice: 1965 and 1999 (in 1966 we beat three and famously tied ND). Now obviously we haven't always played all four in the same season but we know OSU will always be OSU (ranked in at least one AP poll in a season every year since 1968), UM will be back, if not under Hoke, then the next guy and PSU has done wonders under their sanctions, what happens when the scholarship restrictions are over?

This certainly feels like a once in a generation opportunity.

Still, with the strides MSU has made under Dantonio, can you see a scenario where the B1G east is considered the equal of the SEC west? All the talk of the SEC dominance has largely been the result of that division (Florida's success nearly a decade ago notwithstanding). Can we hope to challenge them in the coming years?

Ted: I think a national title, whether it's against an SEC team or FSU, really goes a long way to change things. And if MSU goes to the Rose Bowl and wins, and the B1G as a whole does well, then yeah I think 'the narrative' changes. I've said this before, but OSU is largely responsible for the narrative beginning, and I think it will be OSU that will be largely responsible for ending it. They were making headway in that regard after back to back BCS wins against Oregon and Arkansas, but that fell apart when the tattoo scandal blew up.

That said, the conference as a whole on the big stage has been terrible in recent years, and they need to be above .500 in bowl games. MSU dominating whoever they play in a BCS game would help immensely, and if OSU goes to the title game, they can't afford to lose. And honestly, I think the whole SEC narrative is starting to draw some attention. Alabama and Auburn have been good, but when a middle of the pack Big 12 team can come in to the SEC and go to the conference championship in year two, people kind of scratch their heads. Let's face facts--the only one loss SEC team anyone is talking about going to the National Championship Game is Auburn. If they lose to Mizzou, no one is seriously thinking Mizzou is worthy of jumping an undefeated OSU for the BCS title game. And that's because the SEC as a whole isn't that good this year.

And if OSU beats MSU, the general consensus is that Auburn isn't jumping OSU. Auburn won in back to back miracles, and lost to LSU...who barely beat terrible Florida and Arkansas teams, and struggled to put away Furman, for chrissakes. If Georgia and Texas A and M played in any other conference in America, they wouldn't be in the top 25, and a three loss LSU would be in the 20's.

But I'm curious as to what you guys think the Big Ten needs to do to end this narrative. Would two BCS wins do it? Would a BCS split with a .500 record in bowl games do it?

Jon: Let me answer Joe's question about the quality of the conference in a roundabout way. I love to eat, and I've always subscribed to the belief that Ohio's capital city is a culinary powerhouse. (Apparently, The Washington Post agrees). I've lived in and eaten my way through much larger cities, and although they boast a deeper repertoir of quality restaurants, per capita, I feel Columbus can hold its own.

Recently, I shared this theory with my future Brother in Law, a CIA Valedictorian, who's cooked everywhere from Napa to N.Y.C., and who now lives and works with a thriving local restaurant group in Central Ohio. While he agreed with my general premise -- that the food scene in C-Bus is novel -- he wasn't on board with my conclusion. The problem? Line talent. Columbus has great chefs, but the pool of assistants is limited.

You can see where I'm going with this. The B1G has plenty of talented head coaches, but the conference's refusal until recently to fully participate in the assistants arms race has hurt us dearly and has resulted in a situation where B1G schools (sans OSU and Michigan) struggle to hold onto top coaching talent. Until our mid-tier programs dip into the coffers and pony up for A-List coordinators, the best and the brightest will continue to stay south of the Mason Dixon.

And Ted, to truly improve perception about our league we need to win a national championship. Period.

Joe: I think if OSU ends up winning the national championship it will help change the long-term perception of the B1G. People remember who wins the NC more than they remember who wins individual bowl games from year to year...quick what team won the Fiesta Bowl in 2005? But going into next season B1G teams must win in any match up this bowl season with SEC teams. That will help to show that the conference is not just OSU and a bunch of also-rans.

Let's move onto the B1G game and MSU in particular. If MSU ends up winning this game will the narrative be that MSU is a good as claimed or that OSU was simply over-rated?

It seems fitting that this championship is between MSU and OSU as we close the book on the Legends/Leaders era in B1G football. OSU has the best B1G record in the Legends/Leaders era at 19-5. MSU is second at 18-6. Both have won two outright B1G divsion titles (even if OSU was unable to play in the title game last year). While Nebraska, Wisconsin, PSU and Michigan may have an argument (at 17-7, 16-8, 16-8, and 15-9 respectively) OSU and MSU are clearly the best teams of the era. Even if many didn't agree with the non-geographical division split it seems to have worked out well. There was clearly a split between the top and bottom of each division. (Legends top half 50-22, Leaders top half 51-21). The bottom half was another matter entirely (Legends 28-44, Leaders 15-57). Put it this way. Iowa at 11-13 cumulative nearly won as many games as Purdue, Illinois and Indiana combined (15 wins). Which leads me to my next question:

Has MSU joined the elite in the B1G? They had nearly the same record as OSU against a clearly superior division (although it is possible that the Legends Division never wins the B1G championship game). The Legends never had a losing record in B1G games (27-21, 25-23, 26-22) and won the cross overs each year (12-6, 10-8, 11-7). Would a win in this title game cement them as a conference elite?

Green Akers: I can't be the only one who feels this way: being happy about the successes of conference rivals is a completely foreign feeling to me. When the few SEC fans I regularly interact with get all high and mighty about Roll Tide or War Cocks or whoever the flavor of the week is, I'm always like, dude you are a Georgia fan, why does the triumph of your hated rivals bring you happiness? So in that way, no, I would not feel better about losing to OSU if they then go and win the title. We compete (and pretty much always lose to) you for recruits and attention. How, how, HOW can yet another advantage in those arenas be a good thing for MSU? Answer: only if I think we're going to be in a position to compete for a spot in the playoff on a regular basis. I'm very pleased with where MSU's program is right now, but we aren't on that level just yet. And OSU is the biggest obstacle standing in our way, especially once we're in the same division. Sure, in the abstract, improving the conference's esteem will raise all boats. But OSU already casts a large enough wake, methinks.

To be honest, I'm no longer convinced The Narrative CAN be changed. The WWL's investment in the SEC and its success with the SEC Network is both a massive conflict of interest insofar as they consider themselves a source of journalism (heh, good thing we aren't so foolishly fettered), and the single greatest guarantor that it's going to take a mountain of evidence before they'll start unraveling the cocoon of mystique they've wrapped around our Southern friends. If OSU and MSU both get BCS games and bludgeon their, opponents you'll see graphics in the offseason comparing this year's bowl record to the past several years combined and implying that it's a fluke or an outlier. I don't think even a clean sweep of all the B1G's bowls this year would do much to change the narrative in one year. These things don't just spring up overnight, and it'll take several years of sustained success to alter perception.

Ted: If MSU wins, it'll be because they are as fundamentally sound a football team in America, but the headline will be 'OSU was over rated'. The reason for that is because it's OSU playing for a spot in the national championship, and if they lose, all the coverage will be about who ends up playing for the BCS title. If the Bucks fall short, I'll be bummed, but I'll refuse to concede that OSU was over rated, because they're a really, really good football team. Maybe, just maybe, the Big Ten has some pretty god damn good football teams.

But let's tap the brakes on MSU being 'elite'. Are they improved? Yes. Has Mark Dantonio successfully brought Tresselball to MSU and is he winning big with it? Yes. Are the infamous SPARTY NOOOOO!! moments under John L a thing of the past? Yes...with the exception of, you know, that time you ran into the punter to cost you the Big Ten title in 2011. So let's slow that roll for right now. MSU shared the Big Ten title with Wisconsin in 2009, and then got humiliated by Alabama in their bowl game. The last Big Ten title prior to that was 1990, a four way split with Illinois, Iowa, and Michigan, and the last time MSU won the conference outright was 1987. By contrast, you've had more losing seasons just in the 2000's than you have Big Ten titles in the last 25 years. MSU is getting there, but I can't pull the trigger on calling them elite. Now, take OSU to the woodshed, I'm probably whistling a different tune Wednesday morning.

And Andrew may be right about the narrative, but screw it. If OSU wins, all I need to do is say 'scoreboard', and it shuts everyone up. Or make them squeal louder. It's a win-win for me either way.

Okay Jon, unless you have anything else to add, let's get to game predictions. I think this is going to be a tough game, but the few times MSU's defense has had their hands full it's been against a spread based offense with a good running game. Indiana and Nebraska put up a lot of points on the board, and Minnesota was able to run the ball. MSU's defense is very, very good, but I think OSU has too many weapons to account for on every play. I think Dantonio sells out to stop Carlos Hyde between the tackles, which mans Braxton Miller and Dontre Wilson should be able to make some noise on the perimeter. It should also give OSU some room in the middle of the field to throw the ball to TE Jeff Heuerman. If OSU doesn't lose the turnover battle and if they don't give MSU a short field like Nebraska did, Ohio State will win. Let's call it 34-24.

Jon, Andrew, Joe, give us some final words, give us a prediction, and let's get this thing into the barn. Go Bucks. Beat Sparty.

Joe: I'm looking forward to this game. Win or lose, I think it will give us a true measure of how good this Spartan team is. I don't expect a blow out either way. I look at what OSU has done to the bad teams we have in common (IU, PU, ILL) and think that the Buckeyes are truly ahead of us...but then I look at games against UM, NU, and UM and think we've got more than a punchers chance in this one. MSU's offense and OSU's defense are evenly matched. I think our special teams are slightly better (your kicker hasn't attempted a FG since October and our punter is the best in the conference, if not the nation - awards be damned). I think our offense might be a hair better than your defense and that might just be the difference. I'll be at the game and hoping for a better result than the last time I was there. Let's say MSU 31-28.

Jon: This game makes me nervous because I truly believe that it's better to have an elite defense and an okay offense than the reverse in a big game setting (see Ohio State under Jim Bollman and Jim Heacock). Elite offenses are much more finicky, and easier to rattle (see Oregon). There's no question that at some point on Saturday night, the Ohio State offense is going to face some serious adversity (back to back three and outs, perhaps). How Herman and the unit responds will go a long way towards determining our destiny. I think Michigan State dilutes Ohio State's running game, forcing us to look for the big play deep, but Braxton (who will benefit from playing indoors, in a climate controlled environment) finds Devin Smith over the top for a couple quick strikes in the second and third quarters. The Buckeyes defense bends but doesn't break, in a much improved performance compared to last week, and a barrage of field goals from both sides results in a low scoring final. Ohio State 23, Michigan State 20.