2006: what heady days these were. Yours truly had just arrived at Michigan State as a freshman, eager to partake in major college athletics for the first time. Having little real knowledge of college football, I couldn’t help but assume MSU, being in the Big Ten, was probably pretty decent. This John L. Smith guy is supposed to be pretty knowledgeable, after all.
MSU, in 2006, turned out to be a rich and varied topography of misery. The first college football game I ever attended, they blew a 3-score 4th quarter lead over Notre Dame in a driving, miserable rain. They lost close. They lost big. In their last 9 games, their only win necessitated a 35-point comeback over Northwestern, which logically demanded being down 35 points to mid-aughts Northwestern. By the late stages of the season, Smith was fired, and for the still-casual like myself, my sports attention had swiveled to basketball and hockey. Maybe this Mark Dantonio guy they’re rumored to be looking at hiring will work out, who knows.
It is on that backdrop, then, that I say: I honestly do not remember if I watched Saturday’s OTE Film as it happened live. I want to say parts of it, probably?
Because for all the mud MSU wallowed in that year, things were great elsewhere in the conference. By the end of the regular season, the conference’s only storyline was the much-anticipated clash between season-long #1 Ohio State and Michigan, which started the season #14 but ascended to #2 with its own 11-0 start.
It may be news to anyone my age (early 30s) or younger, but there was a time when a Buckeye romp in this series was not a foregone conclusion. Although OSU had won the matchup four of the previous five years under Jim Tressel’s guidance, Michigan’s own stretch of success (14-6 against OSU from 1980-99) was still recent enough that I specifically remember Michigan fans talking actual, confident shit about this outcome. Can you imagine?
Anyway, this was the infrequent occasion when a much-hyped game lived up to every last bit of the pomp and circumstance. OSU QB Troy Smith would go on to win the Heisman; Michigan OLB LaMarr Woodley swept the defensive awards (Bednarik, Hendricks, Lombardi). Well over two dozen players from this game went off to the NFL. Ohio State had five first round picks.
And so Off Tackle Empire cordially invites you to join us as we relive Michigan-Ohio State 2006, 12:00 EST / 11:00 CST on Saturday.
We will post the gamethread about an hour before then with a link to our trendy speakeasy, so everyone can watch on the same timeline and participate in our desperate attempt at faking normalcy during the worst plague to hit the United States in a century. This is fine.