Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Putting It All in Perspective

I wanted to do a piece on Michigan's 2011 running backs but, damn it, our cup runneth over!

Bad news continues to spew out of Ohio State. So, here's a little bit of opinion concerning the goings-on at OSU and what it means for Michigan.

For starters, I think that every Michigan fan should ask themselves this question: would you rather win a game because your opponent was disqualified, or would you rather win because you were the better team?

Probably most everybody will say the latter.

Still, this question articulates pretty well the mixed feelings I'm having about our chief rival, Ohio State. As you've probably heard by now, quarterback Terrelle Pryor has left the Buckeyes. He was facing a five-game suspension that would've likely increased because the NCAA had opened an investigation on him separate from that of Jim Tressel. Pryor was landing himself in trouble because of his "affinity" for nice cars, which was a clear sign that he was taking benefits and breaking NCAA rules. Anyone could see that Pryor would suffer severe punishments, and it's very likely he wouldn't play a game in 2011. It's also no surprise, then, that his lawyer recommended Pryor take his exit before the other shoe dropped. Pryor did just that.

So now Pryor's gone. Are Michigan fans happy? Well, yes and no. On one hand, two of OSU's most powerful forces (Tressel and Pryor) are now no longer a threat on the field, and that should make Michigan fans feel less apprehensive about the upcoming game against Ohio State on November 26. On the other hand, there's the knowledge that we will never be able to get revenge on Tressel or Pryor for what they did against Michigan. Sure, there's the chance that those wins will be vacated by the NCAA, but that doesn't erase the feelings of pain and humiliation that we suffered from 2008 to 2010.

On a smaller note, even if Tressel had stayed and suffered punishments, and wins were vacated from Ohio State, it still wouldn't bring back all that Michigan lost: a chance to play Florida in the National Championship, a bid in the Rose Bowl, Big Ten titles, etc.—all because Ohio State and Jim Tressel may have won them unfairly. That's probably the biggest reason why I think Tressel is absolute scum. We'll never get any of those chances back.

Anyway, back to the original point. Part of me wishes Michigan and Brady Hoke could take a shot at Tressel and beat him once, at least to prove that he could, in the way that Tressel got Lloyd Carr back for all those times he dominated Cooper. But hey, maybe it doesn't matter, because Tressel's victories over Carr may not have been legitimate anyway.

Still, as a Michigan fan, I think the most savory victories over Ohio State are when they are at their best. That way, we've proven we are the better team. That's why the 1997 game was so good. David Boston and Charles Woodson were practically equals on the field, but Woodson was slightly better—and it showed. And hey, that's probably why 2006 game was so good too, but like I said, we'll never really know how deep Tressel's corruption went and what effect it had on that game. We may have been the better team and were cheated by the Buckeyes.

That's why it was so fun and exciting to watch Bo and Woody. They were always at their best. It was a war between equals.

I thought Ohio State and Tressel were too stubborn to part ways with one another, and only after Ohio State lost to Michigan in 2011 would animosity build enough in the Buckeye Nation to give Tressel the boot. (Buckeye fans can't stand to lose to Michigan even once.) However, Tressel resigned before the 2011 season, and unless the NCAA completely destroys his legacy at Ohio State, he leaves with a better record than Hayes. Buckeye fans will remember him for that, not for lying, and they'll probably name a building after him, like they did for Hayes.

Yet you have to at least acknowledge that Tressel completely screwed Ohio State for the next five years. Depending on how hard the NCAA comes down on the program, Ohio State could take years to rebuild the program to a respectable level. While Tressel has publicly claimed that Ohio State is no further away from beating Michigan this year, he didn't make it easy for Ohio State by leaving them hung out to dry.

Buckeye fans will argue that Tressel did the right thing by leaving. It was him the NCAA was after, and his staying only meant that the university would suffer. Well, that's only half true. Who's to say that the NCAA won't still bring severe punishments against the football program anyway? Any reasonable person can see that there's a lack of institutional control at Ohio State, and it's not just Tressel looking the other way. However, that's an argument for another time.

Terrelle Pryor's departure doesn't make it any easier on the Buckeyes either. Like Tressel, Pryor made a decision that was largely self-serving. He didn't wait to hear the NCAA's ruling in August, but that's probably because the evidence against him was so overwhelming that he had to run before they brought the hammer down. Pryor leaves the Buckeyes essentially without a quarterback, just as Tressel left them essentially without a head coach.

So much for Sacred Brotherhood, right?

Luke Fickell's filling the HC position, but barring a miracle breakthrough and no sanctions, it's obviously temporary. Ohio State will scramble to get someone to fill Pryor's spot at quarterback, but there's little doubt in people's mind that their offensive game will suffer.

There's another point to consider when it comes to what it means for Michigan. The Game will be between whoever's on the field. I guess that kind of makes sense. Ohio State fans took great joy in the thrashing of Michigan in 2008 (Rodriguez's first year, the Wolverines went 3-9). That, as well as the two years that followed, was clearly a rebuilding time for the Maize and Blue. This year is a rebuilding time too for Brady Hoke, and no one can really say that Michigan is at its best. Now, Ohio State won't be either: they'll be forced to rebuild as well. Maybe it's better that way. Maybe this is the universe's way of balancing everything out.

Ohio State dominated the last several years unfairly and now they're going to get knocked down a peg. Or, a better way to put it is that they're going to be forced to play fair. Are you really the better team when you cheat your way to victory, when you break the rules in getting better players and getting them on the field?

No, you're not. Maybe Ohio State will finally learn that, and then maybe this rivalry will get back to being great without having any baggage.

No comments:

Post a Comment