I heard all of the pre-game hype. About what this game meant, about how Michigan had everything to lose, and the Buckeyes had nothing to lose. About how the Big Ten Championship and a BCS bid was on the line. But then it was gameday...
They did it. They beat us. For the 5th time since 1988, the Ohio State Buckeyes defeated the Wolverines, and in dominating fashion. We had no answer for the offense that they created just for us. They practice to play us each and every week, even weeks when they were scheduled to play Northwestern, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Purdue. They don't just look ahead to Michigan during the season, they look ahead to Michigan as their season. Unfortunately (or fortunately), we don't. We play all of our games. That leaves Ohio State as a game in our season, not our season as a whole. And this year, that wasn't enough for us to compete.
It was difficult to leave the horseshoe, even when we fell be behind by 20 points. The Wolverine faithful, with leftover miracle hope from the MSU comeback, just wouldn't give up. But the team on the field didn't have the magic that day, and more importantly just didn't have the gameplan to solve Ohio State. Troy Smith ran through our defense as the NCAA ran through files in the Buckeye athletic office, and the Wolverines suffered their first Big Ten loss.
Disappointment? Yes. Buckeye fans rushing the field as if they had just clinched the National Championship is enough to make any Wolverine fan's blood boil. But the thought had to cross your mind...what are they celebrating? Yes, they certainly should be happy that they pulled off an upset, but are they so far gone that they don't realize they finished behind Northwestern in the Big Ten, and are slated for a bowl game that occurs before the new year?
Michigan is the Big Ten champion, and will be going to the Rose Bowl for the second straight year. Had Michigan won instead of lost on Saturday, they would be the Big Ten champion, and would be going to the Rose Bowl for the second straight year. So what did Michigan-Ohio State mean this year? It meant about four hours of wondering about the postseason before everything fell into place.
Perhaps you are disappointed in the season as a whole. Maybe you thought Gutierrez and Underwood would be the cornerstone in a National Championship season... but then again, you thought Gutierrez and Underwood were actually going to play, so what do you know? I guess this was a rebuilding year, and if that's the case, what a great one it was. Replace the Heisman trophy runner-up and 5th year senior quarterback with two true freshman, and win several close and exciting games on the way to a second consecutive Big Ten championship. You may have accepted that fate before the season started, and you certainly would have accepted it after Notre Dame.
The ebb and flow of college football. Coming out of the non-conference schedule, you pointed to Iowa, Minnesota, and Purdue as very possible losses. How would we stop the vaunted rushing attack of Minnesota? How would we put Heisman trophy shoe-in Kyle Orton in check? We beat them all. And now they're all looking up at us, wondering how they let us slip by, in a year where our team wasn't a dominating powerhouse, but a group of men trying to learn the system in a sport where every game counts... except for Michigan vs. Ohio State.
So the 2004 regular season comes to a close. Thanks again to everyone that played a part in our tailgate that celebrates the greatest team in college football. I hope we can have a great bowl game turnout and an active off-season for UMTailgate.com. See you all soon!