Ohio State Football: The Pre-2004 Boston Red Sox of College Football?
I know how it feels; I've been in their shoes. I've been in Ohio Stadium before, willing my team to win. Hoping, praying that this will finally be the time we win that game everyone thinks we'll lose. And we hang in there, we fall behind, then regain the lead, and hold the lead.
Keep holding, keep holding, but in the end, it always seems like we fall short when it matters most. Late in the game, they take the lead and they make the plays when it matters most. They win, again.
We lose, again.
My Ohio Stadium experience actually took place at Fenway Park. Trust me Buckeye fans, I've been there.
Ohio State lost another gut-wrenching game on Saturday night to what seems to be the ever-perfect team: USC. Always making the big play in the final minutes. The cool coach who keeps his players relaxed. The pretty-faced quarterback leading his offense down the field.
The stud running back slicing and dicing through defenders. The suddenly-cohesive offensive line, moving red jerseys out of the way play after play.
Are the USC Trojans the Yankees of College Football? Sure, you could make a case for it.
And was Saturday night a classic case of Yankees vs. Red Sox, Game Seven, ALCS? To me, it sure felt like it.
Some will say you can't compare college football to baseball. They might be right, but it's fun to think about.
Seven years without a national title is surely nothing like 86 years without a World Series title, but hasn't it felt like Ohio State has been on the verge of something great every year in recent memory?
When Ohio State lost to Florida in the 2007 BCS Championship Game, you could chalk it up to being outplayed, plain and simple. After losing to LSU the following season, it was a coach calling the game too "by the book." And after a 35-3 drubbing in 2008 it was easy to write off the Buckeyes as posers in the battlefield that is big time college football.
Sort of sounds like the Red Sox.
A team that loved to make a lot of noise, but when it came time to win the big game or sweep a key series late in September, they would fall flat on their face, leaving fans to relay "wait till next year" to anyone who questioned their shortcomings.
Again, you might think comparing losing a college football game in September to a baseball team that choked away the ALCS in Game Seven as silly, but when it comes to the the stakes of each game, the comparison is not that far off.
With college football teams only playing a 12-game schedule and so much depending on who you beat, rankings, polls and perception among voters, wasn't Sept. 12 for Buckeye fans like the 2003 ALCS for Red Sox fans?
The Red Sox season was over. The goal, to win the World Series, was now unreachable. Face it, the Buckeyes needed that win to make noise and put themselves in a great spot to make it to the BCS Championship game, but the goal, to win the national championship, is unattainable.
The Buckeyes lost their version of the ALCS to one of their hated rivals.
Matt Barkley's legacy is still to-be-determined, but in a few years, Buckeye fans might refer to him as their Aaron Boone.
Above all else, it is the mindset of the fan base that draws the closest correlation. The way they must have felt in Ohio Stadium on Saturday night. I recall a story from a Miami Hurricane fan discussing the 2002 National Championship game in Tempe, AZ.
He was sitting in the upper deck amongst a sea of red, listening to their complaints and fears. During the game, which was one of the best college football has ever seen, he tried to talk to Buckeye fans about how great the game was.
They would have none of it, only commenting on the officiating and every poor play made by their beloved Buckeyes. They feared the worse and sulked in their own misery. They couldn't enjoy the game and their only thought was, "when will the other shoe drop?"
That's Red Sox fans in a nutshell. Always fearing the worse, always looking for that spot in the game when they can say "this game is over" despite the fact the ninth inning is yet to be played.
You must think that's what it felt like last Saturday.
We have the lead. We can win this. Up by five points with five minutes to play. Two outs, top of the ninth inning, leading by three runs.
A first down on third and long. Base hit up the middle. A 20-yard gain to the tight end. Another base hit up the middle.
Another rushing play for a first down, inside the 10-yard line. A bloop single.
First and goal. Bases loaded.
The snap, the pitch.
And 106,000-plus are thinking the same thing: "Not again, this cannot be happening again."
And the stadium goes quiet.
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