Buckeyes Not Going Away
By Brandon Castel
CHICAGO — Michael Brewster wore his radiant 2010 Big Ten championship ring to the media days event Friday.
Photo by Jim Davidson
He wasn’t the only one in the room who won one a year ago, but as he rested his on the table in front of him it served as an unmistakable reminder: this is still Ohio State.
This is still the same team that won six-straight Big Ten championships dating back to 2005.
This is still the team that has appeared in more BCS bowl games than any other program in college football.
This is still the team that has gone to three BCS National Title games in the last decade, and, ultimately, this is still the team to beat in the Big Ten.
“We’re not going to go quietly into the night,” Brewster said as nonchalantly as one might expect from a player with two other Big Ten title rings already resting on his dresser.
Many people in the room had a different idea about this team Friday.
After all, that Big Ten championship ring on Brewster’s hand never officially happened. The Buckeyes were forced to vacate their 12-1 record from a year ago, and with it their share of the conference title.
Gone is the man who guided them to the school’s first national title in more than three decades. Gone is the quarterback who led them to back-to-back BCS bowl victories over Oregon and Arkansas.
Gone is the air of invincibility that comes with a 59-14 conference record over the last decade.
If the rest of the Big Ten had not had enough of Ohio State, they certainly have now. With a first-time head coach on the sideline and an untried quarterback under center, the Buckeyes appear to be ripe for the picking.
Michigan State and Northwestern return two of the top-rated quarterbacks in the country in Kirk Cousins and Dan Persa. Wisconsin has retooled an already potent offense with the addition of former N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson and Nebraska comes strolling into the Big Ten on the heels of back-to-back 10-win seasons.
Even Michigan is taking aim at a spot in Indianapolis under new Head Coach Brady Hoke.
“He brings an essence of what Michigan is all about,” senior defensive tackle Mike Martin said.
“They wear their Big Ten championship ring and we want one. We haven’t gotten one of those.”
Another thing they don’t have is a victory over Ohio State, who has defeated its archrival seven straight years. The last couple have not been very close, but some are predicting this could be the year Hoke gets the Wolverines on the board with their first victory over the Buckeyes since 2003.
“I get the sense some people think we are wounded and we’re just going to roll over,” said Brewster, the team’s only returning All-American from last season.
“Maybe that’s the story they want to write. Maybe that’s how they want it to appear, but that’s not how we feel. Our expectations are the same.”
That would mean another victory over Michigan, another BCS bowl game and another ring for Brewster, who knows this season may carry more weight than any in recent Ohio State history.
“Everybody knows what’s on the line this year,” he said.
“We’ve been Big Ten champs six years in a row, beat Michigan seven in a row and we don’t want to be the team to break that.”
The last time the Buckeyes didn’t win at least a share of the Big Ten championship, they were breaking in a first-time quarterback. The last time they lost to Michigan they were in Ann Arbor.
It won’t be easy. The Buckeyes return just four starters on each side of the ball, not including the suspended players who will miss the first five games of the season. They play a tough road game at Miami (Fla.) in week three and open conference play against 2010 co-champion Michigan State in week five.
Everyone will be gunning for them; few rooting for them.
“It will only be that much sweeter being able to prove people wrong,” Brewster said.
“We feel like we have something to prove this year. We feel like we haven’t accomplished anything after everything that’s gone on. We can’t wait to get on the field and show people that no matter what we’ve gone through, we’re still going forward full steam.”
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