It Began with MSU

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Last updated: 12/06/2013 4:22 PM
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Buckeyes Return to Where It All Began, On the Field Against MSU
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — This Saturday, Urban Meyer will take his Buckeyes, and their 24-0 record over the last two seasons, to Indianapolis to play for a Big Ten Championship and a shot at a BCS National Championship.

Standing in Ohio State's way will be the #10 Michigan State Spartans, with their #1 defense and 11-1 record overall. For the Buckeyes, there couldn't be a more fitting opponent, considering what happened the last time these two teams played.

A year ago, a 4-0 Buckeye team – ranked #14 in the nation – went to East Lansing to take on a 3-1 Spartan team. As you may recall, it was a 60-minute fistfight, with Ohio State prevailing 17-16. Trailing 13-10 late in the third quarter, the Buckeyes finally got the play that they were desperate for when Braxton Miller hit Devin Smith streaking down the sideline for a 63-yard touchdown.

Devin Smith begins a 63-yard jaunt to a touchdown against the Spartans.
Photo by Jim Davidson

The Buckeyes, then leading 17-16 in the fourth quarter, forced a Michigan State punt with just over four minutes to play. Ohio State ran out the final 4:10 of the game, keyed by a five-yard run on third and four by Carlos Hyde that sealed the win.

"I told them this is where you make yourself a team," offensive line coach Ed Warinner said of those final four minutes last year.

"This is where the O-line digs down and comes through. You've got to run the ball, you've got to finish. The whole team, we were talking about everybody giving it up, laying it on the line."

Carlos Hyde
Photo by Jim Davidson

A lot of things happened that day, and even back then, Urban Meyer knew that it was more than just one singular win.

"We found out something about our team today,” Meyer said after the win.

“To go on the road in a hostile environment against a quality, quality football team and find a way to win and answer every drive with another drive. When it was time to go make a play, they did."

Since then, that Michigan State game has been brought up a hundred different times in talking to the coaches and players, and anybody associated with the team will tell you that that was last season's turning point.

Ohio State had not played particularly well in their first four games last season, and Meyer had no problem telling folks that his team just wasn't that good. During that Michigan State game, however, things began to click. The Buckeyes were at a crossroads in East Lansing, and after looking left and then right, they decided to march straight ahead.

OSU center Corey Linsley knew the importance of last year's game, and now his words from a year ago seem remarkably prophetic.

"If we win this it starts to snowball in the right direction,” he said. “If we don't, it starts to snowball in the wrong direction. So we knew the importance and significance of this game, coming out on top, and we did.”

Now, 19 wins later, and there is no more important or significant game ahead of the Buckeyes than this one. A win sets the Buckeyes up with a shot at their ultimate goal. Their “Chase” is almost reality.

“Everything changed last year for us [against Michigan State], and now everything is on the line for us,” Linsley said earlier this week.

While this will be the first time the Buckeyes have ever played in the Big Ten Championship Game, the situation is a familiar one. They can look at the path to their left, and they can look at the path to their right, but they already know where they are going, and once again it's Michigan State stationed right in front of them.

A win on Saturday will be the culmination of a focused process that began back on September 29, 2012 in East Lansing. One more victory would mean everything for this team, and just like last year, the rewards that can follow a win in this game can hardly be imagined.

Last year was the turning point for the Buckeyes, but Saturday night is the exclamation point.

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