Big Ten Championship Game 2013: Playing with house money

Jeff Bottari

Whatever happens Saturday, Ohio State wins.

When I look back on the first two years of The Reign Of Meyer, I marvel.  I marvel at some of the great games, great moments, and great players that we've been privileged to watch.  I shook my head at some close escapes, chuckled at some of the blowouts, and all the time I kept asking myself how would I feel if we were here, in this spot, at this time.

Unlike my false bravado of the Michigan game (look, that game always scares the crap out of me, as I can freely admit now), I am serene.  Regardless of what happens, it's going to be fine, because OSU has been playing with house money for most of the season.

OSU ran the table last year and stayed home, and had they been one of three unbeaten teams this year, even if they had won their conference championship game, they wouldn't have made it.  So the fact that they get to determine their fate means almost as much to me as to whether or not they even beat MSU.  If they lose to Sparty, they still get an at-large BCS game against a quality opponent.  No, it won't be the national championship, but it will be a big game on the national stage, and it will do nothing but help OSU in terms of recruiting and pre-season ranking next year.  And if, by the off chance, they can get an SEC opponent and beat them, in some ways that would be as satisfying as going to the national championship game.

But if they beat MSU, then they're playing for all the marbles in only Meyer's second year.  And they'll be doing so with one of the most average defenses we've seen in around a decade here.  I have no doubt that moving forward the defense will be better, and the offense will remain explosive.  There is just too much talent on the field an on the coaching staff to see this kind of inconsistency on one side of the ball for an extended period of time, and it's going to get fixed.

And then?  Oh, my.  Think, for a moment, how much better OSU is than everyone else in the conference right now, with the exception of MSU.  That game hasn't been played yet, so we'll know where they stand come about 11:00 or so Saturday night, so we'll withhold judgement until then.  Wisconsin is good, but did you think, at any point, OSU was going to lose to the Badgers?  Michigan threw everything they had at OSU, put all their chips on the table and went all in...and lost.  They're a 7-5 team that's three plays from being a 4-8 team.  Penn State is still dealing with sanctions, Minnesota is better but they don't have nearly the athletes to compete with OSU, Northwestern is a fraud...the list goes on.

With maybe the exception of MSU, there isn't a team that approaches the Buckeyes in terms of talent or coaching in this conference right now.  The talent gap isn't closing. It's getting wider, and that's bad news for the rest of the Big Ten.  Barring some changes from other teams, Ohio State is on the verge of conference domination that could make Jim Tressel's decade of excellence look like conference parity.

And let's take this a step further.  Let's say for the sake of argument that OSU beat Michigan State, goes to the national championship, and beats their presumptive opponent, Florida State.  It launches Ohio State into the College Football Playoff era as a team that is 26-0, defending champions, and an SEC-like benefit of the doubt when it comes to deciding who the four playoff teams will be.

Ohio State will more than likely have to deal with turnover on the staff this coming off-season, and some NFL caliber talent will be leaving.  But there is talent behind guys like Carlos Hyde and Ryan Shazier, and I have no doubt that Coach Meyer will be able to attract assistants every bit as capable as Tom Herman.

This is a great time in Ohio State history, and I'm not even talking about the right now.  And the right now is pretty good, what with The Streak, The Chase,the win over That Team Up North, and the upcoming conference championship game.  Each one of those things is special.  Combined, it's almost magical.

But moving forward, it's going to get even better.  So place your bets and let it ride, because this is all free money we're playing with.

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