On the evening of January 4th, 2011, Ohio State was back. Finally, after years of being slammed by most pundits and experts in the national media for being too slow and unable to compete, finally exorcised the one demon that hung around the program like an invisible specter – the inability to beat the SEC in a bowl game. After surviving a late flurry by Arkansas, Solomon Thomas' interception with less than a minute left gave OSU the vindication and redemption is had been chasing since the Debacle in the Desert four years earlier.
It lasted all of four months and some change.
As the tattoo scandal spiraled out of control and took down an iconic coach his star quarterback, 2011 turned into a nightmare of a season. An interim coach managed to keep things together with bailing wire, duct tape, and a heavy dose of The Baus.
As the 2011 version of The Game came around, a season that many people thought would end with an appearance in their fourth national title game in six years instead saw Ohio State struggling to stay above .500. The interim coach was a dead man walking, and potential NCAA sanctions hung over the program like a death sentence.
But in Ann Arbor things were much different. A new coach had taken over for a guy who never fit in up there and had guided That Team Up North to a 9-2 record. After they finally got their first win over OSU since 2003, they were proclaiming a new decade of dominance, and with a coach who was a 'Michigan Man' through and through and referred to the Buckeyes as 'Ohio', it seemed that things might be turning back again in their direction.
But that ended the following Monday after The Game, as Ohio State introduced Urban Meyer as their next coach. Fans up north dismissed it, feeling confident that once their Michigan Man beat Urbz 'two or three times' his health problems will magically reappear and he'll retire again.
In Columbus, things turned around immediately. Although there was no post season for one year, Ohio State kept winning, running the streak to 11-0, and welcomed the newest Michigan Man to Columbus for the first time. After an uneven first half, the second half settled into an old fashioned OSU-Michigan street fight, as the Buckeyes managed to take a five point lead, 26-21. After the Buckeyes intercepted Devin Gardner and got the ball with just under five minutes to go, they put together a game ending drive that would have made Woody Hayes beam with pride. Ohio State, behind Carlos Hyde, ran the ball five straight times between the tackles, imposing their will on the Wolverines, securing a first down, a victory, and a 12-0 record:
After a year of chaos and uncertainty, order had been restored. And the imbalance we saw as late as 2011 now seems to have turned back in favor of Ohio State. Michigan might have their Michigan Man, but a native son of Ohio, the best coach in America, is the head football coach at the flagship university in the state of Ohio. Ohio State is working on another undefeated season, and from the ruins of what a lot of folks thought was the beginning of a Dark Time has become 23 straight wins and with a little luck, a win in the Big Ten championship game followed by the Rose Bowl or the BCS National championship game.
The only thing standing in the way? A reeling Maize and Blue with a Michigan Man coach who has a seat that's a lot warmer now than it was in August.
Go Bucks. Beat That Team Up North.