UPDATE, Nov 14, 2015, 10:05p:
See you on campus Saturday morning, you guys.
* * *
Dear College GameDay,
Ohio State has been featured on your show 33 times, the third most of any school in the country (Florida-36 Alabama-35). However this freshly minted generation of Buckeye fans would never know that. The last time you all hosted your show overlooking the Horse Shoe was in 2010, a long drought for one of the most prominent programs of the past two decades.
This is not a letter of anger because exogenous factors are the greatest reasons why Columbus has missed out, but next week, the 21st of November, the stage is set, the invitation is out, and all Buckeye nation needs is an RSVP.
My first live experience with your show was in 2005 ,as I was coming of age. You were all in town for the Texas-Ohio State "Showdown in the 'Shoe" that would go on to be a staple win in Vince Young's scorched earth campaign for the 2005 BCS National Championship. His Longhorns would beat the Buckeyes in an excruciating fashion (Thanks Hamby), but guys, Ohio State still provided must-watch TV.
You would all visit a few more times after 2005, for matchups with Penn State and Michigan in 2006, Penn State in 2008, USC in 2009, and Penn State again in 2010, but as the years rolled on, Columbus, Ohio became a second fiddle to the nation's southern campuses. Part of this phenomenon can be explained by the Big Ten's relative weakness in the past ten years, or perhaps Ohio State's propensity for playing their big games on the road, but times are changing.
The Ohio State University, fresh off the first ever College Football Playoff National Championship has won 23 straight games, and head coach Urban Meyer has won 48 out of 51 with the Buckeyes, which seems pretty good. The Big Ten is on an upwards trajectory as well, methodically regaining the prominence that it had misplaced for over a decade. This change of course for the pride of the Midwest is due in no small part to Michigan State's rise as a national power during the last three years. In fact, the most influential Big Ten games in recent memory has been matchups between Urban Meyer and Mark Dantonio, including the 2013 Big Ten Championship, and the 2014 classic in East Lansing that you all were lucky enough to attend.
This coming week will be a much awaited best two out of three style collision between the Spartans and the Buckeyes. Columbus will be hosting the game, and Buckeye Nation would like to cordially invite you to be witnesses. The national slate next week is fairly enticing, I get it, but I would like to present an argument as to why Columbus deserves your visit more than Norman, Stillwater, or even Salt Lake City.
Your inclination is probably to head to Stillwater next week, as the Baylor Bears will be in town to test their luck against a probable 10-0 Oklahoma State Cowboys team. But does the American television market want Baylor on your show two weeks in a row? I sure don't. Much like how your crew generally tries not to visit Alabama's games two weeks in a row (due to the need to spread the wealth), I argue that featuring two Baylor games in two weeks is a poor marketing strategy for your show. Furthermore, I think your crew wants to avoid another puppet show.
Another game next week that I am sure has drawn interest for a visit from your set is the TCU-Oklahoma game in Norman. This matchup, which also features a team that will be in this week's edition of your show (boring), is just as problematic as Baylor-Oklahoma State, because either Baylor or the Sooners will lose tonight, creating a serious buzzkill for the loser's matchup next week. An exacerbating factor to consider with this matchup is that TCU's star quarterback Trevone Boykin, left the game today quite early, leaving question as to whether he will be ready to take the field on November 21st at all. Also, TCU nearly lost to Kansas today. In football!
I would also argue that if Oklahoma wins tonight in Waco, their matchup next week with TCU is simply less important than Michigan State's trip to Columbus. There is little reason to believe that a one loss Big 12 team could even climb into the top four in the polls with one loss SEC, Pac 12, and perhaps even Big Ten teams with the luxury of conference championship games, almost certainly assured to stay ahead of them (De ja vu?). Therefore if Baylor wins tonight, you are stuck between the best empirical game (Baylor-OSU), and choosing to visit a Baylor game two weeks in a row, and if Oklahoma wins tonight, you are stuck between visiting the Sooners for a second straight week, and deciding if the TCU-Oklahoma game holds significant weight in the playoff's grand narrative as compared to the showdown in Columbus. This sounds like a total catch-22 to me, how about to you guys?
However a third choice for your set may emerge in Salt Lake City. Utah will be hosting UCLA next week and although you have been to both a UCLA away game, and a Utah home game this fall, I wouldn't put this location past you all. I admit it, the UCLA- Utah game has implications for the Pac 12 South, in fact at face value, it seems that it may likely decide who meets Stanford in the conference championship. But I caution you all from buying into this de facto line of thinking. While Utah does sit atop the Pac 12 South currently, USC is still very alive in the race for the south, even with its poor effort at Folsom Field last night in Pac 12 after dark fashion. The Trojans meet UCLA during rivalry week, and assuming Utah loses once more in the Pac 12, which it may very well do to UCLA, the USC-UCLA game would instead become the Pac 12 South championship essentially.
Now that I have helped your crew rule out those three locations for your show next week, Id appreciate if you all would listen once more to my plea as to why Columbus is the obvious choice. The Spartans, although beaten down by a disappointing loss to Nebraska, will still control their destiny in the Big Ten East, after a victory over Maryland today. Ohio State also controls its own destiny both in the Big Ten race and frankly, in the playoff race. TV ratings suggest that America loves watching the Buckeyes, and now, they finally get a chance to showcase what they can do on a big stage.
This will be senior quarterback Connor Cook's last hurrah in his effort to lead Michigan State to three straight New Year's Day bowl game wins, and I do not imagine he will concede easily. This week he struggled with shoulder injury, but his fight was apparent and the second half sidelining appeared to be almost completely precautionary due to the Spartan's large lead. Before leaving the game, Connor Cook played the whole second quarter, and although hurting, played without much apparent difference in ability, especially passing-wise. On the other side, this will be Braxton Miller's first game against Michigan State since the crushing 2013 loss in Indianapolis where many think he was asked to carry the ball a few too many times.
I get the feeling that this OSU-Michigan State game may be the last for a while to hold serious national implications as Michigan State and Ohio State are set to graduate or lose many of the Big Ten's premier players to the NFL. Although Ohio State may be quite good next fall with the probable return of JT Barrett to lead the charge, the Spartans will lose their senior leader Cook, and may not rebuild nearly as quickly; especially with the likely rise of their in state rival, Michigan, back to prominence.
While the roles has reversed since last year's matchup, the grand narrative is quite similar. One undefeated team at home, and one underdog on the road with an unexplainable loss. I would in no way rule out the Spartans from the playoff if they were to beat Ohio State this coming week, much like the Buckeyes situation entering East Lansing last fall.
I understand that you may be saving a trip to Big Ten country until "The Game" the week of Thanksgiving, but can I stress again that a visit to Columbus is what's been missing, not your crews presence holistically. You are often times with the Buckeyes on the road, in fact it is a fairly regular occurrence, but next week it is time that you show a new generation of Buckeye students and fans what it is like to wake up early and put on those symbolic orange plastic hard hats.
Kirk, my guess is that you are more than game for a homecoming. Corso, I imagine that you would sentimentally appreciate one last trip to Columbus before retirement. After all, your first ever headgear-pick was for Ohio State while in Columbus in 1996, isn't it only fitting that you put the Buckeye headgear on once more, on the same campus where sports media's most celebrated tradition was born?