When it comes to the greatest rivalry in college sports, heroes and villains can be made in a single Saturday. For generations, The Game has created it’s share of good and bad guys, depending on which side of the Ohio-Michigan border you reside; be it Troy Smith, Desmond Howard, Braxton Miller, or Tim Biakabutuka. So, as we prepare for another epic clash of titans on Saturday, as No. 2 Ohio State hosts No. 3 Michigan, why don’t we break down the matchup from a more cinematic perspective, a Marvel cinematic perspective?
Since it is clear that in this blockbuster metaphor Ohio State is the good guys, since Stan Lee would never allow the bad guys to win 13 out of 15 times, let’s look at how some of Scarlet and Grey players might equate in more colorful superhero costumes.
Curtis Samuel is Iron Man
While not quite indestructible, H-back Curtis Samuel is the Tony Stark of Ohio State’s team. Full of bells and whistles, there’s nearly nothing that #4 can’t do. This season he has produced consistently on traditional handoffs, gadget plays, in the screen game, and on deep passes.
With 790 receiving yards, in addition to 650 on the ground, he could still become the first FBS player in history to reach 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving in the same season, depending on how the post-season shapes up for the Buckeyes.
While the reliable hero is sometimes overlooked, either because of the trusty zone-read, or new, more trendy good guys, there is no doubt that when the going gets tough, you want
Iron Man Curtis Samuel on your side.
JT Barrett is Captain America
Unlike the flashier Iron Man, Captain America is a hero as much because of his honor and bravery as his super strength. Coming from a military family, quarterback J.T. Barrett is the perfect Ohio State equivalent for Steve Rogers. Though he doesn’t have the eye-popping skills of Samuels’ Iron Man, Barrett has the durability of at least 10 men.
The signal-caller has rushed the ball 164 times, the most for any quarterback in the Big Ten, and fourth nationally behind Navy’s Will Worth (243), Louisville’s Lamar Jackson (209), and Kent State’s Nick Holley (195). While the other three QBs’ totals are impressive, none of them play against the rough-and-tumble defenses that Barrett has faced in the Big Ten this season.
At times, including in his 24 carries against Michigan State, watching Barrett run the ball is reminiscent of a still puny Rogers standing up for himself against the bully; he accepted the punishment and kept coming back for more.
However, we also know that it is this courage and willingness to do what is necessary that has made Cap one of the most beloved figures in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and conversely, Barrett one of the most beloved QBs in Ohio State history.
Malik Hooker is Hawkeye
Let’s be honest, very rarely do defensive players get the pub and adoration as their offensive counterparts, however, when the defender has five interceptions on the season and has returned two for touchdowns, he can be tough to ignore.
Thus is the case with Buckeye safety Malik Hooker. In his sophomore season, Hooker has been a reliable playmaker in the secondary for OSU, and no matter where he starts on the field, it feels like he has an innate ability to zero in on the place that he most needs to be.
While Hawkeye certainly doesn’t have the abilities of Captain America, or the toys of Iron Man, what he does have is the inhuman range and accuracy that makes him a force to be reckoned with no matter the opponent.
Mike Weber is Ant Man
In his first 11 games on the field for Ohio State, Weber hasn’t made Buckeye fans forget about all-timers like Carlos Hyde and Ezekiel Elliott, but he has proven to be a valuable and entertaining addition to the OSU stable of heroes.
Listed at 5’10” and 212 lbs., having fought through a nasty shoulder injury in the latter part of the season, the running back has made it clear that there is a lot more strength and toughness than his otherwise diminutive frame would suggest. And, while fans might still be waiting for the breakaway speed to take him from hero to Avenger, it’s clear that he has the makings of a valuable member of the stable.
In his 2015 solo introduction, Paul Rudd showed more humor than we’ve seen from Weber thus far, but what was most fascinating about “Ant-Man” is that it eschewed the normal Marvel formula of climactic scene involving cities being destroyed and implied massive amounts of human casualties. Instead in “Ant-Man” it was literally done in miniature, as it was set in a child’s toy-room.
As of yet, we haven’t seen Weber bust the game-breaking runs that Hyde and Elliott became known for, but he has proven that he is capable of impacting the game in smaller, consistent chunks.
Raekwon McMillan is The Hulk
In the late 1970s to the early 80s, there has likely no more widely known Marvel hero than The Hulk, thanks to the Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno-led television series. However, since then, the not-so jolly green giant has been one of the most problematic properties for Marvel. In the past 13 years, the studio has introduced a new actor playing the character’s alter-ego, Dr. Bruce Banner, three different times; Eric Bana (2003), Edward Norton (2008), Mark Ruffalo (2012).
Despite the lack of respect that the character has endured in recent years, he has continued to be a vital part of the Avengers, providing both the brains and brawn that the team needs in its most difficult moments.
In Columbus, the once unanimous adoration that All-American linebacker Raekwon McMillan enjoyed has somewhat eroded this season. However, that lack of respect is clearly misplaced, as the MLB continues to be the emotional and play-making leader for the OSU defense. It also doesn’t hurt that at 6’2”, 243 lb. the junior is a physical beast.
Noah Brown is The Falcon
After breaking his leg in one of the last practices before the 2015 season, the excitement for a healthy Noah Brown at wide receiver reached a fevered pitch after his four-touchdown performance against Oklahoma. Unfortunately for Brown and Buckeye fans hoping for a potent passing game this season, he has pulled in only two touchdowns in the eight games since that legendary output in Norman.
Similarly, The Falcon is an underused and underappreciated member of the extended Avengers team. He’s shown up in four Marvel films, dating back to “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” but he rarely gets any love. He can fly, he boasts a pair of submachine guns, and he has a drone he controls from his wrist! What more do you want?
Memo to Marvel Studios and the Ohio State coaching staff: you have a potential game-changer in The Falcon/Noah Brown, don’t miss your chance to use him properly.
Demario McCall is Spider-Man
In limited duty this season, freshman Demario McCall has proven that he has the ability to be special. He is generously listed at 5’9” and 182 lbs., but he has shown himself capable of impressive feats that often defy physics.
Likewise, despite being young and undersized, especially compared to some of his Herculean compatriots, Spider-Man always makes the most of his opportunities. Granted, Marvel and Columbia Pictures have had more than their fair share of struggles getting the character established on screen since Tobey Maguire hung up his web-shooters in 2007.
However, based on his studio-crossover appearance in “Captain America: Civil War,” the more he is integrated into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, the better things will be for everyone. You got the hint Coaches Warinner and Beck?
So, what did we miss? What Marvel heroes would Gareon Conley, Marshawn Lattimore, and Dontre Wilson be? What Buckeyes would take the place of Thor, Daredevil, Luke Cage, or Doctor Strange? And, what villains would Jim Harbaugh, Jabrill Peppers, Jourdan Lewis, and Jake Butt be?
You can see the good guys host the bad guys on Saturday at 12:00 p.m. ET on ABC, as the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes take on the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines with a potential bid into the College Football Playoffs on the line.