“The biggest thing I’m gonna tell her is never give up, even when the toughest times get worse. There’s something that’s gonna come out of it.”
It seemed like all of Buckeye Nation was rooting extra hard for Johnnie Dixon this season. The fifth-year senior has battled injuries his entire career, and almost quit after three seasons in Columbus. But he opted to come back anyway and, this season, finally had a year worthy of the work he’s put in with the program. This year, he had 40 receptions for 642 yards and seven touchdowns, putting him at 65 catches for 1,119 yards and 15 scores in his four-season career in Columbus. He went over (well-over) the 1,000-yard mark with his 129-yard performance in the Big Ten Championship game against Northwestern.
But the storied season began last spring. Dixon is part of a trio of fifth-year senior receivers, including Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin, who were all named captains this fall after all made the decision to return to Ohio State for their final seasons of eligibility. Along with K.J. Hill, who also opted to return for his redshirt junior season, the foursome proved a critical leadership team on and off the field for Ohio State. All entered their senior seasons under a new wide receivers coach and with a new quarterback at the helm. All made the most of it.
Beyond football, it’s been an exciting year for Dixon. Last week, he graduated from Ohio State with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. And in January, he’ll be welcoming a new baby daughter.
Dixon isn’t high on many NFL Draft boards, given his history of injuries, but he could turn out to be a late-round pick up in the spring. Before he begins to think about that, however, he has one more game to look forward to as he joins McLaurin and Campbell for one final game when the Buckeyes head to the Rose Bowl Jan. 1.
“With five ranked opponents on the schedule, the league has a huge opportunity to build on the momentum they gained last bowl season.”
As tough a pill as it is to swallow, it really is better for Ohio State when Michigan is a better team. That’s easier to remember during the regular season, especially this year, when the Buckeyes’ total domination of a highly-ranked Michigan squad means another pair of gold pants and a soaring ranking in the polls. With all the end-of-season negative energy toward that team up north, however, it’s harder to remember that Ohio State fans should really be cheering for their rival during the bowl season, when it’s the Big Ten against the world.
That mantra is especially true this year, as the Big Ten was once again left out of the College Football Playoff. The SEC and ACC have now placed a team in the Playoff in each of its five iterations (and yes, Alabama has made all five). With Notre Dame in the CFP as well, the Pac-12 also failed to send a representative. As bad as it looks for the Big Ten as a conference, there is good news in this racking and stacking of team: The nine Big Ten teams who made bowls this year suddenly find themselves in one-up positions in their respective matchups. If Ohio State would have made the Playoff, it is conceivable that each Big Ten team would move up to the next-best bowl game against a better opponent.
Last season, in the same situation, Ohio State was relegated to the Cotton Bowl after missing out on the CFP. The Big Ten as a conference went 7-1 in bowl matchups, with the only loss by Michigan (because you can’t count on them for anything) against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. It was a resounding message as to the strength of the conference heading into the offseason. The Big Ten has a chance to accomplish that same feat again, starting with Minnesota versus Georgia Tech Wednesday. It’s better for the Big Ten when the conference performs well in premiere postseason matchups. That means Michigan, too.
“Ross has long admired Harbaugh, and tried to make him the Dolphins coach in 2011.”
As much as Ohio State fans want to keep Jim Harbaugh at Michigan for their own selfish purposes, the NFL is collectively working against Buckeye nation’s wishes as a number of teams are pursuing the Wolverines’ head coach for their own current or projected coaching vacancies heading into next season.
In one of the more bizarre stories of Harbaugh’s potential coaching path, Steven Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins and namesake of Michigan’s business school, has said that Harbaugh will not in fact be the Dolphins’ next head coach. With the New York Jets actively pursuing Harbaugh, memories of Ross’ 2011 attempt to lure Harbaugh from Stanford to Miami have readily surfaced. In that instance, Ross flew to California to coax Harbaugh from his college role, but was awkwardly snubbed when Harbaugh was named head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and the trip became public. It was particularly uncomfortable since Miami did not have a head coaching vacancy at the time (Tony Sparano was still on the staff).
Ross, a real estate mogul, is a major booster for the Michigan athletic department. It would make sense that he would try and draw a fellow Wolverine to Miami. But for the record, The Dolphins do not currently have a head coaching vacancy. Adam Gase is finishing up his third season as head coach in Miami, where he has amassed a 23-25 overall record. The Dolphins are 7-8 this season and have their regular season finale versus the Bills next week. Ross has yet to comment on if there will, in fact, be a head coaching job available this postseason.
In case it bears repeating, Harbaugh is 38-13 in four seasons in Ann Arbor. He is 0-4 against Ohio State and has not finished higher than second in the Big Ten East. Harbaugh has publicly stated that he plans on staying at Michigan, and is not pursuing head coaching opportunities in the NFL.
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