Each week, we’ll analyze the Ohio State game (and occasionally other games as well) through the lens of a sports movie. If this game were the next “Remember the Titans,” “Space Jam” or “The Sandlot,” what storylines would keep us talking? What would make us laugh, reach for the box of tissues, or have us on the edge of our seats? Grab your popcorn and get ready for pop culture references, a hint of snark, and a trip back in time to the Blockbuster Video days.
Even though Ohio State has played in — and won — two marquee games this season, with victories over Notre Dame and Penn State, doubts have swirled about whether this “No. 1” team is actually No. 1 this season.
In fact, I’ve been a bit of a doubter myself. In a role reversal from the past few seasons, the defense has been an absolute machine, but the offense has left some questions about how far this team could actually go.
While McCord and his band of merry men always found a way to get it done (with a scrappiness that counts especially in the bigger games), it hasn’t always looked pretty — and we’re used to the OSU offense looking pretty. At times, they’ve looked more like a house of cards, ready to fall over at the slightest breeze. Even with Marvin Harrison Jr. and TreVeyon Henderson both on the field, there have been games this season where I found myself holding my breath.
But while Saturday’s game against Michigan State wasn’t the Buckeyes’ toughest matchup this season, it taught us a few things: This team is the real deal, and they seem to be reaching their peak at the exact right moment in the season.
Much like one Lizzie McGuire reached her peak in Italy on a school field trip.
For the non-millennials among us, the cinematic masterpiece, “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” tells the tale of a young Lizzie (Hilary Duff) who is on a graduation trip to Rome with some junior high classmates, chaperoned by their very strict, soon-to-be high school principal Angela Ungermeyer (Alex Borstein).
While at the Trevi Fountain, Lizzie is approached by a famous Italian pop star named Paolo (Yani Gellman), who mistakes her for his singing partner Isabella (a dead-ringer for Lizzie). Lizzie spends the rest of her trip sneaking out from under Ms. Ungermeyer’s eagle eye in order to meet up with the cute Italian singer.
You know who else spent Saturday sneaking around (albeit not in Rome)? Marvin Harrison Jr.
Like Lizzie’s friend Gordo* covers for her while she slips away, Marv had excellent support from quarterback Kyle McCord and the rest of the offense, allowing him to continue his case for the Heisman Trophy. He finished the day with seven receptions for 149 yards and 3 touchdowns (one rushing), becoming the first Ohio State player in history to have multiple 1,000-receiving yard seasons.
*Please know I made a conscious choice to spare you a McCord-o joke, no matter how badly my heart wanted to do it. You. Are. Welcome.
Harrison made it look easy, as he so often does. But Michigan State did their best impression of the Ungermeyer with some solid double coverage. Still, Marv found a way.
Back in Rome, Paolo has told Lizzie a sob story about how he and Isabella ended their singing partnership and she is refusing to perform with him at an upcoming awards show because she *gasp* lip syncs. He hopes Lizzie will disguise herself as Isabella to take her place.
The rest of the movie involves Lizzie sneaking out to get made over enough to believably become a pop star instead of a “sort of frumpy American middle school girl who tripped onstage at her eighth-grade graduation.” And despite her nerves, she sells it.
You know who else looked the part Saturday? Kyle McCord.
McCord went 24-of-31 for a career-high 335 yards and three touchdowns. Though people have had their doubts about whether he could sell it when it counted most, November football arguably counts the most, and he sold it. The hope is that a performance like that boosts confidence enough to slingshot you through The Game and all the drama that will entail.
It did for Lizzie. When it finally came time to perform, she was expecting to be able to phone it in. Isabella lip-syncs, after all! So Lizzie would simply use the same backing tracks!
WRONG. There’s a fun plot twist at the end that I won’t spoil, but the twist leads to Lizzie McGuire bringing down the house with a song called “What Dreams Are Made Of.” Even though people doubted her. Even though she doubted herself. She proves she’s the real deal.
McCord, Harrison, TreVeyon Henderson, and the Ohio State offense proved that against Michigan State. They are hitting their stride at the exact right point in the season, and if they can continue to fire on all cylinders, perhaps they really will silence the doubters (myself included) when it comes time to face Michigan.
And, for their part, the OSU defense continued to dominate on the other side of the ball despite the fact that they were missing several key players. They’ve been the real deal all season long — no lip-syncing to be found.
With Michigan defeating Penn State pretty handily in the Wolverines’ first big battle of the season (and one they fought without coach Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines due to Big Ten sanctions from the sign-stealing scandal), we’re getting set up for another showdown between the rivals that will have drastic playoff implications.
As such, the Buckeyes’ timing in hitting their stride is absolutely critical. They have grown, gone through their whole makeover, and now, they’ve got to pay that work off with a rockstar performance. Dress rehearsal was Saturday, and this kind of November football? This is what dreams are made of (hey, hey, hey).