Memories of a Buckeye

By Carla Peay
Updated: November 19, 2006

Ohio State QB Troy Smith

Ohio State QB Troy Smith

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Some of the best days of my life were spent on Saturday afternoons at the horseshoe in Columbus Ohio. As an undergraduate student at The Ohio State University, I sat in the stands clad in scarlet and gray apparel, screaming with my friends at every Buckeye home game. Later, as a graduate student, I made a valiant effort to comport myself as a more subdued professional. My game days in the stands with the screaming rowdies were behind me, and I was now working in the press box as a graduate assistant for the Sports Information Department. Truth be told, as much as I loved my first ever taste of life in the press box, a part of me envied those screaming rowdies, and every now and again, my graduate assistant colleagues and I would violate the cardinal rule of no cheering in the press box. It was forgiven. We were still kids. We were Buckeyes.

I’ve been a football fan since the days when I was too young to understand the plays, and simply rooted for whatever team had the coolest uniform. I was seven. But my love of the sport continues to this day. From the moment I set foot on campus at The Ohio State University, I felt privileged to be there. And as a sports geek since the tender age of seven, game week for me was as good as it got.

Every game inside the horseshoe was exciting, but nothing compared to Michigan week. The atmosphere on campus was electric, and it didn’t matter whether the game was home or away. It’s the best rivalry in college sports, and with apologies to Yankees and Red Sox fans, it is perhaps the best rivalry in all of sports. There’s an inclusion in rooting your college team, a personal pride and sense of belonging that just doesn’t happen anywhere else. As a sportswriter, I’m always slightly amused when I hear fans say “we” when referring to their hometown teams, as though they themselves are the ones suiting up. But rooting for your school is different. It’s the only time when the “we” is completely accurate and appropriate.

All week long, I’ve been teased by colleagues who call themselves Michigan fans, while I scoffed at their preference for the hated men in maize and blue. In my calmest tone, I explained to them that I am not a Buckeye fan, I am a Buckeye. My college and graduate school days may be quite a few years in the rear view mirror, but I will always be a Buckeye.

This year, an entire nation of college football fans shared in my excitement leading up to the big game. With Ohio State and Michigan ranked number one and two in the polls, both teams sporting identical undefeated records, and a national championship berth on the line, the big game was now The Big Game. At one point, the world wide leader even had a kickoff countdown clock running in their breaking news crawl. There’s also this little matter of the Heisman Trophy. A Buckeye victory would have Heisman voters just about ready to gift wrap the hardware and hand deliver it to Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith. And if that weren’t enough to make this more than just another game, the day was made that much more poignant by the death of former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler on Friday.

Before the game, fittingly, there was a moment of silence for Schembechler, who once coached at Ohio State. But with the hype machine having been at full speed all week long, was it possible that the game would actually live up to expectations? Absolutely.

The game was an instant classic, a riveting back and forth contest with excellent playmaking by both squads. Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith threw for 361 yards and four touchdowns, and displayed his remarkable ability to make big plays, as he led the Buckeyes to a 42-39 victory. His performance should make him a lock for the Heisman. Regardless of what happens on January 8, this was the de-facto national championship game.

The arguments have already begun, and will continue over the next few weeks, as to which team should face the Buckeyes in the BCS Championship game. Cases will be made for USC, Notre Dame and Florida. But the sheer brilliance of this Ohio State – Michigan game brings up an intriguing possibility. Could the BCS Championship game be Ohio State – Michigan, the sequel?

Put me down for hoping that the pollsters go ahead and make that bold choice and chose a rematch between these two teams to decide the national champion. It’s virtually inarguable that these are the two best teams in college football and isn’t that what the national championship game should be?

And as sweet as this victory was, there really is only one thing that could make seeing the Buckeyes in the actual BCS game any better than this – a chance to see them meet, and defeat the maize and

blue one more time.