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RECAP: Big Ten Championship Game 2020 (Ohio State vs Northwestern)

1. First of all, props to Northwestern, as they played one Hell of a game today. There is - literally - not one player on Northwestern's entire team who had an Ohio State offer, yet the Wildcats went toe-to-toe with the Buckeyes all game long and had the 20-point favorites on upset alert for about three quarters. Pat Fitzgerald is a great coach and motivator and he got every ounce of talent and effort out of his squad. Unfortunately for Northwestern, that still wasn't enough to beat Ohio State, because the Buckeyes are just that much more talented than the Wildcats.

2. Major props to running back Trey Sermon, who broke the Ohio State single-game rushing record with 331 yards on 29 carries (11.4 average) and a pair of touchdowns. Sermon broke the record set by Eddie George against Illinois all the way back in 1995 (314 yards on 36 carries). Sermon also broke the Big Ten Conference Championship Game record set by former Buckeye Ezekiel Elliott against Wisconsin in 2014 (220 yards on 20 carries). Sermon may not be on the same talent level as Elliott and George, but for one game he was the best running back in Ohio State history.

3. And the Buckeyes needed every one of Sermon's 331 yards because quarterback Justin Fields was, quite frankly, awful. Fields completed just 12 of 27 passes for 114 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions, and three sacks (and that doesn't count the incompletion on a failed two-point conversion). It looked like Fields hurt his hand early in the game, and afterwards he stated that he suffered a sprained thumb on his throwing hand. If Fields was in fact injured, we all have to hope that he gets well before the Playoffs. If not, the Buckeyes already slim chances to win it all will get that much slimmer.

4. With Fields ailing and Sermon...
1. Well, that's what Buckeye football was supposed to be in 2020 - complete domination from start to finish, as Ohio State rolled Michigan State, 52 to 12. The only break in the complete domination was a brief span of 86 seconds in the third quarter (from 6:14 to 4:48) when Sparty went on an improbable 2-play, 75-yard TD drive to cut the Buckeye lead to 35-7, then forced a Buckeye fumble two plays later. At that point, I wasn't exactly having flashbacks to the nightmare 1998 game, but it was beginning to look a lot like another Buckeye second half meltdown (a la Penn State, Rutgers, Indiana) was in progress. Fortunately, Shaun Wade made a spectacular interception on the very next play to kill any chance of Sparty respectability, and the Buckeyes closed out the scoring on a 17-5 run.

2. His numbers were okay (17/24, 70.8%, 199 yards, 2 TDs, 3 sacks), but we didn't really get Heisman Justin Fields yesterday. There were plenty of contributing factors - makeshift offensive line, numerous bad snaps, typical December weather, conservative play calling. Perhaps the biggest factor was the success of the Buckeye running game (45 carries, 345 yards, 7.7 average, 4 TDs), led by Fields himself with 13 carries for 104 yards (8.0 average) and 2 TDs.

3. Trey Sermon had clearly his best game as a Buckeye, with 10 carries for 112 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown run (his first as a Buckeye). On the play, Justin Fields was running stride for stride with Sermon, and he threw a block for him at the 5-yard line to help secure the touchdown. I love Fields's hustle, effort, and desire to help out a teammate, but to be honest, I don't want to see my starting quarterback sprinting 60 yards down the field for any reason, especially not to throw a block - too many bad things can happen and the risk is not worth the reward.

4. Chris Olave had a huge game, with 10 receptions for 139...
1. Michigan State was the last of the "original" members of the Big Ten to join the conference. The Spartans joined the Big Ten in 1949 but did not play a full conference football schedule until 1953.

2. Now for a brief aside on the history of the Big Ten. The conference was formed in 1896 with seven members: Chicago, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin. Indiana and Iowa joined in 1899. Michigan withdrew from the conference in 1908, only to return in 1917. In the meantime, Ohio State joined in 1912. When Chicago permanently withdrew in 1946, Michigan State was recruited to become the new tenth member of the conference that for four decades had been informally known as The Big Ten. (The conference was originally incorporated as the Intercollegiate Conference Athletic Association, and did not officially obtain the name "Big Ten" until 1987.) Of course, subsequent expansion has seen the addition of Penn State (1993), Nebraska (2011), Maryland (2014), and Rutgers (2014).

3. Ohio State leads the series 33-15-0 (.688), with a 33-13-0 (.717) record in Big Ten play. Ohio State has outscored Michigan State 1,230 to 773, or 25.6 to 16.1 on a per game basis.

4. The teams first played on November 28, 1912, a game which Michigan State won by the score of 35 to 20. The teams would not play again until the 1951 season.

5. Michigan State has 9 Big Ten championships, the most recent being the...
Post-Game Notes

1. I'm fairly confident in saying that Indiana is not as good as they played yesterday. Hoosier quarterback Michael Penix, Jr. will probably never throw for 491 yards and 5 TDs in a single game (he came in averaging 267.5 yards and 2.25 TDs per game); wide receiver Ty Fryfogle is unlikely to make 7 receptions for 218 yards and 3 touchdowns; and the Hoosier defense won't force another Heisman candidate quarterback into three interception and five sacks. Except for the final eleven minutes of the second quarter, when Ohio State scored three straight touchdowns and held Indiana scoreless, the Hoosiers played over their heads. Not much over their heads, perhaps - after all, they were 4-0 and ranked #9 in the country entering the contest with Ohio State - but enough over their heads that what should have been a fairly comfortable Buckeye victory was not finally decided until literally the last play of the game (a desperate Lateral Mary that the Buckeye defense actually seemed prepared for).

2. I'm not so confident in saying this, but I'm going to say it anyway: Ohio State isn't much better than they played yesterday. In the season opener against a really bad Nebraska team, Ohio State scored early and often and never let up (or if they did let up, Nebraska simply wasn't good enough to do anything about it). Then in Week 2, Ohio State opened up a 21-3 lead against Penn State (now 0-5), only to see the Nittany Lions outscore the Buckeyes 22-17 thereafter. The same thing happened in Week 3, as Ohio State raced out to a 35-3 lead against Rutgers, only to be outscored down the stretch, 24-14. Last night was more of the same: After Ohio State went up 35-7 early in the 3rd quarter, Indiana finished the game on a 28-7 run, with the Buckeyes' only remaining touchdown coming on a defensive score. It's now three games in a row where the Buckeyes have built an early lead and then melted down or slacked off or lost interest or whatever they've done...
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1. Indiana University is located in Bloomington, about an hour southwest of Indianapolis. IU is the state's flagship public university. The school's motto is Lux et Veritas, which translates to: "Light and Truth".

2. Indiana's colors are crimson and cream and the mascot is the Hoosier. No one knows exactly what a Hoosier is, other than a term for a resident of Indiana. Some say that Hoosier comes from an old Indian word, hoosa, which apparently meant "maize". Whatever the origin of the obscure word, Hoosier now apparently means: "friendliness, neighborliness, an idyllic contentment with Indiana landscape and life." At least that's according to the Indiana Historical Society, which is probably not the most objective source for such information.

3. Indiana has played football for 132 years. The Hoosiers have been good at football for maybe a dozen of those 132 years. Indiana's overall record is 497-684-44, for a .424 winning percentage. Among Power5 teams, only Wake Forest (.414) has a worse winning percentage.

4. Indiana is not a charter member of the Big Ten, but they have been in the conference since 1900. In conference play, the Hoosiers have a record of 223-511-26 (.311 winning percentage), and have been outscored 18,333 to 11,885 (24.1 to 15.6 on a per game basis). In 120 years of participating in Big Ten football, the Hoosiers have just two conference championships (1945; 1967).

5. Indiana does not have a recognized national championship, or any unrecognized national championships for that matter. The closest that Indiana has come to a national championship was the 1945 season when the team compiled a fine record of 9-0-1 (the Hoosiers' only undefeated season in their history). Indiana's only blemish was a 7-7 tie...
After last night's utterly embarrassing loss to Wisconsin, a 49 to 11 blowout at home that was even worse than that lopsided score would indicate, it looks like the Michigan Football 2020 Preseason Hype Train has finally ground to a halt. The Hype Train is an annual event up in Ann Arbor, a premature ejaculation over the Heisman Trophy and National Championship and victory in The Game that will certainly come this year, because this is their year once again. We're used to the Hype Train down here in Ohio, it's old news and played out and barely warrants a snicker these days, it's all so outrageous and overblown. But this year's loads of loving hype were extra sticky and gooey, and Michigan Man lapped it all up and kept coming back for more. Here are some of the best money shots:

Josh Gattis (Michigan OC): Joe Milton makes NFL highlight reel plays.

Brandon Brown (Sports Illustrated): Compares Joe Milton to Cam Newton and young Big Ben.

Josh Ross (Michigan LB): "We should have the best running back room in the country for sure, no doubt."

Brandon Knapp (Wolverines Wire): Michigan's depth at WR should scare opponents.

Don Brown (Michigan DC): Aidan Hutchinson and Kwity Paye are the best DE duo in the country.

Sam Webb (247 Sports): Compares Aidan Hutchinson to the Bosa Brothers.

Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan DE): Michigan's defensive line will create "matchup nightmares.... It's going to be scary once we get out there."

Shaun Nua (Michigan DL coach): "Kwity Paye is literally a freak."

Josh Ross (Michigan LB): Michigan has the two best linebackers in the country (Cam McGrone and himself).

Cam McGrone (Michigan LB): He is scared for everybody in Michigan's path. Vows revenge on Wisconsin.

Don Brown (Michigan DC): Dax Hill is the best cover guy in the Big Ten.

Isaiah Hole (Wolverines Wire): Predicts that Michigan will be 11-0 entering the Ohio State game.​

Whew! Had enough yet? I'm sure that I could find several more pearls of wisdom...
Q: Can a 49-27 win be unimpressive?

A: Yes. See Rutgers @ Ohio State, 11/07/2020.

Part of the reason the score was unimpressive is that Rutgers left eleven easy points on the field. Rutgers attempted 2-point conversions after each of their four touchdowns, and they failed each time. And in the final minute of the game, Rutgers had the ball first-and-goal from the 2-yard line against the Buckeyes' reserve defenders, and their third-string QB fumbled the ball away without even getting hit. Give Rutgers those eleven easy points and it becomes a 49-38 game. It looked like a 49-38 game. It felt like a 49-38 game.

Another reason the win was unimpressive was the effort level by Ohio State. The Buckeyes lost the battle of the trenches all night long, and quite frankly they seemed bored and even entitled for much of the game. I get it - the Mighty Mighty Buckeyes don't want to play Lowly Rutgers in an empty Horseshoe on a Saturday night. They didn't want to be there. They'd rather be doing something else. But you know who did want to be there, and who wanted to do nothing else but play to a crowd of cardboard cutouts? Rutgers, that's who. The Scarlet Knights were hungry, they were aggressive, they were smart, and, thanks to their coaches, they were innovative. Rutgers had no real chance to win last night - Ohio State was simply too talented to allow that to happen - but they played one Hell of a game. And they made Ohio State look unimpressive.

Now on to some specific news and notes:

1. Justin Fields once again played like a future Heisman winner, completing 24 of 28 passes for 314 yards, with 5 touchdowns and no interceptions. No complaints here.

2. The primary beneficiaries of Fields's largesse were, as usual, Garrett Wilson (6 receptions, 104 yards, TD) and Chris Olave (5 receptions, 64 yards, 2 TDs). Jameson Williams caught just...
Game Thread Penn State Recap
Penn State Post-Game Thoughts

1. With the 38-25 win, Ohio State now leads the series versus Penn State, 22-14 (.611 winning percentage), including 20-8 (.714 winning percentage) in Big Ten play. Ohio State has outscored Penn State 834 to 678 (23.2 to 18.8 on a per game basis). In Big Ten games, Ohio State has outscored Penn State 773 to 531 (27.6 to 19.0 on a per game basis).

2. A 13-point win against a pre-season top-10 team seems pretty impressive, but the game wasn't really that close. Ohio State settled for three FG attempts inside the 5-yard line, and missed two of them (one with an injured Blake Haubeil; one with his backup, walk-on Dominic DiMaccio). Penn State was clearly gifted a FG of their own when the clock malfunctioned (or something) at the end of the first half, and a second FG after a phantom roughing the passer call allowed them to convert a 3rd-and-12. If Ohio State makes their two short FG, and the refs don't gift Penn State six points, then your final score is 44-19. If Ohio State converts TDs in those goal-to-go situations, then the final score is 56-19. You get the idea.

3. Justin Fields had another Heisman-caliber performance. He was 28/34 (.824) for 318 yards, 4 TDs, and no interceptions.

4. If I have one quibble about Fields - or perhaps it is really a quibble about the Ohio State offense in general - it is this: The Buckeyes have a difficult time converting touchdowns inside the 5-yard line. Over the past four games with Fields at QB (Wisconsin and Clemson last season; Nebraska and Penn State this season), Ohio State has been at or inside the 5-yard line eleven times, with the following results: 4 TDs; 4 FGs; 2 missed FGs; and 1 fumble. Four touchdowns in eleven tries inside the 5-yard line is quite simply awful. Granted, Wisconsin, Clemson, and Penn State have solid defenses, and perhaps one or two...
Some Post-Game Thoughts

1. After being tied 14-14 with 8:24 left in the 2nd quarter, Ohio State outscored Nebraska 38-3 over the rest of the game. Ohio State started slow and sloppy, Nebraska started hot and played hard. The talent gap between the two programs is literally amazing. There are plenty of third-stringers on Ohio State who would start (or see significant playing time) for Nebraska.

2. Justin Fields was 20/21 for 276 yards and 2 TDs. His only incompletion was a "drop" by Chris Olave on a 43-yard pass into the end zone. It was definitely a tough catch, but an All American caliber receiver should have come down with the ball. If Olave does so, then Fields is a perfect 21/21 for 319 yards, 3 TDs, and an off-the-charts QB rating.

3. Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave were the primary beneficiaries of Fields' outstanding performance, as Wilson had 7 receptions for 129 yards and a TD, while Olave had 6 receptions for 104 yards. The rest of the receiving corps didn't do much, although true freshmen Julian Fleming (1 reception, 13 yards) and Jaxon Smith-Njigba (2 receptions, 5 yards) each made the first reception of his Buckeye career. Smith-Njigba's second reception was a 5-yard TD where he was barely able to get his foot down in the end zone, a play reminiscent of Michael Thomas's famous catch against Alabama in 2014.

4. Fields also had 15 rushes for a team-high 54 yards and another TD. Those would be acceptable numbers if it were 2016 and our QB were JT Barrett. The Buckeyes need to find a running game from their tailbacks, none of whom had a good (or even a decent) game: Trey Sermon 11 carries, 48 yards, no TDs; Master Teague 12 carries, 41 yards, 2 TDs; Steele Chambers 4 carries, 32 yards, 0 TDs;...
June 2019 will be the most important month for football recruiting in Ohio State's long and storied history. Yes, that sounds like a lot of hyperbole, but some month has to be the most important, so why not June of 2019?

Recruiting in general has become more important in recent years, and much more difficult for football programs to navigate, with early signing, early enrollment, early departures for the NFL, grad transfers, the transfer portal, camps, combines, all-star games, and social media all complicating a process that was none too simple to begin with. However, the the biggest impact on teams - by far - has been the shift from local recruiting to national recruiting. It is no longer good enough for a college staff, in its never-ending quest for talent, to build relationships with players and coaches in its home state alone. Nowadays, the recruiting trail extends across the entire country, and the successful staffs have to build those relationships every step of the way. Because if they don't, someone else will. And when blue chip prospects are at stake, you can't let someone else have the advantage through your own inaction.

As recently as the Tressel era, Ohio State signed 60.4% (134 of 222) of its recruits from Ohio, and 73.4% (163 of 222) from Ohio plus the surrounding states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, and the province of Ontario. In an effort to bring in top talent from around the country, Urban Meyer turned those numbers on their heads. Under Meyer, only 39.2% (73 of 186) of recruits came from Ohio; 47.8% (89 of 186) from Ohio plus the surrounding states; and a majority - 52.2% (97 of 186) from outside of the region, including places as remote as West Roxbury, Massachusetts; Tarboro, North Carolina; Pendleton, South Carolina; North Little Rock, Arkansas; La Grange, Texas; Owasso, Oklahoma; Windsor, Colorado; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Pocatello, Idaho; and Kahuku, Hawaii (although Ryan Day gets most of the credit...