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Sugar Bowl Recap
January 5, 2011 - Al Stephenson
I approached last night's Sugar Bowl matchup between Ohio State and Arkansas with mixed feelings. I had a number of questions concerning the game including the following: 1) would my disappointment with the five Buckeyes who violated NCAA rules make me hesitant to root for the team I have been a fan of all my life? 2) should the five guys have even been allowed to play in this game? 3) did the Big Ten's 0 for New Year's Day performance make this a game where I would have to admit the superiority of the SEC?
Turns out the answers to those questions were - No, Yes and Yes. Here's my take.
Despite my unhappiness with the Buckeye Five, I found myself rooting for OSU like normal. Now normal for me is not quite the same as it is for some fervent Buckeye fans. I don't scream at the TV, gripe loudly about questionable officiating or unimaginative play calling (it is worth noting that the operable words here are scream and loudly as I do get frustrated with things particularly the play calling) . I want the Bucks to win however and will not give up my loyalty despite the transgressions. So root, root, root for OSU I did.
The NCAA handed down their decision to suspend the five Buckeyes for the first five games next year. Ohio State and Sugar Bowl officials lobbied the NCAA to not use the Bowl game to start the punishment, each having their own personal reasons for doing so. For those that thought OSU should have taken it upon themselves to add missing the Sugar Bowl to the punishment - I don't agree.
Assuming (yes, I do know what assuming means) the five guys keep their promise, return for their senior seasons and ultimately face the music for their indiscretions, then the NCAA punishment is more than adequate. Though I wouldn't normally be in favor of delayed punishment (you can't smack the puppy two hours after he piddles if you want him to stop piddling) this time it makes sense. I don't really care about the TV ratings or the welfare of the fans who spent a lot of money to attend the game. Stuff happens. I do like the fact that the senior members of OSU's football team get a more realistic chance to go out a winner. For their sake it was nice to see the Bucks at full strength.
As for the final question, it's time to come clean. Top to bottom the SEC is superior to the Big Ten. Despite the Buckeyes victory, there is no question in my mind about which conference is better. Why is the SEC better? For me it's relatively simple. They have more quickness. The one single element that is more important in any sport is quickness. You can make up for a lack of other things, but not quickness. One more thing to add to the equation, as far as Ohio State is concerned at least, is the conservative nature of Jim Tressel. Like it or not he believes that to win games you keep the score close so you have a chance to win at the end. It is hard to argue with the philosophy as it has made his career winning percentage pretty incredible. It can also come back to haunt you as it almost did last night.
Ohio State played like an SEC school in the first half, mixing up plays and going deep. It worked pretty well. In the second half they went to a more conservative style, choosing to protect the lead and playing not to lose. That is tough for many fans to take, particularly if it doesn't work. Last night they held on and we now bask in the knowledge that OSU has finally beaten an SEC opponent.
The view from my seat would suggest that if nothing else the game was extremely entertaining. If we could just remember that sports should be entertainment and not something more important!
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