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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Texas Football: The Ohio State Game 

Week Two: No. 2 Texas (1-0) v. No. 1 Ohio State (1-0)
Last Week: Texas 56, North Texas 7; Ohio State 35, Northern Illinois 12
Last Meeting: 2004 -- Texas 25, Ohio State 22
All-Time Series: Texas leads, 1-0

It's Here.

Number One versus Number Two.

The Game of the Year.

(At least until ESPN crowns Notre Dame-USC with that title later this Fall).

Hell Yes!

Last year Texas eked out a thrilling win against the Buckeyes in the Horseshoe. Each team gave it their best, evenly battling for almost 60 minutes. Then Texas, as they would do later in the season against USC, found a way to turn the tide late in the game. Vince Young led the Horns down the field and threw a perfect TD strike to Limas Sweed. The Texas defense held and tarnished the Buckeyes' perfect record under the lights in the Horseshoe.

That was last year.

When Texas and Ohio State met in 2005 they played to see who would have the inside track to meet USC in Pasadena. But the college landscape in 2006 is vastly different. As many as a dozen teams appear capable of running the table, including the two that will meet at DKR-Memorial Stadium Saturday night. In fact, you could say that these are the only two teams that truly control their own destiny in the quest to end up in the BCS Championship game.

How big is this game?

Tempers are already flarng. The stress is unbelievable, and everyone involved feels the weight of uncertainty looming. And I'm just talking about the tailgating situation. (Brief aside: people started lining up Wednesday morning, and I think I've aged about ten years fretting over whether or not we'll secure even half of our normal spots from the fraternity kids that are squatting our entire lot).

The big story this week has been the arrest and subseuent suspension of Texas DB's Tarrell Brown (whose two claims to fame thus far in his career include (1) being the victm of the controversial offensive PI call that steamed Kansas coach Mark Mangino in 2004, and (2) breaking his arm colliding with a teammate on Dwayne Jarret's not-quite-nail-in-the-coffin TD in last season's Rose Bowl) and Tyrrell Gatewood (who has no claim to fame). It's almost been refreshing to hear their late-night exploits will be the reason we're going to lose, rather than the parrot-like squawking regarding our inexperience at QB. Frankly, I don't think either of the above doom us to an automatic loss, but what do I really know?

Well, I know this: these are two damn good football teams.

Motivating words from TWTWB that should pump up any Texas fan who isn't already teeming with excitement about this week

(and if you aren't then seriously, check your pulse, or start watching non-World Cup soccer).

San Antonio de Valero Mission

It was a lonely mission sitting on the grassy plains of South Texas, once used for the education of Native Americans by the Spanish empire. It’s name is said to come from the Spanish word Alamo (cottonwood) after the grove of nearby trees outside the stone walls. In Arabic, alamut has a simple meaning.

The Fortress.

The Alamo was held by Spanish forces until December of 1835 when it was surrendered to Texas forces. General William B. Travis entered the building on February 23, 1835 and led 187 men in the battle of their lives against the oppression of the Spanish army. Though their fight was valiant, it was an uphill battle.

On March 6, 1836, it fell.

170 years, 6 months, 3 days later….

Ohio State comes to town.

I’m not going to pretend that a football game is anywhere near as important as a battle for your freedom and your life, but what are we as writers if we can’t be a little hyperbolic every now and then?

We fought in Austin, Columbus, Dallas, Columbia, Stillwater, Waco, College Station, Houston and Pasadena for what every Longhorn fan will tell you was rightfully ours last season.

The national championship trophy.

And now, in our sports world = the battlefield world of metaphors, Saturday the Longhorns will hunker down for the battle of their life against the #1 team in the country. The I will be dotted on the DKR Memorial Stadium field for the first and perhaps last time. Buckeyes coach Jim Tressell will be roaming the sidelines in his trademark sweater vest, but if you look hard enough you can probably catch a glimpse of Woody Hayes over there in his trademark black tie. Close your eyes and you can probably hear Archie Griffin and Howard “Hopalong” Cassady hitting the shoulder pads of their teammates getting themselves fired up for the game.

I’ve always wondered what it would have been like to be standing watch on the Alamo walls late at night. You’re sitting there with the little bit of food you have, talking to someone from Tennessee or Georgia or Kentucky or any other state you’ve never visited. You’ve got your buckshot gun and knife and the sound you hear is deafening.


You know they’re out there. But you don’t see it until the sun comes up one cold February morning.

The enemy. Thousands of them.

Time to get ready. Because they’re coming.

They’re coming from skull session, where the “Best Damn Band in the Land” will play The Buckeye Battle Cry, form in rows of 12 to the drum cadence and mass on the stadium ramp, where they’ll proceed to set the tempo to 180 beats a minute. The percussion section leader will yell, “DRUMS ON THE SIDE”, and the band will march on the field, chanting “O-H-I-O, OHIO, O-H-I-O, OHIO”…they’ll dot the I on our field.

They’re coming.

They’re coming from Glenville, Ohio, where Troy Smith ruled the gridiron on Friday nights. They’re coming from Cleveland, Ohio, where Teddy Ginn first dreamed of playing in games like this. They’re coming from Akron, Ohio, where Antonio Pittman ran through defenses like a hot knife through butter.

They want what you’ve got. What you’ve worked your ass off for.

Enjoy it, Texas fans. This has never happened before. It will never happen again.

I said it last week, I’ll probably say it until it’s no longer of use.

Come and take it.

But good luck doing it on Texas soil.
William B. Travis would be proud. Well, he may be more of a Gamecocks fan. Still...

This Week's Game in a Nutshell

Both teams will match strength against strength, and weakness against weakness, this weekend. The Buckeyes showed the kind of offensive explosiveness you might expect last week. But except for one lull of a series, Texas didn't allow the Mean Green room to breathe, much less move the ball. Even without Tarrell Brown the Texas defense is incredibly fast and physical, and Ohio State won't be able to move th chains with ease. As far as Teddy Ginn is concerned, they guy is a phenomenal athlete, but he still hasn't poven himself to be a great WR, and in last year's game he was a non-factor.

On the other side of the ball, Ohio State showed that the stout defense from a year ago isn't quite what it was when NIU's Garrett Wolfe did his best Barry Sanders impression. Texas' running game, meanwhile, never managed to dominate North Texas the way it probably expected to dominate. Both units are no doubt better than what they showed a week ago, but who will ultimately win the battle of the trenches? Whichever team does will probably win the game.

The Greg Brown Memorial Pregame Premonition

Ohio State fans are not going to believe what they're seeing when they first lay eyes on Godzillatron. As for the game... I have a feeling that a big play is going to decide this one. Let's say that Aaron Ross takes a punt back for a TD to give the Horns a lead.

Personal Anecdote Involving This Week's Opponent

Last year my friends and I watched the game at Wizard's in Dallas. When Ohio State erased a 10-point deficit with their second touchdown a jorts-clad Buckeye fan with a goatee walked by and made a remark to our table. I stood up and told him, in no certain terms, to get lost. Later he came to apologize, but I wasn't having any of it. But by the time we won he was amicable and even complimentary of our team, plus he offered a jagerbomb as a peace offering. Now that I accepted. The guy also lost a bet with a friend and had to take a pie in the face as a result. He asked that I do the honors. I told him to come by our tailgate next season for the sequel.

Semi-Relevant Quote from the Big Lebowski

"Yeah, well, that's just your opinion, man."

This one needs no clarification. Most people outside of Austin expect Ohio State to win. Look for ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit to drool all over himself as he praises his alma mater and pronounces their superioirty to Texas Saturday morning on College Gameday. Lucky for us the Horns abide.

The Facts

- Ted Ginn is fast. Limas Sweed is fast.
- Colt McCoy is inexperienced. 80% of Ohio State's defense is inexperienced.
- Jim Tressel has a natonal title. Mack Brown has a national title.
- Last week's showings will have little to no effect on what happens Saturday.
- The whole country will be watching this game.
- Texas is undefeated all-time versus Ohio State.
- I successfully predicted Texas to win this game last year.

Just in Case You Forgot

Prediction: Texas 17, Ohio State 16



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