Tomorrow at high noon on all ABC affiliates, my Ohio State Buckeyes will host the Michigan State Spartans. Both teams come in with identical 9-1 records. And for the first time since that string of meetings between 2013 and 2015, there are national championship implications at stake. In this 2021 season, Ohio State suffered an inexplicable home loss to Oregon but they’ve bounced back nicely by tearing through the Big Ten slate thus far. It all has the feels of 2014 to me and you know how that season ended. Tomorrow’s tussle with Michigan State is important for all of the reasons it was important then: a boost toward the College Football Playoff. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the 2014 Ohio State-Michigan State game.
How I first came across this moment? I came across the game when I first looked at the 2014 Ohio State football schedule in the Summer of 2014. With both teams playing extremely well deep into the season, the game received considerable national attention as ESPN College GameDay made an appearance in East Lansing and it was the prime time showcase on ESPN Saturday Night Football on ABC.
What it meant to me then? Besides the obvious Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff implications, the game had a more significant meaning: revenge. 11 months earlier, Michigan State beat Ohio State in the 2013 Big Ten Championship Game, spoiling the Buckeyes’ shot at Florida State in the 2014 Vizio BCS National Championship Game. Combined with the 1998 upset, which kept Ohio State out of the 1999 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Michigan State cost Ohio State chances to win the 1st and the last of the title games of the Bowl Championship Series. For me and many Ohio State fans, the 2014 contest between the two was extremely personal for that reason. I felt the internal animosity even as the late great John Saunders spearheaded the pre-game show. I read the animosity of the Ohio State fateful on the message boards as the game played out. When Michigan State missed the field goal up 21-14 and Michael Thomas burned their secondary on the next play, I knew it was our night. When Devin Smith hauled in the aforementioned bomb from J.T. Barrett just before halftime, there was no doubt that Ohio State was the superior team not only on the Spartan Stadium gridiron, not just in the Big Ten but in all of America. Ohio State dominating Michigan State that night meant a lot. It was the proof that we weren’t defined by losing Braxton Miller before the season started or by the ugly September home loss to Virginia Tech. It gave us control of our own destiny…a destiny that ended with a blitzkrieg of Wisconsin in the 2014 Big Ten Championship Game, the humbling of Alabama in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the 2015 Allstate Sugar Bowl, and a title win against Oregon in the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Even as the clock read 0:00 and the final score of Ohio State 49, Michigan State 37 was confirmed, I was still amped up.
What it means to me now? Of course, the 2014 win over Michigan State means a lot because it boosted us toward the national championship. I remember us entering the game ranked 13th in the CFP Top 25 and moving up to 8th after the win. Tomorrow, we enter the contest ranked 4th in the CFP Top 25. A win against #7 Michigan State tomorrow, our annual feasting of the surprisingly Top 10-ranked Michigan next week, and a win over a likely Top 15-ranked Big Ten West representative in Indianapolis in 2 weeks should be enough for Ohio State to be, at the very least, the #2 team in the final CFP Top 25 poll on Selection Sunday. I’m definitely geared up for tomorrow’s game. Hopefully, by 4pm local, I’ll be cheering on a 10-1 Ohio State team.
Oh yeah, check out the actual 2014 Ohio State-Michigan State game here…