As I watched Ohio State get blasted right out of the state of California, I shook my head in disgust. I think the vast majority of football fans, outside of the Midwest, knew the Buckeyes had no chance to win this game. Not after their poor showing the week before against Ohio and after losing Beanie Wells. However, while it was not a surprise, it was still disappointing to watch. The Buckeyes, after some early success, crumbled and allowed the Trojans to simply embarrass them. Ohio State looked uptight, desperate, and above all, they looked like they weren't sure they belonged on the same field as USC.
Tressel used to have a big-game reputation, but after that spanking courtesy of Florida, Ohio State has gone quickly down the drain as far as reputation is concerned, and they're taking the rest of the Big 10 with them. And honestly, this type of shadow that is currently hovering over Ohio State should be very familiar to Longhorn fans. After all, it was not too long ago where we lost five straight to Oklahoma, a couple of them blowouts. It was not too long ago that Mack showed a complete inability to get our team ready for the "big" games.
I am not so much concentrating on OSU as I am making a comparison. After all, while I grant that USC was simply a better team, there's no reason that game should have been 35-3. Also granting that I truly believe that both Florida and LSU were better than Ohio State the last two years, that doesn't mean that those games should have been so one-sided as well (the LSU score is misleading; for those who watched the game, LSU pretty much did what they wanted after the first quarter). Likewise, while I will admit that Oklahoma simply had better teams than us when they blew us out, 65-13 scores and 63-14 scores are totally inexcusable. This shows a lack of confidence, preparation, and resolve that starts from the top.
Tressel must get his team back on track, to convince them that they are good enough to compete with the big boys. Mack needs to make sure we never go back to those days. When the VY magic descended upon Texas, when he helped bring out a culture change in Mack and the program, we felt the uptight, scared-of-your-own shadow days were long gone. We continued to feel that way even after our coaches screwed up the Ohio State game in '06 because we beat Oklahoma and were still on track towards the national title game. However, we dropped two straight, and while that largely has to do with Colt getting hurt, we still were better than both teams and choked the games away. We flopped last year against K-state and lost to a bad Aggie team AGAIN. The resounding bowl win helped ease the fears, but I know that I and many fans still have a little concern that we'll revert back to those days where we felt like we had to prove even to ourselves that we could play against OU and the like.
This season will feature as many big conference games as we've had in recent memory. Going to Colorado will not be easy, and then we get OU and Mizzou right after. We go to Lubbock and Lawrence, and Oklahoma State always seems to be a wild game. This is a young team, and while they should be taught not be arrogant, we should allow, and even encourage, youthful and brash confidence: They need to believe that they are good enough to play with anyone. They need to be unafraid to take the field against the mighty Sooners or the high-flying Tigers. Just like when VY showed no fear in the face of the juggernaut USC, we need our leaders, both coaches and veteran players, to instill the confidence needed to win these games. Some games in the past against OU, I really felt like we lost the game well before we even took the field.
Because of our youth and inexperience, many experts will be counting us out. Our young guys just need to be, well, young... in the sense that they don't know any better than to believe that they will come out and put the hurt on anyone. Again, I'm not advocating stupid overconfidence; they should be taught to respect their opponents. However, believing you can win is the first step to actually doing it.
I don't want to look like how Ohio State has looked against Florida, LSU, and now USC. Ohio State has some good football players that have looked awful on the big stage. We also have good football players. Let's make sure they SHINE on the big stage, Mack, because with this Big 12, it looks like the lights will be bright week in and week out.