Earlier this month, the pre-season polls started coming out. Our Ohio State Buckeyes were bubbling to the top, the cream that they are. I don’t remember which one was first (the ESPN/Coaches poll?) but I started getting nervous. The Sports Illustrated poll wouldn’t be far behind. Would they doom OSU’s chances at the National Title by featuring us on the cover? If they did, could we finally break the curse? I, like most of Buckeye Country, was a bit nervous picking up SI’s College Football Preview. Sure, there was more than one cover, the regional covers alleviating a little of the possibility of a 6-way curse, but there it was, hovering.
I was reminded of another SI cover:
I remember an IMMENSELY talented Buckeye team, lead by a talented quarterback, talented receivers and monster defense. I also remember a fateful afternoon in November, a dark, cold night in the ‘Shoe and a fateful fumble and a gut-wrenching interception, the hopes of a National Championship lost. With Troy and company on the cover of this year’s SI College Preview, I hope we don’t have to live through that again. Though the parallels between this team and the ’98 team aren’t strong, I still have two fears going into the season.
Overconfidence is my first fear. The players have been hearing the hype. They’ve seen the shows, they’ve seen the polls. How much is going to their head? On the outside, the Buckeyes, especially Troy Smith, have been saying all the right things. Coach Tressel has been training them well. They are keeping things very close to the vest (pun intended). Reading the article in the New York Times (discussed here earlier) painted a picture of low-key living by some of the Buckeyes, and hopefully they’ve been able to avoid the hype, to some extent.
Second, I worry about the expectations of the fans. Fellow MotSaGer Slyvester-Yon Rambo and I always discuss our “eternal contentment” with the Buckeyes. After the 2002 championship, we both decided that we would be content with OSU teams that go 10-2, 9-3, beating Michigan and winning the Big Ten but maybe not making it to the BCS Championship game each year. But is that enough for Buckeye fans as a whole? With all the hype and hope, will anything but a trip to the
Fiesta Bowl BCS National Championship Game be a disappointing season? Will fans be able to stand another disappointment at the hands of Texas or a loss to the Hawkeyes in Iowa City?
And couple that with the players on the field. Will the pressure and their own over-confidence be too much to handle? Will the young defense feel the need to perform immediately, stunting their development? Or will it propel the team to play harder, to prove the pundits right?
Only time will tell. Time that is quickly approaching.