Although I know you can find plenty of families like them in TSUN, I am not talking about anything close to “Honey Boo Boo.” I’m talking about the environmental change that comes with playing the marque B1G opener at Spartan Stadium.
Few conferences can match the B1G in pure attendance per capita of each stadium. With Spartan Stadium being one of the “smaller” venues (attendance record of 80,401) it is still one of the harder places to play. Michigan State is no “little brother” when it comes to playing football. They have a rich tradition over there, with 6 National Titles. Not to take a jab at “big brother” Michigan (OK, it’s a jab), but MSU’s National Titles are more recent than ALL BUT ONE of Michigan’s (their shared title of ’97). Now, they have only won the conference 7 times, but personally I’m not sure that’s a stat that matters with 6 National ones under their belt. Either way, these people know their football, and will gladly make that verbal.
The Buckeyes have won the last three times they traveled to East Lansing, but after last year’s loss, this time is a little different. A lot of these players haven’t had to deal with the notion of being the best in the B1G, last year was a game-by-game (no cliche there) coin flip of how we were going to play. This year, we expect greatness to eventually take over the so far manic-depressive nature of both the offense and the defense. Hopefully, being a 3 point dog in an opposing team’s stadium turns those Silver Blanks back into Bullets.
At any level, few things compare to the feeling of a big win in front of the home crowd. The cheering, the fans rushing the field, the overwhelming pride that comes with being in your stadium and saying, “This is OUR house.” But not close behind, I’d say debatably better in a Dark Side fashion, is shutting up an away crowd and putting a team away on the road. The way to do that is with defense. Nothing quiets an opposing crowd like watching their offense look like Brady Hoke waddling the 100 meter dash. It’s slow, it’s depressing, and let’s face it there’s more side to side movement than forward. This is where the boos come in. The boos fire up the aggressive guys on the team. The boos bring out the anger in the guys who enjoy shutting people up. The boos are the fuel for the beast within that is waiting to make those fans go home sad, and drink to feel better rather than to celebrate. Guys like John Simon, Ryan Shazier and Nathan Williams want those boos, they need those boos. They don’t want to be pampered by a home crowd celebrating them making a tackle already 6 yards downfield. They want to hear silence as they sack the QB for a 10 yard loss on 2nd and 5, knowing the next play they get to put an all out rush and go at him again. There’s something about being the away team, being the underdog, being doubted, that fuels the guys who thrive off that stuff. The guys who need the fuel, the guys fueling the rest of the team.
The Buckeyes need an away game, they need to know that people hate them. This year started with the praise of Urban Meyer, the leadership of the seniors and even the positive words from that one network. It’s time to stop being praised for a job-OK-done. It’s time for this team to grow up. Adversity builds character, and this team needs a little chip on their shoulder. Bring on those Spartans, bring on the away games, bring on the hate. And always remember, THE WHOLE DAMN STATE.
Embrace The Hate