As Michigan State wide receiver Keith Nichol stretched across the goal line to give the Spartans a 37-31 victory against Wisconsin last Saturday night, the Ohio State football team was suddenly back in contention in the Big Ten race.
OSU players were paying attention to the game, which had major Big Ten implications, and took to Twitter afterward to voice their opinions on the outcome.
Junior fullback Zach Boren wrote on his Twitter account, @ZBoren44: “#buckeyenation it’s time to rock! Guess whose back in the hunt?? That’s right. Let’s go bucks!!”
From from his account, @Fragel88, junior tight end Reid Fragel said: “Well, our season is back. Let’s go.”
Fellow junior tight end Jake Stoneburner was a bit more ambitious about the implications of a Michigan State victory.
From @STONEYeleven, Stoneburner’s Twitter account, the tight end said: “we need them (Wisconsin) to lose so we can go to the big ten champ game.”
To be clear, the Buckeyes have a long way to go before they can even think about playing in the conference title game. With a 1-2 record within the Big Ten, OSU must win its last five games and hope that Penn State ends up with two losses within the conference in order to clinch the Leaders Division’s bid to the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game.
At a Tuesday press conference, first-year OSU head coach Luke Fickell acknowledged the possibility for the players to be excited about the potential chance to control its fate.
“We have a lot of things to play for,” Fickell said. “We understand that. Maybe it’s another little something that our guys saw. Maybe they believe in themselves a little bit more. Maybe they see vulnerability. I don’t know what it is.
“Whatever it is, it still comes down to us handling our own business and taking care of what we need to take care of.”
Junior defensive lineman John Simon said a lot of players got a boost seeing the Badgers lose, but added that the the team can’t look too far ahead.
“I would say it gave a lot of guys motivation,” Simon said. “We have to take it one week at a time. We can’t get ahead of ourselves or anything like that. Really one practice at a time, make sure we’re continuing to get better every week. If we do that, we should be all right.”
The Buckeyes will have the opportunity to prove that they belong in the Big Ten race this Saturday night when they face Wisconsin.
The Badgers (6-1, 2-1) will be looking to ruin the Buckeyes’ chase for an outright Big Ten title for the second straight season. Last year, Wisconsin knocked off an undefeated top-ranked OSU team, 31-18, to spoil the Buckeyes’ national title hopes.
OSU later vacated its entire 2010 season as part of self-imposed penalties for NCAA violations.
Fickell said that while he doesn’t believe Saturday is a game of redemption or repayment for the 2010 loss, the team won’t disregard the feeling of losing in Madison, Wisc., last season.
“None of us forget the feeling,” Fickell said. “That’s probably the most important thing. You learn from losses. You learn how to react and respond. You never forget the feeling.
“That’s the one thing I reminded them of. We’re not going to dwell upon last year. That was last year. We’re focused on what we do, but don’t forget the feeling.”