Tomorrow, the Ohio State Buckeyes play in the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl against the Florida Gators. The Buckeyes wrapped up their practice sessions yesterday morning and were allowed to take an optional few hours diversion at Town Center Mall before returning to their hotel by 10pm, something the players likely needed after a long week of tough practice sessions led by outgoing head coach Luke Fickell.
It’s not just Luke Fickell’s last game, but that of defensive coordinator Jim Heacock and offensive coordinator Jim Bollman. With the hiring of Urban Meyer as the head coach at Ohio State, there were other changes brought about. Tom Herman is now the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Mickey Marotti is the assistant Athletic Directo for Football Sports Performance. Everett Withers is the defensive coordinator and assistant coach. Luke Fickell will remain on staff and share the defensive coordinator and assistant coach titled with Withers.
All of these changes and none of them make a difference in tomorrow’s game. They won’t make a difference as to who is on the sidelines. Luke Fickell will be the head coach and all of the other staff members will retain their current positions for the bowl game. They will make a difference in the distractions that these changes have will affect the team’s mental state.
The biggest thing that the media wants to talk about with tomorrow’s game is how Urban Meyer took a hiatus from coaching for health reasons, only to return a year later to coach for the Buckeyes. Now the Buckeyes will face his former team, the Gators, in tomorrow’s bowl game. Everyone wants to know what his former players are thinking and feeling and everyone wants to talk to Ohio State players about the same thing. Thankfully for the players, both Luke Fickell and Florida head coach Will Muschamp have done well during press conferences to quell those questions, simply letting the media know that they aren’t going to talk about it.
“We’re not going to talk about it,” Fickell said. “We’re going to talk about stuff that’s this week, this team, these guys and not worry about anything hypothetically.”
Good for Fickell. This game is going to be tough enough without talking about everything that’s gone on this season and what will happen next season.
The biggest thing that’s going to determine the outcome of this game is not the difference in style of play, but rather which team wants it more. Both teams ended the regular season at 6-6 and want to avoid a 7th loss. Florida will want to play well for their first year head coach and, while Meyer won’t be in attendance, show Meyer what he missed out on this season by leaving. Ohio State wants to send out the coaches that are leaving on a good note. They want to prove to Buckeye Nation that when at full strength, they are a good team and worth the loyalty they are given. They also don’t want to lose their final bowl game before serving a suspension next season.
It’s going to be a tough fight. An all-out knock-down, drag-out football game that’s typical of a Big Ten/SEC game. It’s not going to be pretty and there’s likely to be mistakes by both teams on each side of the ball as they still struggle for an identity. But one thing is for sure: This ain’t no typical bowl game. It will be watched and talked about by more people than the National Championship between LSU and Alabama. The drama surrounding this game alone will make it exciting. The way the players come out and show us their hearts at 1pm tomorrow will keep you on the edge of your seat. So grab a drink, deep fry your wings, and get ready for a battle.
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