After watching his football team pull away from Missouri to claim an SEC crown, Gus Malzahn wasted no time stumping for Auburn to earn a spot in the BCS title game. The way the Big Ten championship game began, it seemed as if the Tigers head coach could’ve saved his breath.
The way the first half ended, though, indicates the great SEC-Big Ten debate has the potential to burn well into the next couple of nights.
After falling behind 17-0 through a quarter and a half of play, and looking tentative, uneasy and undisciplined in doing so, Ohio State regrouped to score the final 10 points of the half and entered the locker room trailing Michigan State 17-10. Another positive for OSU? They get the opening kick of the second half as well.
Connor Cook led the way for MSU as the Ohio high school product passed for 182 yards and two touchdowns as a suspect Buckeyes pass defense was once again exposed. Interference calls (two pass, one punt) on the Buckeyes aided the Spartans’ cause greatly as they ran out to that 17-0 lead with just over nine minutes remaining in the second quarter.
Bottled up for most of the first 21 minutes, Braxton Miller‘s legs awoke as he finished the half with 74 yards rushing against the top-ranked run defense in the country. The surging Heisman candidate also accounted for OSU’s only touchdown of the half, a 20-yarder to Philly Brown that cut the lead to 17-7. Carlos Hyde, who has rushed for 100-plus yards in seven straight games, has been held to 37 yards on eight carries.
An Ohio State win that sees the Buckeyes not only overcoming the deficit but easily pulling away from the Spartans could put the second-ranked and unbeaten Buckeyes in the BCS title game against Florida State. An OSU second half that mirrors the first half could, win or lose, put Auburn into the BCS title game.
Let the conference debate rage for at least another 30 minutes of playing time…