COLUMBUS, OH—In what had been touted as a college-football matchup for the ages, the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes defeated the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines 42-39 Saturday in a game that, while exciting, ultimately made no real impact on the football landscape and had no significant effect on the national rankings.
"Well, of course I'm sad we lost, but since we're still the No. 2 team in the country, it's hard to feel all that bad about it," said Michigan quarterback Chad Henne, who finished with 21 completions on 35 attempts and two touchdowns. "And I've still never beaten Ohio State, so that's too bad. But hey, apparently losing doesn't hurt Michigan in the rankings, so I guess I get to try again in the national championship game. See you then!"
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel echoed many of Henne's statements in a press conference during which he had obvious problems staying interested.
"This was a tough game for us," Tressel said. "By which I mean it was tough to get excited about it. Playing Michigan should be special, but going into this game, we knew that no matter what happened on the field, the BCS polls would have us either first or second. There was really no point in playing this at all."
"I mean, come on—we could have lined up in alphabetical order in the end zone dressed in nothing but helmets and socks and whacked off for 60 minutes, and the BCS would still send us to the Tostitos Championship Game," Tressel told the assembled reporters. "Hell, you'd all still vote for [Buckeyes quarterback] Troy Smith to win the Heisman. And you know it."
For his part, Smith tried to look on the bright side of his team's empty victory.
"It's still better than a loss, even though that wouldn't have affected our future in any way," Smith said as he rushed to leave the locker room. "Nothing we've done this season would have affected our future, if you think about it. When you start out being voted number one because a bunch of people like your team, it doesn't give you much reason to play the games at all. Part of me is glad Bo Schembechler didn't live to see this."
Schembechler, the Ohio State graduate who became a football legend in his two decades as coach of the Wolverines, died the day before the game, shortly after addressing the Michigan squad.
"I'll never forget what he told us," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "He stood there and told us that no matter how well or how poorly we played on Saturday, how many yards we gained, how many tackles we delivered, that it didn't matter. Because we were the Michigan Wolverines, and win or lose, the Wolverines were almost certainly going to play in the championship game."
"I got chills when he quietly looked at every player there, and everyone in the locker room could see how profoundly moved he was," said Wolverines tailback Mike Hart. "Then he told us, 'You know, men, it isn't your fault, but this whole thing is really a bunch of bullshit. I'm proud of you and all, but there's nothing at stake here, so have a fun little football game and don't get hurt. Now I think I need to go lie down, because the thought of my beloved Michigan going along with this pointless crap is making me sick.'"
"That was the last time any of us saw him alive," Hart added.
Barring a major upset, Michigan and Ohio State will face one another again in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game held at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ to determine for the second and last time this season—and the first time with actual ramifications—which team is to be ranked first and which second.