Sports Today: Bengals remind what their winning formula looks like

Hey, the Cincinnati Bengals won a football game

And I even predicted it! 

So, what to make of it? 

Well, the Bengals’ 20-17 win in Denver stopped the bleeding if nothing else. 

We can now say the 2017 season probably won’t be a total disaster (unless they lose to the Browns on Sunday). 

I’m not big on tanking, generally, and with this roster I think playing as well as possible (more or less regardless of wins or losses) is important because there are a lot of young players who can get valuable experience between now and the end of the season. 

Plus, well, it’s a lot more interesting to write about a team that’s got something to play for. 

The playoffs still look like a long shot, and it’s just about impossible to imagine them beating anyone who would be good enough to make the playoffs… but winning is a lot more fun than losing. 

This game was a good example of a lot of larger themes that have created the overall season narrative. When they get done, the Bengals are good. When they don’t, they are bad: 

  • Andy Dalton was only asked to manage the game, and he did that well. (Meanwhile, Brock Osweiler somehow got a good grade from Pro Football Focus even though he needed 42 pass attempts to reach 254 yards and threw a crippling red zone interception that was basically the difference in the game.) 
  • The running game wasn’t efficient, but it was good enough to prevent the game from falling too heavily on Dalton’s shoulders. 
  • The defense forced turnovers. 
  • The offense scored in the red zone. 

BONUS: The pass protection, especially given the competition, was pretty good. 

That was enough… 

Ohio State had enough to beat Illinois, too, but that wasn’t saying much. 

I’d like to look up how many FCS teams are better than the Fighting Illini this season, but I don’t have time because it’s Michigan Week

>>>5 things to know about Ohio State’s win over UI

To get started, here are some numbers that explain where the series stands from the beginning, over the last 99 years (this is the 100th consecutive season the Buckeyes and Wolverines have played), since Woody Hayes was hired and more. 

I forgot to mention this: The Ohio State recruiting class that signed in 2014 has a chance to become the seventh to go 4-0 against Michigan. That had never happened until 2007 when the 2004 group did it and Chad Henne, Mike Hart, et al, were among those who stayed and were not champions. 

Early preview: Michigan’s not very good. Ohio State is pretty good… most of the time. 

As noted in that link, upsets used to define this series, but the most recent one happened in 2004 (there are some similarities between this year and that one with the roles reversed). 

Most of those Wolverines teams that haven’t pulled upsets really haven’t been good enough to. Is this one? I think so, but it will be a tall order… 

Unfortunately, this edition of Sports Today was delayed because of some very sad breaking news: Terry Glenn reportedly died in a car accident in Texas

Glenn was the best receiver in college football in 1995, a year in which Ohio State showcased the kind of powerful multifaceted offense the Buckeyes were rarely known for in previous years. 

Those years in the mid-90s, though marked by disappointments against Michigan, were crucial in rebuilding the foundation of the program, leading to a historically great 1998 recruiting class and setting the stage for Jim Tressel’s decade of dominance over the Wolverines and the Big Ten… 

Madison High School was one of four to make the playoffs for the first time this year, and the Mohawks are still alive after crushing West Jefferson on Friday night

Next up is a trip to Chillicothe to take on undefeated Wheelersburg, an Ohio river town with a long history of postseason success that includes a state championship in 1989. 

Also still going strong: Trotwood-Madison. The Rams handled Chaminade Julienne to earn their eighth consecutive trip to the state final four, an amazing accomplishment. 

They will see a familiar foe there in Toledo Central Catholic. 

The Rams beat the Fighting Irish in the same round last year after losing to them in three times in the previous five years. 

They’ll play in Piqua on Friday night

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