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Big Ten Review: Books to Celebrate the Buckeye Championship Team

Whenever a magical run to a championship happens, there is no shortage of memorabilia, team gear, and books/magazines to collect. The only limit typically is the budgetary concerns of your wallet.

Ohio State’s 2014 College Football Playoff championship is no different. Today we take a look at recently-released (and one not so recently-released) books commemorating the most recent Buckeye title, to see where Buckeye Nation should be spending money.

After all, it could be 12 years (2002) or 34 years (1968) before another title comes to Columbus, and you have to have something to remember the best times.

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nextmanup

The first book reviewed is Next Man Up, which is the commemorative season recap book released by Triumph Books on behalf of The Columbus Dispatch, the primary local newspaper in Columbus. The Dispatch has two long-time professional writers manning the Ohio State football beat every season in Bill Rabinowitz and Tim May, and this book is largely a collection of Dispatch paper articles from these two reporters.

More specifically, Rabinowitz wrote the primary game recap story each week, so his writing is predominant throughout this book. Between several of the game recaps, special features written by May and Rabinowitz on certain players and stories fill out some gaps left between the week-to-week recap grind.

After a brief introduction with remarks on the incredible journey the 2014 Buckeye football team embarked upon (which is a nice added touch unique to Next Man Up), the book jumps right in with the Dispatch’s game stories and pictures from the College Football Playoff. The photography chosen, particularly in this section on the playoff, is a great collection for a “coffee table” book commemorating the championship season. These photos include Michael Thomas’s incredible touchdown catch on a trick play pass from fellow receiver Evan Spencer against Alabama, and Ezekiel Elliott bowling over two Ducks for a touchdown in the championship (also used as the cover for Sports Illustrated).

Although it is a bit strange to start at the end, this is where most short-attention spans will want to go first anyway, and these features on the playoff games are longer and more detailed than the other games covered in the book. Turning to the rest of the book, each regular season game is featured over 4 pages, with 2 or 3 large photographs accompanying Rabinowitz’s Sunday game recap story. If you were a Buckeye fan in 2002 and bought the analogous 2002 commemorative book “A Season To Remember,” you will find this part of the book very familiar.

The special feature stories are highlighted by an August article written about J.T. Barrett before everyone knew how he would perform, in-season profiles about senior leaders Evan Spencer and Michael Bennett, and the tragic suicide of Kosta Karageorge. The profile on sudden star running back Ezekiel Elliott revealed his bare-midriff style is a matter of substance, not 80’s style:

“I don’t really like when people tackle me by grabbing my jersey, so I just tuck it up under my pads.” – Elliott

These and other interesting facts are revealed throughout these profiles, which are the pieces which bring out the character of this team (while the game recaps focus on the on-field happenings). If you enjoy the writing style of Tim May and especially of Bill Rabinowitz, then this commemorative book is the one you should buy.

In sum, Next Man Up collects all the best stories from the local Columbus paper that leads the reporting charge on the Buckeye football team, and that makes for a good piece of memorabilia to keep on the bookshelf for years to come.

Next Man Up is available as an e-book and as a trade paperback from Triumph Books directly or from Amazon.

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againstallodds

Ironically choosing to use the same cover photograph of Urban Meyer lifting the CFP Championship Trophy from a slightly different angle than is used on the cover of Next Man Up, the other primary option for a commemorative season recap book is Against All Odds, published by KCI Sports Publishing on behalf of The Lantern, which is the student newspaper of The Ohio State University.

This book follows what is likely a more predictable formula, covering the games in true chronological order with the Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoff recaps located at the end of the book. However, once again other feature articles from throughout the season are sprinkled in between every two to three game recap stories.

The game recaps tend to cover 6 pages, which is a bit longer than in Next Man Up.  These extra 2 pages are usually taken up with a single huge photograph from the game being discussed, a nice 2-page spread feature photograph, if you will. The photography in this book does have some weak spots though, with a small handful of the selected photos being a touch too blurry for the size of pages.

Something unique to Against All Odds is that each game recap does include a detailed box score with a scoring drive summary for each score throughout the game, which provides a better view of how these games actually played out throughout the season.

An additional difference is that every single story (feature and game recap) in Against All Odds is credited to The Lantern’s sports editor Tim Moody. Therefore, even if multiple student contributors were helping write these stories throughout the 2014 season, Moody’s style permeates the book and has to be something you enjoy to enjoy reading the text of this book. Much like evaluating Rabinowitz in the Next Man Up book, it is recommended to read through one of the game recaps to see if you prefer Moody’s writing style compared to Rabinowitz.

The Lantern staff and Moody cover these games in a professional manner, but the spirit of being students during this journey of the football team and university seems to come out more in these game articles than the writings of Bill Rabinowitz and Tim May (who do this to earn a living). Particularly if you are a student of The Ohio State University, you may appreciate and relate to this perspective more than the general news production offered by The Dispatch writers.

The additional feature articles each span only 2 pages, covering similar topics as those added articles in Next Man Up. For example, these special features include articles about the wide receivers, Joey Bosa, the death of Kosta Karageorge, and Urban Meyer’s playoff coaching prowess. These features again are intended to tell more about the personality and behind-the-scenes story of this Buckeye team, but The Lantern staff does not appear to go behind-the-scenes as well as the Dispatch features in Next Man Up.

The book is available in hardcover only from outlets like Amazon, which is a nice touch that could help this book hold up better as a long term collectible. The page stock within the book is a bit thinner than that in Next Man Up, as best can be discerned. That could potentially affect the book, should it be a piece that receives a lot of reading and attention.

In sum, Against All Odds is simply a collection of the articles featured in The Lantern throughout the 2014 football season without as much reflection or overview added. If simple and straightforward recaps with detailed box scores and full two-page spread photographs are your preference, then this book will be a good choice for your memorabilia shelf or coffee table.

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buckeyerebirth

The final book to consider as a keepsake regarding the 2014 Buckeye football team is actually not a new release, but a book that came out 15 months ago. Buckeye Rebirth was Bill Rabinowitz’s first feature-length book regarding the team and beat that he covers for the Columbus Dispatch (specifically the 2012 Buckeye squad that went 12-0 despite being on NCAA sanction with post-season ineligibility), and it reveals a distinctive type of writing talent perhaps not seen in his weekly beat reporter work.

Rabinowitz dove deep with many hours of research and interviews into the Meyer family and their decision to come to Ohio State, the formation of Urban’s first coaching staff, the initial relationship-building with the team, and finally, the stories behind the scenes which affected the games of the 2012 season. That leads to a surprising amount of insight and new facts never-before-revealed about the beginning of the Meyer tenure at OSU and the highly unlikely 2012 undefeated season.

While the extra insight into the coaching history and philosophies of many of the coaches on the 2012 (and 2014) coaching staff is a compelling window inside the Buckeye program, some of the most notable anecdotes and stories come from the recruitment process (Meyer’s first recruiting class included the redshirt sophomores and juniors on the 2014 team) and development of some of the young players who were desperately needed on a thin 2012 roster and became leaders by the time 2014 rolled around.

One of the most memorable of these stories was the detailed background of the recruiting of Noah Spence, a star defensive line prospect. Although Spence never was able to contribute to the 2014 team as a result of drug suspensions, he was one of the bigger stories of adversity facing the 2014 team that the Buckeyes overcome en route to the championship. Furthermore, it is always enlightening to learn more about the young men and their families forming the foundation of the program, which again hit full stride when this group of young players became the leaders of the team in 2014.

Granted, the focus of this book eventually turns to how the 2012 undefeated season plays out, but some of the key players coming of age throughout that season and the coach-player bonds formed in this season show a high amount of insight into what this football program would be built upon for the next few seasons, including the successful 2014 campaign. As a result, Buckeye Rebirth goes well beyond recapping a single season as it ends up providing useful insight and happy memories even without including any specific information of the 2014 season, which was still two years in the future when this book was released.

The bottom line is, this book is a must have for serious Buckeye fans, or even just those curious to understand how Urban Meyer so quickly forged a successful program again at Ohio State. To this end, this book is a good read for those outside Buckeye Nation as well. This is a good long-term in depth view into the program, which contrasts from and complements the commemorative game recap books of a much different style reviewed above.

Buckeye Rebirth is available from most major book retailers as well as Triumph Books and Amazon (for e-book lovers, the book is currently free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, although it is also available as a hardcover to keep on the memorabilia shelf).

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More books may be written and become available in the future about this Buckeye team, but these three provide very good options for someone looking to remember the great journey of 2014 (or 2012, with an in-depth look at the foundation for the 2014 team).

It appears your hard-earned dollars cannot be poorly spent, no matter which of these books you choose to add to your collection. Enjoy the reading, everyone!

(Special thanks to Triumph Books for providing Talking10.com a copy of Next Man Up for conducting the review above)

Dave is a FWAA member and a Columnist focusing on Big Ten football for talking10. Before joining talking in 2014, he was a Featured Columnist for three years at Bleacher Report and previously wrote for seven years on SouthernCollegeSports.com. He was born in Hawkeye Country and went to college in Columbus, so there's plenty of B1G running through his blood. Dave is a patent and trademark attorney in his day job. If you have any questions in those areas or about his latest articles, please contact him on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy.

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