Cus Words: Beautiful Mess

An old Diamond Rio standard provides inspiration this week in Ohio State football, where some have come to praise Terrelle Pryor and others still want to see more. The author says Pryor's record speaks for itself even if he is still a work in progress. Find out how as well as plenty more in this week's Cus Words.

What we learned this week: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but wins are forever.

There was plenty of debate in the aftermath of Ohio State's 20-17 defeat of Iowa on Saturday afternoon about just how well the Buckeyes and their star quarterback played.

Terrelle Pryor's numbers were not great, but how he achieved them and just what they should have been were also up for interpretation.

What cannot be argued, however, is where the win put the Buckeyes: In position to clinch at least a share of a sixth consecutive Big Ten championship.

Pryor's critics, myself among them at times, have waited a while for the quarterback to meet some kind of aesthetic ideal for productive players at his position, but perhaps we are missing the forest for the trees.

What do we look at most closely, the interceptions or the touchdown? The happy feet or the crucial scramble?

At this point, I'm still not sure. I guess it doesn't matter since there are more games to be played, but we are a society of instant evaluators these days, so not having an answer can be disconcerting even if there is not necessarily a need for one.

I stressed patience with Pryor last season, and I have off and on been impressed with him this year, but I will admit to getting impatient waiting for him to get past things like the decisions he made for his two interceptions. I wonder why he still loses his fundamentals at times and seems to let the game look too big for him, but there are still the moments he can grab the contest and take control of it for just long enough to change the flow of it irreversibly.

We can't say that about a lot of players, so it should not be overlooked, but the mistakes are not to be completely ignored, either.

Rarely is life cut and dried or black and white. As Pryor has pointed out and NFL fans saw again this weekend, even Peyton Manning makes head-scratching plays from time to time, so it's not as if perfection is ever going to be achieved.

Pryor is held to a high standard, but that's not entirely unfair. He is talented, and he has 33 career starts.

I think overall he is a good kid who generally means well even when he errs. If he never takes the kind of step Troy Smith did in 2006, his career is not a failure by any means.

He could still win three or even four Big Ten titles before he's done, so he is assured of having a meaningful legacy no matter what happens next, but this is also a guy who said before he got here he would be disappointed without winning a national championship.

Before the season I said I thought he was ready to be a quarterback resembling Smith of 2005 vintage. That season the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner was erratic at times, too, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised with what he's done so far. He's been more productive, albeit with more games and against a weaker schedule.

Anyway, maybe how it looks is just not that important. What really matters is what goes down on paper in the big bold letters that spell w-i-n or l-o-s-s.


What we can expect to learn this week: The most interesting aspect of the 107th meeting between Ohio State and Michigan is the chance to answer the question of which unit is better, the Buckeye defense or the Wolverine offense.

Offensive guru Rich Rodriguez's first bona fide spread-option attack at Michigan against an Ohio State defense that has made a habit of shutting down various spreads the past couple of seasons.

Michigan leads the Big Ten in rushing and total offense, while Ohio State is No. 1 in the conference in rushing, passing, total and scoring defense.

Counting his days at West Virginia, Rodriguez has assembled some of the most successful offenses in college football in the past decade, but Ohio State has allowed fewer touchdowns than any other school in Division I-A college football since Jim Heacock became defensive coordinator in 2005.

Ohio State has developed an effective plan for stopping spread offenses, but this is certainly the best one the Buckeyes will face this regular season.

Ohio State held Oregon in check in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, but I think this Michigan offense has more weapons to worry about, and this Buckeye defense has not proven it is of the same quality as last season's version.

They have the chance to write a significant final chapter this weekend, but the Wolverines will be looking to prove they can play with the big boys.


All-Buckeye Beaters: Marvin McNutt and Marcus Coker did the most damage for the Iowa offense last week. Ricky Stanzi and the offensive line did good things during the course of the game, but they were not up to the task late as the Buckeye defense eventually prevailed.

The most impressive Iowa defender was freshman linebacker James Morris, who is one of the few players I have seen come off a Zach Boren block and make a tackle this season. Boren won some battles, too, but Morris was active with nine tackles. Fellow linebacker Jeremiha Hunter (11 tackles) deserves mention as well, and end Adrian Clayborn (seven tackles, one pass breakup) was more disruptive this season than he was last time he faced the Buckeyes. Props also to cornerbacks Micah Hyde and Shaun Prater, who both snagged interceptions. Prater also broke up a pair of passes.


DVR Directions: The Game is on at noon on ABC. Why worry about anything else?


Big Ten Predictions: Michigan State is still due an inexplicable loss, so with one game left in the season it must come at Penn State on Saturday (noon, ESPN2), right? I'm going to say no. After watching Dan Herron run all over the Nittany Lions, I am inclined to think the Spartans can do so as well and deliver a share of the Big Ten championship to head coach Mark Dantonio.

The other noon game features two teams completing disappointing seasons on the Big Ten Network. Who wins between Indiana and Purdue? The Boilermakers have showed more spirit more often this season, so I am going with them to claim the Old Oaken Bucket.

In the 3:30 games, Iowa should have no trouble claiming the Floyd of Rosedale in its annual rivalry game against Minnesota, and Wisconsin figures to roll over Northwestern.

Record to date: 23-11
3-1 last week


Cus Words Big Ten Power Poll
(Week 11 ranking)

1. (3) Wisconsin
tie-1. (1) Ohio State
tie-1. (3) Michigan State
4. (same) Iowa
5. (7) Illinois
6. (5) Penn State
7. (6) Northwestern
8. (same) Michigan
9. (same) Purdue
10. (same) Indiana
11. (same) Minnesota

Marcus Hartman is a staff writer for BuckeyeSports.com and Buckeye Sports Bulletin. He can be reached for comment, cursing or questions via email at mhartman[at]buckeyesports[dot]com

For more from him, read his blog about Ohio State football and whatever else crosses his mind .


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