So, it's intriguing to have an Off Week. A bye week. A lap off in the big race. Here's my theory: The Big Ten race is a marathon and you have to pick the pace you know you can win with. Then just stick to it. For those that bolt out too fast? They will come back to you in the end. And to those we have to out-kick? Hey – we've got the Nuge!
Look at last weekend. We all wondered, would anybody ever score on Purdue, the best defensive team since the OJ trial? Well, those frightening Illini – a team that will only threaten Northwestern and Indiana in this race – rings up 30 points on those engineers. Purdue is, indeed, starting to come back to the field. Michigan? Iowa? Not the imposing teams of the past; as they took turns imploding and generating optimistic scouting reports on Saturday. We watched Wisconsin's subs beat Penn State's subs. Indiana looked like they could beat Michigan State and…well, you get the picture.
Early season returns are in and you know what? Even Vegas wouldn't make us dogs in any of our Big Ten games to come. Would you say we shouldn't win each of the scheduled games coming up? Are any teams out there that you fear?
That doesn't, of course, mean that we will win them all. Heck, we should have beaten Wisconsin in Madison last year. But I like our chances. And my point is this: we have to run our own race, develop as we go along, and not worry too much about these other teams. And now we can all say, amen…
Bye bye logic in the long division… And what about these "bye weeks", anyway? Is this some kind of tournament? If it were, then we would play it like Division III plays it. You have 11 weeks to play 10 games. You finish by early November and play four playoff games for all the marbles. No, we have NC State complaining that they couldn't get a bye week before last year's Buckeye game (they did this year and got beat worse…). We end up with our "week" between NC State and…Northwestern. Especially when it gets to league play, it just mucks up the momentum of the season. How 'bout this: three non-conference games, then everyone plays eight conference affairs, then the tournament for all the marbles. Logic. The NCAA. Go figure…
And speaking of NC State… Many critics of Ohio State football (and that's much of the country that watches football) debased the Buckeyes' domination of the Wolfpack as "Well, I guess Amato's boys were overrated." After all, they had only played the Richmond Spiders the week before (hey – it was all over the web!). But we beat the Pack in Raleigh when they had two weeks to prepare. Then the Pack beat Virginia Tech away. And after three games, NC State now leads the nation in total defense. Just so we keep it in perspective…Ohio State generated over 400 yards against both Cincinnati and Marshall before our sub-150 yard effort against North Carolina State. And those Raleigh yards were the most put up so far against the young and hungry Pack (I know, I know, I guess Virginia Tech is over-rated, too…)
The weird and tortuous paths some kickers take… We know kickers are notoriously weird by nature but they can't be any stranger than the kicker-finding strategy that OSU employs. I asked Coach Bill Conley about it and his answer implied, "Search me". Here's the deal (and one example). We seem to always be searching for punters and place-kickers, yet we have a ton of guys ready to put their best foot forward – and already on the team. When we really needed a new punter two years back, Adam Graessle was ours for the asking. He had committed to Pitt but really really wanted to be a Buckeye. Yet, our staff insisted that he grayshirt, despite the fact that our punter (Sander) would be gone in a year. So, Graessle ends up at Pitt (their league's special teams player of the week, last week…) when he could have been a redshirt freshman punting for OSU. Instead, we have a fifth year walk-on punter. Go figure…
But look who else we have. We have the Nuge and Turano, of course. We also have AJ Trapasso on scholarship yet we offered another schollie to Jonathan Skeete. And we have Josh Huston, possibly petitioning for a sixth year. Plus, there's Tyson Gentry – another freshman, from Sandusky.
Place-kickers? There's the aforementioned Huston. There is Ryan Pretorious from Denver (walk-on). There was Brian Pierce from St. Ed's, but he was sent home. Then, there is a grayshirt in the wings: Aaron Pettrey from Kentucky. So, just like with Graessle, the question is: why would they grayshirt Pettrey instead of redshirting him? We lose Nugent this year and Pettrey could be riding the bench and watching. Nugent was an option quarterback in high school. It seems that we like to have "option kickers", as well…
The origin of the Bucknuts name… I was queried once on the radio about "Bucknuts". A guest actually asked if it was a "urological problem". Last week, that clever reference came full circle as Mr. Bucknuts staggered around with a debilitating case of kidney stones. Do you really need to know this? No, but I would appreciate anyone telling me if there's a way to prevent another attack.
And since we all deserve an "off week," it's a good explanation for this column and anything else you didn't like on the site!