Bucknotes 11/4

Is there too much college football on TV? Should OSU fans root for Penn State or Wisconsin this weekend? Is Troy Smith OSU's best quarterback since Joe Germaine? How good are Donte Whitner and Quinn Pitcock? What should fans expect from OSU's basketball team this year? Dave Biddle tackles those questions and more in this edition of Bucknotes.

If you are a college football junkie, you've probably enjoyed the developments of the last few years.

Games are now nationally televised each day from Tuesday through Saturday. Yes, the Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday games are not exactly top-tier matchups (the Thursday night games are usually quite good), but it's still football, right?

I know feelings are mixed on this topic. Some fans feel there is simply too much college football on the tube these days. They feel there is an overdose of the product.

However, I don't see a problem with it. There are plenty of low-quality sitcoms on other channels if that's your bag. But give me "bad" football over bad sitcoms any day.

Now, if there's a good E! True Hollywood story on, or re-runs of The Sopranos or Entourage, all bets are off. But most of time I tune into the Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday night games on ESPN and ESPN2.

And I would submit that some of the games are quite entertaining. I am looking forward to seeing the Toledo-Ohio matchup tonight with MAC title hopes on the line. Ohio's overtime victory over Pittsburgh earlier this season on a Friday night was a good game and there have been plenty others.

But maybe you prefer watching poker, or sitcoms. That's fine. But football for me is like pizza. Even when it's bad, it's still pretty good. (Yes, there are other "activities" you can use in this analogy).


OK, Buckeye fans. Who are you rooting for this weekend in the Wisconsin at Penn State game? Tough call.

If Ohio State wins out, it is guaranteed at least a share of the Big Ten championship. But to win it outright for the first time since 1984, the Buckeyes will need a little help.

Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin each have one loss in the conference. So, deciding who to pull for this weekend depends on the rest of PSU's and Wisconsin's schedule.

The Badgers close out their Big Ten schedule next week with a home game against Iowa. That's a very winnable game for Iowa, but Wisconsin is tough to beat at home. Wisconsin will likely be favored, but it could go either way.

The Nittany Lions close their regular season on the road against Michigan State on Nov. 19, following a bye week. Again, that's a game that could go either way. Penn State might be a slight favorite on the road, but the Spartans are very capable of winning that game.

I think there is a better chance of Michigan State beating Penn State in East Lansing, than there is of Iowa beating Wisconsin in Madison. So, my suggestion would be to root for the Nittany Lions this week, then hope for the best in two weeks.


As for Michigan State head coach John L. Smith, the more I watch him the more I think he needs to have his own show on Comedy Central called: "Unintentionally Funny."


Ohio State's defense gets plenty of respect around the country and the names you always hear about are linebackers A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter. And rightfully so. Hawk and Carpenter are clearly two of the top players in the land.

But a pair of juniors – defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock and strong safety Donte Whitner – are emerging as stars in their own right.

The 6-3, 300-pound Pitcock is never going to put up big statistics. His job is to eat up blockers, help control the line of scrimmage and allow the linebackers to make plays (much like Tim Anderson from 2001-03). But he is as solid of an interior lineman as you will ever find. He plays extremely low, gets good push, but is athletic enough to make plays on the run. His play in the Alamo Bowl when he ran down an Oklahoma State player on a fake field goal will not be soon forgotten.

The 5-11, 205-pound Whitner is not the biggest safety you will find, but you'd never know it by the way he hits. He has lived up to his high school nickname of "Lights Out." And Whitner plays with an attitude. He'll hit a player, then tell him all about it. He's smart enough to do it without drawing taunting penalties, but watch him closely sometime. When he lays the wood, he is definitely going to get up and tell his victim all about it.

And Whitner is smart enough to know when to go for the big hit. He's a sure tackler. When is the last time you saw him out of position, or whiff on a tackle because he went for the knockout?

Thus far, Whitner is third on the team (behind Hawk and Anthony Schlegel) in tackles with 47 (35 solo).

I expect Pitcock and Whitner to be the defensive captains next season. If cornerback Ashton Youboty decides to come back, he will also be in the mix.


Junior quarterback Troy Smith is arguably OSU's best quarterback since Joe Germaine. No, it's not easy to put Smith ahead of Craig Krenzel at this point, but I am ready to take that leap. Krenzel led OSU to a national championship and is currently in his second year in the NFL, but the opinion here is that Smith is already better than Krenzel.

What makes Smith good? It all starts with his rocket for a right arm. He throws the ball effortlessly and can fire darts all over the field.

I also like Smith's charismatic nature. He has moxie and he's a natural leader. He's also built like a fullback or linebacker – allowing him to continue using his hard-nosed running style. (Smith and Penn State's Michael Robinson are two of the few quarterbacks you will see that are willing to lower their head and run like a fullback.) Smith is shifty, he can make people miss, but he's a "power running QB" if I've ever seen one.

OK, so what are Smith's weak points? Well, he still needs to work on his touch at times. Occasionlly, his arm strength gets in his way. He needs to learn when to take a little bit off his fastball. But to say that Smith never throws the ball with touch is a reach. A few fades to Santonio Holmes come to mind.

Without question, Smith still has a ways to go in terms of reading defenses and going through his progressions. Too often, it appears as though he decides who he is going to throw the ball to before the snap. He is getting better in this area, but it is still a weakness. But overall, there is a lot to like about him.

Smith is currently 12th in the country and second in the Big Ten in passing efficiency (155.9). If someone told you before the season that Smith was the 12th-best QB in the country, you would have laughed. Now wipe that smile off your face and get on board. Smith is the real deal and he's getting better each week.


Is anything more played out in the sports world than the term "drinking the cool-aid?" For example: "The media keeps drinking the Peyton Manning cool-aid, but he's not that good." Or, "You must be drinking the Jim Tressel cool-aid if you think he's a good offensive coordinator."

I guess "drinking the Sunny Delight" doesn't have the same ring to it.

OK, maybe the only thing that is more played out is the Coors Light "Twins" song that ESPN has adopted. You know, "I love football on TV….and TWINS!"

It was funny two years ago on the commercial. Who doesn't like burritos at 3 a.m.? But do we really need to hear the new rendition every week on Sportscenter? Really, really bad lyrics, followed by, "I love week nine! ... and TWINS!"


The Ohio State men's basketball team will open up its season with an exhibition tilt against Findlay on Sunday.

The Buckeyes are drawing some national respect. CBS Sportsline picked OSU to win the Big Ten and selected OSU senior center Terence Dials as the conference's preseason player of the year.

What are reasonable expectations for the Buckeyes this year? I think at least 20 wins, a top 2-3 finish in the Big Ten and a Sweet 16 run in the NCAA Tournament.

The Buckeyes only have 10 scholarship players, but at least nine of them are quality players who will see a lot of floor time (freshman forward Brayden Bell is the lone player who might not receive a great deal of playing time).

Ohio State is a veteran team. It has four seniors, three of which are fifth-year seniors (Dials, Matt Sylvester and J.J. Sullinger). And if Thad Matta isn't the best young coach in the country, he's darn close. Expect big things from the Buckeyes this year and have fun paying attention to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002.

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