Mr. Bucknuts' Bucket Of Bullets

This weekend's game against Illinois might have been one of the less eventful games of the year for Ohio State, but there was still plenty to talk about both from that game and what else happened across the country. Mr. Bucknuts looks at what happened this weekend and more in this week's Bucket.

There's not much to say but that hasn't stopped me much in the past. And we owe it to ourselves to cogitate, ruminate and let the Illinois game ferment until it changes into something more potent.

Ohio State has seen this strategic game formula before against some lowly opposition that they often "play down to" for a part of the game. The Buckeyes combine great defense and big plays on offense to overcome big mistakes, and eventually wear down the Other Guys with talent and perseverance. It is a formula that has worked well against seven teams and not as well against two. It almost cost them games against Minnesota and Michigan State, but they let Ohio State play long enough to find redemption.

The Buckeyes came out flatter than a group of fourth grade cheerleaders but finally turned it on (and around) in a second half that saw a lot of action and some pretty darn entertaining football. Despite a halting and lurching beginning, Troy Smith turned in dazzling stats as the Buckeyes scored 40 points or more for the third straight game – the first time since 1995 they have accomplished that feat. The offensive line seemed to dictate the overall outcome: when the line was porous and lethargic, the Buckeyes went nowhere. When they were stout and surging, so were OSU's fortunes.

Last week, I predicted that OSU would win by 37. I was off by one point for the second week in a row. But I grossly overestimated Zook's team's ability for his offense to score against OSU's defense. Illinois could have played until sunrise and still not whiffed the end zone (all right – I guess OSU could have muffed another PAT sooner or later…).

All in all, it seemed like the perfect prelude to the next prelude known as Northwestern, a team that is simply honor-bound to be a pest. But I liked what Coach Tressel said when immediately after the game he emphasized the "Senior game" coming up, against the Wildcats. And – better yet – Bobby Carpenter's reminder that the Wildcats beat OSU last year and that he won't let that happen again.

We are all ready for the offense, defense and special teams to put together a complete game and reach a level of performance we know this team can exhibit. The next two weeks are simply perfect times for all that to come together…

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Parity? Spare me…Some college football leagues are more equal than others. But does that mean that the whole league is good just because the teams in it keep beating each other? Look at the Pretender Athletic Conference (also known as the "PAC 10"). A league with entertaining offenses that are one part of a mediocre team, at best. A league in which a 2-6 Arizona team can annihilate a national pretender, previously undefeated UCLA 52-14. Other than Southern Cal, point out the other good teams in that conference.

And look at the SEC. All they have left is a tarnished reputation. Their only "national" team, Alabama, remains undefeated by scoring twice on defense, from miscues, against another average team (Mississippi St.) that wouldn't win three games in the Big Ten. And let's watch as Top Ten powerhouse LSU dispatches those titans of Appalachian State. Show me the great teams in this league. Or in the Big Twelve, for that matter. Or the ACC.

The Big Ten still has the best and most consistent football. We are entertaining (see: Northwestern, Minnesota, Michigan State, etcetera). Our good teams pound the teams that are flailing (see: Purdue for most of the year). And the best teams rise to the top by the end of the year (see: Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan).

Once again – Reason #4219 – that's why not having playoffs hurts the best part of college football. If Miami or Penn State or even our Buckeyes are the best team in the nation at the end of the year – let ‘em prove it. And quit hiding behind made-for-TV match-ups and this whole "parity" justification…

* * * * *

 

Don't mess with Texas…In the FWIW Department, we were talking to Texas fans about junior quarterback Vince Young, and the question arose if we should expect to see him again when we visit Austin next Fall. The Texie seemed surprised by the question and he muttered something along the lines of "UT football players don't leave early". So, I (first) scoffed then (second) checked it out. And I found that Cedric Benson, Roy Williams, Derrick Johnson, Chris Simms, Major Applewhite and Rickey Williams – none of them left early. Then, a week ago Friday, Young came out and said that he plans to return. Now, a national championship or a Heisman might change that thinking so it's up to you to think how you want to root while thinking about Ohio State's fortunes next season…

* * * * *

Apropos to nothing…And especially the above bullet point…I remember Barry Switzer after he started coaching the Dallas Cowboys (and well after he was sent packing from Oklahoma following some scandalous activities by his Sooner players), when asked what the biggest difference was between coaching in the NFL versus coaching in college. He said (and I am paraphrasing…), "The Cowboys don't have as big a payroll for the players as I had at Oklahoma".

* * * * *

Other people who don't like ESPiN…I know it's a long line (although Bucknuts did their part by inspiring more than 100 people to cancel their magazine subscriptions…). Many of us think that the ESPiNers have far too much power and exert it in far too many self-oriented and generally destructive ways. Add Tommy Tuberville of Auburn to that list and to that thinking. The following exchange was reported a week or so ago when Tommy took off after ESPN, then went after that old hypocrite, Lou Holtz, for good measure:

 

Tuberville, whose team was shut out of the BCS national title game last season, was asked if he thought the same thing might happen to an SEC school again this year. That got him started on the Bowl Championship Series system and the national media, particularly ESPN.

"It's done," Tuberville said. "The national media, led by ESPN, wants to see Vince Young vs. Matt Leinart in the championship game. It's going to be those two teams unless Texas or USC get upset.

"Last year, they wanted to see the two Heisman Trophy quarterbacks, Jason White and Leinart. After six or seven games, we were out of it.

"If four teams are undefeated at the end of the season, there should be a playoff. There should've been one last year. But it's decided already. I don't like it."

Tuberville spoke out sharply against ESPN and the influence it wields on the college game. He said the opinions ESPN hosts and analysts put out on the airwaves each week tend to shape the opinions of fans and media people around the country.

And he's not at all happy about that.

"ESPN has gotten so much power lately, it's kinda scary," Tuberville said. "And most of their analysts are coaches who haven't won any games. That's why they're there. I think you know who I'm talking about.

"And Lou Holtz gets on there and talks about what a team has to do win that game, and the guy couldn't beat anybody in our conference. These guys will come talk to you and look you straight in the eye and tell you something, then they'll get on the air and say something else.

"ESPN, I'll tell you, I don't have much to do with them anymore."

* * * * *

Is Marcus Vick Virginia Tech's Troy Smith?…If you listen to Michael Vick, he is telling the world that younger brother Marcus is a smarter, more athletic, faster, more courageous and better-looking version of himself. Then Marcus imploded on national TV after a campaign in which he had been rated the No. 2 QB in the nation. Well, besides Marcus's off-the-field problems (contributing to the delinquency of a minor, reckless driving and possession of marijuana – all of which compare unfavorably to our Troy Smith's modest indiscretions), we wondered how Super Vick compared to the Troyster in other, more traditional measures.

Through last week's games, the stats look like this:

Marcus Vick:
8 games

95-152 passing for 63%

1344 yards for 13 TDs and 7 INTs

179.1 yards/game
Rushing: 88 carries - 274 yards - 3.1 avg - 3 TDs – 34.2 yards/game


Troy Smith:
7 Games

82-140 passing for 58%

1330 for 7 TDs and 3 INTs

190.0 yards/game
Rushing - 90 carries - 408 yards - 4.5 avg 8 TDs - 58.3 yards/game

Vick is slightly better in some areas, not as good in others. He has more fumbles. He has caused more trouble. Been suspended for a season (versus just two games for Troy) and has a more famous older brother. Add it all up and our oft-criticized Smith brother doesn't seem such a bad deal to compared to the younger Vick brother…

* * * * *

The shy and retiring type…So I was thinking – while watching the great Hopalong Cassidy accept an honor at halftime. What will Ohio State do when they want to retire AJ Hawk's number? Give back the blank jersey that Chic Harley wore? Make a special sign like we finally did for Woody?

I know that AJ won't win the Heisman, but we are seeing a very special talent, the likes of which won't probably pass this way again soon. And when the next couple of decades of fans talk about #47, it won't be about Chic Harley. Think about that when the quiet and classy Hawk comes out to meet his parents and Coach Tressel at the senior recognition ceremonies before the Northwestern game…


Any other thoughts, however somber, can be addressed to a receptive Mr. Bucknuts at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com


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