Keep those cards and letters coming…I get lots of mail, and try to answer most of it. (Except for that stuff about knowing my home address and what time I leave the house.) Much of my anti-Bucket mail in the past two weeks has been along the line of: 1) Quit bitching about the Irish and 2) Quit your annual whine-fest about college playoffs. And to that I ask:
Why aren't there playoffs?
Oh, yeah, I almost forgot - the Irish still suck. Well, just my opinion of course…
To all those out there also with contrary well-considered opinions, riddle me this then: Why are these particular 6-7 teams ahead of us at the end of the polling year? And how would a nifty little eight-team playoff cure that problem?
Just like in 1998, when the Buckeyes had the best team in the country, I wouldn't bet against the 2005 version winning a playoff now that they are peaking and the Tressel train is rolling. Our newest Bucknuts writer, Nevada Buck, pointed that out earlier in the week when he also pointed out that Vegas would have OSU as the favorite against every other team in the nation, except USC and, even then, Ohio State would only be three-point dogs. Did you watch these highly ranked wheezing teams as they staggered to the finish line?
USC barely escaped a going-nowhere Fresno State team, who turned around the next week and lost to an even worse Nevada team. Texas looked more like SMU as they pulled out all the stops to beat 4-6 Texas A&M (which – few people know this - stands for "Average & Mediocre"). LSU held it's breath as it also held off a pretty-bad 4-6 Arkansas team 19-17. And – one more sucker punch to the Domers – Stanford (sporting a gaudy 5-5 record) scored at will and took Notre Dame into the final seconds before succumbing by a touchdown. The great ND defense? It's looking more like "NoD", as they gave up 31 to Stanford's back-up quarterback.
Wait, it gets worse…
An honor to get in the Bowl Championship Series, you say? Tell that to Florida, Clemson, and North Carolina State, the three teams that beat Florida State. In a row! At the end of the season, when it's supposed to count. Yet, FSU – despite not being able to even sniff a Top 25 rating – can automatically qualify for a BCS position in the Orange Bowl, representing the ACC, a conference whose basketball teams could probably beat their football teams.
And it gets even worse than that. Take the Big East. Please. This is a league that couldn't beat many Middle East teams. Yet, they get an automatic berth to the "championship series". And who will it be this year? Why, West Virginia (with convincing wins over the likes of Syracuse, Wofford, East Carolina and Rutgers), a school that would probably finish seventh or so in the Big Ten. How did the Mountaineers win their way into the BCS bowl? Easily, by backing in when perennial powerhouse South Florida, a recent add-on in Division I lost to Connecticut, (a Division I-AA team of only a couple years) in a scintillating contest, 15-10.
Perhaps I am the veritable voice in the wilderness, or a prophet in his own land. Actually, I don't give myself that much credit when something is this patently obvious. The emperor has no clothes and we still have no playoffs…
I am posting this on the Friday before the next round of questionable match-ups and outcomes so that my thesis doesn't get derailed. And, of course, I am assuming that the guy that monitors my stuff for the NCAA will notice and take immediate action.
Because, it's not just that the NCAA is ignoring the fan base. They are downright contemptuous of it.
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The "ooohs" (and some "aaahs")…We were so used to screaming "Nooooge" last year that it almost seemed inappropriate – at first - to hear the chant of "Huuuu" for Josh Huston this season. But Josh came up "Huuuuuge" and vaulted himself to the forefront of kickers nationally and a chance to get a payday on Sunday. While he didn't nail the requisite Nugent clutch 50-yarders, Huston did everything else admirably including an almost obscene number of touchbacks off booming kickoffs.
Which brings the small-minded amongst us to wonder: what will be the chant next year? Will it be "Preeee" for Ryan Pretorius, the late 20's kicker from South Africa? Will it be "Treeeeee" for Aaron Pettrey, the very patient Kentuckian waiting his turn? We are pretty sure it won't be "Skeeeeee" for the firefly career of Jonathan Skeete, a career that, well…went up in smoke.
Already Buckeye fans, you have your off-season assignment. Now get to work…
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Pride and arrogance…I get upbraided on a regular basis by certain Bucknuts' adherents, chastising me for my rants against certain schools. Now, most of those upbraiders come from either Michigan or Notre Dame, so take any insults with a lot of salt. And is it a trend that Wolverine and Irish fans feel forced to defend their schools against such charges? I think so – and I'll tell you why.
George Bernard Shaw once said, "No generalization is worth a damn – including this one". But, with that caveat, here's a generalization that might be worth a damn or two. I have concluded that some schools (Ohio State springs to mind) are justly known for their "pride". Others confuse "pride" with "arrogance". Those latter schools include, of course, Notre Dame and Michigan.
I think that this arrogance factor is the reason it is so easy to hate Notre Dame and Michigan. There is a false sense of entitlement and elitism that isn't justified. Michigan expects to beat Ohio State. Michigan is sure they are the better school. Notre Dame should be treated with more respect. Notre Dame deserves the best rankings and bowl bids and recruits and coaches. Etcetera.
And I think that the reason Tressel's team beats Carr's teams is that the Ohio guys buy into the pride factor while the Michigan players are only convinced of the arrogance factor. Many of the Michigan recruits, by necessity, hail from other states. They know that The Game is a biggie. They just haven't grown up with it. They don't feel it viscerally. Kinda like the difference between Cooper and Tressel, when you think about it.
The arrogance keeps the Wolverine players spouting the right things and the pride keeps the Buckeye players doing the right things. I see many more prideful years in front of us as we battle the arrogance from both up north and in South Bend…
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The Recruiting Buzz
Each year, ‘ol Mr. Bucknuts turns to his encyclopedic knowledge of recruiting, matches it with his crystal ball, tosses in some salacious gossip and random speculation, and passes the whole mess off as recruiting analysis. I used to do that on a regular weekly/monthly basis until we supplanted that effort with a professional look by staffers (Steve Helwagen, Duane Long and Gary Housteau), guys that really knew what they were talking about. Oh well.
But one annual tradition at this time of year is to take in the Bucknuts' buzz. Looking forward to next year, the current recruiting crop and the 2007 possibilities – at least in Ohio. Over the next few weeks, I will take on 1-3 positions in each column and give you both the fast facts and glib opinions. Today, we look at tight ends and wide receivers.
In the new offensive sets, we are seeing fewer two-tight end formations, but the pass-catching opportunities increase for a TE with good hands.
Who They Lose: The Bucks lose only Ryan Hamby, who was actually lost in mid-season before the offense went on a tear. The rest of the group are back.
Who's Back: Up-and-comer Marcel Frost returns as a junior while last year's up-and-comer, Rory Nicol returns after a year of nursing injuries. Rory will be a sophomore. Brandon Smith (sophomore) was a converted TE for depth and can help – mostly in blocking situations.
Who's Coming: One of the most interesting players in recent years: gigantic athlete Jacob Ballard. Ballard (6'7" 265 pounds) can play a huge tight end or an athletic offensive tackle. With possibilities of him moving "inside", there are also possibilities of 6'8" wide receiver recruit Josh Chichester moving to tight end (needs about 30 pounds to get there…). Also, the supremely athletic Jeff Cumberland would be a great addition to either of those two positions if he can surmount the academic threshold (otherwise, he could go to a number of other Big Ten teams!).
In 2007: The big noise is about Stephen Hight of Canton South who shares the wonderful athletic abilities of his older brother along with the academic woes. Other names to watch: Kyle Hubbard of St. Ed and John Hughes of Gahanna Lincoln.
The Bucknuts Buzz:Frost and Nicol will provide outstanding possibilities for the Buckeyes for two more years. The problem here is depth. If Ballard works out at this position (or Chichester comes over), they still need at least one legit TE prospect in each class.
I wrote last year that this position was an "embarrassment of riches". More of the same this year. Eight of the top nine are back and more are on their way…
Who They Lose: Probably going early will be Santonio Holmes. OSU would miss him but there are a lot of exciting route-runners still in the pipeline.
Who's Back: Teddy returns and is beginning to look more like a polished wide-out. Gonzalez will be a junior and Roy Hall takes his ton-of-potential into his senior year. Everyone else is underclassmen with the next set of superstars to be found in the group of Albert Dukes (sophomore), Devon Lyons (sophomore) and Brian Robiskie (true sophomore). They are followed by Brian Hartline (red-shirt freshman) and Devin Jordan (junior).
Who's Coming: More interesting stuff here as Josh Chichester throws in a new dimension (vertical) and I believe Ray Small will join him. The Buckeyes are still looking at Jeff Cumberland.
In 2007: This class in Ohio doesn't have truly elite wide-outs. At least not yet. The best of the rest might be Chris Givens of Chillicothe or Dante Jackson of Greenfield-McClain. Also look for Dover's Dan Ifft or Glenville's Kyle Jefferson.
The Bucknuts Buzz:The past problem with wide receivers at OSU was simply getting them the ball! With Troy Smith temporarily solving that issue, we can look forward to more spirals filling the air. The Buzz loves Gonzo, Hall and Ginn as primary receivers and can't help but be excited about Dukes and Lyons as potential rainmakers. But you ask the coaches? They rave about Brian Robiskie. And you have to like the upside of the "forgotten" Brian Hartline. All in all, with more upside coming to town, this is a very impressive group.
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Recruiting redux…Super Ohio State commit, Chris Wells was elevated this week to the #1 high school player in the nation by the Scout.com recruiting service. Which begets the question: Has Ohio State ever had the #1 recruit in football? Or in basketball? How about the #1 recruit in football and basketball both in the same season? Has anyone?
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Players that leave early…From high school that is. Despite OSU's new academic haughtiness about admissions, they have always encouraged high school seniors to leave their schools a semester early to come to OSU and get ready to play some football. Two trends have emerged from that:
1. These players that come in early tend to get early playing time as Buckeyes
2. These players also tend to consider leaving college early, too!
In my extensive study for this thesis, I go all the way back to 2002 when a senior in high school, Maurice Clarett left Warren Harding in January and came to OSU. Despite a bunch of nagging injuries (a trend early on…), Clarett got through spring ball and was ready to play first string in the fall. Hey – by October, he and ESPN were already talking up leaving the Buckeyes and going to the NFL!
The next year, two players came in early: Ashton Youboty and Donte Whitner. They are now two of the best players in the country at their positions and both have considered leaving early for the NFL. The following year, the early admissions included Steve Rehring, Antonio Pittman, and Marcus Freeman.
This year, we expect to see both Ross Homan and Chris Wells enrolling early at OSU. If recent history tells us anything, expect them to play early, be better than their peers, and be looking for an early exit around 2008. And, really, if they are that good, is that so bad?
If you have some early comments or need a bad answer to a good question, feel free to contact Mr. Bucknuts at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com