All of us rant and rave at the TV announcers on Ohio State games. Most of those announcers don't do their homework and some are just out-and-out boobs. The No. 1 ABC crew lead by Brent Musberger is really pretty decent, which is why Buckeye fans jumped on the Crazy Train from the seeming disrespect we inferred during the Michigan telecast. Brent dressed up in blue and yellow (!), the talking heads kept referring to Michigan as "we", and Jack Arute was down interviewing our field goal kicker as he was preparing for – potentially – the game winning kick. I pointed all that out and even called Jack Arute an "annoying sycophant" in one of my recent Bucket columns.
Well…Jack wrote me back (hey- the Bucket of Bullets is nationwide, guys, what did you think?).
And Jack says to me, he says: "I didn't know what "sycophant" meant. ‘A person who tries to please others in order to gain personal advantage.' Hmmmm – didn't know that I was one, but thanks for the heads-up".
Not one to leave bad-enough-alone, I answered Jack: "OK, OK, I shouldn't have said ‘annoying.' Seriously, everyone enjoys that ABC crew, usually because they/you seem to be objective. Then Brent wears blue and yellow and the crew refers to Michigan as ‘we' and you stop by to talk with our kicker before he goes out and…oh, well, it was just one of those kinds of games".
That seemed a fair assessment to Jack. He answered back: "Mr. B, I actually got a kick out of it. We gave Brent untold crap about his dress choices for that game, too! As far as Huston is concerned…hey, Buck, he's a kicker! Really doesn't have a lot to do between kicks! LOL. Keep up the good and very entertaining work!"
Goes to show, just like on the message boards, you never know who is lurking. We took a vote here and decided: Jack Arute – nice guy. Now, someone else has to be responsible for Brent. Do I hear a "Holy Buckeye" out there somewhere?
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A bowl to fit every size game…There is already too much written and said about many of the trash bowls that you will watch or force yourself to avoid, so I will just opine about the Big Ten bowls, some of which will also fit that description. Here's at it:
The Orange Bowl: Even Bobby Bowden thought the Seminoles were headed to a late December game in Idaho. After losing three straight at the end of the year, in their own conference, FSU doesn't deserve to go to a bowl yet alone a BCS bowl. And that's what makes them so dangerous. It's the football equivalent of the Villanova/Georgetown NCAA basketball game. You play the game and any outrageous thing can happen. But this is not the Florida State that stomped and intimidated its way through the season back in the ‘90's. And it is the Penn State team with the swagger the Nittany Lions had back in the ‘80's. Plus, you have two guys running the show that are in their ‘70's. With all those big numbers, the defenses will still dominate and we will get a score in the low ‘40's. I'm saying Penn State 24 FSU 17.
MasterCard Alamo Bowl: Michigan playing Nebraska is like watching Bowden and Paterno slug it out in the boxing ring (see above). That is, two old heavyweights that make you wince at times and smirk at other times. One coach in the Alamo Bowl is on his way out and one coach is just out of touch. I will let you mix and match the names…Nevertheless, Nebraska is simply just not very good (Kansas 40, Nebraska 15) whereas Michigan can rise up and lose a hard fought game (Ohio State 25, Michigan 21) or even pull out a tough one (Michigan 27, Penn State 25). This should not be a tough one unless the old Carr Wreck makes it into a demolition derby. Michigan 27 Nebraska 10.
Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl: Tough to get all that on a t-shirt…Minnesota, a team in decline at the end of the season plays Virginia, a team that never had an ascent at all this year. I think Minnesota was a couple of plays away (Wisconsin comes to mind) from having their break-through season. The Gophers have a great offense and good enough defense to stop a mediocre-at-best Cavalier team that is missing coaches as well as players. Minnesota 45 Virginia 17
Vitalis Sun Bowl: This is a match-up of two teams that have mastered half the art of football: the offensive half. On the defensive side, they are offensive to watch. This game could take five hours to run as both teams run up and down the field. UCLA has given up scores of 66, 63, 52 and 51 in the woeful Pac Ten and Northwestern is close behind with give-ups of 52, 51, 49 and 48. I think a lot of Randy Walker who seems to do something special with the talent he is allocated each year. You can't think too much of Coach Karl Dorrell when he has all of California from which to recruit and still can't find anyone to play defense. Thus, Northwestern 45 UCLA 35.
Outback Bowl: Iowa versus Florida matches up the 2004 "Boy Wonder Coach of the Year" against the 2005 "Boy Wonder Coach of the Year"; Ferentz versus Meyer. The fact that they are meeting in a second-tier bowl tells you how fleeting is fame, how delicate is genius. While Iowa over-achieved with a rebuilding year base of talent, Florida under-achieved with a huge inventory of talent that the Urban Legend wasn't able to motivate. Will Florida rise to the level of its talent or will Iowa over-achieve? If in doubt, go with the Big Ten. Iowa 21 Florida 20
Capital One: A Big Ten ouch. We have the one team in our conference that was falling the fastest at year-end versus the team in the SEC that was playing the best. What could possibly go wrong here in Barry Alvarez's swan song? Just about everything. Auburn's defense will stuff Wisconsin's latest super runner, Brian Calhoun, while Auburn's running game can't be stopped by anyone on Wisconsin's shaky and wheezing D. In a true playoff format, Auburn would scare most teams. In the Capital One Bowl, they will have to take solace in scaring just one. Auburn 30 Wisconsin 13
Fiesta Bowl: I will give you all of my insights in next week's column…
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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.
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 1-2 positions in each column and give you both the fast facts and glib opinions. Today, we look at the linebackers.
There is much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments since we are losing the super-trio of Hawk, Carpenter and Schlegel. I say, relax grasshopper, and follow along with Mr. Bucknuts.
Who They Lose: I mentioned the big three already. Carpenter actually played two positions since he also put his hand down at DE.
Who's Back: A bunch of exciting if under-tested talent. Start with the three presumed starters (presumed by me, that is…) of John Kerr (senior), Mike D'Andrea (senior) and Marcus Freeman (soph). The others in the two-deep are likely James Laurinaitis (soph), Chad Hoobler (junior) and a freshman to be named later. Others in the LB mix include Curtis Terry (junior), probably SS/LB Curt Lukens (junior) and red-shirt freshman Austin Spitler.
Who's Coming. A bunch more. The best of that bunch is Ross Homan, who could vault immediately into the two deep. Tyler Moeller is on the way and he will likely redshirt to gain some size. Freddy Lenix might be coming if his grades are in order and he doesn't default to Cincinnati. And much of the same can be said for super-prospect Thaddeus Gibson. Grant Schwartz, from California, is coming and could play either SS or LB. And still choosing? Well, we have Mark Johnson (a need, because he can play the middle), AJ Jones (a lightweight, plus he's from Florida…), and Colin McCarthy (a big fast kid – yes, Florida too – but he loves the Buckeyes).
In 2007: Andrew Dailey (Massillon) is the next "freak" linebacker although Glenville's Jermale Hines might be in that category with a little more size. They are currently the class of the class and two the Buckeyes will want (and should get…).
The Bucknuts Buzz: The middle is the issue. Is Laurinaitis a fit there? Can Hoobler re-gain his momentum and play the middle? It seems things are set on the outside with Laurinaitis, Freeman, Homan and one or two of the up-and-comers. But unless Spitler or Hoobler catches fire, they need to recruit some run-stuffers in the middle.
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For the innumerate amongst us illiterates…As a pragmatic follow-up to my suggestion that the Buckeyes need Ashton Youboty and Donte Whitner back next year, let's do what any investigator does in a situation like this: follow the money. It is almost a foregone conclusion that if the NFL throws first-round money at you, economics dictate that you should be grateful and accept it. While I am not completely sold on that "truism", let's look at second/third round money and how it might relate to, well…real life.
As our own Bill Greene put it: "As a mid- 3rd round pick, you are likely to sign a 3-year deal worth around $1 mil. Your signing bonus would be in the $350,000 range. That's in the ballpark for what Dustin Fox and Kenny Peterson received. If you're not a first rounder, you're playing for your second contract, where you look to break the bank. Would they be better off spending next year playing college receivers or learning every day against pros? Plus why learn about the position for free when you can learn at about $300,000 for that year? Not taking a position, just throwing out what they're being told. Do they really improve their draft status THAT much by coming back? That's the question ahead of them."
Let's take it home from there. Even if you don't get a better contract by staying an extra year (almost a dead-set certainty that you will…), you now have that extra year's $300,000 or so for coming out early – money you forfeit by staying in school, right? Well, not quite. You owe your agent about 10%-12% of that. You have the expenses of suddenly uprooting from a relatively free existence and – horror of horrors – you have to pay taxes at an ordinary income rate on the net amount (down to $250,000 now) or $100,000 in taxes. Thus, for a final figure of $150,000 – spread out over 12 months so you only see it as about $12.5K a month – you are giving up a chance to graduate (!), a chance to captain the Buckeyes, a year of fabulous college life, and a chance to dramatically improve your stock in the draft.
What looks like a no-brainer upon first glance ("Man, ya gotta go!") looks like an even greater no-brainer upon closer inspection ("Man, are you nuts?"). Life is like that…
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The Bucknuts pre-nup…As the year winds toward a close, I reflect back on all the misunderstood, misogynistic and occasionally just bizarre stuff that goes on our message boards. It would be tough to single out just one example. But a recent post has to be considered highly for all the above.
A poster writes: "I'm getting married in 41 minutes and – after finding a computer while waiting – here I am checking this website. I think I have a problem. My name is Steve and I am a Bucknuts-aholic". One of the many (and more thoughtful) responses included, "Congrats man. Have a great life. We'll see you on the other side…and, for the record, yes – you do have a problem".
I am not sure if the reference to the "other side" was mystical or not, but the early line for the over-under on Steve's marriage is 27 months.
We all have problems. If you want to discuss yours with the venerable Mr. Bucknuts, unload on him at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com