A quick dip of the Bucket and a fusillade of bullets for some final thoughts on the Fiesta Bowl and the other Big Ten bowl games…
Last Saturday, I derided Chubby Charlie Weis and let it all hang out (as it were…) that I thought both he and his Irish team were both over-rated and unbearably smug. In my prediction segment, what I said, specifically, was:
The Mr. Bucknuts Fiesta Bowl prediction…It's fun making fun of Charlie but you have to be wary of the Weis Guy, as well. He will have some new wrinkles in an offense that is already diverse. It reminds me a bit of the old Bill Walsh attack and Weis probably already has his opening series scripted. When you combine that with the fact that the OSU defense sometimes takes a series to get in synch (see: Texas, San Diego State, Northwestern, Michigan, etc.), that almost dictates an early score for the Irish.
After that, the sledding gets tougher as the Buckeyes close down the running game and give Quinn yardage but not many points. On offense, they will run and they will pass and they will score. So, the balance hangs on special teams and turnovers. And that really means just turnovers, because the Buckeyes have great special teams and they don't. If OSU makes egregious errors and turns the ball over (see: Texas, Penn State and Michigan), they can keep Charlie in the game and make him look good. Not an easy task, by the way.
I say they make some small errors and one turnover. The special teams click. The early emotion that ND exhibits wears down in the face of the bigger, quicker, deeper and more athletic Buckeyes.
I say OSU 31-16.
Now, I am being bearably smug to bring up that pretty fair prediction because I wanted to point out a couple of things:
I know that Charlie Weis has his ample shorts in a bunch right now, so I would like to add a little wedgie-ness to them because, well…that's the kind of guy I am. So let me just say this about that:
1. Charlie schemed for six weeks to come up with a plan that no one else could possibly concoct. The whole football nation shuddered to think of the machine he was creating at night in his laboratory, secretly viewing films and working harder than any other coach could possibly work. Hey – give me a break!
2. Notre Dame was 2-2 against the Big Ten this year, losing to Michigan State and Ohio State while beating Purdue and Michigan. Maybe it does matter when you have to play a tougher schedule, eh? Maybe the Irish would finish about fifth in the Big Ten – if they had the courage to join, that is.
3. Did Charlie get out-coached by a mere college coach? Is going 9-3 enough to continue his beatification? Are we getting a little ahead of ourselves in concluding anything about a man whose entire head-coaching career is now12 games in duration?
4. Even though he didn't let on, don't you think that Tressel might have gotten a little miffed at this whole coronation process surrounding the Weis Guy?
5. I wouldn't trade Tressel's college championship rings for all of the Super Bowl rings Weis won – as an assistant coach, that is. I go back to Point No. 1 above: give me a break.
6. Notre Dame gives up 617 yards – the most in their history – to a pedestrian Jim Tressel. The only thing that stopped the Buckeyes was the end zone. Without the bonehead plays, the egregious turnovers and the blocked kicks, we win by 30. I don't want to hear the bleating of "what if's" from the Irish side. Take your whipping and go home.
7. Notre Dame has now tied the all-time bowl record for consecutive losses at eight. ‘Nuff said…
NDNation.com is a voice of the Irish and had an unusually well balanced re-cap of the game and their analysis of how and why. This is their conclusion:
The final score was but one indicator of the gap between these two teams. Ohio State's offense won virtually every physical matchup, its size and speed on defense was daunting, and the kicking game was superior despite the two blocked field goals. Finally, any notion that Notre Dame possessed an advantage in coaching acumen was firmly dispelled by Tressel and his staff.
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A Bunch of Bowls for This Serial…All right, step back from the ledge as I admit that, yes, I am fallible. Despite the gloating and preening above, I blew almost every other prediction for Big Ten bowl games. To wit (and using that term loosely…):
·I said Michigan 27 – Nebraska 10
The only thing better than watching Michigan lose to a generic bowl team is to watch them lose in the last minute. Why couldn't the Wolverines have downed the ball on the one just to make the sweet pain even more excruciating? And speaking of excruciating, that had to be the worst officiated game in bowl history. What is the penalty for having forty men on the field, anyway?
·I said Minnesota 45 – Virginia 17
Minnesota embarrassed their state and the state of football in the Big Ten by simply failing to show up. Mason had other things on his mind – and it showed as they spit the bit 34-31 to a team that couldn't beat most of the Big Ten.
·I said Northwestern 45 – UCLA 35
I have watched 10,000 football games in my life and I have never seen an onside kick returned for a touchdown. To see two of them in the space of about three minutes – and by the same guy – was a lifetime treat, indeed. And to see the #2/#3 team in the Pac Ten outlast the #4 team in the Big Ten, 50-38, proved…not much.
·I said Iowa 21 – Florida 20
This one featured the onside offside that wasn't. One of the worst calls ever (most teams are offside on any kickoff, but this one clearly wasn't…), overshadowed Iowa's persistent effort to give away the game and then try to sneak back in. They didn't. 31-24.
·I said Auburn 30 – Wisconsin 13
The memo went out that the B-10 was getting humiliated. Barry Alvarez stepped up in his last game and Auburn was simply there to observe. The hottest team in the SEC fell meekly 24-10 to a B-10 team in a year-end tailspin. One for the good guys…
·I said Penn State 24 – FSU 17
Penn State won in a game (26-23) where the two old coaches were about the only ones that didn't doze off. Missed field goals and missed extra points, missed offense and, well…let's just say that Michael Robinson is no Troy Smith. PSU beat an FSU team having its worst season in 25 years. And it left no doubt – at least at the end of the year – which the best team is in the Big Ten …
In addition to show why they don't let me handicap games for a living, my abysmal soothsaying also points out yet another (Reason #2417) rationale why we need playoffs. After teams play a dozen games a year, week after week, and then take six-seven weeks off, the whole world can change. Injuries, coaches contracts, players get married, players go to jail, players get out of jail…well, you get the picture. Who knew that Wisconsin would show up and that Auburn wouldn't, as an example. Or that Glen Mason would be more involved with negotiating his contract than with bowl preparations? They don't need that much time to hype the games and games with that much time in-between rarely justify the hype.
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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 1-3 positions in each column and give you both the fast facts and glib opinions. Today, in a final team review, we look at the kickers and punters:
Can you say "blessed"? That's what Ohio State has been over the past five seasons, first with the inimitable Mike Nugent and then this year with Josh Huston. How old is Huston? He graduated from Findlay HS with Ben Roethlesberger, who will be going into his third year of the NFL next season!
Who They Lose: The aforementioned Huston, who is a loss on both placekicking and kick-offs.
Who's Back: Battling it out to take over for Huuuuuu is red-shirt freshmen Ryan Pretorious and Aaron Pettrey.
Who's Coming: No one new. The Bucks passed on some pretty good potential so the coaches must like what they see in Pree and Tree.
The Bucknuts Buzz: We thought that 2006 would be a three-way race with schollie kicker Jonathan Skeete but JS either (take your choice): 1) Had feet of clay 2) Saw his career go up in smoke or 3) Gave it one short shot. In any event, rumors abound that Skeete might still be around. Scuttle also has it that the mid-twenties South African Pretorious is an early leader in the competition post-Skeete. This could be a sensitive area of concern for the 2006 edition of the Buckeyes.
OSU should be solid here. AJ Trapasso did a workmanlike job and has only upside as he matures.
Who They Lose: No one.
Who's Back: Trapasso is only a sophomore next year in eligibility. Backing him up is walk-on Tyson Gentry, who will be a sophomore as well.
Who's Coming: No one for the Class of 2006. For the 2007 edition, a new punter should be on the horizon since AJ will be a junior then.
The Bucknuts Buzz: Not much of a buzz here and not much of a buzz needed. Trapasso is a good athlete who can hit the long ball and dink one for position. He also is a good runner, which we have yet to see exhibited. With another season working on hang-time, release and overall consistency, OSU should be set for years to come. Plus, we have both Marcus Freeman and Jake Ballard who averaged in the high 40's as kickers in high school!
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Mich Again…Since we close out the regular season against those arrogant bastards from up north, I thought I would close out the bowl season by mentioning them yet again. The only way that I could have enjoyed their loss more to that mediocre Nebraska bunch was if they had stumbled and bumbled the lateral-oosie play down closer before they ultimately failed. And speaking of failure, besides a 7-5 season and an end to their New Year's bowl streak, Michigan is now 7-7 in their last 14 games. If you take out the easy MAC wins and Indiana, that record falls to 4-7. They have lost 4 of the last 5 games to Ohio State and 4 of the last five bowl games as well. Holy John Cooper, Batman!
And while Lloyd Cooper has gotten his official complaining down to a vintage whine, puzzle me this: Who should you complain to when you blow an 11-point bowl lead in the fourth quarter? That's after they blew a 9-point lead at home against the Buckeyes. And after they allowed Gary Russell to beat them at home with a 60-yard romp and Stocco to beat them late at Wisconsin and…
Yes, the worm turns and the world has righted itself on its proper axis. We never said we were sportsmen here at Bucknuts so save me your pro-Michigan drivel if you plan to write me this week.
It's a great time to be a Buckeye, no? These are the good old days…
If you have something strongly supportive about Mr. Bucknuts' various and inconsistent positions, feel free to contact him at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com