I have been accused of seeing the world through scarlet colored glasses. That accusation is, of course, spot on. So I even challenged myself last week: Did my gut feeling that Ohio State was 2-3 touchdowns better than Iowa match up with all the real experts telling me how close it should be? OSU's offense was better than last year and their defense was worse. Tate was playing hurt and looking tentative. But then even Tressel came out and said, "Drew Tate's a senior. The first game the Buckeyes faced a senior who had kind of split time his whole life. Second game the Buckeyes faced a guy with his second start of his life. Third game was a red-shirt sophomore, played a decent amount. And then this".
So, I Tresseled my prediction down to an 11-point win (24-13) and still worried as I heard the national guys rave about a Hawkeye team that seemed more a figment than a reality. But then – suddenly – I knew I was OK. Yes, Lee Corso picked the Hawkeyes! Here's a guy whose last good call was to retire from coaching twenty years ago. Corso gets fewer calls right than the replay officials. I was golden. The Bucks would win and win big. Even the uber-idiot Mark May flip-flopping (on Thursday, he said that Ohio State would win – on Saturday he just had to go with Iowa), didn't give me the kind of serenity that hearing Corso's pronouncement did.
Realistically, the only thing that gave me pause was that the Buckeyes got too far ahead too fast and JT started to go home before the final gun went off. But that's another story and one the Buckeyes can certainly understand and live with, week in and week out, eh?
Even with that long spate of garbage time, the Bucks are throwing up some pretty nifty stats:
1) Troy Smith has thrown for 12
touchdowns and two interceptions, while the opposing quarterbacks that Ohio
State has faced have thrown for 4 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
2) Ohio State has allowed just one rushing touchdown all season.
3) Antonio Pittman has not been dropped for a loss this season on 96 carries this year. This streak likely goes back 112 carries without being dropped for a loss, as he had one minus-2 yard run in the Fiesta Bowl.
4) Ohio State's opponents are averaging less than10 points per game, have scored one second-half touchdown (Saturday night), and the Buckeyes have outscored opponents in the second half 86-19.
5) The Ohio State defense is allowing fewer yards per game than the 2002, '03 and '04 squads, and about the same as last year's defense.
6) Going into the Iowa game, twenty Buckeyes, including the top 16 tacklers on the season, had tackles for a loss, and nine had recorded sacks. At Iowa
7) In the last seven Buckeye games (all winners, of course…), the Buckeyes have beaten Michigan (at their place), Notre Dame (on the road) Texas (their place at night) Penn State (in the rain) and Iowa (their place at night). Don't talk to me about the cupcake eaters or some computer's measure of strength of scheduling…
8) Give it to me STAT: the Buckeyes are tough nationally in bottom lone stats even if the glitter doesn't always show us in the best light. OSU's total offense is but 34th in the nation but scoring defense is 5th (a nice combination, no?). They are second in turnover margin, ninth in sacks and fourth in tackles-for-loss. That defines "opportunistic defense". And who would have guessed that the Buckeyes would have a middle linebacker this year that is sixth in the nation in interceptions!
And with the Murderer's Row schedule (sarcastic font on both bold and italicized) coming up, the Buckeyes are going to add a lot of glitter to those glitzy factoids.
The Buckeyes won. They won at night with a national TV crowd in attendance. And the Buckeyes can say for sure now: they weren't looking past Iowa and ahead to Bowling Green…
* * * *
From the chronic and craven complaint department…I have often surmised that Buckeye fans can be both bad winners and bad losers. Burning cars and couches after big away victories is a certain sign that something might be amiss. But even in the best of times (like these, f'rinstance…), to some fans the Buckeyes often don't win "right" or win "by enough". And that brings a lot of mail telling me to tell the coaching staff how to straighten that crap out. If only the staff would listen…
After the Monsoon Bowl against Penn State, a number of you said that the team wasn't all that it was quacked up to, be in that particular puddle party. After all, it was the second straight game that the Buckeyes had, well…laid an egg in the first half. Fair enough. But to that argument, I counter;
Ohio State 14 Texas 7, at the
half. Final score? OSU 24 Texas 7
Ohio State 13 Cincinnati 7, at the half. Final score? OSU 37 Cincinnati 7
Ohio State 0 Penn State 3, at the half. Final score? OSU 28 Penn State 6
In that same week, looking at other elite teams:
Auburn - 10-0 lead over
Buffalo (!) at the half; they won eventually 38-7
USC - 3-0 lead at the half over Arizona; final score: 20-3
West Virginia lead 17-10 over powerhouse East Carolina in the 4th quarter and eventually won 27-10
Georgia - 14-13 over Colorado with a final gasp.
And in a game OSU fans can certainly relate to, Virginia Tech trailed Cincinnati 10-5 at halftime but eventually subdued the Bearcats 29-13.
Points being that football is really designed as a four-quarter contest and differences in talent become more pronounced the longer you play. And don't forget – coaches coach that way, too…
* * * *
The Tressel train is on the on the Tressel track…And his track record truly speaks for itself. What is the Tressel Track? Why, it's the schedule that says Ohio State football quality picks up speed throughout the season and the Buckeyes reach their apogee by season-end. Unlike the "Cooper Collapse" program, in which great Ohio State teams started fast, developed problems as the season progressed and then generated catastrophes in the most important games, this Tressel idea seems to be delivering big mojo. 4-1 in bowl games. And about to go 5-1 against Michigan. Yes, that's three more games than his predecessor won in 13 years!
Why highlight this ideal now, in the middle of the season? Here's why: the Buckeyes knew going in that they had a young defense and new kickers. the Buckeyes knew that it would take some seasoning to develop all these kids into cohesive units. Not only are they developing, but I think they are "ahead of schedule". Imagine – if all this progress is linear – just how special and exciting the buckeye defense could be by the time Michigan rolls in! Or on January 8, when the Buckeyes take that trip to Glendale.
Just like on the golf course, one is admonished that no one should ask "How?", only "How many?"; this Ohio State football team is on the right track, playing nearly 60 kids a game and getting over the one big problem the Buckeyes had at the beginning of the year: inexperience.
* * * * *
Here are all the recruits that are coming in 2007…If you're like me, you just can't wait to see who is going to commit next. Well, as a favor to you, I thought I would simply tell you who's coming this recruiting year and save you all that angst. You can now put your excess energies into second-guessing game strategy with the rest of us…
The Buckeyes already have 9 commitments. They are: Brandon Saine, Danny Herron, Nate Oliver, Donnie Evege, Devon Torrence, Eugene Clifford, Taurian Washington, Evan Blankenship, and Dane Sanzenbacher.
Position-by-position? The Buckeyes have (arguably) the two best backs in the state of Ohio in Saine and Herron. Unless a super chipper (Clay or Hughes) tosses their dice OSU's way, the Buckeyes are done there. The Buckeyes were done before they started at fullback (Olson next year) and quarterback (three young ‘uns already…) so that takes us to tight end and wide receivers. At TE, the Buckeyes could use one and they are chasing Ron Gronkowski. At wide-outs, the Buckeyes already have the great Dane Sanzenbacher from Ohio and the talented Taurian Washington (yes, he really did commit) from Michigan. The Buckeyes would take a five-star guy (like a Deonte Thompson) but otherwise they are done. Offensive line? They have only new commit Evan Blankenship but they have also red-shirted Bryant Browning, Connor Smith and Josh Kerr. Andy Miller could move over there, as well. Plus (and it's a big one), the Buckeyes are ready to gather the greatest harvest of O-linemen potentially ever in the Class of '08. So, if the Buckeyes swing a world-class guy like an Anthony Davis or a Kris O'Dowd in the current class, they would be done with business this year.
On defense, the strategery seem even more set. OSU will take two out of defensive ends Martez Wilson, Ben Martin and Solomon Thomas and call that fabulous. They will take two out of Joseph Barksdale, Devon Still, Antonio Jeremiah and Josh Brent as defensive tackles and be enthralled. At linebacker, the Buckeyes red-shirted potential superstars Ty Moeller, Thaddeus Gibson and Mark Johnson so this is OSU's "off" year. You still take the best in class and that's probably Jermale Hines from within the Buckeye border or maybe Brandon Lindsey (PA) from outside.
As to those DB's, the Buckeyes have a haul-and-a-half already in the outstanding group of Torrence and Evege as corners and Clifford and Nate Oliver at safety. Would they take more at these spots? Only if they were Eric Berry or Ronald Johnson. As to kickers, we'll pass. (Hey – and as to passers, the Buckeyes can't kick!).
So here's whose coming (IMHO):
Anthony Davis (surprise!)
And two "Plan B" guys who will be starters in three years!
* * * * *
Where would they play?…In last week's Bucket, I posited that the Buckeyes have "lost" a number of potential recruits that fans still bemoan. I didn't disagree that they should have had a better fate with these potential superstars. I only asked: where would they be playing if they had come here? Below is my list and my own answers to that over-arching question:
- Prescott Burgess – He would be in the mix, starting instead of Kerr/Homan, perhaps.
- Mario Manningham – Too good to stay on the bench but he wouldn't start ahead of either Ginn or Gonzo.
- Shawn Crable – An enigma. He wouldn't displace OSU's DE's and he doesn't fit in as an LB.
- Brady Quinn – Whew…Would you start Brady over Troy? Me either.
- Chinedum Ndukwe – Great ball-stripper but he would be fighting to get into the two-deep here…
- Fred Davis – Tight end in the Brandon Smith mode or wide receiver like Roy Hall? We'll never know…
- Kevin Bemoll – The Buckeyes be-moaned the loss but it looks like a modest loss in hindsight.
- Alex Daniels – Turned out to be a better RB than an LB but he would have little PT here…
- Javon Ringer – Javon is a great back who would be in a similar position to Maurice Wells, coming in to relieve Chris Wells and Pittman. There's more than one reason that Erik Haw transferred…
- Freddie Lenix – Freddie would be a special-teamer having trouble breaking into the LB rotation, just as he is at Cincinnati.
- Rico McCoy – See "Freddie Lenix", only a little farther along. In the two-deep as a Vol…
- Michael Massey – He would be scrapping with Brandon Smith as the back-up TE.
- Joe Thomas – He would be in the three deep, maybe in the next year or two.
- Derrell Johnson – Great athlete whose abilities and fate still are still undetermined. Injured and red-shirting at Iowa now.
- Michael Bush – He wanted to play QB at OSU; instead he is a great back that is out for the year at Louisville.
- Richard Washington - Bad news from a number of perspectives; started hot at NC State and then left school – for a number of reasons
- Bryan Andrews – Not starting for Wake Forest as a DE. Would be in the three-deep at OSU.
OSU's "losses"? I don't think they were over-whelming, in retrospect…
* * * * *
More quarterback minutiae…Once, during the off-season, I was visiting with the OSU coaches and this particular odd subject came up: What is the worst 4-5 year team record ever for a quarterback at OSU. That is, during whose tenure did Ohio State have their worst record. It is a simultaneous equation because you have to go both backward and forward with each new year. But there was a reason for the question and we did our usual faux diligent research to look for the answer.
And what did we find? Well, we only went back 30 years and did find that the second worst record for a guy that was there either four years or five years belonged to, ta-dah: Kirk Herbstreit.
In last week's squib about Troy Smith, the Buckeyes posited that Troy might have been the best quarterback in Ohio State history. By the way, I should have included Bobby Hoying in the group to be considered. Instead, I submitted big names that some people remember. And you might remember Herbstreit for a number of reasons, but engineering winning football shouldn't be one of them.
* * * * *
Well, Gee, you wondered about the tie…Back in the murky days of E. Gordon Gee presiding over The Ohio State University, he preferred the image that OSU was solely a bastion of learning and that the athletic programs were merely incidental. And his choice of football coach, John Cooper, often gave the impression that winning was incidental, too. Now, as the Wall Street Journal reported this past week, the Buckeyes might have the beginnings of an explanation for Gee's erratic behavior. There is an investigation into Gee's current tenure as head of Vanderbilt, during which time Gordon is spending fabulous amounts of money and throwing lavish parties at his presidential mansion, including public displays of pot smoking. There were those amongst us - 15 years ago - that suggested Gee must be getting high on his own supply as we listened to him gush that a Cooper tie with Michigan was amongst "OSU's greatest wins". And, of course, there was the goofy tie itself, that thing he wore around his neck. But it was his tie to Cooper that most befuddled the passionate and logical ones amongst us. Maybe now, we are getting a new understanding of a President that wanted OSU to be more like his beloved Brown University. Instead of turning the Buckeyes brown, he is turning faces red in Nashville. And when the "Gee and Chong" investigation is over with, tell him that the Buckeyes are feeling just fine up here in Columbus. "Ohio" – round on the ends and high in the middle…
* * * *
Another Ty, another time…From one caricature to another, that inevitably brings us back to the lovable buffoon we know as Charlie Weis. One of the tasks Charlie Weis was actually able to fulfill was to take some pressure off former "human pin cushion" Llllloyd Carr as The Coach Everyone Loves to Hate. First, Charlie did this by slapping together a mediocre initial campaign amidst grandiose boasts that Notre Dame was really returned to its glory days. Then, Weis got a beat down of such magnitude by the Wolverines that people starting feeling kinda sorry for the big tub of goo. Not for long, though. The improbable ND comeback over an equally hapless John L. Smith made the myth-making machinery in South Bend start firing on all cylinders once again. Yes, this comeback made the allegory of the Notre Dame program "coming back" fit once again, as well. And by "taking it to" a truly hapless Purdue squad on Saturday, that just burnished the myth-making machinery.
But how is Charlie Weis's long college coaching career (13-4 lifetime) really so different than predecessor Ty Willingham, the first coach Notre Dame has terminated since the Crusades? Ty went 7-0 to open his maiden campaign and got a couple of slaps on the back from the booster club. Charlie opened up with a few wins, then lost a heartbreaker to USC. What did he get? A lifetime extension and the most lucrative contract in the history of college football. Finally, something to match his own opinion of himself!
More specifically, Ty and Charlie both started out 11-3, before losing national blowouts to Michigan. In their subsequent week, Ty lost to MSU 22-16 while Charlie got down by 20+ prior to the improbable comeback. And, thus far in Weis's improbable career – that is the defining difference.
Is he the Great Savior of Notre Dame fortunes? Or is he "Ty-Two"? Or maybe just the logical successor to George O'Leary. Time will tell. But I will be here with objective commentary, in any case…
For all you Notre Dame hate-mailers, wincing over your keyboards, and to anyone else I offended or aroused, please feel free to articulate those feelings as you wish by contacting me at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com