Well, wasn't that special?
No, it really wasn't that special. If you wanted to see what an Ohio State team looked like when it finally went flat this season, you saw it on Saturday. Particularly in the second half. More so in the fourth quarter. And before I get too carried away, let's remember that we had a good solid first half, with 200 yards of offense and never letting the Illini past midfield.
Then that team went away and another team came out of the visitor's locker room.
The defense? Well, it was special as always. They beat Juice Williams to a pulp. He was under more pressure than Charlie Weis' belt. Yes, the defense played great for, well… three quarters. And you can't really blame them totally even for that ugly fourth quarter as the offense was on the field so briefly that the defense barely had time to sprint to the sidelines and back. Sooner or later…
But you know what? The Illinois defense showed up, too. They played with passion and fire and all the attributes that we had expected out of an OSU team.
We saw the "any given Saturday in November" motif at the top of its form yesterday. With Northwestern toppling Iowa and Ball State giving Michigan its annual Carr Wreck scare. With Florida beating Vandy by just six. So maybe the Ohio State post-Halloween fright fest fit right into that pattern.
Troy Smith also didn't have his standard special game. It wasn't so much that OSU unveiled the old running Troy, it was more that he had to run. That's not good. It was fun to watch in the first half when it was part of a balanced attack. Not so much fun in the second half when he was running for his life and it felt like those old playground offenses of recent vintage.
Some pundits said Ohio State didn't show much on Saturday. Au contraire, I say. They showed a lot. They showed that:
- Despite the vaunted depth, there isn't always a "plug and play" situation. Take Tim Schafer. Please. And hurry back, Alex Boone.
- And where did the depth go at running back? Maurice Wells was out with a stinger. And Chris Wells still thinks that the football has stingers. That left Antonio Pittman to carry the mail. Over and over and over again.
- Speaking of which, many of us were speaking of how Pittman would look if he got a lot of carries in a game. He got 32 of them Saturday. He looked like about 58 yards.
- We showed that even on a Tressel team, it isn't hard to lose your cool when baited. Ask Kirk Barton. And ask the coaches how much that 15-yarder hurt.
- We learned that other coaches can coach this game. Ron Zook lost by an average of 31 points to Big Ten opponents last year. This year, the margin is down to seven (sound familiar?). It's painful to say it but the best coaching jobs yesterday were on the home side of the field.
- Despite the gaudy average and a couple of coffin corner jobs, Trapasso went along with the under-achiever theme, belting a 31-yarder with the wind as Ohio State kept losing the field position battle in the second half.
- We discovered that the OSU offense can be defended if all the weapons aren't working. 29 total yards in the second half is testament to that. Ginn with five catches for 26 yards is evidence as well.
All right. It was inevitable and perhaps it's good that we lost the veneer of invincibility. Yes, we beat Illinois by less than we beat Texas. Yes, we were 26 point favorites. But, yes, we won. On the road. In the Big Ten. And before we get carried away, remember it was Ohio State that carried away the "famed" Illibuck trophy in the end. Oh, one more thing:
THIS IS A WAKE-UP CALL FOR CAPTIAN PITCOCK AND CAPTAIN SMITH AND CAPTAIN DATISH AND CAPTAIN PATTERSON. Tell the boys that it's November and this is the Big Ten and you have to show up for 60 minutes every Saturday!
There. I feel better now.
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Déjà vu all over again…This 2006 Ohio State team is still a wonderful thing to behold. They are undefeated and owners of a 17 game win streak. They haven't yet won the national championship but the comparisons to 2002 remain on many fans' minds. Well, in 2002, Ohio State barely snuck out of Champaign with that Illibuck trophy, winning by just seven. If that was the goal on Saturday, then that mission was accomplished. Let's hope that the rest of the comparison to the 2002 team bears out as well…
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"Everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it"…The official weather guess for next Saturday in Evanston is a likelihood of rain and chilly temps. That gives me visions of Wisconsin on the road (2003), Penn State on the road (2005) and even Northwestern on the road (2004). And that gives me shivers…
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Half-full versus completely full…As the national media has described my glass – I am half-full versus half-empty as a Buckeye fan. Actually, I am completely full. Reminds me of a very talkative friend, who others described as "having mastered half of the art of conversation". This past Thursday night, the nation was treated to two football teams that have "mastered half of the art of the game": the offensive half. In the NCAA's cleverly disguised playoff system, the semi-finals presented two "top five' and undefeated teams in West Virginia playing at Louisville. 1000+ yards of offense later, Louisville survived the relays up and down the field and became the odds-on favorite to meet the winner of the other semi-final: Ohio State versus Michigan. As to the defenses? They reminded me of big, fast, athletic high school all-star teams. As if the concept of team defense was something to be better left to, well…real teams. Yes, just on talent alone, those two defenses were every bit as good as Colerain or Alter. And if "defense wins championships", those defenses could have won state championships.
Not that either WVa or "the Ville" couldn't beat other national teams like a Notre Dame (they could), but it seems a stretch to think that those two schools are amongst the top five in the nation when they have yet to focus any emphasis on defense. Now, on January 8, I might be forced to eat crow (or Cardinals), but these are teams that remind me more of a Michigan State than a Michigan…
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Michigan – more slings and arrows…For those A-maized few from the state of Michigan that sheepishly admit their Wolverines simply can't beat Ohio State in Columbus anymore, their immediate riposte is – yeah, wait until next year when we get you in Ann Arbor and almost all our guys are back!
Well, the one part of that braggadocio that is correct is that next year's party is in Ann Arbor. As to who is coming back for these Carr parkers? Let's take a look:
Michigan loses Steve Breaston and Carl Tabb as WR's and
O-Linemen Mark Bihl, Adam Kraus, Rueben Riley. Superstar tackle Jake Long is a
senior and most question (with his history of injuries) that he will take the
money and run. And TE Tyler Ecker is a senior, too. Henne (if he comes
back) may be running for his life next year.
On the defensive side, Michigan loses their two playmaking defensive ends in Rondell Biggs and LaMarr Woodley. Not to mention that all of the following are Seniors: David Harris, Shawn Crable, and Prescott Burgess at linebacker and Ryan Mundy, Leon Hall, Brandent Englemon and Willis Barringer in the secondary.
Kicker Garrett Rivas has played through his thirteen years of eligibility and has to take his money from somewhere else next year.
As other added considerations: The talented mountain known as Allen Branch is projected as a first-rounder and could be gone before he grows further roots.
Crable and Mundy are red-shirt juniors, but they aren't going anywhere. And why, I ask, if Antonio Pittman is mentioned to be looking at the NFL a year early, don't folks mention Michael Hart in the same concept, since MH has even more glittering rushing stats?
Discuss all this amongst yourselves…
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D Tuneup for D Michigan game…From our message board, with some updates and edits, we have a really good, more in-depth comparison of the vaunted defenses of both Ohio State and Michigan. To wit:
Third Down Efficiency-
A big statistic for me is how well your defense can get stop the other team on
third down. Ohio State stops their opponents 70% of the time. Michigan stops
their opponents 74% of the time. As you can see, this is a very close margin.
Scoring Defense- Ohio State ranks 1st in scoring defense, giving up 7.6 points per game. Michigan ranks 7th, giving up 13 points per game. Now, if you take a closer look at some of the points OSU has given up, you will be amazed. The touchdown Texas got was after one of the worst roughing-the-passer calls of all time. The 3 points Indiana got were after OSU fumbled the ball on their own 20. Indiana went 3 and out, then kicked a field goal. The 7 that Sparty scored came against the 2006 OSU recruiting class with 2 minutes to go in the 4th quarter. Basically, Ohio State's first string unit hadn't given up a single point in 3 games before Illinois. Ohio State has given up 545 yards---in those 3 games. That's a shutdown defense folks. Just to point something out, UM gave up a combined 635 yards to MSU and Minnesota alone...Basically, UM gave up 90 more yards to 2 of those 3 than against all of them combined).
Rushing Defense- Ohio State is 18th in rushing defense, giving up 92 yards per game. Michigan ranks 1st in rushing defense, giving up only 30 yards per game. But, those numbers for OSU are mainly because of the slow start for this unit at the beginning of the season. Michigan started the season on all cylinders and has been all year, OSU has not. OSU just gave up 47 rushing yards to Minnesota, that same Minnesota team that ran for over 100 yards against Michigan earlier in the year. The average yards OSU has given up drops about 4 spots in the rankings every week. By the time the Michigan game comes around, we will be in the top 12.
Passing Defense- Ohio State ranks 5th nationally against in pass efficiency defense. Michigan ranks 16th. These numbers are skewed because of both team's ability to shut down the run and force the other team to pass; and, both teams getting comfortable leads, making the other team one-dimensional. With the emergence of Antonio Smith as a playmaker and shutdown corner, OSU's secondary is scary good. There is so much depth in the secondary that it is disgusting. Michigan, aside from the incredible Leon Hall (by the own admittance of the UM faithful), is not set in the secondary position.
Michigan State passed for 120 more yards against UM than against OSU.
Penn State passed for 100 more yards against UM than against OSU.
Minnesota passed for 80 more yards against UM than against OSU.
The Michigan secondary lacks the depth and the overall talent that the OSU secondary unit has.
Now, everybody gives Michigan credit for their incredible D-Line and pressure on the quarterback. UM has 35 sacks this year, ranking 6th in the nation. Guess how many OSU has? 30. OSU is right behind them, coming in at 13th. Both of these teams can get to the quarterback.
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Coming to our defense…In last week's Bucket, I made the point that next year's Buckeye defense has a likelihood of being even better than this year's defense (which has a likelihood of leading the nation in scoring defense). Now, I am taking that point and connecting more dots…
The odds-on-favorites to start on defense for the Buckeyes next year:
Cornerbacks: Malcolm Jenkins and Donald Washington
Safeties: Anderson Russell and Jamario O'Neal
Linebackers: Marcus Freeman, Ross Homan and James Laurinaitis
Defensive Ends: Vernon Gholston and Lawrence Wilson
Defensive Tackles: Todd Denlinger and Doug Worthington
Besides noting that these guys are all fast and fierce and terrific talents, it is also worth noting that…they are all juniors or younger. That would mean – in the following year – they could all be back!
Tell ‘ya something else: what is the betting line that all 11 on this particular 2007 team make it to the NFL?
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The defense never rests…You would think that the points made above would be enough "scoring", but lets now turn that point into a "splatter" as we merge the Bucknuts philosophy of "too much is never enough" into the thesis that our defense is young, great and getting better.
The two-deep and three-deep:
Cornerbacks: Andre Amos and Kurt Coleman then Shaun Lane, Chimdi Chekwa, Donnie Evege and Devon Torrence
Safeties: Nick Patterson and Aaron Gant then Grant Schwartz, Eugene Clifford and Nate Oliver
Linebackers: Larry Grant, Curtis Terry and Thaddeus Gibson then Ty Moeller, Mark Johnson and Austin Spitler
Defensive Ends: Robert Rose and Alex Barrow then Ryan Williams, Walter Dublin, and Ben Martin
Defensive Tackles: Dexter Larimore and Nader Abdallah then Joseph Barksdale and Devon Still or Josh Brent
You could put up a pretty stout argument for both my starter list (some will take issue with Doug Worthington or Ross Homan – I say, let's settle it on the field next year) and my three-deep (I'm not sure Nader Abdallah will make the three-deep with the talent that's coming in…), but work with me here to my Ultimate Point: Next year, there are only three seniors amongst the top 38 players on this list!
This "D" might stand for "Dynasty"…
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Can you conjugate the word "cheeseburger"?...I maintain that leaders of young men that have the, uhhh…physical presence of a Charlie Weis shouldn't toss around words like "cheeseburger' in a glib or pejorative way. It's like Jeffrey Dahmer doing commercials for a body shop. In law, they would call that "attractive nuisance", an invitation to trouble. And now that we were able to use "attractive" and "Charlie Weis" in the same paragraph, let's discuss other improbable connotations.
A few years back, Bucknuts got in trouble (OK, it was me…) for picking on Adrien Clarke and his weight issues. On the radio, we said things like: "Adrien Clarke is so big that when he takes a shower, they have to let out the shower curtain" or "When Adrien runs, he sets off car alarms". Or then there was "When his beeper goes off, people think he's backing up." So, you now know that I won't be using those jokes about Charlie. They are tasteless, sophomoric and infantile. And Notre Dame's fans are already pissed off about my seeming ceaseless rant against Charlie Weis and his physical stature. Other jokes I won't be using include, "Charlie Weis is so fat that…", oh, never mind.
Meanwhile, back to our story.
Clarke let it be known to Jerry Rudzinski that the players had picked up on "our" adolescent name calling and were giving him some heat over the whole campaign. He was upset so I decided to chill – especially since AC was really a nice guy. Despite the fact that he was so big he had his own area code.
Then, Dayton beat writer Doug Harris came on our radio show and just casually mentioned how the Bucks are using an unbalanced line and Clarke was really lining up as a tight end. He then said, glibly and insensitively, "Unbalanced line? When Clarke switched sides, the whole stadium tilts". Well, we lost it and have never again tried to maintain dignity in the face of an easy opportunity. As the old offensive line coach, Oscar Wilde once said, "He can resist everything but temptation".
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Win, lose or Ty…Meanwhile, back to the football implications of Charlie Cheeseburger. I've been getting more hate mail than usual from Domer types castigating my insistence on making fun of Charlie's physicality. The e-mails ebbed a bit after The Tuna's F-bomb barrage on "Sixty Minutes". But let's return now to the football stuff, shall we? There's still ample opportunity to poke at the big lug.
Even though it is commonly "accepted" that Notre Dame upgraded from Ty Willingham to Charlie, there is still some question if that's really true or just another figment in the spin of "Mr. I Am Bigger Than The Program". The games Charlie is winning right now are with Ty Willingham's players. Who's to say that Willingham wouldn't be winning over mediocre teams with the same Brady Quinn and Darius Walker and Jeff Samardzija and Tommy Z? Let's see how well the big cheese puff does once those guys are gone and he brings in "his own players".
And another consideration: Ty Willingham is doing pretty
darn good at turning around another mediocre program out there in Washington.
While Notre Dame struggled mightily this year against a depleted UCLA squad,
Ty's Huskies beat them at full strength, 29-19. Ty barely lost to #10 Cal
(31-24) at Cal. And here's the game to really compare: Willingham lost in the
last seconds to 19-point favorite USC (at USC) 26-20. Remember that score when
Notre Dame gingerly ventures out there.
For a guy like Chunky Charlie that was Notre Dame's 3rd or 4th choice (John Gruden was offered and Urban Meyer turned down the job to go to Florida). You would think that would bring out a dose of hubris for the big fella, eh?
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From my source for sports…Since the Wall Street Journal doesn't seem to help me with my financial problems, I often turn to that respected rag to inspire me with answers to my sports problems. Yes, it helps to be diagonally parked in my own particular parallel universe…
From the WSJ, I learned that House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas sent a scathing Q&A to NCAA President Myles Brand in early October. Since the NCAA is posing as a "non-profit", the letter questions their CBS basketball deal in which the lovable louts from the NCAA are "to earn a yearly average of $545 million a year in tax free money". (And you wondered where they would be able to find the funds to hire professional college football officials…). Since the NCAA hides behind a façade that "their underlying mission is educational in nature", Rep. Thomas also questions the $100,000,000 a year that the NCAA doles out to championship teams in basketball, and wonders what the educational purpose is in all that.
The central pivot to the questioning? "From the standpoint of a federal taxpayer, what benefits does the NCAA provide taxpayers in exchange for its tax exemption?". In noting that only 55% of football players graduate and just 38% of basketball players against an overall comparison of 64% for all students, Thomas pointedly asks, "How does that [the distribution of money for sports wins] further the educational mission of universities?"
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And on the 54th day, we rested…Once Ohio State beats Michigan on November 18, there will be a 53 day waiting period between that win and our win in Glendale for the national championship. Think about that when all the pinhead university presidents solemnly submit that there just isn't time to schedule D-I playoff games. Not only is that indefensible, but – hey - there are only 78 days in the "regular" season and we seem to find a way to squeeze in 12 games into that span…
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The downside of too-much depth…One of our intrepid Bucknutters noted the chaos that often ensues when coaches begin to substitute en masse. In one particular instance two weeks ago, there was just 30 seconds or so left in the game and OSU trying frantically to clear its bench and play everyone that brought a helmet. Todd Denlinger (#92) was already on the field, but the coaches sent in Brett Daly (who is also #92) into the game to get a play in as Minnesota faced a 4th down. Both Denlinger and Daly realized that they couldn't be on the field at the same time with the same number, so each tried running off the field at varying points to avoid the "illegal participation" penalty. They finally stayed on together, the refs never noticed (shock there, eh?) and the game ended with a near-record participation number.
If you feel differently about Louisville, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Michigan or anyone else that might have been (entirely inadvertently) offended by remarks in this column, and if you are unable to keep those comments to yourself, please feel free to vent to Mr. Bucknuts at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com