Mr. Bucknuts Bucket Of Bullets

While Ohio State and their fans were able to kick back and relax this weekend and enjoy Thanksgiving, other teams were back at it on the college gridiron, jockeying for postseason position. There were plenty of developments from the weekend, and Mr. Bucknuts has some views on what transpired and much more in the latest Bucket.

As fellow long-time Daytonian Erma Bombeck once put it: "Thanksgiving dinners take 18 hours to prepare. They are consumed in 12 minutes. Half-times take 12 minutes. This is not coincidence".

Even though there wasn't much to watch on Thanksgiving Day itself, there was the usual football input over the weekend. First, Arkansas melted down, spoiling multiple scenarios (i.e. the USC crushing of the Razorbacks doesn't look so impressive, Florida winning out won't be as meaningful, etc.). So it goes. Then to further tarnish early season accomplishments, Texas submitted meekly to A&M.

So it goes.

West Virginia losing at home to, uh, South Florida? Yes, the pretender daisy chain is over in the Big East. Louisville beat WVa, Rutgers beat Louisville, Cincinnati beat Rutgers, South Florida beat West Virginia. Some say "parity". I say…"MAC"?

Florida at Florida State: Florida reminds me of the Buckeyes circa 2002. Not only did everything pretty much go their way this year, but awful things befell the other guys, too. There was a lot of athletic running around out there, just like past FSU-Florida games. The only difference this year? These two teams just aren't very good.

So it goes.

Southern Cal and Notre Dame: It's official. Notre Dame has now been shelled by every ranked team they played this year. Both of them. They had to make comebacks with three unranked teams in order not to be 7-5 right now. From the heights of "genius" to the realm of "huge but average", it seems it doesn't matter how much time Charlie Cheeseburger has to prepare for a game; he just can't win a big one. If the Domers were humble enough to join either the Big Ten or the Pac Ten, they would have finished fourth or fifth this year.

SoCal? They looked good. They looked fast. If they can keep away from an upset in LA next week, it should be a fun time for everyone in the desert.

V-Tech and Virginia. Why mention these also-rans? Because Virginia needed to score 17 points for Ohio State to reclaim the nation's #1 scoring defense title. And Virginia? They didn't score at all…

Indeed, so it goes.

By the way, I am still sorting through my bulging e-mail bag and I am including as much goods tuff (once again) in this column that's not only "fit to print", but I say, "all that fits, we print". Now,  let's carry on…

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Hey, buddy – you gotta match?...Yeah, we want a fresh one. Not some old used and beaten thing. Fans from around the world (well, from around the corner, at least) asked me my opinion about a potential re-match with Michigan and I was shocked that a true purebred Buckeye fan would even bring up such a heretical and preposterous notion. This is in a year in which we have already seen the third "Game of the Century" (the OSU/Miami Fiesta Bowl in 2002, the Texas/Ohio State game in 2005 and the exclamation point game two weekends ago…). We have endured the largest sports crowd ever in Texas, the biggest football game in the history of Kentucky and the largest game ever in New Jersey. OK, so those last two were kind of a joke but bear with me here…

What do you tell a Buckeye player after he just played the "Game of the Century", sold out physically and has achieved a life-long goal? "Good one, son. Now let's do it again. And it counts this time".

Lots of others have expressed similar stances. Our man at the betting line, Nevada Buck said:

"Rematch??? Put me in the camp that believes from the bottom of my heart that Michigan was very very fortunate that this game didn't get out of hand. To lose the turnover battle three to zero and still win is amazing. To lose the type of turnovers that we did, and when we did, and still win is even more amazing. Michigan had their shot--they lost---bring on the next victim."

Even Eagle Scout Charles Babb took umbrage with the notion:

"I think a rematch is terrible. How do you get these young men to have the same motivation as UM if a rematch is demanded by the talking heads? Barton had a cigar and champagne with teammates, Ginn was crying, Smith was thrilled. They won but are going to be told that win didn't matter?"

Sports Illustrated, the arbiter of all taste and opinions in the land of sport said:

".....my satellite dish must have been sending me a different Ohio State-Michigan game than the rest of the nation.

For everyone talking about what a "classic" game it was and how a rematch would be the best match-up in the national title game, here comes the cold water. The game wasn't that close. The Wolverines had a strong opening drive before the Buckeyes showed they were the far superior team. Even with all of that good fortune, Michigan was still down 11 points late in the fourth quarter before being allowed to score a touchdown that put a pretty face on a lopsided loss."

This isn't Don King putting on a heavyweight farce. This is championship level college football. Were there rematches after Shawn Springs slipped in '96? Or after a number of the fluke-ish Michigan wins in the ‘90's that cost us national championships? I don't think so. And a "re-match" this year? For what?

I don't think so…

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Big game tricks and treats…How often do coaches draw up "special plays" only too see them come down like the veritable house of cards? The situation has to be right, the deception has to be appropriate and the execution (gulp) has to be first rate.

The classic of its kind was seen in the annual whipping of the Wolverines, pulled off so well that it might not have been as fully appreciated as it should have been. You remember the play – fake the ball into the line on second and short, then go for the home run ball to Teddy Ginn. Perfect.

But just how perfect was it? First, they had to plan for the exact time that it played into Michigan's and Ohio State's scouted "tendencies". That would be a short down and Chris Wells had to come onto the field – their short-down back. Then, with everything in place, they broke the huddle in a sprint, as if to say that they were going to power their way to short yardage or "trick" the Michigan boys with a fast count. That kept the defense off-balance and brought everyone in a bit. But the piece of pure genius? Lining Ted up as a tight end. That's right – he was lost in the detritus of the short yard players. Then – bang – he was out in the open and running for the promised land.

The pass had to be there, and it was – a little short but on the mark. And there you have it. Trickeration at its finest. Perfectly planned and executed – one of the biggest plays of the year in the biggest game of the year…

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And how ‘bout that Beanie when they actually gave him the ball…I was going to write up a Grantland Rice-type opus to sing the praises of that fantastic burst Beanie put on to crack the vaunted Michigan D. Not only did I find myself not nearly in GR's league, but I also found an already-written paean to that play on our own message boards! Here is a thrilling personal description of a thrilling play:

"I've just watched the run about 15 consecutive times, and I literally cannot get enough. He was quick on the spin -off of Crable!- and his burst through the hole was so freakin' explosive. You can hear Barton's block, Wells showcases a nice stiffarm and.... GOODBYE! His speed was impressive. Wells will make his own mark here, but I remember everyone wanting to compare him to Clarett. We know Maurice was special, but he didn't have that kind of speed.

And then, did anyone notice that, while celebrating in the end zone, Chris still had the ball tucked away? LOL ... Freakin' great. You could tell he's been working on and thinking about hanging on to the ball. He didn't seem to want to let go of it.

Then, the shots in the stands, fans jumping up and down, a huge flag waving in the air, Michigan fans with looks of disbelief - Gives me goose bumps, even after the 15th time of seeing the video.

THEN, the camera shows Wells coming off the field and right into the arms of Eddie!! GOOSEBUMPS!! I'm so happy that Eddie goes to these games and gets so pumped up with the players. What a great influence and positive role model.

AND THEN, just seeing how pumped Chris was as all the other players smacked his pads, high fives, etc. GOOSEBUMPS!! And I just love when he gets to "big brother" Pittman and the look they exchange. How good has Pittman been for Wells?! What a freakin' combo!!

Sorry, I just don't want to come off this high and there was so much going on in those few seconds. Gotta love it!!"

I do love it. And thanks for the memories. Truly, an "instant classic"…

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A different level of football and event…Fans can root all they want for  BCS underdogs like a Rutgers or a Boise State, but you have to have your head way up your, uhhh…turtleneck if you can't see the differences in levels of programs. As a leading indicator of that thesis, Ohio State entertained more than 105,700 (inside the stadium) on "Michigan Saturday" to best the old Ohio Stadium attendance record of 105,565, set last year at the Texas game. Two other schools also set new attendance marks last week – Oklahoma had 85,313 on hand in Memorial Stadium for the Sooners' win over Texas Tech (all right – that's a big time program) while Rutgers welcomed in 44,111 to New Brunswick for its Thursday night thriller over Louisville. 44,000. I think that our state championship games could draw that. Or the Herbstreit Classic at the start of the season…

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The grass might be greener, but now its gone again…One of the guys that fills my e-mail box each week took a look at the sod for The Game and remarked, "I'm not sure if you ever get to talk to the grounds keeper for Ohio Stadium, but if you do please pass on the final bit of dialog from the last scene of the move "My Blue Heaven". As the sod delivery truck rolls into the new little league stadium, Vincent 'Vinnie' Antonelli yells at

 the driver "Remember guys, green side down".

The biggest Ag school in the world – now if they can only find someone that knows how to grow grass…

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Recruits, red-shirts and reserving our opinions…While we worry in unison that 1) We don't have enough commits yet for 2007 and 2) We won't have enough spots available for 2008 and 3) Fill in your own private recruiting paranoia…., I say that our red-shirts from the 2006 class might be as good as anyone else's full class for 2007. Think about it…

Ty Moeller: Either the next Cie Grant or the next Donnie Nickey.

Mark Johnson: The #1 MLB last year in California

Thaddeus Gibson: Of all the great ‘backers in the past five years, Duane Long thinks TG has the most upside potential.

Grant Schwartz: Super fast and super hitter safety from a great pedigree.

Aaron Gant: I know – he's already on the field; but just barely. The "just barely" part changes next season.

Aram Olson: A ram. He will be butting heads with many opposing linebackers for many seasons to come.

Antonio Henton: A bigger version of Troy Smith? We can only hope.

Connor Smith: Probably the premier O-lineman in Ohio last year.

Bryant Browning: Oft-overlooked in the recruiting process, the coaches rave about this mountain of a lineman, who was also the valedictorian at Glenville in 2006.

Chimdi Chekwa: Comparisons to Youboty extend beyond the exotic name.

Dexter Larimore: A national wrestling champ and a guy in the Tim Anderson mold.

Walter Dublin: Can play all the D-line spots – he will play one of them.

Andy Miller: A very big and mobile tight end.

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Charlie Weis and poll dancing…Most of you understand my antipathy for Cheeseburger Chuck and all the preening he has done since getting to South Bend. The man is both literally and figuratively "bigger than the program" and that's just wrong. But nowhere does he come across as more transparent or venal than when he pumps up the flabby Notre Dame ghost-of-a-program, begging for recognition in the polls. Listen – what about Wisconsin? 11-1 and they only lost to Michigan 27-13 while Notre Dame was beaten like a tied-down goat, 47-21. At their place!

Anyway, and in that regard, one poster wrote:

Of all the teams in college football history, Notre Dame is the last one who should ever complain about polls and rankings.  Last season, though it was patently obvious to anyone with half a brain they were not that great, the Irish were placed in a BCS Bowl.  Then, after watching Ohio State pound them back to the Stone Age with over 600 yards of offense, the pollsters and media went gaga over the supposed genius Charlie Weis in the off season.  Some even ranked them No. 1 in the nation, predicting their tilt against USC would determine which team would play for the title.

Huh?  What am I missing? Two items: The next time Notre Dame wins their bowl game, it will be their first since January 1, 1994 when they escaped 24-21 in the Cotton Bowl. The next time Notre Dame beats a good team, it will be the first time under Weis and the first since the Lou Holtz era.

The proud tradition? You have to have a good memory:

What really sets it over the top are the most recent 'big' games in which ND has appeared since 2001.

They were destroyed in their first BCS game by Oregon State.

They were destroyed in their second BCS game by OSU.

They have lost to USC:

2006 44-24

2005 34-31

2004 41-10

2003 45-14

2002 44-13

They haven't won a bowl game since January 1, 1994.

To put all of this into proper perspective, the current recruits have no living memory of a ND bowl win. None. They probably BARELY remember (and only then if they grew up rooting for ND) the last time they beat USC. Some dude named Bob Davie was their coach. They certainly have no memory of ND winning a national title and were born after that happened.

Even the current crop of sports writers and coaches - the memories are starting to wane. Unless you are 30+ years old, you probably don't remember much about 1988. If you are 40+ years old, then you MAY remember 1979 in addition to 1988, but dating back to (and including) 1979 - ND has just 7 bowl wins.

The bottom line here is simple.  Weis, if he was really as smart as the media acts like he is, would realize the rankings take care of themselves.  Teams playing tough schedules with quality wins move up in the polls.  Teams barely escaping week after week find themselves in a holding pattern.  Teams dropping big games on a regular basis lose votes and belly flop.

Then (OK, flag me for piling on but it was just too darn tempting...), there is the venerable Sporting News this week and a similar analysis from Matt Hayes on Friday:

 

They were flying back from Colorado Springs, Colo., two weeks ago, fresh off a big-time victory over Air Force that set up a blockbuster, make-or break home game against Army that unofficially would secure the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy.

Then, out of nowhere from the back of the plane, came a thunderous uproar. The Notre Dame players had just learned that Texas had lost. Suddenly, the team that lost by 26 at home in its only meaningful game so far this season was thinking about playing for it all quicker than you can say Hiawatha Francisco.

"These kids are dialed in," Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said. "Just like the rest of us are." They're lurking around, and you don't see it. They're winning games, climbing up various polls, climbing back into our consciousness, and you don't really feel it. Hold on tight, everyone. Notre Dame is back.

All it will take to put the Irish in the national title game is a win at Southern California this week. Their coach, bless his heart, says they have just as much of a chance as the next guy. Says ND had its "blemish" — just like everyone else.

"We're not alone," he says.

Oh, but they most certainly are.

Not just anyone beats Army, Navy and Air Force in the same season. You try that, Ohio State.

Not just anyone allows a pathetic Michigan State team a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, only to snatch victory in the last few minutes with the help of two unthinkable Sparty turnovers.

Not just anyone gets pushed around at home by an average UCLA team, then watches the Bruins stumble around in the secondary in the last minute of the game and ekes out a victory.

Not just anyone plays two of the worst five teams in college football (Stanford and North Carolina) and lives to tell.

Look, let's not kid anyone: If we're comparing the resumes of the nation's top one-loss teams, Notre Dame is the definition of alone. The Irish's best win? Against Georgia Tech, the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division champions in a league that has somehow fallen below the Big East in the BCS Big Six pecking order.

Ask any of the one-loss teams which schedule they'd rather play — theirs or Notre Dame's — and the answer would have a Blue and Gold rhyme to it. ND's cake schedule overshadows major flaws in this team — on both sides of the ball.

I'm not saying the Irish defense is horrible, but the 26 points North Carolina scored in storied Notre Dame Stadium are the most points the Heels have scored all season against a Division I opponent.

I know Irish quarterback Brady Quinn is having a big year and all and the Dublin Coffman grad is the next coming of Tom Brady, but let's look a little closer, shall we? The Irish have played five games this season against defenses currently ranked No. 83 or worse — games in which Quinn has thrown 17 touchdown passes and two interceptions.

I know Weis is the greatest coach on the planet and all, but in his two years at ND he's 4-3 against ranked teams and 15-1 against the slugs of the college football world. And for the life of me, I can't forget that Michigan game two months ago, when the overrated Irish were exposed and Chuck Almighty's offense churned out 245 total yards and five turnovers.

That's some blemish.

There – I couldn't have said it better myself. And I didn't!

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Just stepping out – to the hardware store…As good as the team is as a group, this year's Buckeye players are in for some serious bling-bling awards individually. Plus, he guys that choose this stuff owe us big time after that AJ Hawk slight last year; one that should have precipitated a congressional investigation.

Looking at specifics, Quinn Pitcock is a finalist for the Lombardi, Bednarik and Lott trophies. James Laurinaitis (remember, fans, he is only a sophomore…) is finalist for the Bednarik and Butkus awards. If they pick a lame Posluszny again for the Butkus, then the award itself is just lame. Troy Smith? Almost everything: The Heisman, Walter Camp, Unitas and Maxwell are the big ones. Antonio Smith is the improbable candidate for the Thorpe and Stan White is up for the Draddy (Academic Heisman). Coach Tressel is a candidate for the Munger (Coach of the Year, of course).

One of the most interesting awards in the country is the Wuerffel Trophy designed to reward the player who is active in the community and has an outstanding academic record. Also called the "Humanitarian Heisman", it recognizes players for extraordinary off-the-field contributions. The surprise finalist for this from the Buckeyes? How about Joel Penton? Yes, how about Joel Penton!

And how about those Buckeyes…

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Finally, from the LAX Bucknuts brigade, an old time friend weighs in with a "WhazzatHeSed?", fresh from ABC's coverage of "The Game" last weekend…

"My favorite Brent Musberger quote from the game.  In the first quarter, he informs the audience: "It's the top of the hour here in the East." Yes, Brent, we are about 10-15 minutes behind out here on the west coast..."

 

Since I am running out of great stuff from funny people, please send me your quips and jokes, or just your comments. Direct them to Mr. Bucknuts at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com


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