Cus Words: Suspicious Minds

Buckeye Sports Bulletin staffer Marcus Hartman examines whether or not we yet know what we are seeing with these football Buckeyes, plus notes on the Big Ten, what to watch this weekend and more.

What we learned last week:

Some say seeing one tape of a team is no better than seeing none at all, but what about getting two views that don't have much in common with each other? Could be even less informative.

It's folly to draw too many conclusions from one game alone, but seeing the offense take a step back last week hardly invokes confidence.

Still, at this point in the season there are a million variables to consider. That being the case, we'll be honest. We may not have learned anything yet, so let's call these suspicions:

-- The offensive line has not been the dominant unit we were expecting. Why is that? Could be because one defense gave them an unexpected look (YSU on the goal line) while selling out to stop the run, while the other opponent brought in a unique look that took some time to get a read on. In both instances, the principles involved said adjustments were made with which they were happy. At the same time, no one has been satisfied with the early fire - or lack thereof - shown from this unit that lost emotional leader T.J. Downing.

-- Todd Boeckman, the starter, is still the Todd Boeckman of jersey scrimmages past. While his opening game stat line was resplendent, that was aided partly by a couple of coulda- or maybe shoulda-been interceptions (at the quarterback's own admission). Start No. 2 reminded those who have seen him in scrimmages for the past three years that he is far from a finished project. For all the belief perpetuated throughout the offseason that he would be a caretaker for the offense, not making big plays but not making big mistakes either, it was hard to forget the numerous times he would look good in jersey scrimmages for a half dozen or so plays then have a total brain lock and throw late over the middle or blindly into coverage.

He has shown better touch than in the past, though. And he's always had a strong arm. So there is plenty to work with. The jury is out, and it figures to remain so for a while.

-- The defense is pretty good. Ok, not much of a limb to go out on here, but given the way last year's unit crashed, it was reasonable to wonder at least a bit. Thus far the pressure on the quarterback has been above average and there's been nowhere to run. Tackling looks better but there is still room for improvement. Still waiting to see what happens to a team that commits itself to running the ball, though...

What we expect to learn this week:

Now you're talkin'. While we might not know all we need to about both teams after Ohio State tangles with Washington, we're virtually guaranteed to find out if either is worth the nation's attention beyond September.

The Huskies have some exciting young talent, but how will they react to facing their first legitimate test from a BCS school? Will the lights be too bright? Will the defenders be too fast?

We should not underestimate Akron's defense nor perhaps even Youngstown State's - it's conceivable those are better units than we think - but getting things done on the road is a different animal.

Will that be a positive or a negative? The crowd will be hostile but sometimes roadtrips make focusing on the task at hand easier to do.

Washington's defense was 95th in the country in total yards and 85th in scoring a year ago, so the step up in opposing talent might not be as pronounced as it seems on the surface. That means the challenge is a balanced one - something to respect but not to fear.

If Ohio State has dreams of taking home any titles this year, the Buckeyes will have to step up both focus and execution this week, then make that a habit from here on out with a conference slate on tap that will be more challenging than it was in 2006.

Buckeye Beater Nominee

Early on, I get the feeling it's going to be easier to fill out this team than it was last year, at least on the defensive side of the ball. This week we'll go with a trio of Zips. The aptly named Reggie Corner notched six tackles, including one for loss, had an interception and caused another while playing a sticky corner. Free safety Andre Jones had a game-high 10 tackles, including a sack, and nearly snagged an interception while the game was still in doubt. Finally, we have to recognize the man who made the safety, linebacker Brion Stokes. Aside from the two-pointer, the senior had five other tackles.

Executive decision: the first offensive player to score a touchdown against Ohio State automatically gains a nomination for our year-end (Hey, with five defensive nominees and none on the offense, I've gotta catch up somehow!)...

On My DVR This Week

With both Top 25 teams that are in action at noon (No. 12 Penn State and No. 7 Wisconsin) playing total patsies (Buffalo and The Citadel, respectively) I was going to suggest sleeping in but a second look revealed one juicy matchup worth at least one eye from OSU fans: Akron at Indiana. The Hoosiers have hinted thus far they have a formidable offense, so it bears watching what they will do against an Akron defense that held kept Ohio State's wheels spinning in mud much of the afternoon last week.

Afterwards there is the Stupor Bowl pitting winless former titans Notre Dame and Michigan (if you have capability to tape one game while you watch another since the Buckeyes kick off at the same time). If car wrecks are not your style, forgo the Irish and Wolverines and keep an eye on Tennessee's visit to Gainesville to take on Florida.

In the evening, all eyes should be on No. 1 USC's visit to No. 14 Nebraska. The jury is still out on the 'Huskers, but this will be the Trojans' toughest road trip until they go to Berkeley to take on Cal Nov. 10...

1. Wisconsin (P.J. Hill is back with 147 yards, and QB Tyler Donovan showed some moxy with the rally on the road.)
2. Ohio State (While offense goes back to drawing board, defense keeps the fingers in the damn.)
3. Penn State (Is Notre Dame that bad? Probably. But the PSU defense is good. So is Derrick Williams.)
4. Purdue (Not choking on any cupcakes, but when does the varsity schedule start?)
5. Michigan State (The offense shows good balance and the defense was opportunistic last week.)
6. Indiana (Turnovers bailed out the collapsing defense late, but the offense is cookin'.)
7. Northwestern (Next formidable Wildcat QB is C.J. Bacher, and the offense rolled even with Tyrell Sutton sidelined. Defense was riddled by land and air last week.)
8. Illinois (Need to clean up the mistakes, but there's more talent here than Iowa City)
9. Iowa (Play someone)
10. Michigan ("When you give up big plays with a three-deep zone, you have problems," Lloyd Carr said. That about sums it up. It also hurts when your offense that some predicted would score 40 per game has yet to reach that in total after two weeks.)
11. Minnesota (Hey, even MAC teams beat other MAC teams half the time. Kudos to QB Adam Weber, though, for leading the Gophers to the win.)

Marcus Hartman is a staff writer for Buckeye Sports Bulletin and For comment, reach him at

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