Cus Words: From Dawgs To Cats

The Buckeye team OSU fans were waiting for finally arrived in Seattle. Now conference play rolls around and the question becomes, "Can they keep it up?" Those issues, a look at the best the Huskies had to offer, what to watch on TV next weekend and of course the Big Ten ratings can be found inside this week's Cus Words.

What we learned last week:

Buckeye Nation knew what it was talking about all summer, yessiree.

The Buckeyes have a big offensive line that can move people and protect the quarterback.

Jim Tressel found himself a pretty good tailback from Akron two years ago, and that guy he brought in from the other side of the state this summer ain't half bad, either.

There are at least a couple of big, talented wide receivers capable of producing as starters, too.

It's safe to say most fans and program observers felt they would be seeing those developments this season, and against Washington the fruit began to develop.

Most also banked on a strong defense, and it is looking like they were right to do so.

This unit is not lights out at this point in the season, but it is opportunistic. Younger than either of the last two versions of the Silver Bullets, there is reason to believe it will continue to get better as the combines start heading out into the fields and the days grow shorter.

The athleticism has been kicked up a notch from 2006 (and many of those athletes are more experienced), but the tackling could still get better.

It is hard to argue with 7.3 points allowed per game, an opponent's third-down conversion rate below 30 percent and a red zone defense that is statistically the Big Ten's best.

Yes, I'd say the only folks who should be feeling disappointed these days are those thinking that in Todd Boeckman they were getting another Craig Krenzel. As the junior signal caller showed in Seattle (and the week before), he is no caretaker. He has a better arm than Krenzel, and he is not afraid to remind anyone, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.

Boeckman can make all the throws and lead an offense. Whether or not he will pick up Krenzel's knack for making plays and the right decisions at seemingly every turn remains to be seen.


What we figure to learn this week:

The Buckeyes' collective psyche bears watching this weekend. The start of Big Ten play should be enough to get blood moving - that was the consensus among players and coaches last year - but then again, Northwestern was mentioned when players were asked to compare the level of physicality they faced in the opener against Youngstown State. Not exactly a classic Big Ten slugfest on tap at the old Horseshoe this Saturday.

The Wildcats have presented a problem or two for Jim Tressel's Buckeye teams in the past but not in the last two seasons when Ohio State has outscored Northwestern by a combined margin of 104-17. There were thoughts the Wildcats might be in line for a modest renaissance (including the school's first 3-0 start since 2001) this year...until they allowed Duke to snap the nation's longest losing streak last Saturday.

That embarrassing stumble coupled with Ohio State's rousing road victory over Washington could equal a Buckeye letdown this week.

This of course is a classic in the field of sports clichés, but it is particularly legitimate this week given the pair of patsies the Buckeyes open Big Ten play against, especially considering OSU players admitted to having played down to the competition to a certain extent in the first two games of the season. Until they avoid doing so again, the Buckeyes will remain on notice not to overlook anyone.

Even with a quality win in hand, this is still a young team, and emotional swings are to be expected.

Despite what they showed last week, the Wildcats have a capable quarterback and could get a significant upgrade if tailback Tyrell Sutton returns to the lineup after missing the Duke contest with an injury.

The back seven of the defense can do some good things as well.


On My DVR This Week

Without question there is a lot riding on Penn State's visit to Michigan at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

The Wolverines looked better at beating hapless Notre Dame than did the Nittany Lions, who are 3-0 after having played absolutely no one of consequence. So both teams clearly have a lot to prove. If Michigan really can right the ship, this must be the time to get that started. If Penn State is going to convince anyone it truly is a threat in the conference race, finally getting a win in the Big House is essential.

Aside from that contest, there is not much else. Prior you can watch Illinois and Indiana try to get a leg up on each other in the race for Comeback Team Of The Year in the conference, and No. 22 Georgia will try to hang onto its spot in the rankings as it travels to No. 16 Alabama in the evening, a game set to kick off at 7:45 p.m., 15 minutes before No. 1 USC begins its annual beatdown of the Pac 10 against a Washington State team that opened the year losing to Wisconsin.


All-Buckeye Beaters Team Nominations

Fears of an offensive squad full of holes at the end of the season were abated after the Huskies found ways to move the ball against Ohio State in Seattle.

Without a doubt quarterback Jake Locker was intriguing in defeat, and here we'll give a shout out to the Husky offensive tackles, Ben Ossai and Chad Macklin, for helping to hold the talented Ohio State defensive ends without a tackle for loss.

As promised, the first opponent to find the end zone against the Buckeyes gets his name on the list. Anthony Russo, come on down after putting the Huskies ahead with a 23-yard touchdown catch from Locker in the final seconds of the first half.



CUS WORDS BIG TEN POWER POLL

1. Ohio State (Now this is what we've been waiting for.)
2. Wisconsin (With 31 points against the Badgers, did The Citadel expose some weaknesses on D?)
3. Penn State (With the J.V. games out of the way, a nemesis awaits.)
4. Purdue (I'd say it's time for the competition to finally go up a notch, but the Boilermakers play Minnesota this week.)
5. Michigan State (The defense keeps looking strong, as does the running game.)
6. Indiana (Offense continues to impress, more than doubling the scoring output of Ohio State against the same Akron team one week apart)
7. Illinois (Smacking down Syracuse is just what this team should be doing.)
8. Michigan (Notre Dame, that's a big ole' hang with'em. Hart against the PSU linebackers should be a good one to watch this week.)
9. Iowa (Last week I said, "Play someone." Not sure if Iowa State counts or not, but that's not the kind of game that helps the Big Ten's national image.)
10. Northwestern (Of course, Iowa didn't lose to Duke.)
11. Minnesota (Something tells me the Golden Gophers should get comfortable in this spot.)


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