Cus Words: Pedal To The Floor

Everyone knew Ohio State had some weapons, but 58 points is a little more than expected. Now the challenge is to keep it up, something past outfits have not always been able to do. Word on that, how this team resembles the 1996 Buckeyes, TV viewing recommendations, Big Ten rankings and more can be find within this week's Cus Words.

What we learned last week:

We wanted to see what Ohio State would look like if it put together two strong halves. Instead we found out how these Buckeyes play when pissed off.

When seeing red, it turns out they only need two quarters. Maybe one....

The lesson then? This team can be nearly as explosive as its immediate predecessor.

Brian Robiskie has all the tools necessary to add to the long line of receivers to make OSU a stop on the way to the National Football League.

Todd Boeckman has a plus-arm and a good understanding of the offense. He's far from flawless – Did he miss the memo about throwing the ball late down the middle? – but more than serviceable. (Ask Penn State fans if they would be willing to trade their former five-star recruit for OSU's three-star guy right about now...).

Boeckman can find open receivers and get them the ball, especially when the offensive line gives him time, as it has more often than not. And when it fails to do so, he'll stand in and absorb whatever punishment is necessary.

Chris "Beanie" Wells is as advertised when he gets a little room to work, and this can be a pretty good run-blocking outfit. That's a unit because it includes not just the offensive line but also a couple of tight ends and fullbacks. The defense? Well, you saw it.

Defensive coordinator Jim Heacock is the favorite whipping boy of some fans, but it is hard to criticize what he is doing this year. With two stellar starters (Malcolm Jenkins and Donald Washington) at corner and a solid No. 3 guy in Chimdi Chekwa, Heacock feels comfortable dialing up more blitzes than he did a season ago. For their part, the players sound enthusiastic about the change in attitude. They look the part as well.


What we look to learn this week:

Can they keep the pedal to the floor?

Now that Ohio State has shown itself capable of offensive fireworks and suffocating defense, the challenge is to do it every week.

The 2006 Buckeyes had an almost uncanny ability to avoid letdowns, but that roster was full of fifth-year seniors.

This year only Kirk Barton falls into that category.

So perhaps we should gaze a bit farther back for comparison's sake.

If you look hard enough, you can see shades of 1996 with these Buckeyes: a nasty, veteran defense and a young offense with loads of potential.

This defense, like the 1996 group, was mostly forged the year before in the fire of a national championship near-miss, and it appears the newest Silver Bullets are following a similar story arc.

Shawn Springs, Mike Vrable and company should be able to relate to Jenkins, Vernon Gholston, et al.

On the other side of the ball, we've seen both greatness and blandness as an almost entirely new group of starting backs and receivers gets acquainted with each other.

The 1996 offense, with Stanley Jackson and Joe Germaine sharing quarterbacking duties, Pepe Person taking over at tailback and true freshman David Boston ascending to a starting spot on the outside, averaged 37.9 points per game.

Boeckman, Robiskie and Wells check in at 37.25 a third of the way into the season.

But here is the cautionary part of the tale. While that 1996 defense was a constant, the offense could be maddening.

The 1996 team was the last one from Ohio State to break the 50-point barrier twice, but it failed to reach 30 five other times.

By the end of the season, the offense ground to a halt with a 13-9 loss to a four-loss Michigan team in Ohio Stadium.

What will become of this group?

Crushing another weaker opponent would be a good signal times have changed.


All-Buckeye Beaters Nominee:

Despite the blowout, two Wildcats will get a chance for the postseason nod.

Linebacker Adam Kadela was credited with 13 tackles, including two for loss, and a forced fumble, honorable in defeat.

Then we have our first special teams nomination, which goes to Stephen Simmons for his 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He earned it by breaking a few tackles and flashing a little speed by keeping any of those speedy young Buckeyes on the kickoff team from running him down.


Eye-opener of the week:

Illinois won its Big Ten opener for the first time since 1993.


Fit for DVR:

While the Buckeyes show people in the Metrodome what a defense looks like, OSU fans might want to keep the DVR set to or at least an eye on USC's visit to Seattle to take on Washington at the same time. Hard to imagine the Huskies withstanding the onslaught of the Trojans, but it bears watching how the athleticism compares and if Washington can put up any fight at all in a place where they went toe-to-toe with the Buckeyes for 35 minutes or so.

While fans are warming up for the OSU-Minnesota game, Penn State and Illinois have a high-noon showdown that should be interesting. The Lions will bow out of conference race or assure everyone that Illinois is still a year away. If the Fighting Illini want to take a big step forward, they need to get this one into the win column. Illinois runs the ball better than most teams, a possible red flag for a Penn State team that let Michigan control last week's game with Mike Hart.

Keep an eye on which team looks more athletic – could tell you the state of the programs.

The next window of games presents Michigan State with a similar opportunity. If the Spartans are markedly better, they will hang with Wisconsin at Camp Randall. Iowa did, but then again that's a rivalry game so we'll allow Wisconsin one mulligan. If the Badgers are really an elite team, they should beat down the Spartans. Badgers quarterback Tyler Donovan needs to keep improving before Wisconsin heads to the Horseshoe in November. Bet on Mark Dantonio wanting to take away the run and make him try to do just that.


CUS WORDS BIG TEN POWER POLL
1. Ohio State (Not sure if "2" is far enough apart from "1" to justify the next slot)
2. Wisconsin (Maybe slow start wasn't an aberration)
3. Purdue (Hey, someone has to be here)
4. Michigan State (Would like to see more from the offense against pitiful Notre Dame)
5. Illinois (Rashard Mendenhall is coming on, and the defense shut down a good offense last week)
6. Michigan (Mike Hart and what exactly?)
tie 7. Penn State (Remember when Anthony Morelli was the next big thing?)
tie 7. Iowa (Scare of Wisconsin might have said more about Badgers than Hawkeyes)
9. Indiana (Mistakes killed them against Illinois)
10. Northwestern (Ouch)
11. Minnesota (Maybe they can reach No. 10 by staying within 50 of the Buckeyes)


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