Cus Words: Satisfaction Unlikely From BCS

With favorites falling every week, the BCS title game is shaping up to be a battle of unknowns or a mishmash of sullied superstars. Either way, don't look for something the public will clamor for. Staffer Marcus Hartman examines that, the unique challenge Michigan State presents, the best Kent State had to offer, must-see Big Ten TV and a rating of the conference.

What we learned last week:

The BCS has no chance of producing a championship game matchup that will satisfy many folks this year.

Oh, there will always be angry people out there when the two winners of the yearly 12-round Russian Roulette that passes for a college football season are announced, but this year the problems will reach an all-time high.

We saw last year the difficulty of finding a one-loss team to match up with an undefeated one.

That may be the best we can hope for in 2007.

While being unbeaten does not necessarily signal a team is the best in the land, at least it is a convenient trump card over those who did not take care of all their business.

With no losses to worry about, it's simpler to compare strength of victories, but at the rate we are going, there might be no unbeatens left at all by the 1st of December.

All of the still-undefeated contenders have at least one harrowing road trip to go, and beyond that, given the insanity we have seen already, any of them could lose a game to a heavy underdog without causing us to feel quite as shocked as we might be in any other season.

If no one makes it through the season unscathed, chaos will reign like never before.

If you think comparing Florida and Michigan last year was tough, multiply the debate by five or six.

At the rate we are going, the season could yield a half dozen one-loss teams with wildly divergent resumes and virtually no way to separate them.

More over, even if two of the BCS conference teams do make it to 12- or 13-0, can we really call any of these matchups appealing?

I suppose Ohio State and Arizona State would come closest, being a traditional Big Ten-Pac-10 matchup, but the Buckeyes have beaten no one and may well end the season without doing so and nobody seems to think the Sun Devils are for real as of now. They stand 12th in both human components of the BCS rankings and even with some love from the computers (tied for fifth with Ohio State) the Sun Devils remain behind four one-loss teams in the overall BCS rankings. That includes three SEC squads (LSU, Kentucky and South Carolina) that have already played each other, so they will not be knocking each other out.

If Arizona State does in fact run the table, it will have earned quite a bit of respect with wins over Cal, USC and at Oregon, but this writer is not betting on ASU going undefeated. If it does, would that prove the quality of the Sun Devils or just show the people declaring the Pac-10 one of the top conferences in the land don't know what they are talking about?

Then what? OSU-Boston College? OSU-South Florida? Don't even talk to me about Bulls and Eagles getting it on if the Buckeyes stumble somewhere along the way. That would be a game begging for buzz throughout the holiday season because one team (USF) plays in a conference many fans think is the worst of the six big boys and the other (BC) is a member of the one that really does bear that distinction.

But then again, who really knows? There are not enough interconference games to truly compare conferences, yet that is exactly what has to be done when the champion of each league is not guaranteed a postseason shot at the national title, so we're reduced to using the eyeball test.

That's been tough enough in the past with one clear-cut No. 1. Now there is nothing but haze.


What we figure to learn this week:

If the run-stopping credentials of this Buckeye defense are for real.

Jim Heacock said himself last week no one has tried to run right at his team yet, and he seemed genuinely concerned about that fact.

Now, there is no doubt that to some extent this was just a coach being uncomfortable about the unknown, unsatisfied until a perfect season is complete, but at the same time there is legitimate reason to be concerned.

If you pin me down, I'd tell you the Buckeye run defense is for real. But I can't be totally sure until I seem someone who knows how to run it try its hand.

Seeing is believing, and we should get an eye full this week. If there are any doubts, simply check the numbers for Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick.

One team has two players on the conference's top 10 rushing list, and it is Michigan State. Ringer ranks No. 2 in the Big Ten and seventh in the nation with 133.1 yards per game while Caulcrick pitches in 71.3.

But do more than look at the numbers. Find yourself some clips of these guys, because they can play. Ringer has been doing a good Tiki Barber impersonation this year: a smallish guy with good speed, explosion, shiftiness and surprising power. Caulcrick? He's a bull, plain and simple.

The Spartans run the ball a myriad of ways – power sweeps, quick tosses, traps, counters, isos and draws – and it's a good bet their head coach knows better than most one of the truest-ringing axioms of the Jim Tressel era: Give up on the running game at your own peril.

Even an ineffective running game is necessary to even think about finding much success against one of Tressel's defenses.

Continually sending the ball into the line of scrimmage without much payoff may get frustrating, but the alternative is an even tougher group to do anything else against when there is one less thing to worry about.

And this new challenge comes on the heels of a game in which Kent State had the best rushing day any opponent has had against Ohio State yet.

The Golden Flashes found success with a mix of traps, counters and draws, with the latter perhaps the most effective as the Golden Flashes did a good job of using the Buckeyes' aggressiveness against them. On a number of occasions, the defensive line would get good push up the field only to watch waterbug Eugene Jarvis zip past.

Don't think it was all trickery, though. They had plenty of success running right at the Buckeyes. The middle of the Zip line had some success getting the Buckeye tackles turned and getting downfield to get a hit on a Buckeye linebacker. Jarvis made good on those creases created.


All-Buckeye Beaters Team Nominees:

One might think it would be difficult to find standouts from a team that was beaten by 45 points, but there were a few Golden Flashes worth nomination.

The most prominent was defensive tackle Colin Ferrell. Though he was credited with just two tackles, Ferrell was in the Buckeye backfield on a regular basis, including when he sacked Todd Boeckman.

On the other side of the ball, the slippery Jarvis certainly must get a nod after rushing for 84 yards (all but one in the first half) and the center of Jarvis' line should get some recognition, too. Josh Perry cleared the way on several of Jarvis' runs, so he'll get a shot to carry the banner for MAC linemen when we go to picking the finalists for this team at the end of the season.


Fit For DVR:

With the Big Ten race seemingly getting wilder by the week, intriguing matchups bookend Ohio State's 3:30 showdown with mercurial Michigan State. At noon, a possibly revitalized Penn State travels to Indiana. The Nittany Lions will be tuning up for Ohio State while the Hoosiers will want to show they can bounce back from a tough defeat. IU quarterback Kellen Lewis and his band of talented receivers should make a nice matchup with the talented PSU secondary. The loser is all the way out of the conference race. We'll call the winner mostly out of it.

Then when the Buckeyes are done with the Spartans, No. 24 Michigan and Illinois take center stage at 8 p.m. on ABC. The Fighting Illini have already beaten two ranked teams at home this season. If they make it three, Ohio State is really in the driver's seat for an outright Big Ten title.

Nationally, the best game is an evening affair as No. 18 Auburn travels to No. 5 LSU. Take the Tigers in this one, regardless of the spread. Oh, and one last thing: You might want to open your week a bit early with a Thursday night peak at No. 2 South Florida as the Bulls travel to Rutgers. The precedent of this season would seem to demand a Scarlet Knight victory, but if that does not pan out it might pay to get a scouting report on South Florida sooner or later.


CUS WORDS BIG TEN POLL*
1. Ohio State (I told you health could be a concern before Halloween.)
2. Illinois (Ron – that's your one mulligan. Now you'd best teach one of those QBs to throw.)
3. Michigan (Still have my doubts about the quality of this team, but we'll see.)
4. Michigan State (They can really run it and QB is improving. Defense still iffy.)
5. Penn State (Maybe not quite dead. Offense showing something lately.)
6. Indiana (Hoosiers are wearing a big shiner this week after MSU beatdown)
7. Wisconsin (Thirty-eight points to Penn State? Really? Seven picks by Donovan in four conference games not helping either.)
8. Northwestern (Drilled by Ohio State then outplayed next three opponents despite just getting a pair of wins.)
9. Purdue (Joe Tiller should send back his paycheck for last week. Pathetic.)
10. Iowa (At least Illinois win showed Hawkeyes can be opportunistic.)
11. Minnesota (Hey, this is familiar.)
(*The adjective power will return to this poll when a second conference team reaches the top 15. Maybe top 20...)


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