Cus Words: Postseason Head Scratching

In this edition BSB staffer Marcus Hartman makes a case for Todd Boeckman's right to be a first team All-Big Ten quarterback - a consensus one, that is - and takes a similar look at Kirk Barton's possible postseason award snub. That and a look at where the Buckeyes might be headed in January makes up this week's Cus Words.

What we learned last week:

The coaches weren't paying as much attention to the season as they should have, or they have a soft spot for senior quarterbacks.

Chad Henne's inclusion anywhere among All-Big Ten honorees is questionable, but his spot on the coaches' first team is just plain puzzling. Sure he threw just three interceptions in conference play, but he missed nearly three full games and was awful in the most important one of the season (against Ohio State).

It is also fair to think he would have had several more picks had he been able to guide more throws somewhere near his intended receiver or if the Buckeye defensive backs could catch (true, his receivers could have helped him out too but that's a fact of quarterback play as well).

I will grant that he played well in gutting out wins against Michigan State and Illinois, but was his overall body of work better than that of Todd Boeckman?

One is hard pressed to say yes. Boeckman struggled in his last two games but he threw at least two touchdown passes in ever other conference game and finished as statistically the most efficient passer in the league (Henne was third).

Boeckman also got the conference season off with a bang with a nearly flawless performance at Northwestern (11 for 14 for 179 yards with four touchdown passes) and put up 200 or more yards each against Minnesota, Purdue and Penn State.

The Penn State contest was not quite of the magnitude of The Game in Ann Arbor but a highly anticipated and scrutinized game in its own right and that was perhaps Boeckman's best of the season (19 for 26 for a season-high 253 yards and three touchdowns).

You will get no argument from this writer about Kellen Lewis' spot as the second-team quarterback for both the coaches and writers - if anything, he might be too low - but there is just no justification for Henne's spot above either Lewis or Boeckman.

Lewis, by the way, had as many 200-yard games total (six) in conference play as Boeckman and Henne did combined (three each). Both Lewis and Boeckman had a higher completion percentage and threw for more yards per game than did Henne.

Another qualm with the coaches' selections comes in the form of their offensive lineman of the year. I realize Michigan's Jake Long is a very good player who won the same award last year, but I also believe Ohio State's Kirk Barton is very close to him if not on equal footing from a talent and production standpoint. He was the consensus other first-team tackle so others must agree. If so, I tend to believe league standings should have some bearing on breaking a tie, and that goes in Barton's favor.

The Buckeye also had a better afternoon in the de facto conference title game - Long allowed two sacks - and was a calming force all season on a line that had to replace two all-conference performers but played well enough for Chris "Beanie" Wells to lead the conference in rushing (during conference play) by a wide margin.

Other injustices perpetrated in the selection of the all-conference teams were consensus among the media and coaches.

Adam Kraus as a first-team guard? How could such a pitiful line - one that cleared the way for the 10th-best offense in the conference in terms of total yards - get two players on the first team? Beyond that, he did not look outstanding in the games of his I saw.

Ohio State's Steve Rehring or Penn State's Rich Ohrnberger would have been a better choice.

Defensively the only standout oddity was Penn State's Justin King. I believe he is a very talented player but he had a rough season. Indiana's James Hardy wore him out and Ohio State's Brian Robiskie got the better of him, too.

King deserves recognition but not on the first team. I'd have taken Minnesota's Dominque Barber instead.

What will we learn this week?

I suppose this is pretty obvious: Where will the Buckeyes be in January?

Two games likely will decide it, either individually or in tandem.

If Missouri beats Oklahoma, expect the Tigers to punch their ticket.

West Virginia? If they crush Pittsburgh in the Backyard Brawl, the Mountaineers should be in as well.

But as crazy as this college football season is, does anyone really think the expected will happen? It seems as if this would be the first weekend that would be the case all year.

Should the Buckeyes creep into the title game, they will face an interesting matchup, to be sure (I'm not going to bother to look at what will happen if BOTH the Tigers and Mountaineers lose, but of course that is a possibility.).

Both of the nation's current top two run a spread offense, but they do so in different ways. Missouri will remind Buckeye fans of a higher-powered version of Purdue's attack while West Virginia is one of the pioneers of the spread-option that is sweeping the nation.

The defenses?

West Virginia runs a 3-3-5 (and not always so well) while Missouri plays from a more traditional 4-3 base alignment.

Oh, did I forget something?

Sure. If both the Mountaineers and Tigers somehow win (and the computers don't unexpectedly smile on the Buckeyes or the Harris poll voters and the coaches don't reexamine the merits of each team and decide Ohio State just happens to be better and have proven more by beating more good teams), Ohio State has a date in Pasadena, Calif., in the Rose Bowl.

Their likely opponent there is a USC team that might be finding itself right now and could be an excellent litmus test for this Buckeye squad.

Some fear an OSU-USC tussle will take some luster away from the Buckeyes' trip to Los Angeles scheduled for next season, but I don't really think so.

Those will be different teams, with countless new starters and undoubtedly some fabulous new recruits to show off.

Someone will be looking for revenge, and both will have their eyes on a new chance to emerge from the yearly tumult that is the BCS.

So, the way I see it, the Buckeyes have nothing to lose heading into this weekend. They are guaranteed a chance to take on a very good team with the national championship at stake or to reestablish themselves – in the eyes of those around the country – as one of the elite of the elite as far as pure talent, because you can bet USC will have risen greatly in the esteem of most pundits by the time the year turns over into 2008.

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