Back-to-back National Championships?

Any reasonable and objective OSU football fan (and doesn't that describe most of us?) will be driven to one obvious conclusion. In fact, almost all the rational and logical assertions in this column (and isn't that most of them?) end up at that same conclusion: Ohio State will win the national championship this year. It's in the bag. A mortal lock.

For those of you who haven't followed the trail of evidence building to this transparent conclusion, let me use Mr. Bucknuts' tried-and true Long-Term Objective Logic system to clue you in.

First, we need to break down the rest of the schedule that our Buckeyes face this year. On the road? We face Purdue and Illinois. OSU has already proven that it can toy with under-manned teams on the road. We slaughtered a 2-5 Bearcats squad, we overwhelmed a tough Northwestern team (which lost last Saturday 49-0 to Penn State) 27-16, and we beat up Wisconsin, a squad opening at 0-3 in the Big Ten. They were no match for us last week as we prevailed convincingly 19-14. Ohio State attempts to keep these games close so that we will be battle-tested for the ultimate road win at the national championship game January 3 in Arizona. Purdue and Illinois are all that's left for us on the road. Can you imagine conservative and inexperienced coaches like Joe Tiller or Ron Turner seriously testing us? No way.

The Long-Term Objective Logic model shows similar no-brainer conclusions about our remaining home games. Next week, we'll dispatch the aforementioned Penn State. Then we roll over Glen Mason's 7-1 Minnesota team the following week before ending the year with our traditional dismantling of (6-1) Michigan. Who could argue?

Winning out, to me, is a foregone conclusion. Being undefeated in college football is the easy part. Beating the BCS code, on the other hand, now that takes some doing.

With that said, how do we get to Tempe? It's a simple process of elimination. There's no chance that Oklahoma escapes the Big Twelve undefeated. That leaves just Miami and Virginia Tech as unbeaten teams ranking ahead of us. And they meet December 7. I say we get "winners" (obviously the Hokies) and an unprepared and confused V-Tech team goes down big to our Buckeyes out in the desert for a convincing national championship victory.


Where I am worried is in trying to apply my Long-Term Objective Logic (LOL) scrutiny to the following campaign. We all know how tough it is to repeat as national champions – look at what is going to happen to Miami this year! At first blush, Ohio State's team, though, looks even stronger for their inevitable championship run in 2003. Let's take a look:

On offense, the entire team comes back. Even better news: the entire two-deep comes back including the top back-ups at offensive line, the top six running backs and seven out of eight of our wide receiver corps. Even better news? We bring on Louis Irizarry, the "Maurice Clarett of tight ends". Life looks good on offense. On defense, we assume Will Smith will stay so we have 6 of 8 returning linemen with Kudla, Penton and Pitcock ready in the wings. We lose two linebackers but we have Hawk, Carpenter and D'Andrea ready to step in. I say that Will Allen and Dustin Fox will prove to be as good (especially in pass coverage) as the departing Nickey and Doss at the safety slots and Underwood will be fine at one cornerback with hopefully Donte Whitner (the "Maurice Clarett of defensive backs") being a stud from Day One at the other.

Even Mike Nugent returns and the already special teams just get better!

Thus, the LOL program projects a good offensive turnout with experience and upgrades on defense. The Tressel Train is rolling and that doesn't take into account some of the other instant-impact recruits we might get to see (like Prescott Burgess, the "Maurice Clarett of safeties"). Where I am prepared to be worried is when I look at our schedule next year. Out-of-conference, we get Bowling Green (currently undefeated), North Carolina State (currently undefeated) and a perennial Top Twenty team in Washington. For the Big Ten, we have to face Penn State, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan all on the road. There could be some testers in that group.

You gotta figure that Coach T will find new ways to win on the road. And he will figure out how to solve Clarett's fear-of-flying at the same time. But our Buckeyes might have to pick it up a notch to be as successful in those away games as we have proven to be this season!

So, it might be more difficult to repeat as national champions than some of you realize. That's why you have to be objective and rational about these things. You have to have an infallible system like I have:


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