Some thoughts on OSU/PSU

Since I spent the morning with my sick dog and was a bit distracted today by her, I will not be passing out grades for each unit.  What I would rather do is to point out individual efforts and some thoughts from other games from around the nation… 

  • Game ball to Chris Gamble.  Though some commentators (and myself) have pointed out that Gamble's move to play in the secondary was borne out of desperation, it sure worked well today.  Call it luck, call it desperation, call it a prayer, but if it was a prayer then it has been answered against Cincinnati, Wisconsin, and now Penn State.  Gamble not only scored the only Ohio State touchdown, he shut down the receiver he was covering all day long.  Kudos Chris.  I am all for keeping him on defense this year, and waiting until next year to play him at wide receiver when (hopefully) we can recruit some talent for a seriously depleted secondary.
  • Special word to Mike Nugent.  Can you say Lou Groza front-runner?  If he keeps this up, he should win the award.  He has yet to miss this season and has hit numerous pressure kicks.  Every year you have a couple of games where you win or lose because of your field goal kicker/holder/snapper.  This one was one such game.  Nugent came up huge.  Without his points, OSU has only 6 all game.  With him, OSU wins 13-7.  For all the grief he took last year, he now deserves all the praise.  While I am at it, I want to say thanks to all of the blockers, the longsnapper, and the holder.  Mike is not the only one who has a job to do.  The best field goal kicker in the world cannot kick through a defensive lineman if someone misses a block… 
  • Andy Groom will play in the NFL.  It is rare when a punter is drafted, but do not be shocked if someone spends a pick on him in the April NFL draft.  If there is a better punter in the country, I want to see them.  He is flat-out a man.  A 75 yard punt against Wisconsin and two incredibly critical punts against the Nittany Lions prove to anyone who doubted that he will be missed next season.  Too bad Andy is a senior.  Best of luck in The Show.
  • Mike Doss.  Doss may not have looked like he had a stellar game today from the box score, but I appearances can be deceiving.  The reason I say this is because Penn State admitted to the announcers in this week's interviews that they schemed around Mike.  This means whatever else Mike did today, he freed up other players to wreak havoc.  The sure tackling of Doss combined with the Groom punt also led to the poor field position just when Penn State looked to be ready to make a run for the lead.  Finally, Doss came back as a senior to provide on the field leadership.  He did that today. 
  • Dustin Fox.  Great game.  He shut down his man every bit as well as Gamble shut down his.  Imagine a secondary with a couple blue-chip cornerbacks and Will Allen and Dustin Fox as the Safety position.  It has me salivating just thinking about it.  Opposing teams would almost be forced to run the ball right into the teeth of a stout defensive line and linebacking corps instead of passing.  Wow.
  • Craig Krenzel.  Yes, he had a fumble and an interception.  Yes, he did not throw for a touchdown or run for one.  However, he showed again today just how incredibly good he is.  I have been saying it all year, he is a great college quarterback.  Period.  Stop looking at the spreadsheets of statistics.  Stop looking at the pretty arm of others.  Stop looking at the speed of Banks or Mills.  Look at the Ohio State record.  9-0.  I would not take any quarterback in the Big Ten and maybe only a couple of guys in the entire country over him (a big maybe).  He is the best quarterback Ohio State has seen since Joe Germaine.  He may even be better as an all around quarterback than Joe.  Yes.  I mean that.  Joe hardly ever took off.  As great a passer as he was, he often cost the offense negative plays by refusing to run and getting sacked instead.  Craig takes whatever the defense gives him.  Whether that means that he runs or he passes, he makes great decisions.  The best part of it all is that Craig is just a junior.  He will be back next season with a deeper offensive line.
  • The Linebackers.  Where do you start?  Led by Wilhelm and anchored by Reynolds, this unit was nothing short of spectacular.  Wilhelm should get consideration for the Butkus.  Reynolds has taken his share of heat among the fans this season, but he played huge today.  I am nothing short of ecstatic for him after his effort. How about A.J. Hawk?  The least ballyhooed of the linebacker recruits Ohio State signed last season has turned out to be the best thus far.  Great game for a linebacker of any classification, let alone a freshman.
  • Here is hoping Clarett's injury is not serious.  Cedric Cobbs separated his shoulder several years ago playing for the Razorbacks and has never been the same.  I hope Maurice merely bruised his or suffered a stinger.
  • Ross and Hall.  It was not pretty, but they worked hard for their yards today.  This is why you need 3 tailbacks.  This is why everyone should stay at Ohio State and the rumors of transfers are foolishness. 
  • The entire freshman class.  Solid job.  Very solid.  This class is living up to all of its press clippings.  A special shout goes out to Simms.  It may not always have been really pretty, but he did the job today.
  • For all the talk of the defensive line of Penn State, the dominant line today was the Ohio State defensive line.  The great part about the OSU line is that the Buckeyes start only 1 senior, and our rotation includes Kudla and Frazier.  There are two great positives here.  First, OSU looks really good at this position next year as well.  Second – and perhaps just as important – no recruits should be scared away from Ohio State based on the depth chart.  Defensively, the best 6-8 guys are going to play.  That means that anyone good enough who can crack the two deep will see the field extensively. 
  • The entire coaching staff.  Great scheme.  Great job finding a way to win without Olivea and Clarett.  The play calling looked very good in the first half, and the 8 minute drive in the third quarter was an absolute killer for Penn State.
  • The Offensive Line and Tight Ends.  Every game presents a new challenge.  This game presented a serious challenge to the line unit and Tight Ends because of the injury of Olivea.  They stood up and played with serious heart and guts.  The defensive line of Penn State is as good as any we will face, and Ohio State was able to be productive in spite of Shane's loss.  We still need to improve here, but compared to where we were at the start of 2001?  If I did not know better, I would say that these are not even the same players. 
  • Team Play.  Ohio State showed they were a team today.  A complete team.  They did not play like a bunch of individuals who have talent and are on the same field.  They played like a team with serious heart and with serious togetherness.  Great job to all of the Buckeyes.  I could not be more proud.  Without Olivea, Grant, Clarett, and with numerous others playing hurt (including Smith, Peterson, and Ross) – this team looked adversity in the face and laughed. 

Some thoughts on the national scene…

  • Buckeye fans should not sweat the national polls.  This is still October.  Every year at this time pundits and fans fret over the possibility of 3-6 undefeated teams on January 1.  In the 1990's there were only 2 occasions where more than 1 team finished undefeated and untied.  It has been a long, long time since 3 major college teams went unbeaten and untied.  So long in fact that I will not spend the time to check when (if ever) that it did occur.  Mark it down, at least 3 of the current undefeated teams will lose before January (I am guaranteed at least one with the Miami-Virginia Tech game).  Even if Ohio State drops down in the polls this week, all they have to do is keep winning.
  • How far has Florida State fallen?  I know Notre Dame is for real, but for crying out loud!  The Florida State defense and offense are but shadows of their former selves.  Is age getting to Bowden?  Is it the loss of several key coaches (Amato and Richt)?  Is it the inconsistent quarterback play of Rix?  Is it the resurgence of Miami and the talent drain toward the Orange Bowl?  I personally feel that it a combination of multiple problems for the Seminoles.  The question is, will the situation improve or will it get worse?  Everyone in Tallahassee claimed that this was a one season aberration to start 2002, but it looks like that was braggadocio.  FSU has 3 losses already and would likely have 4 were it not for a blown call against a very human looking Iowa State squad.  With Georgia Tech, NC State, and Florida left – the Noles could even end up with 6 losses.  Don't hold your breath, but stranger things have happened. 
  • As I write this Wisconsin is blowing out Michigan State 35-17 in the fourth quarter.  If the Spartan administration does not fire Williams, then I want to check and see if there is anything in their cranial cavity.  Just awful.  Bobby tried to say he was building his program this week… Huh?  This is a program that was STOCKED when Saban left
  • How good is Tyrone Willingham?  I think that Notre Dame might not repeat this kind of performance next year because frankly they have caught some teams by surprise this season.  Plus, they have yet to play a legitimate top 10 team in 2002.  Air Force lost another game today and Michigan was absolutely embarrassed at home by Iowa.  As mentioned above, Florida State has been a disappointment and Michigan State an absolute sham.  So, in essence – they have yet to play a team that will be ranked any higher than the top 15 come Sunday.  At the same time, I will give Tyrone his props.  Great job coaching.  Again, look for him to be calling plays in the NFL in 3-6 years.  If some owner does not offer him the moon and the stars above some time soon, I will be disappointed in their football acumen.
  • USC looks tough.  They have the offense to outscore a team and the defense to hang in a close contest.  After all the trouble the Trojans had finding a coach, it looks like they hired the right guy in the end.  Good for them.  I like seeing strong teams at Notre Dame, USC, Ohio State, Texas, Oklahoma, etc.  It is great for college football.  Parity only plays so well after you see a pooling of mediocre teams.  The tradition and fanfare that accompanies a season where the powers of the previous generations rise up is just a real treat.
  • Joe Paterno.  Ok.  Enough is enough.  Keep your hands off of the referees please.  The Big Ten office needs to either fine or suspend JoePa.  I do not care how bad the referees are, you DO NOT TOUCH THEM.  When the announcers mention that the cameramen should keep their lenses focused on JoePa following the conclusion of the game, something is wrong.  Paterno's act has ceased to be an aberration and is now an embarrassment to Penn State.
  • The Big Ten referees.  Ok.  These guys have an incredibly tough job.  At the same time, I saw some calls today that were just plain poor.  Yes, Gamble's contact was not egregious, but it was pass interference.  Penn State should have been handed a first down.  A few of the calls during the Florida State/Notre Dame game (another Big Ten crew) were mystifying.  The fumble that Notre Dame recovered was clearly not an incomplete pass, but the referees missed it.  What is perhaps inexcusable is the phantom first down awarded the Irish.  How you can not call for a measurement is just incomprehensible.  Throw in some calls in recent years such as the Michigan State extra seconds in 2001, and you have an issue that reflects poorly upon the entire conference.  I guess on the positive side of this controversy is that you can bet the Big Ten will work very hard on this aspect for the next season.  It is about time.
Michigan should be embarrassed. The last time they allowed a team to come into Ann Arbor and maul them was back in 1991. They lost to a very good Florida State team 51-31 in a game where the score looked closer than it really was. Want to know the last time Michigan lost by more than 25 at home? Can't think of it? Neither could I. According to my paltry bit of research, the Wolverines had not lost by 25 or more at home since October of 1969. For all that some Ohio State fans laugh at this, we really did need Michigan to win this one. As it now stands, we lose strength of schedule points and are put in a precarious position where we must win all of our games or Iowa could end up in the Rose Bowl.

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