Cus Words Blog: Disparity Deep In Rivalry

That Ohio State has beaten Michigan four straight times in football is no secret, but how many people grasp just how handily the Buckeyes have dispatched of the Wolverines? Take a closer look.

Often during the summer, when nothing pressing is at hand, I find my thoughts drifting to football.

Inevitably I find myself pondering some hypothetical matchup of teams, be they past or present, or wondering how this game or that might have gone differently if one little detail were changed, or I might just get lost in the memory of a dramatic play like Chris Gamble's interception return for a touchdown that provided the winning points against Penn State in Ohio Stadium in 2002.

I also happen to love sports minutia, and many are the days I am working on something or other and in the course of research or conversation I wonder about some oddly specific little bit of knowledge and then have to stop to look it up.

The most recent example of this came as I was reading a preseason prognostication that supposed Michigan could very well be a Top 20 team this year. Yes, you read that correctly: THIS year. 2008.

Naturally, having watched Michigan play many teams - including, of course, Ohio State - the last few years, I was pretty dumbfounded by this assertion.

It has been my position since at least the beginning of the 2005 season that the talent level has eroded severely in Ann Arbor. Given that belief, I don't see how the Wolverines can sustain the personnel losses they did this past offseason and still field an above-average football team that can compete in a BCS conference.

Sure, they may have signed plenty of highly regarded recruiting classes in the past decade, but the proof is on the field, where quality wins have been few and far between and Michigan's biggest rival has generally smacked it around.

Now, you might be thinking, "OK, OK, that's easy for you to SAY, but can you prove it?"

Well, thanks to my latest obscure curiosity, I can.

I say beating a team four times in a row is a good indication that one program is better than the other, but there might be some who figure Michigan was not that far from winning a couple of those contests. The Buckeyes won by just four in 2005 and three in 2006, after all, and last season's soggy slugfest at the Big House was just a one-score game if you were to remove one long run by Chris Wells.

Oh, but I've got other numbers on my side, friend, and I'll show you how.

First of all, let's agree that football is about three things above all: scoring points, moving the ball and stopping the other team from moving it.

Points can be scored in a myriad of ways, some fluky, some not, so for my money watching scrimmage play is the way to figure out the superior team.

Here, Ohio State has clearly dominated far more than the score would indicate during this current four-game winning streak in the series.

How do I know? Well, besides what my eyes tell me about who is pushing whom out of the way on a more consistent basis, how about this: Ohio State has outgained Michigan by an average of 126 yards per game the past four times they have met.

And the Buckeyes are 4-0 despite being minus-4 in turnovers.

Then why have the scores been as close as they have?

My perception told me that it seemed as if the Wolverines had a lot more short fields with which to work than did Ohio State, so I went back and checked.

Turns out, my perception was correct.

Since 2004, Ohio State has had 18 scoring drives against Michigan while Michigan has had 14 against the Buckeyes. (Ohio State also scored a touchdown via a Ted Ginn Jr. punt return in 2004.)

Of those 18 trips to pay dirt, Ohio State went 50 or more yards 14 times compared to just four drives of less than 50 yards.

Now what about the Wolverines? Seven times they scored without having to cover 50 yards and seven times they went farther than that. Yes, 50 percent of Michigan's scoring drives came either on a short field, while Ohio State had such a benefit just 22 percent of the time.

Would it be hyperbole to say Ohio State's been beating Michigan with one hand tied behinds its back? Yes, it would. But it wouldn't be that far off when you consider Ohio State has had to work considerably harder to score points but still come out on top.

What's that mean for the future? Well, it can't be too positive.

Now you've got a group of Wolverines that not only lost senior stalwarts Chad Henne, Mike Hart and Jake Long (plus All-Big Ten offensive lineman Adam Kraus) as expected but also must do without the next-best quarterback, the only two receivers who have ever done anything on a college field and the only other offensive lineman who was much good from last year's starting group.

My forecast for November?

Buckeye fans will be screaming, "Gimme five."

What do you think? Talk about it in the forums by following this link.

"Those who stay will..." teach us a heck of a lot about the recruiting game.

With the Big Ten's annual kickoff luncheon and media days on the horizon this week, that is my viewpoint of Rich Rodriguez's impending tenure as the head coach at Michigan.

Lloyd Carr and his staff were certainly adept at bringing in highly regarded recruits and classes, but the product on the field was underwhelming by comparison.

Case in point: Carr was 18-9 against Top 10 teams. He won his first nine then, beginning with No. 7 Ohio State's 31-16 win in Ohio Stadium in 1998, went 9-9 the rest of the way out.

Beginning with Jim Tressel's first full-term recruiting class in 2002, the Buckeyes have averaged a national recruiting ranking of 11.3, nearly three spots lower than Michigan's 8.4 over the same time span. Michigan's number is on par with other national powers, such as LSU, Florida, Georgia and Texas and better than Oklahoma, yet the Wolverines have one top-10 finish in the last four seasons. They also have one Big Ten title in that span while Ohio State has three.

Talk now is that Rodriguez is changing the culture in the weight room and on the practice field from one of malaise to a more hustle-heavy approach. The workouts are more difficult and the tempo is higher, so we hear and read.

What will be the result then?

Were services like Scout right all along? Have these kids been done wrong by being allowed to rot on the maize and blue vine for the last few years, or were many of the Big House busts just overrated to begin with?

I'll be watching with great interest, because for my money I saw a lot of average football players suiting up for Carr the last four years. It was clear who had the better team when Carr lined his up across the field from Tressel's.

Much was made of the big early splash that the class of 2004 made in Ann Arbor (including a share of the Big Ten championship that season), but Chad Henne and Mike Hart left with just as hardy a whimper as was the roar to which they entered.

(Side note: It's hard for me to lend much credence to the idea their bowl triumph over Florida added much shine to their careers, because it appeared to me that Florida entered that game not caring and continued to do so until the final gun given the total lack of creativity or willingness to adjust exhibited by Urban Meyer. This would not be the first time a team laid an egg in a "consolation" bowl in Orlando. I'm thinking of a trip or two down there by a team from Columbus in the 1990s… )

The true talent or lack thereof in Ann Arbor is just part of the great study this move represents. Rodriguez's classes at West Virginia were not highly regarded, but guess why, but that could at least partly be because they were players being recruited by WVU. That doesn't generate recruiting buzz like an offer from Ohio State, Michigan, Texas, LSU or some similar school will.

But the Mountaineers won anyway, and why is that?

Was Rodriguez training those boys to become better players than they might have been otherwise? Is he some great motivator who gets kids to go an extra mile for him? Is he really an innovative offensive mind (I do think his offense is neat, for what it's worth) able to out-think opposing coaches? Were the kids underrated to begin with because of lack of "big-time" offers? Does the system make lesser kids more productive, or is it simply that the competition was no good?

We should find out. Eventually, at least.

On the docket tomorrow: Just how close have those last four OSU-Michigan games been?

What do you think? Talk about it in the forums by following this link.

Lawmakers and OSU season tickets should not mix

In case you missed it, a northeastern Ohio state representative resigned his seat in May amid accusations that he bought Ohio State football season tickets with campaign finance money then resold the ducats for personal profit. (Read more here.)

That prompted a well-done series of stories this week by the Akron Beacon Journal that examines the practice. They are all worth a read and linked below, but the overall exercise still does not answer my initial question.

(Full disclosure: For the time being, I am a member of the OSU alumni association and got shut out in my application for my one pair of tickets the last two seasons, but I get access to every home game as a member of the working press anyway. I "won" the lottery this year and get two tickets to one game, but that does not change my opinion that alumni association members could be treated a lot better in regards to how many tickets are available to them and how those are distributed.)

Sure, Ohio State is a state university (With a name like that, who would have guessed?), but so is Ohio University in Athens.

I don't suppose it would be a big deal if a legislator got on the horn with the Bobcat ticket office and ordered up some season tickets for a contest at Peden Stadium, but then again I'm relatively certain anyone else could do the same thing. That's not necessarily true with Buckeye games.

Purchasing Ohio State football season tickets is at once a fringe benefit that seems to serve no civic purpose and on another level a practice that creates a gigantic potential for conflict of interest.

If a congressman wants to reward some of his campaign workers with a nice day at the ball game, I suppose that's not so bad, but there plenty of other potential uses that could make for tricky ethical situations, and I'm still not convinced such a special treat should be made available to government officials in the first place anyway, particularly given the overall demand for tickets.

As the Beacon Journal stories indicate, many of the lawmakers buying these tickets are also people who make decisions that impact Ohio State in a myriad of ways, including funding and regulation.

It's not as if the university is having trouble moving tickets, so why not serve a more deserving constituency, such as the alumni? Moreover, why even open the door to any potential impropriety?

And why sell them four season tickets for six or seven games when some years there are twice as many alumni requesting two tickets for one game?

I'm a little lost here, and I'm wondering what our readers think. I'm surprised I haven't seen any discussion on the message board yet.

Officials weighing propriety of ticket purchases
Prized Buckeye tickets challenge officials' ethics
Who Gets Buckeye Tickets
Full list of 2007 purchasers

What do you think? Talk about it in the forums by following
this link.

Bye, bye Billy

According to the Miami Herald, Billy Packer's reign of terror over the Final Four is at its end.

Although I don't remember having always been appalled to hear Packer's unique brand of basketball commentary, it seemed as if he started resembling nails on a chalkboard more and more as the years advanced.

Recently, his need to comment not just on every play but often two or three times as each sequence unfolded, scurrying to fit in one more needless detail as a shot went up rather than, I don't know, letting the action speak for itself occasionally or the play-by-play man clue us in on his own became too much. I began to dread any game for which Packer did the analysis, which is too bad, because as the games got bigger, the more likely Packer was to be the man explaining what was going on and why.

Ironically, I can think of one positive to Packer's performances: He wasn't afraid to be negative.

Usually former coaches and players themselves, many analysts tend to shy away from being too critical of the actors in our sports television dramas as they play out. Having once been in the fire themselves, perhaps they tend to give the benefit of the doubt a bit too often to those they are covering nowadays.

Not Packer, though. He finished up at Wake Forest more than four decades ago and seemed to have no problem forgetting what it was like to be in the heat of the moment.

That could have been a refreshing approach, because I don't believe he lacked and extensive knowledge of the game.

Too bad he had such bitter delivery that he was unlistenable.

Not only did he talk too much for me to perhaps conjure up my own thought or two about what was going on, his voice just rubbed me the wrong way. His sharp way of snapping off lines was the opposite of folksy. Packer never sounded like someone with whom I would actually want to have a conversation.

Packer was willing to tell us things perhaps not everyone in his position would, but few seemed to love him for it because of the way he did it.

Watching as many games from the press box or sidelines, I suppose I have a different perspective, too. Without a television broadcast to get in the way all the time, I've found I like to interpret the game my own way, be it in a notebook or in my head. Some friendly banter with scribes in my immediate vicinity helps, too, not unlike sitting around the couch in a buddy's living room.

Thus, when I am watching a game on TV, I appreciate a little more silence during my broadcasts than I perhaps once did.

At the same time, I think I'm learning to appreciate just how difficult it is to master that art of describing the show without overriding the natural narrative of the action.

Packer, however knowledgeable he is, didn't have that knack, and the result was an unentertaining broadcast.

Let's hope Clark Kellogg - the former Ohio State star who is expected to be named his replacement - can change things up...


In case you are curious, I do happen to like some sports broadcasters.

While I share some of the late Howard Cosell's bitterness that TV networks seem willing to give a cushy, high-profile job to anyone who ever got paid to lace up a pair of sneakers or cleats, I am no Dr. Z.

Kellogg has done a good job for lower-tier crews on CBS in the past, and Jay Bilas is great at breaking down strategy and balancing praise with criticism whether he is working for ESPN during the season or CBS during the NCAA Tournament.

I think Steve Lavin does a great job at coming across like he knows what he's talking about, revealing an interesting nugget about what a team is trying to do here and there, but he and Brent Musburger form a team that is just about unlistenable because they too often get off on sidebars that make me wonder if they are calling a game or hanging out at the bar on the 19th hole of some country club.

Also, I may be in the minority here, but I have no problem with Dick Vitale. He can get into spells where he gets too loud and talks too much, but for the most part he's entertaining even if he is a bit too cheery, and I believe he's got plenty of basketball knowledge himself.

For offbeat commentary, though, nobody beats Bill Raftery. Whether he is enthusiastically declaring that a team is opening the game in a man-to-man defense or that a player hitting a clutch shot has displayed "Onions!", Raftery's mix of knowledge, delivery, sense of humor and - and of course liberal doses of those catchphrases - make for a broadcast that is great to listen to.

As for play-by-play... how can you beat Gus Johnson?

Nobody matches him for tempo or enthusiasm, and he generally does a great job with his game-ending calls, which to me is the most important part of being a great announcer.

What do you think? Talk about it in the forums by following .
On the so-called "boring Big Ten"

Skimming through the Sporting News college football preview for 2008, I noticed something a bit odd in the magazine's conference rankings.

TSN ranked the Big Ten third, behind the SEC and Big 12, which is somewhat interesting in itself, but I was struck by the choice to term the Big Ten as "plodding."

As in, "Whine and complain all you want about the boring, plodding league." (see page 14 if you have a copy)

Really? Have you looked around the league lately? Because at my last count, more than half the schools in the conference (Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and now Michigan) call the spread their base offense while most of the rest (Ohio State included) also have been known to use some spread principles as well.

I would hardly call that plodding. Style is not the problem with the Big Ten these days, not by a long shot. The trouble for this season (and the last two) is simply not enough depth, and by that I don't mean there are not enough quality teams. More specifically, I'm talking about a lack of quality units.

No one outside of Ohio, it seems to me, has really been able to put together a complete team since at least 2005. That year Penn State had a very good defense and a pretty good offense. Same can be said for Ohio State. Guess what? Those teams shared the league title.

Since then, we've seen plenty of good individual units but few on the same sidelines.

Michigan State is good in up the middle and in the trenches but I'm not sure about the outside or the quarterback.

Illinois should have a pretty good defensive front seven and offensive line, but the quarterback is still a question mark there because we don't know what kind of help he'll have in the backfield and he's yet to show us he can do it on his own. The guys on the outside there are unproven as well.

Wisconsin has no quarterback nor a defensive backfield. Who will play receiver besides Kyle Jefferson?

Penn State hasn't picked a quarterback yet and has gaping holes at linebacker and cornerback.

See where I'm going with this?

The Big Ten has its problems, but being boring is not one of them. Nor should that have much to do with how the league stacks up with the rest of the nation anyway, but that's not really the point.

What do you think? Talk about it in the forums by following
this link.

On the NBA Finals

In case you were curious, there was one Ohio State tie to the just-completed NBA Finals, which the Boston Celtics won, four games to two, over the Los Angeles Lakers. Former Buckeye Jim Cleamons, who recently earned induction into the Ohio basketball hall of fame, is an assistant on the Lakers' coaching staff.

Though Cleamons was denied his seventh NBA championship ring (all won as an assistant coach), there are a couple of more Ohio angles.

I consider the Celtics' victory over the Lakers to be a great sign for LeBron James and the Cavaliers for at least two reasons.

First of all, there are plenty of people out there who would prefer to lose to the eventual champion than to anyone else. Along those lines, the Cavs also pushed the Celtics far more than did the Lakers, and the reason for that is clear to anyone who watched both series: defense. The Cavs, like the Celtics, hang their hat on stopping the other team first, and so it should probably come as no coincidence that they pushed the eventual champs to a game seven while the Lakers, who successfully guarded about as many people as I did throughout the course of the Finals, were thoroughly whipped.

Second, it's fair to say the Celtics may have cleared the path for LeBron James to ascend to supremacy as far as solo stars go. After this series, Kobe Bryant has officially lost his shot to be the next challenger to the throne of Michael Jordan as best player of all time.

Kobe is a great scorer but nowhere near the versatile force that Jordan was or that James could still become. At 29 years old but more importantly with 12 years and over 1,000 games (including playoffs) already having added up on his legs, Kobe is not going to get any better. Despite his status as a multi-time all-defensive team selection, Kobe is not the consistent defensive force that Jordan was, and he has already added the jump shot that His Airness brought back to basketball with him when he re-wrote his legacy with three championships from 1996-98.

The final chapter now looks to have been written because Kobe proved in these Finals he can't lead the show without stealing it. He just doesn't have the knack for it. He can pour in 50 when he wants to, and occasionally he can be a facilitator of the offense, but he can't do both, and MIchael was the king of that.

Making teammates better is probably LeBron's best trait, the one that comes most naturally to him. He's since begun adding the killer instinct to come up with baskets himself in crunch time. He may never reach the level to which Kobe is able to do that or that Michael could, but he's still got time, and he already has that epic 48-point game five against the Pistons from last season. The challenge for LeBron is to keep honing his ability to get a basket whenever he wants it down the stretch, and he still has some work to do as one-on-one defender, but the path is now clear for LeBron because he already holds the passing and leadership characteristics necessary to become the transcendent star of our generation, to get himself onto the royal court if not all the way to the thrown of Mr. Jordan.

Then we can also give a shout out to James Posey, the former Xavier Musketeer who put together a stellar postseason for the Celtics. If no Buckeyes are hoisting the trophy this summer, at least someone who matriculated in the Buckeye State will.

What do you think? Talk about it in the forums by following this link.
A trio of quick thoughts after a long weekend:

We hear a lot of talk about how no one wants to see Ohio State in another national championship game and the program is overrated, but this seems to be bothering fans and pundits more than high school kids. I feel as if every recruiting update I read, particularly from an out-of-state kid who might not have grown up with a lot of familiarity to OSU, includes a sentence that goes something like this: "They keep playing for the national championship so they must be doing something right."

What's that about wisdom from the mouths of babes?...

Something I've noticed about the continuing phenomenon of football recruits committing early: It's a great way to get and keep one's school in the news. Of course, uncommitted players likely will have more updates about written about them, but it seems to me that when there is a story about a player who has committed, fans are more likely to pay closer attention. They certainly are more likely to catch my attention.

When that player does anything, it becomes news to the fans of his future program. While I'm curious when Pat Muldoon does something at Cincinnati St. Xavier, I'm a lot more interested when I find out DeVier Posey of Cincinnati La Salle is competing at the state track meet. Perhaps the difference is that what I want most out of a Muldoon update is to know where Ohio State stands with him. All other information, such as whether or not his team won or lost, seems secondary.

Since I already know the answer on the Posey front, I'm more curious to know why he is in the news. But maybe that's just me.

I'm not advocating that kids should commit early just to bring notoriety to their schools, but it seems like something that can be a positive side effect.

I attended Ohio State's commencement yesterday, and although it was ungodly hot, I found myself enjoying the overall experience. Needless to say, there was a lot of Buckeye pride in the air. Speaker Brian Williams of NBC News said he was humbled to find himself inside Ohio Stadium after seeing it on TV so many times over the year, and he made a couple of Michigan jokes that got a good laugh, then he challenged the graduates to make our country a better place. Interestingly, he told them not to let the Internet get in the way of productivity ("I can lose an hour on Perez Hilton like that" he said with a snap of the fingers) and blamed his own generation for (at least as he sees it) letting things deteriorate.

Then he passed the torch to university president E. Gordon Gee, who pretended to be aghast that someone would mock Michigan in such a public forum, then added his own shot or two at the Maize and Blue before stopping and, with a snicker, saying, "I'm sorry - I just love making fun of Michigan. That's why I came back."

If these are not direct quotes, I apologize. I did not have a recorder nor a notebook as for once I thought I would attend an event at the stadium as nothing more than a bystander, plus given the total "blah" that was my commencement experience (I sat in the stands and tracked the score of the Reds' game on my wireless phone while then-president Karen Holbrook droned on in her typically uninspiring way) I was not expecting to hear anything terribly inspiring.

But I came away with a smile on my face and a great respect for public relations abilities.

Why is that? Because of Dr. Gee. You see, I also attended an academic awards banquet a month or so ago at which Dr. Gee appeared briefly. That night he had the room alternating between being in stitches and awe of what he had to say (including a Top Eight Least Favorite Honors he had given away, among which was an SEC championship in any sport).

When I finished a few years ago, I had no confidence that the direction the university was going – away from its roots, in my opinion – was a positive move, and I doubt seriously that anything will change under Dr. Gee, but at least he has a way of making you feel good about what he's selling. I suppose there is something to be said for that. If nothing else, the guy is eminently likable - genuinely friendly and quick-witted, too. Like so many of the leaders in the OSU department of athletics these days, someone to be proud to have represent your school.

What do you think? Talk about it in the forums by following this link.

Comparing defensive lines: 2002 vs. 2008

With a lively discussion about the defensive line going on within the confines of our premium message board, I got to thinking how this line might stack up physically to that of the vaunted group from 2002.

We all have our own opinions on many topics, but I think we can all agree that the '02 group was fantastic.

Though it was essentially only six deep - three ends and three tackles shared the bulk of the playing time - the 2002 Ohio State defensive line controlled many an offensive front that opposed it and never found a backfield in which it could not wreak havoc.

Starting ends Will Smith and Darrion Scott combined for 14 sacks and 22 tackles for loss overall. Their main reserve, Simon Fraser, added another five sacks among seven total stops behind the line of scrimmage.

At tackle, Tim Anderson and Kenny Peterson started and notched 8.5 sacks among 12 tackles for loss. The only other tackle to earn more than 100 minutes was David Thompson, who had 4.5 sacks and 7.5 TFL.

At end, Mike Kudla filled out the two-deep, while Marcus Green was the fourth tackle.

Neither group was overly large. The ends on average went 6-4, 252, while the tackles were the same height and weighed 286.

I mention those last numbers because there seems to be much gnashing of teeth among our readers regarding the size of the defensive line that Ohio State will run out there this fall.

Some feel the ends are too big and others (and surely some of the same people) would like to see bigger tackles.

Perhaps the first group is onto something. The likely top four ends - Lawrence Wilson, Cameron Heyward, Robert Rose and Thaddeus Gibson - average just a shade over 6-4 and 272 pounds. That would be 20 pounds heavier than their ultra successful 2002 counterparts.

Will that mean anything? Well, it remains to be seen, but the group is worth watching. Ohio State has generally liked to deploy one big end and another on the small side. Of this year's foursome, only Gibson is less than 274. He is listed at 240 on the most recent depth chart published by the university, and I doubt that in his first year as a defensive end (he played linebacker his first two years on campus) he will be counted on every down. So there will be more beef at end than perhaps is usual. Will that hurt the group's explosiveness and ability to make plays? We shall see. It should help in run defense.

At tackle, the group of Todd Denlinger, Dexter Larimore, Doug Worthington and Nader Abdallah average 6-3 1/2 and 292 pounds, making them slightly shorter and six pounds heavier than their 2002 counterparts.

Will the added bulk help there? It can't hurt, but maybe the better question to ask is, "Will experience play a factor?"

The 2002 tackles entered the season relatively inexperienced as only Anderson had started at tackle previously in his career. In fact, he was the only player with significant playing time at tackle before '02. Peterson had two years as a regular contributor under his belt but both were at end. Thompson played 12 games in 2001 but totaled just 40 minutes.

That won't be the case for the 2008 tackles. All four played regularly last season and Denlinger saw quality action in 2006, too. Because the lineup fluctuated as a result of injuries, any two of the four could probably be considered returning starters.

What do you think? Talk about it in the forums by following this link.

On Buckeye Brothers

With OSU extending a scholarship offer to Justin Green, I got to thinking about past brothers in Ohio State football history.

I guess the first last name that must be brought up is Griffin. I suspect the trio of Archie, Duncan and Ray formed an act that will be as tough to follow in the next 30 years as it was in the last three decades since the last of them exhausted his eligibility.

Of course, the current roster includes the Smiths, Connor and Spencer, whose father Joe was a Buckeye before them.

The Underwoods are hard to forget because of their recent and not-so-spectacular careers, but thinking a little longer produces in my mind the likes of the Gayles, Gwinns and Bellisaris.

Then there are two brother combos that Ohio State had the wrong half of: Moss and Griffey.

Eric Moss, Randy's brother, was a Buckeye in the early '90s while Craig Griffey, Senior's son and Junior's little brother, won a letter during the 1990 season.

But what about the Momsens?

In his exhaustive Official Ohio State Football Encyclopedia, Jack Park relays their tale and the impact they had on the OSU-UM rivalry.

Tony Momsen was a center for Michigan while younger brother Bob lined up at tackle for Ohio State. In the famed Snow Bowl between Ohio State and Michigan in 1950, Bob recovered a blocked punt that set the Buckeyes' only score, a Vic Janowicz field goal, but Tony trumped his brother by blocking a Janowicz punt and falling on the ball in the end zone for the game's only touchdown. Michigan won 9-3.

Kind of makes you think about another pair coming soon.... the Borens.

I've come nowhere close to mentioning all the brother combinations in Ohio State football history.

Who comes to mind for you?

What do you think? Talk about it in the forums by following this link.

Random things I'll be watching for: The young WRs vs Ray Small.

Will this be a redux of veterans Albert Dukes and Devon Lyons getting passed up by youngsters last season or will Small finally be able to avoid injury and utilize his physical gifts?

Of course, brief looks at Taurian Washington, Devon Torrence and Dane Sanzenbacher could lead one to believe a member of that group could simply pass up an older player because the youngster got that much better rather than signifying a regression of the veteran.

That would be different from last season, in my opinion, when the coaches seem to have gone with the youngsters simply because they had no confidence in what they would get from Dukes or Lyons. The lack of production from the three freshmen (they combined to catch 19 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns) would seem to indicate they were not ready to be significant contributors at the time - nor is it really fair to expect they would be. Plus, there is no telling how much their development was hindered by a first-year starting quarterback.

There is little doubt that Ohio State needs to get more diversified in the passing game this fall, whether that comes in the form or a bona fide third receiver, the tight ends or even running backs in the flats.

Don't count out incoming frosh DeVier Posey, either. He could be the most talented receiver on campus when he makes the trip up I-71 from Cincinnati to Columbus. If some of the savvy and technique of the two Brians (Robiskie and Hartline) can rub off on him, he could leave as one of the best ever to play at a school that has put a bunch of receivers in the NFL through the years.

I saw him in person early in his junior season at Cincinnati La Salle and he was a wiry, long-strider. He looked fast with the ball in his hands, but that was about all you could say about him. Certainly there was some raw ability evident but that could be said about many guys on the field in any given high school football game.

One year later, in the season opener he looked like a totally different player, and when I talked to him afterwards he was clearly had matured not just physically (he put on 10 pounds of muscle to reach 195) but also mentally.

He explained how he was OK with getting extra attention from the defense if it helped his team win, something the Lancers did by a 34-7 final score over Covington (Ky.) Catholic. Posey caught five passes for 71 yards and a touchdown while a pair of La Salle running backs totaled 175 yards rushing on 26 carries, including three touchdowns.

He added that he was proud to be a captain, even though he initially turned down that opportunity when offered it by his coach. Later he realized what an opportunity it would be to lead the team, so he asked for another chance that was granted.

Perhaps if he can continue to mature at that rate, he could be a difference maker this fall.

What do you think? Talk about it in the forums by following this link.

On the irony that a need for green could bring about something we all want so much:

Bravo, T.K. Wetherell.

In case you missed it, last week while taking part in the National Football Foundation and Football Writers Association of America's football forum the Florida State president brought some much needed sanity to the ever-present college football playoff discussion, proving the ACC is still capable of making a positive impact on the game even the quality of play makes it the worst BCS conference.

The Associated Press gave us the story over the weekend, but I just discovered it myself this morning because I had an extended weekend that involved a lot of baseball and golf.

I've got a copy of the full transcript of this discussion, which also includes thoughtful statements from Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel and other college football leaders, and you can expect much more on it in the next day or two, but for now I thought I would weigh in quickly with a reaction.

Clearly, the story here was that a university president - a representative of the group most-often blamed for holding off a playoff in Division I-A football – gave voice to the minority opinion.

As anyone who pays even passing attention to politics in this country can attest, the contrarian is an easy role to play. Members of both political parties are deeply talented at saying, "Well, I don't have a solution, but I know I don't like what you've suggested."

The anti-playoff university presidents don't have solutions to the problems with how we select a national champion now, but then again that's because they don't care. They have no concern whatsoever for the opinions or feelings of the fans. The university presidents at schools with renowned athletics programs are more worried about out-dated educational ideals and keeping up the appearance that the proverbial tail does not wag the dog at their school.

But that discussion - which comes first, the athlete or the student? - has been around since not long after Yale's Walter Camp and some of his Ivy League buddies sat down around 1880 and wrote out the first rules that really made the games they had been playing to that point start to look like the football we watch nowadays.

Although no one was sure if it was exactly appropriate for schools to hire full-time coaches, give scholarships or even recruit athletes for the express purpose of playing sports, the practices went on anyway and evolved into the multimillion-dollar industry we have now.

The purists lost their battle to keep college sports from resembling the pros long ago, but folks like Gordon Gee of Ohio State still say a playoff will have to be taken from their cold dead hands because it would represent a move in farther from amateurism.

And that's why I find Wetherell's explanation for what will finally bring us a playoff ironic.

The head honchos of the BCS conferences just killed the hopes of playoff proponents by dismissing the plus-one, then here comes Mr. Wetherell. A former player himself, Wetherell not only refused to tow the company line but also let us know how a college football playoff will come about some day and why.

Money will win out eventually, Wetherell says.

And he is correct. The schools have created a monster that must be fed, and football is just about the only way to earn the scratch to put into the meal.

Maybe that's not the most satisfying resolution - what if we just decided to play it out on the field because it's the sensible, fair thing to do? - but I suppose by this time those of us who are frustrated with the BCS should just take whatever catalyst for change we can get.

What do you think? Talk about it in the forums by following this link.

On athletes behaving badly and doing good in the world at large:

I see two examples – one positive and one negative – of how the regular and athletic worlds intermix were evident today in the Buckeye Newsstand.

For those who are not frequent checkers of that feature – a collection of links BSB staffer Matt Hager posts on our front page every morning – there was word from Lima that Archie Griffin brightened the days of some cancer patients by stopping in to see them. Meanwhile, down I-75 near Dayton charges came down against Jason Simmons, who allegedly had illicit sexual contact with a teenager.

These stories come on the heels, of course, of word that another pair of former Buckeyes was allegedly involved in separate serious criminal activity in the past two weeks (Derrick Foster and Darrion Scott).

I make note of this because many people might tell you the ratio of good to bad news in regards to sports figures off the field or court is about consistent with what we've just seen: three bad acts for every good one.

That of course, is not the case. We just happen to hear more about the bad than the good, a mirror again of the news as it regards society in general because the lack of someone breaking the law is not news.

The three players allegedly to have committed offenses recently are all, coincidentally, former Buckeyes who played for John Cooper.

Two weeks ago at a press conference held to recognize his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, Cooper was asked his reaction to the troubles faced by Foster, and Cooper's words were telling of the catch-22 that exists in the world of athletics, which just happens to be filled with human beings rather than robots.

"Some of them get in trouble after they get out of your program and sometimes that's not the same guy you had when you coached'em. They change."

He went on to say he is disappointed whenever he hears of wrongdoing by one of his former players, and, perhaps by accident, let slip that taking some with lesser character than others is a necessary evil.

"You love those players just like you love your own kids. Maybe not the same degree of love, but you love those guys. They mean so much to you. It's your meal ticket. When you're in a program like that, you have 105 players or more and you just hope the phone doesn't ring. You hope those guys don't get in trouble, knowing that (some of them) are going to get in trouble."

Thus we have the slippery slope of a football coach, who must deal with good eggs who make mistakes and even must try to do his best with a bad egg or two if he wants to give himself the best chance of winning.

Cooper concluded his earlier-recounted statement by adding, "Sometimes the old saying is, 'If you don't have them on your team you're going to play against'em.' "

What do you think? Talk about it in the forums by following this link.

On web cams and bumps in the world of recruiting:

I found this story from the Associated Press interesting reading over the weekend. It details the use of web cams by some schools, including a trio of SEC powers, to maintain the ability to meet face-to-face with recruits now that coaches are not permitted to visit high schools during the spring evaluation period, and readers learn that some schools are not into the whole web deal and have found other ways to cope.

Though Ohio State is not mentioned in the article, I checked with the sports information department in Columbus and an official there told me they were contacted by the AP for the story and that Jim Tressel and his staff are not currently going the web cam route in the wake of the new recruiting restrictions.

Regarding the issue of web cams as recruiting tools, I have seen it painted as a way for cheaters to cheat further, but I'm not sure I view it that way.

I think this is a very appropriate reaction to an NCAA rule that may or may not be appropriate itself.

To begin with, I'm not sure limiting access is ever a good idea in general. I understand that we don't want recruits bombarded with contacts from any particular coach or school, but to me the "bump rule" is not addressing that.


Because contact is fine, and, I would argue, necessary. Excessive contact is bad, and by that I mean calling every night or something of that sort.

Multiple "bumps" with the same kid I can't imagine would happen too often because that would just not be a cost effective way to go about a national recruiting strategy. While it's easy to dial a phone number from anywhere it costs money and takes time to travel.

In my opinion, real personal contact is incredibly important in this recruiting game. The more personal a setting can be - and what is more intimate than face-to-face? - the better, because theoretically it is much harder to be disingenuous during an in-person meeting.

I also understand that some coaches have some celebrity appeal that gives them an advantage when they are out on the trails. When Jim Tressel arrives at a typical school there is going to be plenty of fanfare, plenty of people he will impress who might then affect the young man who is being wooed.

The same is undoubtedly true in some areas of the country for coaches such as Mack Brown, Joe Paterno, Nick Saban or Pete Carroll, but have not these men earned this status through their success? Should they not be allowed to capitalize on their own previous hard work?

I don't see why.

Beyond that, if some coaches are more charismatic and more impressive in person than others, so be it. Why punish the whole lot of them to level the playing field?

I realize there are coaches out there who will stretch the rules however possible, but to me that's a reason to make fewer rules, not more, especially when we are talking about allowing a prospect to truly get to know the person who might be his coach for the next 3-5 years.

What do you think? Talk about it in the forums by following this link.


During the college football season, Buckeye Sports Bulletin staff writer Marcus Hartman weighs in weekly with thoughts on the previous week's Buckeye performance, the upcoming foe, the Big Ten at large and various other topics.

With this new blog, he offers quick hitters and other tidbits from interviews as well as his take on, well, just about anything that might be going on in the sports world that day.

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