Miscellaneous Thoughts

First some thoughts on Ohio State during the most wonderful week of the year…

  • OSU was both lucky and good Saturday.  They were lucky because Illinois had a wide receiver wide open for a touchdown on the attempted 4th down pass in overtime.  Fox was flat out beat.  The Bucks were good because the defensive coaches had faith in their players (calling a blitz) and were rewarded when both Cie Grant and Tim Anderson managed to reach Beutjer.  Anderson knocked the ball down with his arm while Grant was all over the follow through.  Even if the pass is not blocked, from the angle I was able to see – that pass would not have been delivered accurately.
  • For those wondering about the two Illinois touchdowns that weren't?  Watch the 3rd down pass.  I believe that the Illinois wide receiver had control of the ball with one hand about 1/10 of a second before his knee hit out of bounds.  (I put it on frame by frame).  Is it debatable?  Yes.  This is why, in this instance, instant replay would have solved absolutely nothing.  HOWEVER, before anyone gets a bright idea that the Bucks should have lost, remember the touchdown that Craig Krenzel clearly scored in the first quarter.  With instant replay, that one is overturned, and Ohio State would have gained not only points, but also a psychological advantage that might have made a huge difference.  Add that extra 4 points to the Ohio State score, and there is no overtime to begin with.  Same result, but different final score.
  • My, my, my… All those whining and crying about Craig at the start of the year have quietly gone away, and suddenly we are seeing all these posts about how he just wins games.  Please allow me the moment of an absolutely shameless reminder that I called it in September.  Folks, if you cannot appreciate Craig Krenzel, then you honestly need to sit and ponder the game of college football for a while.  I love watching him.  Maybe he does not have the flash of some other guys, but all he does is win.  He is tough, smart, makes great decisions, has a nice pair of wheels to put pressure on opposing defenses, he is a team guy, and by and large has been very accurate with the football while throwing under tremendous pressure.  Jenkins, in fact, has stated that he never even saw the football on the long touchdown pass Saturday because of the lights.  In other words, Craig was so accurate with that bomb that it hit Jenkins in the hands without him even seeing it…  What more can you ask for in a quarterback?      
  • Gamble and Fox were handed their jocks on multiple occasions Saturday.  You can bet the UM coaches will see this as a recipe for success.  You can also bet that these two will be in for a tough week of film review.  Finally, you can place a final bet that both Gamble and Fox will come out with something to prove on Saturday. 
  • Ok... The offensive line is a real concern to me.  Huge.  Ohio State misses Stafford in a big, big way.  Olivea and Stepanovich both played well on Saturday, but Bishop was pulled – I think for missing a block.  Douglas has performed admirably, but even he is getting beat occasionally.  The net result is that OSU played Nick Mangold, a true freshman, at center for portions of the Illinois game.  The offensive line is going to have to play better this week or OSU loses.  It is as simple as that.  If Craig cannot pass and the running backs are getting hit in the backfield, then it is pretty difficult to score points.  I would love to pat this group of guys on the back, but right now – as a unit – they are the weakest link on this team.  Use this as motivation.  I don't really care.  What I do know is that Michigan is going to exploit this weakness unless we proactively address the problem.
  • The loss of Darrion Scott for the Michigan game would be massive.  It was pretty clear Illinois ran to where Scott would normally be all day long.  OSU needs him to be able to play.
  • I just about lost it during the Illinois game.  I had some guests watching the game with me, and something snapped inside of me when one of them started rooting for Illinois at one point.  I made a wee bit of a scene…and ended up apologizing for just about going postal.  I wish just once the Bucks would get a nice lead like they did way back when in September – so that I can just relax instead of making a bid for an ulcer.  
  • UM did not look impressive against Wisconsin, but neither did Ohio State for that matter.  The Wolverines are a team that looks great one week and win ugly the next (sound familiar?).  I think they come ready to lace it up this Saturday.  I give us just slightly better than 50-50 shot at winning this one.  Why so low when OSU is 12-0?  Ohio State is struggling right now and Michigan is not exactly the Sisters of the Poor.  Without the loss to Notre Dame because of a missed field goal, Michigan would be 10-1 and have a BCS berth on the line.  As it is, this is still a top 10 team playing their rivals – in a game that has had more than its fair share of upsets.
  • Maurice Hall ran hard and hit his holes quickly Saturday.  He deserves some serious kudos for his work.  He held onto the football and scored the winning touchdown in overtime.  Great job Maurice. 
  • Mike Nugent.  Great run by him on his field goals.  You knew it had to end, and yes – he did miss 2 on Saturday.  However, even if he misses a field goal that seals an OSU loss this week – he has been clutch all year, and he should not become the proverbial goat.  How good has he been?  My wife, a casual observer of OSU football, was struck early this season by the proficiency of the field goal kicker.  She noted that he kept making them.  So, she turned to me and said, "This guy is pretty good.  Did you get a new kicker this year?"  This is not intended as a slam, but rather a weighty compliment.  What a turnaround.  From a 50% season in 2001, Mike has become one of the premier kickers in the country.
  • Andy Groom.  I hate to see him go.  I sat watching the game and bragged on how he routinely kicked punts of 60+ yards when allowed to really just boom one away.  The folks watching the game with me nodded their heads, more to placate my jabbering than anything else.  Then, later in the game – they were the ones jabbering after Andy thumped one deep… They musta thought I was exaggerating.  They were wrong.

 On to the National Scene…

  • The best hit of the day came in the Maryland/Clemson tilt.  A Clemson defensive back completely sold out his body for a wicked shot to the blind side of the Maryland running back in the open field.  It was a thing of beauty.  The hit generated such power and force that the defensive back's legs actually whipped up into the air from the impact.  Just brutal.  Needless to say, the running back stayed on the turf for a few moments.  After checking to make sure there were no cerebrospinal fluids leaking from his ears and that all of his limbs were still attached, he was helped off of the field.
  • If you want to see what a great blocking O-line looks like?  Go get a tape of the Colorado Buffaloes.  Beautiful.  Maybe it was just the Iowa State defense, but from my vantage point, the running backs had incredible gaps to run through Saturday.  Whether it was inside the tackles or a run to the outside, the line and fullbacks sealed their blocks and opened such marvelous lanes that the highway commission would be jealous.
  • Iowa's Brad Banks is the best player in the country this year.  Show me somebody else better.  I don't think you can.  He deserves the heisman.  He will not win it.  The problem is that Iowa has finished their season.  Other candidates will continue to play in the coming weeks while Banks' highlight reel is completed.  Out of sight, out of mind is likely to be the reaction of the voters unless ESPN takes a personal interest in his candidacy.
  • Remember when folks laughed at the bowl ban the NCAA levied on Cal and KY this year?  Remember all the articles scoffing and badmouthing the infractions committee?  Remember people calling this an absolute joke?  Don't look now, but both would be going to bowls had the NCAA not done this.  Kentucky could finish as well as 8-4 with a victory over Tennessee.  A victory over a sub-par Stanford squad would hand the Golden Bears a 7-5 mark.  Just once I would like to see someone admit that their criticism of the NCAA was both premature and unjust.
  • Texas Part I:  Texas did in the polls what you always dreamed of doing to your younger siblings growing up:  they dropped like a stone tossed off of a tall building.  Why?  The media tires of the Texas hype machine and the continual late season collapse of the Mack Brown teams.  (November cannot possibly be his favorite month).  They say that everything is bigger in Texas.  They also say, "The bigger they are, the harder they fall." 
  • Texas Part II:  Again I ask, "Is there a division I-A coach who gets less from more than Mack Brown?"  With Bobby Williams in the unemployment line, who will even challenge Brown for this dubious distinction?  It will be hard for Texas to get rid of him, but if he keeps losing to Oklahoma and stumbling late in the season, they will have all the excuses they need in Austin.  Next season will be critical for Brown considering he has lost three straight to Bob Stoops, and he has not won a Big 12 crown.  Texas folks are every bit as serious (if not more so) about their Longhorns as Ohio folks are about the Buckeyes.
  • IF OSU wins this week, stand back.  The avalanche of positive press will bury Columbus.  The inverse will also happen if Ohio State loses.  Buckeye fans and Columbus will be sucked into a pit of darkness and despair with a loss.  Look for High Street and Campus to go insane either way.  If OSU loses, then the students may riot.  If OSU wins, then the students may riot.  If I were to hand out a small piece of advice for those driving up to see this contest?  Park your vehicle in a garage or field a good ways from the action.
  • Anyone else wonder what might have been for FSU had they started McPherson after their first loss?
  • Here is a great bowl matchup... PSU and FSU.  GREAT hype.  They are sitting in similar places in the rankings, and their coaches are dueling it out for the all time wins mark in Division I-A.  I am not sure if would be an even game, but it would certainly garner excellent ratings in the first quarter.
  • Purdue and Wisconsin both need a win to get to a bowl.  Michigan State and Illinois are now disqualified.  Purdue faces an improved Indiana team while the Badgers face Minnesota.  It is increasingly possible that the Big Ten will end up with only 5 Bowl eligible teams.  My guess is that they will end up with 6.  Personally, I would almost rather the conference end up with 5 because quality is better than quantity in my book.  The money in the lower level bowls is not worthwhile considering the costs.  The positive press the conference could garner from a higher winning percentage (due to better teams being placed in bowls) is worth every penny in lost revenue.
  • OSU could still face WSU again.  All that has to happen is for OSU to win and Miami to lose.  Given the way this season (and every season) plays out in college football, this scenario is very possible.  Another BCS scenario could see the Sooners hop the Cougars if both win out and Ohio State or Miami loses.  If it were to happen (and it is very possible considering OU has several games left to play), expect the Pac Ten conference officials to have a meltdown that rivals Chernobyl – and rightfully so.
  • Two words:  Poor Baylor. 
  • Arkansas probably will not pull it off, but they are actually in control of their own destiny in the SEC West with a 3-3 league record (7-3 overall).  Circle November 29th on your calendar because LSU visits Fayetteville.  Will the Hogs win the West?  I really like Houston Nutt as a coach, but in recent years Arkansas has folded when put in situations like this.  Their offense plays too conservative (watch the Hogs for a while if you think OSU has problems on that side of the ball) which ends up allowing the other team to probe the Razorback defense until they discover and exploit its weaknesses.  Their overtime loss to Tennessee this year is a perfect illustration of how playing not to lose can lose a coach the game.  If the Hogs pull it off and win out, it would be a major boon to a football program still trying to define itself in the SEC instead of the SWC. 
  • OU should be very happy right now that they are not facing Kansas State.  The Wildcats look almost as dangerous right now as Iowa and USC.  As for facing Colorado again (since the Buffaloes clinched the North Division with their win on Saturday), OU will have to hope that Colorado shoots itself in the foot as often as they did during their first meeting.  Considering that OU has to play 3 more games while Colorado has an off week before visiting Lincoln, Nebraska, the Sooners will have to stay focused and healthy.  I look for this rematch to be a whale of a football game.
  • Look for OSU, OU, and Washington to open as preseason chic picks to win their conferences next season.  If Rivers stays, then the Wolfpack will be a darkhorse pick by some to win the ACC.
  • 163 points vs 150.  If my math is correct, then these two numbers represent the amount of points allowed by Oregon and Bellotti's defense in 4 losses in their last 5 VS. the amount allowed by OSU in 12 games this year.  Pretty offenses get you plenty of highlights on ESPN, but wins are better.
  • Kelly Washington has had a horrible 12 months.  First, he bursts onto the college football scene last August.  A sure first round pick, he opted to return to the Volunteers for 2002.  It all went sour from there.  First the Volunteers have a rash of injuries and a terribly disappointing start (they improved to 6-4 with a win over Mississippi State on Saturday).  Then Washington is injured in the Georgia game, sustaining a concussion that has sidelined him for most of the season.  Now he is having spinal surgery and his entire football future is in doubt since they are fusing two vertebrae in his neck.  Is "The Future" about to become history?  Even though he might appear to be rather full of himself, I would hope that he recovers and is able to play once more.
  • Kingsbury and Texas Tech are turning out to be a better team than they first appeared when Ohio State left cleat marks on their foreheads back in August.  Thanks to their victory over Texas, the Red Raiders are now ranked in both major polls.  Their stay in the rankings will be brief however unless they can find a way to upset Oklahoma this weekend.  It could happen, but I am not holding my breath.  If they do win, Tech will have accomplished something that no sane person outside of the Lubbock locker room thought possible.  They will win the Big 12 South and move on to the Big 12 title game to face Colorado.
  • Tommy Bowden just might be in some trouble at Clemson if he does not figure out how to win some more football games in 2003.  The Tigers sit at 6-5 with their rivalry game against South Carolina upcoming.  Sixth place in the ACC is not something that will get you job security and contract extensions no matter what the athletic department says.
  • Don't look now, but Florida has quietly been making a nice run to end the season.  Since a humiliating loss to LSU at home, the Gators have defeated Auburn, Georgia, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina.  They now sit secure with a bye week prior to the Florida State game.  A win would mean a 9-3 season and a top 15 ranking heading to the bowl games.  A loss could add momentum to the budding "faaaaaar Zookie" campaign in Gainesville.
  • The ACC has only one team with 2 losses (Maryland) while everyone else has 3 or more.  Particularly disappointing for the league has to be its marquee team, Florida State, and the recently ranked North Carolina State team that has wilted to lose its last 3 games.
  • Clear your schedule for Thursday night this week.  Miami and Pittsburgh are playing on ESPN.  With the upset of Virginia Tech by the Panthers, Miami is not likely to be caught off guard.  Still, this might have all the makings of a great contest if the ‘Canes make a few mistakes while Pitt plays over its head.  An upset would throw the BCS into a huge mess, so you know that its officials are pulling for Miami (and Ohio State) to win out.
  • My coaches of the Year?  Third place is Jim Tressel.  The job he and his staff have done is laudable.  12-0 has never happened in Ohio State history.  Second place is Tyrone Willingham at Notre Dame.  5-6 in 2001, the Irish are knocking on the door of the BCS.  At worst, they will finish at 10-2.  First place is Kirk Ferentz.  Iowa has not won 10 games in over a decade.  This year, they won 11, and without a bad half (like OSU in 1998) against Iowa State, they might be playing for a national title.
  • Prediction:  Notre Dame will do well next season but not as well as they have in 2002.  First off, they will no longer be considered a mediocre program and teams will take them more seriously than they did this year.  Second, and more importantly, Notre Dame will lose 16 starting seniors and both kickers to graduation.  Replacing 18 players is tough.  The Domers open the season next year with (in order) games against Washington State (though they lose Gesser and 9 other starters in 2003), @Michigan, Michigan State, @ Purdue, @Pitt, USC, @Boston College, and Florida State.  Ouch.  Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, Pitt, and Florida State look to be improved teams in 2003.  This schedule is not exactly the most conducive to rebuilding Notre Dame's reputation (unless of course they win them all).

Contact Banished Buck at cbabb@dixie-net.com

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