Cus Words: Don't Think Twice, It's All Right

We kick off this week's column with a thought one might hear from Bob Dylan. Then we take a look at the importance of this week's matchup with USC, check the TV listings and rate the Big Ten's teams through two games.

What we learned last week:

You could have done better but I don't mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don't think twice, it's all right

Perspective is important.

"An elite team shouldn't trail Ohio heading into the fourth quarter at home."

I've read or heard this or similar sentiments a few times since Ohio State's close shave with Ohio, and it seems to be mostly accepted as gospel.

I've got to tell you, I don't know why.

I mean, what difference does it make in the long run?

I'd venture to guess that every national champion, or even conference champion for that matter, has played down to its competition a time or two along the road to glory, and I'm certain all those teams have run into teams that played far above themselves on just the right day and produced an upset or a scare.

And, yeah, if the Buckeyes play like that against an elite team they will get crushed, but I don't really have a reason to think they will.

I'm really not sure how good or bad Ohio is, for one thing. The Bobcats were picked to finish near the bottom of their generally underrated conference, but two games have been played, and we all know what preseason prognostications amount to once the season starts. It is undeniable that Frank Solich knows a thing or two about coaching football - that he was fired when he was at Nebraska was a crime and simply getting the OU program back to .500 over an extended period of time is something of a feat - so it's entirely possible Ohio will be better than people think this year.

Whether they are or not, I really have no reason to think Ohio State will play that badly in its next game. It's probably going to happen again at some point, but that's just it: Sometimes teams play worse than they are. Sometimes they play better. So does everyone else.

This seems like an inarguable truth to me, so why all the handwringing?

I guess as free-thinkers we feel the need to have a reaction to everything that ever happens. Somehow our brain synapses will short out if we can't draw a conclusion from all we see. Maybe we are just so starved for real football action - they only play once a week and 12 or 13 times a year, after all - that we grasp at straws the rest of the time.

I don't know, but the reality is most things in life don't really warrant a significant reaction. Every cross word between loved ones does not mean there is trouble in the relationship - in fact, most are completely insignificant - in the long run just like every good deed between two people does not signal an unending friendship.

All that said, there were some alarming developments during Ohio State's most recent football game.

Perhaps I'm in the minority, but I don't believe the offensive line played badly. It could have been better, but just like the national championship game that followed the 2006 season, the quarterback's play made it look far worse than it really was.

And like every Maurice Clarett-less game of the 2002 and '03 seasons, there were plenty of times a running back did not take advantage of a perfectly good hole, crease or bit of daylight when it was presented to him.

I won't lay all the offense's troubles at the feet of Todd Boeckman, though. I'm sure he would have looked better if his top two receivers had been better at shaking the men covering them. There were also times Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline were open that Boeckman didn't find them or threw off target, too, but credit Boeckman for adjusting in crunch time and finding some alternative targets to keep the Buckeyes marching in the second half when they really needed him to.

I think I will take a glass-half-full look at the defense, too. Aside from the obvious positives – one touchdown and 254 yards allowed – I believe Buckeye fans should take heart in the fact that most of the mistakes Ohio State defenders made were of aggression.

Yes, Lawrence Wilson lost contain several times. Several blitzers whiffed more than once on Bobcat quarterbacks Theo Scott and Boo Jackson. But those things could not have happened if Wilson weren't nearly unblockable for most of the game and the blitzes did not get more effective as the contest wore on.

All the way down to the pee-wee level, football coaches tell players that an aggressive mistake is better than one a cautious one, and I think more than a few people who have watched the Buckeye defense over the last two seasons have the opinion that Ohio State has not necessarily played with the reckless abandon shown by predecessors such as Andy Katzenmoyer or Antoine Winfield, Matt Wilhelm or Mike Doss, Donte Whitner or A.J. Hawk.

Perhaps some of those bouts with overpursuit are a signal that change is afoot.


What we can expect to learn this week: Everything.

Well, maybe not.

Just as a matter of consistency, if we are going to take the week two performance with a grain of salt, not too much weight should be put on the following contest, should it?

That's not quite true, I'll admit.

We should really get a clear picture of just where Ohio State stands on the national stage Saturday night in L.A.

While there is no doubt programs like Ohio sometimes have more talent than we might all realize, and some of USC's five-star players are not all they are made out to be, the fact is most of the summations of the talent levels of each team are correct.

The Buckeyes' recruiting classes have not ranked as highly as have those of the Trojans' the past five years or so, but the schools have sent nearly an identical number of players to the NFL.

Not every NFL players is created equally, though, and not every player drafted truly deserves to be. I could go on and on, but the point is, there really are very talented players on the USC roster. The same is true of Ohio State. The difference is USC has beaten and sometimes dominated some very tough teams in the past half-decade while Ohio State has taken its lumps on a couple of national stages but also split with Texas and dominated Notre Dame.

Most of the nation believes USC has more good players than Ohio State because of those (sometimes flawed) recruiting rankings but also because of said big-game performances.

We'll find out about talent this weekend when we see who's running faster than whom, who's getting blocked, who's breaking tackles, etc.

Not that the most talented team will necessarily win, but this will be a great addition to the sample we use to measure programs across the country.

On top of that, it will also be interesting to watch Jim Tressel and Pete Carroll match wits. These are two conventional, pro-style teams who just want to line up and whip their opponents, but a trick here or two could swing the contest.


All-Buckeye Beaters Nominations

We have a number of nominees, to be sure. One of these weeks we'll have to come up with an offensive lineman or two, but not this week given how much time the Ohio State defensive line was in the Bobcat backfield.

That's when backup quarterback Boo Jackson did his thing, though, so he makes the list after bedeviling the Buckeyes all afternoon. Had he been more accurate on his throws (9 for 25), the outcome might have been different.

Here's a nod as well to backup tailback Donte Harden. He not only picked up 63 yards on 11 carries, he also scored the only Ohio touchdown on a strong 15-yard run around left end. He is a tough runner with good speed who made decisive cuts.

Defensively, there were all kinds of standouts in green and white. Let's start with interior defensive linemen Ernie Hodge and Jameson Hartke. Hartke was billed as the best of the bunch before the game and he did not disappoint, tallying four tackles and batting down a pass. Hodge had just two tackles, but he was often immovable at the point of attack.

The main beneficiary of their dirty work was middle linebacker Noah Keller, who tallied tackles and seemed to be all over the place.

Last, there is no way we could make a list of standout Bobcats without including cornerbacks Thad Turner and Mark Parson. Those two were integral in frustrating the Ohio State passing game as they followed Ohio State's top two receivers wherever they went. They both were credited with a pass broken up and combined for 11 tackles, although Parson's day surely would have been a lot better had he not muffed the punt that Shaun Lane recovered to set up Ohio State's winning touchdown.


DVR Directions

With the Buckeyes playing in prime time, the afternoon is wide open for viewing all sorts of games. Just don't look for many appealing matchups.

Michigan State plays Florida Atlantic at noon on ESPN2, then there are four games being televised regionally on ABC at 3:30, including two games involving a Big Ten team. Penn State takes on its latest patsy, Syracuse, on the road, while Purdue gets a chance to win some respect for the Big Ten when it plays host to Oregon. Meanwhile, on CBS highly regarded Georgia visits up-and-down South Carolina in the same time slot.

Finally, when the Buckeyes and Trojans are finished, some fans might want to catch the second half of Wisconsin's trip to Fresno State, an intriguing Big Ten-WAC matchup that kicks off at 10:30 on ESPN2.

Those wanting to get a peak at Ohio State's next opponent are out of luck. Troy hosts Alcorn State at 7 p.m. EST in a game that will not be televised.

Cus Words Power Poll (Previous week's ranking)
How we see the Big Ten teams after a lackluster round of week two contests.
1. (1) Ohio State (Beanie will be back and the Buckeyes are still the best)
tie 2. (2) Wisconsin (After a slow start, Bucky sprinted past Marshall)
tie 2. (3) Penn State (Gaudy numbers in a win over a BCS team inch the Nittany Lions up a spot.)
4. (4) Illinois (Juice Williams can still run, too, as he showed with 174 yards last week)
5. (5) Michigan State (Easily dispatched Eastern Michigan.)
6. (6) Northwestern (How about a hand for exercising demons with a win over Duke?)
7. (7) Indiana (A rout of Murray State didn't teach us much.)
8. (8) Michigan (They should thank Utah for trying to give the game away in the fourth. And yes, that offense is as bad as it looked.)
9. (9) Purdue (Joe Tiller's swan song got started with a 42-10 win over Northern Colorado.)
10. (10) Minnesota (Bowling Green, which the Golden Gophers whipped last weekend, might be pretty good. Props to the Gophers.)
11. (tie-10) Iowa (Is Ohioan Ricky Stanzi the new Hawkeye quarterback? Stay tuned.)

Marcus Hartman is a staff writer for BuckeyeSports.com and Buckeye Sports Bulletin. He can be reached for comment, cursing or questions via email at mhartman@buckeyesports.com.


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