Cus Words 9-30: Back 2 Good

Infusing two transcendent talents into the lineup in consecutive weeks can go a long way to making the Buckeyes look more like that national title contender we were expecting all summer. Read about that and more in this week's edition of Cus Words.

WHAT WE LEARNED LAST WEEK: For all the bellyaching about scheme this and predictability that echoing throughout the Buckeye nation the past few weeks, I submit as a solution exhibit A, Beanie Wells.

Be he 100 percent or not, whether lining up as an ace back, a tailback dotting the 'i', beside the quarterback or behind a fullback, that man is dangerous.

He has everything great tailback needs: tremendous power and size, exceptional quickness, great vision and the ability to cut sharply and accelerate immediately after doing so. The man is a genius with the football in his hands. He needs a hole to run through, but not much of one.

And, B) Please take a good, long look at Terrelle Pryor.

This, folks, is the LeBron James of football (and I promise I had this thought before I saw it on our premium message board). He's Michael Phelps on turf. What I mean is, Pryor is that oh-so-rare athlete who is as good as the hype. Or he might be better.

I'm not sure many people thought he would be able to throw the ball with much more than simple competence as a first-year collegian, but he has thrown some awfully pretty passes already this season. At least two come to mind that involved Brian Robiskie: the deep one down the middle Robo dropped against Troy and the beautiful fade pass the senior hauled in for a touchdown last Saturday.

The latter one Pryor said he knew felt good when it came out of his hand, and that shouldn't come as a surprise, because it was textbook for a red-zone pass.

Sure, the youngster threw some bad ones. He missed Brian Hartline wide open once, a pass so far off target that the junior couldn't even get it with a diving effort. And Pryor might be awfully comfortable shifting around back in that pocket, but he was guilty of being too patient a time or two and it cost him on sacks that should not have happened.

That is all to be expected (LeBron couldn't shoot when he got to the league).

Remember he threw a ball almost directly to a Troy defender the week before, too, so he's not perfect, but he's pretty good.

Pryor is not Troy Smith, circa 2006, but he is better than the Troy of 2004 vintage and possibly 2005, too.

I never imagined Smith would become the precision passer he was as a senior, but because he did, I fully believe Pryor could someday, too.

In 2005, Smith truly was a dual threat. He ran the option quite a bit and slung the ball down field pretty well, too. There were times you felt like that offense could have been more complicated but there was simply no need for it.

Smith and Antonio Pittman out on the edge were a dangerous pair, and they took advantage of their athleticism plenty of times.

But Smith's running style more resembles Tim Tebow's than it does Pryor's. Smith was physical and seemed to relish contact. He let you know he was in control of a situation with his smile. Pryor is more graceful, the gazelle dashing in and out of the grasp of predators out on the open range. It his smooth, easy movement that lets you know he's got a handle of most situations even at such a young age.

Ohio State still needs its offensive line and wide receivers to continue to improve before full potential is met, but the progress of those two units is less crucial now because players with the talents of Wells and Pryor can clean up a lot of messes and make most coaches look pretty smart, too.


WHAT WE CAN EXPECT TO LEARN THIS WEEK: I would say the main lessons this week deal with intestinal fortitude, and that goes for both teams.

On the other sideline, Ohio State will see a group that is one week removed from one of the worst collapses I have ever seen.

Yes, leads of larger than 19 have been given up before, but what is the exchange rate for points by Michigan's 2008 squad versus those by a legitimate Division I-A team with a respectable offensive line and a quarterback and wide receivers?

Who would have imagined these Wolverines could score 27 consecutive points on anyone, let alone what was at the time the highest-ranked team in the Big Ten?

Yes, Wisconsin has a lot of pieces to pick up. Can the defense right itself? What about quarterback Allan Evridge? Give the Badgers' quarterback credit for leading what should have been the game-tying drive in the final minutes, but don't forget that came against an essentially helpless secondary.

That was not the first time Bielema's Badgers failed to hold a second-half advantage against one of the Big Ten's traditional powers.

Last season, Ohio State trailed 17-10 with more than two thirds of the third quarter having already ticked away, but the Buckeyes scored 28 unanswered points to win going away.

That, though, is part of a very small sample size with which to test Ohio State's ability to respond to adversity.

The Buckeyes have been pretty good at holding leads over the past couple of seasons, but they have not bounced back from early challenges. Florida, LSU and USC all jumped on the Buckeyes for halftime leads and Ohio State never really recovered.

This Saturday night's opponent is nowhere near as talented as any of those three opponents already mentioned, but there is plenty of talent on the Wisconsin roster.

The raucous prime-time atmosphere at Camp Randall Stadium, one of those places where the football was so bad for so long they had to invent ways to keep people interested like the "Jump Around" tradition after the third quarter and the ballyhooed fifth quarter party with the band, will not make succeeding any easier, either.

Ohio State seems to have gotten over its regular season night road game jinx, having won five in a row until the USC loss earlier this season, but now the Buckeyes return to the place that first started the three-game road prime-time losing streak that stretched from 2003-05.

The Buckeyes are still the better team, but the same was true of the Badgers when they went to Ann Arbor last weekend. That means missed assignments, unforced penalties and turnovers need to be kept to a minimum.


Buckeye Beater Nominations: Adam Weber was an honorable mention selection last season, but his numbers weren't as good this year, and most of those were amassed after the game had been decided, well, except for his two turnovers. Those went a long way toward helping the Buckeyes build a comfortable lead.

In fact, I'm not inclined to include anyone from the Golden Gopher offense. I think Weber, a sophomore, and freshman running back DeLeon Eskridge are players to watch in the future, though.

On the other side of the ball, I'll nominate defensive linemen Eric Small and Garrett Brown, both of whom made a lot of noise in the middle. Small had a sack and forced a fumble.


DVR Directions: With Ohio State playing at night, Buckeye fans can probably save space on the DVR while kicking back for a long day of gridiron action.

To scout next week's opponent, Purdue, check out the Boilermakers as they play host to red-hot Penn State at noon on ESPN. Getting a sneak peak at the now ballyhooed Nittany Lions might not be a bad idea, either.

At 3:30, Illinois travels to Michigan to try to avenge a prime-time loss from last season. If the Fighting Illini can't shut down the Wolverine offense, the concerns about Ron Zook's defense will officially be serious.

Cus Words Big Ten Power Poll (previous week's ranking in parenthesis)

1. (same) Ohio State
2. (tied-2) Penn State
3. (4) Michigan State
4. (tied-2) Wisconsin
5. (same) Illinois
6. (same) Northwestern
7. (9) Michigan
8. (same) Minnesota
9. (7) Purdue
10. (10) Indiana 11. (11) Iowa


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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