ABC: Another Buckeye Catastrophe. Is it finally time to blame the coaches?

It's been twenty-four hours since the halides were shut off at the Colosseum -- the bright new bulbs brimming down in a burnt orange glow, bathing the historic stadium in a comfortable curtain of sovereignty.

So begins a new era in college football, but it has nothing to do with Southern California. 

It's clear now that the 2008 Ohio State Buckeyes, the Cadillac mainstay of the Big 10 and New Yankees of College Football, are not going to win a national championship. 

And let's be honest.  That's okay.

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Todd Boeckman is a big game liability.

I've often compared the rise and fall of the elite in college football to the stockbroker's dilemma.  Despite good input and experience the seasoned trader never fully knows whether the stock she tracks is at its apex, and thus on the verge of inevitable decline -- or, by contrast, whether it will keep going, climbing indefinitely.

Ohio State's zenith just might have been 2002.  That team became only the second in college football history to win 14 games -- including a spectacular upset of the awesome defending national champions.  Although they didn't know it then, it was the top floor for Larry Coker and the Hurricanes also.

And so, two teams headed to the lockers on that balmy night in Tempe, both benefactors and victims of a kind of manifest destiny.  That is the idea that greatness must come every time.  Progress every minute.  Dominance every second.

It's a mirage.  And yet, it's the nature of competitive ambition. 

It's time that Columbus faces a few facts.  Instead of continuous, systematic progress -- the Buckeyes are wallowing in second-hand smoke.  It's a lot easier to place blame than accept responsibility -- so I'll do my best to keep this impartial.  Here, are a few thoughts I had Saturday night:

1.  Todd Boeckman is a big-game liability.  His downfield passing ability hardly makes up for his pocket struggles.  After two seasons under center, he's simply not developing variance and adaption.  Compare Todd Reesing's performance in Kansas' loss to South Florida.  When forced to scramble, Reesing would reverse, throw off his back foot, and hit a sure receiver on one of a cluster of call-back routes.  Sure, this kind of effort led to the fatal interception that cost the Jayhawks the game -- but it also produced completions and carried a dynamic offense that moved the chains and put points on the board.  Which would you rather see?

Still, calling for Tood to sit is probably a bit premature.  I'd like to see a more natural transition, like from Justin Zwick to Troy Smith.  There's little question though, he has to go.

2. Ohio State has the athletes to play man to man defense.  Why does Defensive Coordinator Jim Heacock stubbornly insist on zone?   Still, despite the lopsidedness of the contest, the defense put together a start to finish effort.  They didn't get much rest, and yet, they continued to hit hard -- forcing USC to punt twice and turnover on downs in the Fourth Quarter.

3. Didn't those tight end audibles look a lot like LSU in the 2007 BCS national championship?  Can you blame Pete Carroll for calling them?

And so, two teams headed to the lockers on that balmy night in Tempe, both benefactors and victims of a kind of manifest destiny.  That is the idea that greatness must come every time.  Progress every minute.  Dominance every second.

It's a mirage.  And yet, it's the nature of competitive ambition.

4. Why does Tressel allow his players to hang their heads in the locker room and on the sidelines?  Top down complacence is particularly frustrating, and it's one area in which Tressel's non-confrontational demeanor might paralyze his ability to motivate.  As he quipped afterwards, "We played as well as we could, with or without Beanie."  He can't be serious.  I challenge Jim to shed his diplomatic facade and display honest, unvanquished emotion.  It's okay to say "This wasn't acceptable."

5. Is it finally clear that the practice of scheduling back-to-back in-state lightweights and giving FCS revenue kickbacks isn't helping Ohio State learn to compete?  One in-state poodle a year is a fine.  Not two.   

6. Terrelle Pryor is the future of the Buckeyes.  Despite his limited playbook Terrelle displayed an aggressive patience, focus, and competitiveness on the national stage.  Keep your head up Pryor.  We need you.

So, the honeymoon with the sweater is officially over.  Inevitably, Jim Tressel and his staff (particularly Jim Bollman) will face chill-winds of criticism, and, for the first time meet overwhelmingly negatively public opinion in Columbus.  How they deal with it will tell us more about our leaders than win percentages ever have.

Saturday's loss is a tremendous opportunity.  It's time for Ohio State to bow out of the limelight, and to glean motivation from more than Top 10 exposure. 

Columbus too, needs to evolve: from a fan culture that expects to win, to one that merely demands to compete. 

It's time for the next wave.

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