No! Don't Drown Yourselves in the Urine-Filled Waters of Mirror Lake, Buckeye fans!
2011 Might Not Be THAT Bad!
It's time for a Buckeye Potluck, and things are somber in Columbus (and not just because we used a male cheerleader as our "Ohio State week" picture here at OTE). With the NCAA investigation/sanctions hanging over Ohio State's head, we even considered making the "Dessert" course a cake with a shiv and a file baked into it, to help Ohio State escape from NCAA jail (and knife USC in the back on the way out)....
Instead, we're going to (largely) ignore the NCAA problems (which we already dealt with in this special "indictment" themed potluck) and move on to more important topics, like profiling coaches by their names to predict their propensity to shoot and/or sexually degrade you, whether a 1-loss season can fail to impress, the punishment for insulting his Holiness Craig Krenzel (truly horrifying), and the most surprising thing you'll ever find in the University of Michigan library (so rare, they only appear during The Big Game). Jump
into Mirror Lake below for more....
1. Appetizer: Today's topic for debate - last names. If Jerry Kill has the best possible last name for a head coach, does Luke Fickell (okay, a misspelling, but being "fickle" is not what you want in a head coach) have the worst? What's the worst ACTUAL last name for a coach you can think of (i.e. there really is a coach with that last name out there, now or in the recent past)?
Graham Filler: I think Danny Hope is the worst coach's name, followed closely by Joker Phillips at Kentucky. It's more the product of the teams they coach then the actual name (i.e. no one would truly want to be coached by Paul NoDee...get it). But Hope, until he pulls a miraculous bowl game berth, will just be a set up for another "There's little to Hope for in West Lafayette" headline. And Phillips will just be another "Kentucky needed an ace and all they got was a Joker" headline away from annoying the hell of out me.
Chadnudj: We can all agree the name Jerry Kill is awesome, and I'll offer props as well to Louisville's Charlie Strong and East Carolina's Ruffin McNeil......but the best overall coach's name might belong to Marshall's Doc Holliday, who should end all press conferences by saying "I'm your huckleberry" and letting out a consumptive cough. In the "worst" category, I'll second Graham on Hope and Joker Phillips, just because of the horrible puns. But my personal worst name goes to Ole Miss's Houston Nutt, whose name sounds like a seriously degrading sexual act.
2. Salad: So, apparently, Ohio State went 12-1 last season (until the NCAA vacates the wins, at least.) Forgive me for not noticing -- they only beat ONE team in the final BCS top 25 (Arkansas), and only 2 others in the "also receiving votes" category (Iowa in a close 3-point win, and Miami thanks to 4 Jacory Harris INTs). Was the Buckeyes 2010 1-loss season a mirage -- the least impressive 1-loss season by a BCS team ever?
Ted Glover: No it wasn't a mirage, and I'm sorry, but 'worst one loss team in history' is an oxymoron, because that's still pretty damn good. Ohio State has no control over how good the opponent they play is, but to be considered a great team, you must at least beat every team you should, and OSU did that. Should they have beaten Wisconsin? Maybe, but to say that would be to take away from what Wisconsin did, and they were an exceptional team in their own right last year. And oh by the way, they still won a share of the B1G title, kicked the piss out of Michigan, and finally beat one of the SEC's best teams in a BCS bowl, which salvaged the B1G bowl season (thanks for not running in the Rose Bowl, Bucky!). If they are the worst one loss team in history, that's fine with me. I'd rather be the 'worst' one loss team in history than the 'best' three or four loss team in history. Most fans would love for their team to have a season like that.
Graham Filler: Chad quit being, as quoted in Shawshank Redemption, an Alexander Dumbass. Are we supposed to criticize teams for close wins every year? If so, looks like that undefeated 1997 Michigan team could have been one of the least impressive undefeated national champs EVER. Jeez. OSU made big defensive and offensive plays when it mattered, rolled over an Arkansas team that would have beat every Big Ten team from the last three years, won a bowl game in a year where the Big Ten proved how bad it was on a national level...and we're going to nitpick? No way. Twelve wins is twelve wins and frankly twelve wins is even more impressive compared to the eleven wins of MSU, a team that should have won 8 or 9.
Jonathan Franz: I felt obligated to answer this one since I've publicly questioned how much weight Michigan State's 11-2 campaign should carry. The difference between the Spartan's 2010 season and the Buckeyes' 2010 season is that Michigan State was positively eviscerated in its two losses. The green and white sleptwalked to a 31-0 halftime deficit in Iowa City and looked docile and apathetic in the Capital One bowl, where they were blown out a second time. To be sure, Ohio State spotted Wisconsin a three-touchdown deficit in Madison, but the Buckeyes battled back -- pulling the game to within 3 points at the beginning of the Fourth Quarter.
What I'm really saying is that Ohio State competed every time it took the field in 2010. And you can't fake that.
Now, as you point out, the Buckeyes schedule didn't exactly do them any favors last year. But is that really their fault? Scheduling a home-and-home series with Miami looked great on paper -- heck it looked great the week of the game. You can count the number of elite BCS programs on one hand that will go out of conference and sign up to play another elite program in September. (And as an aside, at least two of those Harris interceptions were caused by the silver bullets. So I say Ohio State won that game by making plays -- and they would have won by a lot more than 12 points but for two special teams breakdowns that led to kickoff and return touchdowns.) The irony in all this is that in 2009 Ohio State became the first team in college football history to beat four opponents that finished the season with 10 or more wins, but few asked whether the Buckeyes were actually much better than their 11-2 record suggested.
Hilary Lee: I don't think it was a "mirage." Yeah, in retrospect, their schedule doesn't look all that impressive. But there are some things about it that, looked at in a different light, make it so. I can't believe I am writing nice things about the Buckeyes, but it has to be said, they did win in close games when it mattered, with the Iowa game standing out. And yeah, Harris was responsible for the 4 INTs that handed the game to OSU on a platter, but if they weren't a good team, there's a good chance they wouldn't have capitalized on those INTs anyway. Or managed to hang on against Iowa. So... no, it wasn't a mirage. The Buckeyes were overrated and grabbed a BCS victory because they managed to catch Arkansas' normally capable receivers on a really, really bad night
Chadnudj: Ouch, guys, cut me some slack -- it's hard coming up with interesting angles on a six-time defending Big Ten champion team (without dipping into the painfully obvious pool of predicting Ohio State's upcoming NCAA sanctions). You're both right -- twelve wins, one loss is nothing to EVER be ashamed of, and, as a Northwestern fan, I'd forego Armani suits for an entire year for the Wildcats to have a one-loss season and win a BCS bowl (I'd probably give up Armani ties just to win ANY bowl). Ohio State can't do anything about it's schedule once the season starts (when they scheduled Miami, it looked like a lot tougher game than it eventually turned out to be once the season ended), and it beat every team but one (and that one loss was on the road to a damn impressive Wisconsin team in one of the most raucous environments I've ever seen). Still, it just never felt like Ohio State was as all-powerful last season as they were in other seasons where the Buckeyes dropped one (or even more) games -- the struggle to put away Illinios, the tough game against Iowa, Arkansas' wide receivers developing leprosy in their fingers all made this one-loss season less impressive in my mind.
And, of course, 2010 Ohio State is clearly NOT the least impressive one-loss BCS team of all-time. That honor firmly belongs to 2009 Cincinnati (if you count the Big East as a BCS conference -- they almost lost to Wannstedt and Pitt, and were rolled by Florida) or maybe 2007 Kansas (who somehow didn't play Oklahoma or Texas that year).
3. Potato/Rice Dish: Ohio State lost five major defensive contributors to the NFL (Cameron Heyward, Chimdi Chekwa, Jermale Hines, Ross Homan, Brian Rolle); not to mention Terrelle Pryor, Justin Boren, Brandon Saine and Dane Sanzenbacher; not to mention the Tattoo 4 getting suspended for their first 5 games...and also lost someone else....who was it? Oh yeah...their legendary head coach Jim Tressel (but, apparently, NEVER the Big Ten Coach of the Year). I know Ohio State doesn't rebuild, they reload -- but come on: Ohio State's streak of Big Ten championships/co-championships (2005-2010) is over, right? I'm not saying they fall off the cliff, but 8-4 or 9-3 and a non-B1G championship year is in the cards, correct?
Ted Glover: It'll be tough to get to Indianapolis. Add inexperience at the QB position, the head coach position, and the new divisional format with conference championship game, and there's a lot to overcome. And that's just on the field. OSU still has a lot of talent, no doubt, but the wildcard is Luke Fickell and what kind of coach he will be. Sure, he was able to observe Tressel and his gameday management (which is one of the best in conference history), and almost all of the staff remains intact, but until we know how Fickell will react when the heat is turned up, there's just no way to know where OSU will turn up.
Chadnudj: Ohio State has gone from Senator Sweatervest to a man that wears Affliction t-shirts. Fashion-forward thinking like that might fly in the Pac-12, but not in the B1G. OSU's streak of B1G titles is dead, people.
Hilary Lee: I think it's likely that they fall to an eight or nine win season, but I also think that what really matters is whether the other teams in the conference are able to capitalize on the Buckeyes' problems. Wisconsin is notorious for shitting the bed in any season where they enter with a lot of hype, and we have no idea how Nebraska is going to adjust to a conference that is tougher defensively than the majority of the Big 12. And MSU? Please tell me you all haven't forgotten "SPARTY, NO!" Much as my respect for Dantonio's game calling abilities increased last year, I'm still not convinced that Michigan State is ready to make that leap to being consistently at the top of the conference. Plus, I consider Penn State and Illinois to be serious unknown quantities. Either of those teams could totally regress, or be a complete dark horse, and I wouldn't be surprised. Basically, I think an 11 or 12 win season is out of the question for OSU. Ten wins is possible if the rest of their division completely implodes, and eight or nine are probably likely considering the transition they are going through.
4. Meat/Hot Dish: Then again, the Buckeyes know how to play with a chip on their shoulder and their backs against the wall -- just ask the 2002 Miami Hurricanes. The non-conference season is not too daunting (Miami being the only real challenge), they get MSU at the 'Shoe (where OSU rarely loses), and then they get the Tattoo 4 back in time to visit Nebraska. Throw in relative coaching continuity (Fickell knows Tresselball), freshman QB sensation Braxton Miller (plus steady, Craig Krenzel-esque Joe Bauserman as injury/ineffectivness insurance), and a conference schedule that skips 2 of the better Legends/West division teams (Iowa and Northwestern)....well, maybe the Buckeyes might end up at Lucas Oil Stadium after all. What do you think is the biggest challenge to OSU heading to Indy?
Ted Glover: Fickell aside, the quarterback play. Andrew Sweat, Etienne Sabino, John Simon, and Tyler Moeller will step up and play well, and the defense will be it's usual standout self. The running game is going to be good, but the quarterback play is the mystery, especially with Dane Sanzenbacher gone and Devier Posey out five games. Oh, and let's get something straight about Joe Bauserman, Chad -- if you ever mention him in the same breath with His Holiness Craig Krenzel again, I will force you to watch every Northwestern football game from 1970 to 1994. Every. One. Joe Bauserman inspires ZERO confidence, and if he plays most of the season, the Buckeyes are a 7 or 8 win team. But the same could be said of Braxton Miller, too. Yeah, he's a great athlete, but he's a freshman. He could be awesome, he could struggle, no one knows. If he turns in a
2009 2010 Nathan Scheelhaase performance, I'll be ecstatic. But even if he does I don't know if that will be enough to make it to Indy, unless the defense turns into the 1970's Steel Curtain.
Jonathan Franz: You mean besides the NCAA? Quarterback play, plain and simple. Ask a Penn State fan how well teams with talented running backs and solid defenses do without a leader behind center. Sure, Ohio State has a stable in the backfield, and yes its defense is still probably good enough to keep teams from putting up pinball numbers (by pinball numbers I mean more than 30 points), but unless and until someone takes the reins and manages the offense, it's going to be a frustrating affair. To that end, I don't think anyone disagrees that Braxton Miller has more upside, but he's also almost guaranteed to make more mistakes than the "safe" choice, Joe Bauserman. What Fickell has to decide is whether Miller's evasiveness and long-term development outweighs a few inevitable lapses in judgment. That may sound like an easy choice until you consider the potential consequences -- like how two quick interceptions can spot a team a 14-point advantage on the road.
The funny thing is that in that situation, down two touchdowns on the road, I'd rather have Miller in the game trying to spark a comeback than Bauserman. Better yet, give me the defense.
Bama Hawkeye: Ohio State will go to Indianapolis. It's just that it will happen on August 12 before the season begins. And that appearance in an NCAA boardroom could do more to derail the Buckeyes season than anything else. Talk of Ohio State's misdeeds has died down over the past month, but make no mistake, the Buckeyes are still in hot water. I'd be on the lookout for a post-season ban that includes the 2011 season - that means the B1G title game. I think that the Bucks will outperform the doom and gloom expectations on the field this season. I just don't know that it's possible for them do the same in their hearing.
5. Dessert: For all the off-field turmoil in Columbus, some good news: Ohio State's football team was one of two teams in the B1G to be ranked in the top 10 percent nationally for multiyear APR scores, which measure academic progress/graduation rates amongst teams (Northwestern was tops in the FBS). I'll admit, I was surprised -- this is the same school where Andy Katzenmoyer struggled with golf and AIDS Education. Give me a surprisingly impressive factoid that would go against the stereotype of your favorite team/school.
Chadnudj: A couple pieces of Northwestern propoganda/surprising facts:
- Since 1993 (when Penn State joined the Big Ten), Northwestern owns a .500 or better record against the following BCS conference teams (surprisingly in some cases): Oklahoma, Kansas, Boston College, Vanderbilt, Navy (undefeated against all of the preceeding), Duke, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Stanford, Air Force, Syracuse....and Iowa (9-7).
- Cindy Crawford was a Northwestern engineering student. And we're pretty much ground zero for sports journalists (Wilbon, Mandel, Musberger, Greenberg, Shanoff are all alums) and comedians/comedic actors (Seth Meyers, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Zach Braff, Kristen Schaal, Cloris Leachman, Jane Curtin, Shelley Long, Zooey Deschanel....and this year's commencement speaker -- watch the speech here -- Stephen Colbert).
- Gawker has apparently deemed Northwestern "America's Greatest University" and says "Northwestern University simply cannot stop being awesome."
- No other B1G school, to my knowlege, has featured a fucksaw demonstration in a class.
Graham Filler: Found myself, albeit somewhat hungover, in the Michigan library back in 2009 after the OSU/Michigan game. Took a glance around and was definitely surrounded by hotties. Yup. In Ann Arbor.