Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I'm Back!

We finally got our cable (and cable modem) hooked up at the new place, so I am officially online again. Unfortunately, I'm on my way out the door to clean up the old place in a (likely futile) effort to get our security deposit back. So no posting today.

The season preview may be done, seeing as the season starts this Friday. I may keep it going, trying to stay a couple weeks ahead of the actual game, but I'll probably just move on. We'll see how it goes.

Well, just wanted to let you all know that I'm still alive and haven't forgotten about the website. Now I'm gonna go shove around a mop for a while.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Gettin' My Move On

As I mentioned, I'm moving from south-ish campus to north-ish campus this weekend, so unless things go really quickly, I probably won't be posting again until Monday. In the meantime, I suggest perusing the various links on the sidebar. They're all good.

Check back Monday for my triumphant return, as well as a mad rush to get ahead on my season previews before the season actually starts.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Open Practice Photos and Thoughts

As I mentioned yesterday, I checked out the open practice Monday night. I took a few pictures, but looking over them today, most of them sucked. That's what happens when you try to take close up shots from B Deck, I guess. If you want some good pictures, you'll want to check out the Ozone. However, I did have a few that I felt were worth sharing. And if they aren't worth sharing, well, I'm gonna do it anyway. (Note: clicking the pictures just takes you to the Photobucket site. Click the link below the pic if you want the full size)

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Here's a shot of the stadium just as the practice was starting. Using a highly scientific analysis of this picture, I have concluded that the official estimate of 28,000 people attending the practice is off by 116 people. But yeah, a lot of people were there.

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Hey, obstructed view! It's just like seeing a real game from B Deck!

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Here's Beanie Wells apparently making fun of Antonio Pittman for going through some extensive stretching.

I left before the band showed up, I'm a little upset about missing them. Oh well, can't win 'em all.

Some thoughts on the practice:
  • All the running backs looked pretty good, I thought. Antonio Pittman looked good, doing nothing to convince me that he won't have a big year this year. Chris Wells just sorta ran through people, disappearing into masses of defensive humanity and falling out the other side, five yards later. Maurice Wells looked more decisive than last year, generally making one cut and going. He hurt himself by dancing in the backfield last year (and by being run into the middle to be tackled by guys twice his size), so if he avoids that, he'll be much more effective.
  • Ted Ginn seems to have made some serious strides as a receiver. He didn't just beat guys by running by them, but also by running good routes. And he made some tough catches. So either he's very good and opposing defenses are in trouble, or he's no better than last year, and our defense is in trouble. I'm betting the former.
  • The kicking game looked decent, which is a step down from years past. Kickoffs were generally getting to the goal line, punts were going about forty yards, and a couple punts were blocked (though that might have been Anderson Russell being awesome, not punt protection sucking). I hesitate to draw too many conclusions from one practice, though. And the Ozone is reporting that both kickers were sending back kicks for touchbacks in the kick scrimmage, so maybe they'll be fine. They're also reporting that Aaron Pettrey was perfect in the scrimmage, while Ryan Pretorious wasn't. I thought Pettrey looked better Monday night; perhaps he's getting close to locking up the kicking duties.
  • If the defensive backs play the way they did Monday night, they'll be fine. Once Kurt Coleman gets a bit more fundamentally solid, he'll be great. Dude just makes plays. The rest seemed solid, if unspectacular, which is all you can ask of them at this point.
There's my conclusions, drawn from watching a team practice for an hour and a half. Which means they're pretty close to worthless, but that's the value of most of my opinions, so I stand by them.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Busy, Busy, Busy

I'm currently beginning the process of moving from the south-ish side of campus to the north-ish side of campus, so I'm pretty busy cleaning and packing and playing beer pong to determine which room I get. As a result, posting will be pretty light this week. I did attend the night practice on Monday, and here's my thoughts in brief: Ted Ginn is good, Chris Wells is good, and either our kickoffs need to be longer, or everyone's kickoffs will be shorter and Ginn will have some big returns this season. I'll try to post pictures tomorrow and a preview of the mighty Cincinnati Bearcats later this week.

In the meantime, have a look at Mr. Wolverine, if you're in the mood for checking out blogs representing that team up north. David (owner and proprietor of said blog) e-mailed me requesting a link exchange, and I agreed, seeing as I believe in linking to good blogs, even if they're Michigan blogs. He's in the unenviable position of being a UM fan in Ohio, and while I generally believe such people should be remanded to the care of a psychiatric ward, I make an exception for him, because he's running a pretty solid blog. So check it out.

Monday, August 21, 2006

BlogPoll Roundtable #1

You know the deal: every week, BlogPoll voters all answer some opinions about the doings and goings-ons and what have you in college football. And since I have somehow fooled the powers that be into thinking I somehow know what I'm talking about, I suppose I should participate in these shenanigans. Let's get started.

1. What's the biggest ripoff in this preseason poll? Either pick a team that's offensively over or underrated, or you can rag on a particular voter's bad pick (hey, we're all adults here, we can handle it).

The poll doesn’t look too bad to me. There are question marks everywhere, so it’s tough to say that one team’s way overrated or underrated. You could put together a top 25 by drawing the top dozen or so teams out of a hat and be able to defend your rankings.

That said, I think Virginia Tech’s a little high in the poll, but it’s not too bad. I think Michigan State should be ranked, but given their track record of collapses, it’s tough to argue it too hard. I’m not sure about the Big East teams, West Virginia and Louisville, being ranked that high. I don’t know if they have the talent to hang with those teams ranked around them. They might, but we’ll have a tough time knowing for sure, given that about their only real competition is each other.

2. What should a preseason poll measure? Specifically, should it be a predictor of end-of-season standing (meaning that a team's schedule should be taken into account when determining a ranking), or should it merely be a barometer of talent/hype/expectations?

I think that a preseason poll should be a ranking of the top teams based on talent, coaching, etc., with no regard for the schedule. The schedule gets factored in throughout the season, I think. For example, if you think a team is, say 5th best talent-wise, but you rank them 10th because you expect them to lose to some juggernaut in Week 4, what do you do with them when they lose? They’ve just met your expectations, so why should you drop them in the rankings? Yet that is what just about everyone will do. So, the preseason poll should be used, as the BlogPoll is intended, to rank teams based on who you think would perform the best if all the teams played each other on a neutral field. Then the season can be used to adjust the rankings based on how teams exceed expectations, or fail to meet them.

3. What is your biggest stretch in your preseason ballot? That is to say, which team has the best chance of making you look like an idiot for overrating them?

Well, of course, my Buckeyes (as well as yours), could certainly lose three or four games this season, and just about everyone who filled out a ballot would look pretty stupid for having them that high. But then, so could just about everyone else in the top 25. As you know, there are a lot of question marks headed into this season.

The teams that worry me the most in my rankings are Michigan and Michigan State, though. Every year, Michigan is in the preseason top ten, and every year, they lose three games. The only reason to believe this team is better than last year’s is that the new coordinators might make a difference. I think they will, but another five loss season isn’t out of the question.

Michigan State is, of course, still Michigan State, and they’re still coached by John L. Smith. Those two things alone are generally worth at least four losses. Why do I expect them to do better? I’m honestly not sure.

4. What do you see as the biggest flaw in the polling system (both wire service and blogpolling)? Is polling an integral part of the great game of college football, or is it an outdated system that needs to be replaced? If you say the latter, enlighten us with your new plan.

As others have mentioned, the biggest flaw in all polls is the difference in methods used to rank teams. Is it a matter of ranking them by most likely to go undefeated? By quality of team? By prettiness of school colors? Alphabetically? Whatever method is used by a poll, it needs to be clearly defined for both the people doing the ranking and the public in general.

5. You're Scott Bakula, and you have the opportunity to "Quantum Leap" back in time and change any single moment in your team's history. It can be a play on the field, a hiring decision, or your school's founders deciding to build the campus in Northern Indiana, of all godforsaken places. What do you do?

This one's easy: I head back to the 1978 Gator Bowl and stop Woody Hayes from punching Charlie Bauman. I wouldn't change the outcome of the game, as a victory might convince him to keep coaching longer, and Woody was already hanging on too long by then. But the man is one of the greatest coaches of all time, a guy who had a positive impact on hundreds, if not thousands, of lives, and what he's remembered most for is punching a player. So I'd come up with something to calm him down, avoid the whole incident, and let Woody end his career on his own terms.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Pronounced With an Umpty

Some links for y'all:

First, Marcel Frost has transferred to Jackson State. Or, as it's becoming known, Ohio State South. Like I said when Erik Haw transferred, hopefully we won't miss him too much, and hopefully he gets what he wants at Jackson State.

Next, there have been some changes at the linebacker positions, according to the Ozone.
According to linebackers coach Luke Fickell, the depth chart at linebacker has James Laurinaitis as the number one middle linebacker, Marcus Freeman as the leo linebacker, and John Kerr at the will linebacker.
I'm not too surprised to see Laurinaitis at middle linebacker; he seems like a good replacement for Schlegel. As someone pointed out in one forum or another, he was pretty much running the defense while on the field in the Spring game, much as Schlegel did last year. I am, however, surprised to see Freeman at the leo spot. That means he's taking over for Carpenter, not Hawk, which is a bit of a surprise to everyone. I think I'll defer to the coaches on this one, though. They've seen the practices, I haven't.

That might change on Monday, though. As you may know, there's an autograph session/practice that night, open to the public. It was originally scheduled to be held at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, but it has been moved to the Horseshoe. I guess they realized that if we can bring 60,000 to a spring game, we can certainly fill a 12,000-seat stadium so close to the season. I was probably going to pass on the practice, since I'd have to drive to the stadium and get there early and everything, just to see a practice. But how can I pass up a chance to get into the Shoe for free and see some football? I don't think I can. If I do go, I'll see if I can get a couple pictures for you all.

Lastly, the athletic department has set up a couple Heisman websites for our candidates. Have a look at the Troy Smith for Heisman campaign and the Ted Ginn for Heisman campaign. It's not exactly billboards in Times Square, but then, we're not exactly Oregon. They have highlight videos on there, and they aren't bad, but they aren't anything spectacular. You can find stuff just as good on YouTube. But then, if you want Troy Smith highlights, just look at the Michigan games. And Ted Ginn highlights? Look no further than the Fiesta Bowl.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

They All Choppable: The Texas Preview

We now turn to Ohio State's second opponent, the Texas Longhorns. They're a little public university out of the Lone Star State, you may have heard of them. They had a pretty solid season last year, led by a pretty good quarterback named Vince Young. But what about this year? For the answer to that, we need a few more questions. And for those, we go to the Hypothetical Interviewer 9000.

So, Texas. No Vince Young, no problem for the Buckeyes, right?
Not exactly. They lost Young, but, as the old cliche goes, they don't rebuild, they reload. There's talent everywhere. In fact, from the look of things, QB is about the only weakness on this team.

Ok, in that case, how can OSU possibly win?
Well, looks can be deceiving. Texas does have to replace about eleven starters, including the kicker and punter. They do have to replace plenty of other big names besides Young. Safety Michael Huff is gone, as is tight end (and leading receiver) David Thomas. They also lose defensive tackle Rod Wright, cornerback Cedric Griffin, and middle linebacker Aaron Harris, all of whom are All American-caliber players. Word on the message boards is that the replacements are generally better than the guys they're replacing. That may be true, but then, OSU's rebuilt defense might be better than last year's, too. I have doubts either statement will end up being true.

Plus, Ohio State has history on their side. The home team has never won in the history of the Texas-Ohio State series. Additionally, teams that play two quarterbacks have a losing record in the series. So there's that.

Ok, so maybe a win is possible. Give me some Texas players to name-drop so I can sound like I know what I'm talking about.
We'll start with Jamaal Charles. He'll split time at running back with Selvin Young and Henry Melton, but he's the one you'll notice the most. He's fast and talented, and will play a big part in the offense. With the departure of Ramonce Taylor, he becomes the big-play threat in the Texas backfield. Containing him will be central to any Buckeye success.

Justin Blalock is probably gonna be the first Longhorn drafted in April. It sounds like he's moving over to guard to make room for a redshirt freshman at right tackle, but he's good wherever he plays. I'd offer more information, but as I've mentioned, I don't know enough about offensive line play to do anything other than take the word of people more knowledgeable than I.

Michael Griffin's an exciting dude at safety. He was very good last year, and should be even better this year. He'll likely be all over the field, including special teams, where he's apparently developed something of a knack for blocking punts. You'll probaly hear his name a lot. Just hope it's on tackles downfield, and not on any big interceptions or the like.

Last, but not least, is Greg Johnson, kicker. He'll likely handle field goals, punts, and kickoffs for the Longhorns. He's definitely a talent at punter, but it remains to be seen if he's as good a kicker as he is punter. If so, their kicking game is in pretty good shape.

Now I know everything there is to know about their football team. What will they do when they have the ball?
Run. Then run. Probably run a third time. Then they will repeat, or punt. As Peter noted, Tresselball's probably going to be in full effect in Austin. They have inexperienced QBs, talented running backs, a good O-line, and a potentially great defense. It would seem to make sense to rely on the running game and defense to win games.

Conversely, our defensive plan will probably be to put the game in the hands of Colt McCoy and/or Jevean Snead. If the Buckeye defense can stop the run and the offense can score some points, then the Longhorns will have to try to win the game through the air. And if either young QB proves capable of doing that, well, then we're all screwed and Mack Brown should clear some more space in the ol' trophy case for another crystal football.

What about when the good guys have the ball?
That's a good question. I think Tressel would like to be able to control the game on the ground, but I don't know if that will work. If things go as planned and the defense gets some stops, Tressel will probably try to dominate time of possession, shorten the game, and get Texas to the "Hey, Colt/Jevean, go try to win this huge game in your second collegiate start" point as soon as possible. If Texas doesn't give much ground on the, um, ground, then the Buckeyes will try the air. Really, I wouldn't be surprised by anything when Ohio State has the ball, with the exception of total offensive domination on the level of last year's Fiesta Bowl. The Texas defense, it is safe to say, is better than that Notre Dame defense.

The Texas defense, meanwhile, will probably look to force some turnovers, especially since Troy Smith has been known to give the ball away from time to time. If he can avoid doing that, it would obviously help the offense greatly.

Wow, that's some Corso-level analysis there, buddy. "If the quarterback doesn't turn the ball over, that's good." You should be proud.
Shut up. You're a figment of my imagination. I have made you; I can unmake you.

Anyway, how do you think the game will play out?
Ideally? The Buckeyes get a couple big plays early to silence the crowd a bit. I'm thinking a long touchdown pass to Ted Ginn, and maybe an interception return for a touchdown to rattle one of the Texas QB's. OSU takes firm control of the game, and never relinquishes it. Texas doesn't totally fall apart, but everyone sees the end coming by the second quarter. Sure enough, Texas can't put anything together, and OSU wins comfortably. I'm thinking something along the lines of the subway scene in the Matrix, minus the whole "dramatic line and escape" from Neo/Texas. You can see the Buckeye victory coming from a mile away, and sure enough, it happens. That would make my weekend.

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Hear that, Coach Brown? That is the sound of inevitability. It is the sound of your defeat.

Will that actually happen, though?
If it does, I'll eat my hat.

Yeah, but be advised: it is a meat hat.

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One always looks neat, in a hat made of meat.

In reality, I except a close game, and another classic like the last matchup. The amount of talent involved in this game is amazing, from the coaches to the kickers. Texas will be favored, and rightly so, but not by much, and Ohio State is certainly capable of winning. I think the game will come down to which team can control the ball. Aside from the possibility of some late-game heroics, the team that wins the time of possession will probably win the game. If Texas is controlling the clock, that means they are probably running the ball, and McCoy and Snead are just along for the ride as the Texas O-line clears room for Jamaal Charles and Selvin Young to run. If OSU's winning the time of possession battle, it means that the game is going to be put in the hands of a freshman QB for Texas. In that case, you have to like the Buckeyes' chances. I hope Ohio State can win in impressive fashion, but I will be more than happy with any sort of win. In an effort to avoid cosmic payback, I decline to pick a winner, but a score of 27-21 sounds right to me.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Buckeye Human Interest Stories

We're at that point in the offseason where the first week is close enough to taste, but still out of reach. It's a tough part of the year to get through. About the only good thing to come out of it is stories on the players. They're generally pretty cliched stuff, but it's still a chance to get to know a bit about the players. Here's a sampling:
  • Lawerence Wilson learns how to run, becomes starter - Neither part of that is especially accurate. Wilson was able to run before college (I've seen video, trust me), and according to Jim Heacock, Wilson's actually backing up Jay Richardson. However, he did improve his running style with the help of Butch Reynolds (former world record holder in the 400 meters, current OSU speed coordinator), and he will play a lot this year.
  • Doug Datish's father angered Woody Hayes. . . and lived! - Just a story about Doug Datish and his dad, who was on the team in the 70's. Datish has an opportunity to be the fourth consecutive Buckeye center to be drafted and start in the NFL. There's a streak that is somehow both impressive and almost completely uninteresting.
  • Quinn Pitcock, whatta guy - Your standard article about a guy stepping up and becoming a leader on the team. There were several of these about Troy Smith earlier this season. Both of those guys are sounding pretty impressive in the offseason. They both sound like they're doing the whole "getting it" thing, being a leader, working hard, doing all the little things. If it's not all talk, they could both be primed for big years. I'd love to see Q.P. continue playing the way he was at the end of last season. If he and the rest of the D-line can get pressure on the quarterback without the help of a blitz, it could really help out the newbies in the secondary.
Texas preview coming soon.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

"How Far We Goin' Back?" "Way Back."

The O-Zone has a Notebook & Quotebook on the defense up. It mentions that Mike D'Andrea's been pretty healthy so far (keep your fingers crossed, people), and that Vernon Gholston's been pretty impressive. But the noteworthy part of the article is this:

The concern over the OSU defense is the fact that the Buckeyes must find nine new starters. Historically, replacing that many new starters spells trouble for a defense. Or does it?

The recent history says that's just not true. The Buckeyes replaced nine starters on defense in 1997 and fielded a team that was 10-1 heading into the Michigan game. That team also allowed just under 11 points per game for the season.
Did you know that? I did not know that. 1997 was, of course, the year after the big Rose Bowl win over Arizona State. I was looking for similarities between the 1997 team and this year's team, but there just aren't that many. The 1997 team had a QB that had ended any quarterback controversy the previous season (Joe Germaine) and a defense that apparently replaced 9 starters, but that's about it. Nevertheless, the knowledge that a Buckeye defense can still be great after replacing so many starters does provide some comfort.

Besides, I don't think we'd really want this year's team to be like the '97 team. They were good, but they lost to Penn State and Michigan. They still made it to the Sugar Bowl, but, uh . . . that was the Florida State Sugar Bowl game. You might remember that. Not good times. Let's not think about that. Let's think back to that Rose Bowl instead.

Yeah, that's better.

Sean's Meaningless Preseason Poll

Ok, when I said I'd have my poll ready Thursday or Friday, I meant Saturday.

Here's my top 25, in all its glory. It's worth nothing that this is obviously a meaningless ranking at this point, and I intend to start over from scratch once the season starts, but these are the teams that I think are the best 25 at this point. I'm sure I'll feel differently tomorrow, and again the next day, but this is the order I've talked myself into tonight:

1. Ohio State - Obvious and biased, of course, but defensible. The offense should be very good, and I think the defense will be better than expected. The defensive line is actually reasonably experienced, and the linebackers feature a guy who played most of the Michigan game and started the Fiesta Bowl, a former Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and Marcus Freeman, who may be the best of the three. The secondary worries me, but by the end of the year, I think Malcolm Jenkins will be very good at the corner and Jamario O'Neal will be an All-Big Ten safety. They have question marks, but so does everyone else, and the uncertainties for Ohio State worry me less than the uncertainties for the other teams.

2. Texas - More like 1A, but as it turns out, 1A is not an actual number, so two will have to do. The only major concern for Texas is quarterback, but it's a big one. Two quarterbacks, a year of college between them, zero college snaps. Not much experience. One or both will turn out to be fine, possibly even great, but at this point in the season, you have to expect the quarterback position to be a liability for the Longhorns. I could be wrong, though, and the great thing is that we'll find out in Week 2.

3. Auburn - I like Kenny Irons, and I think Brandon Cox will be decent or better. The receivers and secondary are cause for concern, but I'm not too worried about it (mostly because I don't really care how Auburn does). There may be less uncertainty about Auburn than there is about OSU and Texas, but I just think that Auburn is less talented than those two, top to bottom.

4. Notre Dame - You're already sick of hearing about Notre Dame, and the season hasn't even started yet, so I'll be brief: The offense will be great, Charlie Weis will be very good (but not half as good as he thinks he is), and the defense will be better. They had a lot of improving to do, though, and I don't know if they'll be good enough to win it all. I'm guessing not quite.

5. USC - They graduated a ton of talent. "USC doesn't rebuild; they reload," you say. Thanks, who are you, Lee Corso? Just about everyone else in the top 10 reloads, too, so the statement is meaningless. Because then we must ask, "Who reloads the best?" and we're right back where we started. Anyway, replacing your starting QB and your top two running backs is no easy task for anyone. On top of that, the defensive backs need a little work. I could see Pete Carroll and his boys going undefeated this year, just to piss me off, but a loss or two seems a bit more likely.

6. West Virginia - I like Pat White, I really like Steve Slaton, and I love the 3-3-5 defense. The receivers are a bit of a concern, but I don't think the offense will ask a whole lot of them. And the gimmick D will offset any problems with experience or quality the secondary may have. West Virginia gets my vote for Most Likely To Go Undefeated, but that doesn't mean they're the best. Just that they play in the Big East.

7. Florida - Chris Leak will be better this year, mostly because Urban Meyer will use him better. The defense will be very good. They could use a running back, though, and a better o-line. They'll be a good team, but with their schedule, you might not know it.

8. Michigan - Yes, I know, Michigan's always in the top ten, and they're always overrated. But I think this is a very talented team, and the coaching changes will make a bigger difference than people are giving them credit before. Plus, everyone's caught on to the whole "Michigan is always overrated at the start of the season" thing, which means it's time for it to change.

9. LSU - There's talent enough here to be ranked higher, but talent doesn't necessarily equal results, and I'm not sold on Les Miles yet. If this was a Nick Saban team, it would probably be top 5, but the only real memory I have of Les is a beating he received in the Alamo Bowl a couple years back. You might remember it.

10. Cal - The token Pac-10 team I fall in love with that ends up disappointing me. Quarterback's a bit of a question mark, but I like what they have just about everywhere else. And we're talking Jeff Tedford, so one of these QB's will go Cinderella on us, being a great college QB before he gets to the NFL and turns back into a dirty, smelly woman (I'm talking about you, Joey Harrington).

11. Iowa - Kirk Ferentz is a very good coach, and Drew Tate is a very good player. I don't think either is quite as good as they're given credit for, though, and neither has exactly proven anything so far. Kirk's done well in the underdog role, now it's time to prove something playing as a favorite. And Drew Tate must prove he isn't, as one of my friends has suggested, the Peyton Manning of college football (unless Peyton Manning is the Peyton Manning of college football).

12. Miami (Florida) - This just feels about right for them. And if Coker doesn't have them here or better by the end of the season, he should probably look for a new job.

13. Clemson - A lot of talent here. If Will Proctor turns out to be good at QB, they might even be a title contender. I just can't see Clemson being that good. So they're here until Tommy Bowden proves he can consistently beat someone other than his dad.

14. Penn State - New QB's are a cause for concern, but Morelli looks to be pretty decent. And people are forgetting about Derrick Williams. The offense looked better without him, but that doesn't mean he won't help this year. The coaching staff knows they don't have to build the offense around him now, which will help both Williams and the offense. The defense will be great, but can the offense keep rolling without Michael Robinson?

Wow, three years ago, did anyone think something resembling that last sentence would ever be written?

15. Georgia - They could easily be better than this, but I'll wait until they settle the QB situation before I pass final judgement.

16. Oklahoma - Can Paul Thompson provide some sort of threat at QB? If he can be anywhere near competent, the team could be top 10. But if he throws like a wide receiver, Adrian Peterson could face the seldom-used 6-5 defense, and it could be a long year for the Sooners.

17. Louisville - Great QB, great RB, great offense, good enough defense to win the Big East. How good does that make them? About 17th is my guess.

18. Nebraska - They could take a big step forward this year, and Bill Callahan could look like a genius. I don't think Callahan's a genius. I don't think they'll take a big step forward.

19. Florida State - Florida State was not a fund team to watch last year, and I tried to avoid it as much as possible. The offense had better improve this year, because the defense got worse.

20. Arizona State - Could be a surprise title contender. The offense should be great, regardless of which QB is running it. But will the defense be any good? My guess is that it won't, thusly, they are ranked 20th.

21. Tennessee - Much like FSU, I tried to avoid watching Tennessee last season. David Cutcliffe should make the offense watchable, and they have the talent to be top-15, but I just can't shake memories of last season's suckitude.

22. Michigan State - Drew Stanton is my favorite non-Buckeye in college football, and Javon Ringer is an underrated back. Sadly, however, they are saddled with a subpar defense and John L. Smith.

23. Alabama - Gotta be honest, I don't know much about 'Bama, I just thought they were a good name to round out the top 25.

24. Oregon - Ditto, but with ugly uniforms.

25. Virginia Tech - Also ditto.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A Li'l Sum'n Sum'n While You Wait

I've got my top 25 coming tomorrow or Friday, but while you wait, I insist you check out Men of the Scarlet and Gray's GameDay Preview. It's very entertaining. Distilled hilarity, even.

Oh, and the big news as far as OSU: Marcel Frost is suspended for the season. He violated team rules, but if he's got a season suspension (and not an arrest), he must have violated the hell out of said rules. Speculation seems to center around an NCAA rules violation, which would be incredibly stupid of him. It's also possible that this is the culmination of a series of misbehavior. Or, some third option. I won't speculate. It's a loss for the team, no question, but I think Rory Nicol's as good as Frost, and Brandon Smith is also capable. Plus, there's Stan White, Jr. and Dionte Johnson at fullback/H-Back to handle some blocking duties.

As for Clarett's situation, it is very sad and ridiculous. Just remember, he hasn't played a game for OSU since January 3rd, 2003. He's as much a part of this university as all the other freshman dropouts, which is to say: not much. Regardless, I still hope he gets his life straightened out, though that looks less and less likely as time goes on.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Some Monday Reading

And no, not Carl Monday.

The Plain Dealer had a nice article Sunday about Alex Boone. You may recall that he was convicted of DUI earlier this summer. I have previously argued that he should get a one game suspension for the offense, and I stand by that, but the Plain Dealer story convinces me that he's not just ignoring what happened and dancing all the way back to the bar. He sounds like a guy who was genuinely scared straight.

The first time I read the article, I thought he might be going a bit further than he has to; after all, there's no shortage of people who got a little out of control their freshman year and then went on to be normal, productive members of society. Then I read this:

“I knew I had a problem. I had been drinking like every night, just terrible drinking,” he said. “I’d be down here in Columbus drinking, and I’d wake up . . . and I was like, ‘How did I get home last night?’ And guys were like, you got ripped, and you drove home, and we tried stopping you, and you got into a fight. And I was like, ‘I got a problem,’ and I’d try to go sober, and it would last me about three days, and I’d be like, ‘I need a beer.’

“Even during the season, I was drinking way more than I should have been. I shouldn’t be drinking at all — I’m not of age — but I just realized I’m not mature enough to drink. I’d have one beer, and it would lead to 24 or 36 — there were weekends when in one night I’d be putting down 40."

Um, wow. Forty beers is a lot. For a weekend, it's a lot. For a weekend for two people it's quite a bit. In one night, even if you're a 6'8" 350 lb. offensive lineman, that's a whole lot. The irresponsible college student in me is impressed, but the relatively responsible adult in me says that that's definitely a problem, and dude's lucky he got a chance to fix things.

So good for Boone for making the changes he had to make. He probably saved his own life, and quite possibly someone else's. Here's hoping he can stick with his decision and becomes a better person for it. Even though I still think a one-game suspension was in order, I'll be rooting for the guy from here on out.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Things Done Changed

I moved Pfef's Sports Blog to the OSU blogs category, because that's where it belongs. If you're writing quality D-Line previews like this one, I am contractually obligated to list you as an OSU sports blog.

Second, I got approved to join up with mgoblog's BlogPoll. I assume it's some sort of error, but I figured I'd set up shop in the BlogPoll before they figured it all out. I'll take the small office, take the Penske file, and get to work.

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George: I show up. I pretend I have the job. The guy's on vacation. If I have the job, it's fine. If I don't have the job, by the time he comes back, I'm ensconced.
Jerry: Hmm. Not bad.
George: What's the worst thing that could happen?
Jerry: Well, you'd be embarrassed and humiliated in front of a large group of people and have to walk out in shame with your tail between your legs.
George: Yeah, so?

So, I added the links to the BlogPoll voters that you can see toward the tail end of the sidebar. And, come the start of the season, my completely unqualified opinion will be impacting the BlogPoll. Because, you see, by then, I will be ensconced.

They All Choppable: the Northern Illinois Preview

It's time to continue the season preview, this time with a look at the Buckeyes' first opponent, Northern Illinois. The Huskies come to the Horseshoe on September 2nd. This preview, like the last one, will be conducted by the Hypothetical Interviewer 9000.

So, Northern Illinois. Why even bother with a preview? Can't you just write "easy win" and move on?
We aren't talking the Citadel or Sam Houston State here. Northern Illinois is one of the favorites to win the MAC. They aren't great, but there are some genuinely good players on the team.

Name one.
Garrett Wolfe.

Too easy. Name four.
The aforementione Mr. Wolfe is one. Last season, he had games of 202, 226, 280, and 325 yards against MAC teams, but also went for 148 yards versus Michigan. He's small, 5'7" and 173 lbs., but he's good, and he's a darkhorse Heisman candidate. Very darkhorse, like "some sort of theoretical frequency in a sci-fi novel that exists beyond black" darkhorse, but if he played at a bigger school, he's be getting some real publicity. There's some fear he can't handle the workload that might be asked of him throughout the season, but that won't be much of a problem in Week One, will it? I think he'll be fine. I'm on the Garrett Wolfe bandwagon. He'll be fun to watch the rest of the season, but not so much that opening weekend.

Wolfe is the best-known player on the team, but Doug Free, the left tackle, is the best pro prospect. He's big (6'7", 302 lbs.), quick, and athletic. He probably also has good footwork and a great motor, or something. I gotta be honest, I don't know all that much about good O-line play, so we'll just say he's good and move on.

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Sean, you're out of your element!

Phil Horvath is good player number three. He's their QB, and he was solid last season. At one point in the season, he was fourth in the nation in pass efficiency. Unfortunately, he broke his arm the next week. But dude holds No. Ill.'s single game passing record (486 yards, which would be good enough for the record at OSU, incidentally), and completed 71% of his passes. The only knock on him is that he threw eight picks in his nine games last year. Those interceptions apparently came mostly on downfield passes, so he will occasionally put one up for grabs, which will be a great opportunity to make or break our young secondary's confidence.

The last guy I'll mention is Adriel Hansbro, cornerback. In a nice piece of symmetry, his twin brother, Alvah, is the other corner, but Adriel's a bit better. He's not fantastic (the defensive backfield as a whole is no better than serviceable), but he will make plays if given the opportunity.

I can't help but notice three of those four players are part of the offense. Is the Huskie offense an unstoppable juggernaut?
Not exactly. They put up some impressive numbers, and there is talent there, but as always, you must remember the context of the statistics. The Huskies play in the MAC, which has a few pretty good teams, but also has plenty of really bad teams. Expect Horvath and Wolfe to play below average against the Buckeyes, not because they're bad, but because their average includes teams like the Directional Michigans and Ball State (who beat the Huskies last year).

When the Huskies have the ball, expect to see a lot of Garrett Wolfe, even when they're behind, just because he's that good. He'll likely be bouncing it outside quite a bit. Northern Illinois's tackles are pretty good, but the interior of their line is. . . not so good. And since the defensive tackles are the strength of our d-line, that would be a bit of a mismatch. So a lot of tosses and sweeps will likely be run, and more than a few runs designed to go inside will end up going outside. It'll be a great opportunity for the linebackers to make a play, but also a chance for Wolfe to make them look stupid. He'll probably do that a couple times, but I think the defense will keep him contained, since that should be their first priority.

If things go as expected and Northern Illinois is behind, Horvath will probably try to make things happen downfield, giving the defensive backs a chance to earn some adjectives, whether it's "ball-hawking" or "sieve-like." The receivers are big and fast, and our corners probably won't see much help as the safeties step up to help stop Wolfe. It'll be a challenge for the corners; here's hoping they're up to it.

Overall, Wolfe will look decent, but not great, through three quarters of the game. In the fourth, Horvath will play catchup, and will probably get a score or two in the fourth, but will also make a mistake or two. The Buckeye defense will be up to the challenge of stopping the Huskies, and earn some confidence headed into Texas.

What about when we have the ball?
Like I said in the team preview, I think we'll see a lot of running. In this case, though, it won't be just because Tressel likes to control the ball, but because I think we'll have a real advantage on the ground. The theory behind the Huskies' defense is "speed instead of size." For example, their biggest D-lineman is NT Zack Holycross, who weighs 284 lbs. By contrast, OSU's smallest potential starter on the O-line is Tim Schafer, at 290. If I'm Tressel, I use our size advantage, as well as our depth on the offensive line and at running back, and run right at Northern Illinois. I think there will be plenty of carries for Antonio Pittman and both Maurice and Chris Wells.

The passing game should also be successful. Northern Illinois had trouble with the deep ball last year, and that's something of a specialty for Ted Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez. I think Troy Smith will find one or both of them behind the defense for a long score or two. He will have to watch for their linebackers underneath, however. They aren't especially big, but they are fast. Guys that look open might not be with those guys there.

One last note: don't expect much in the way of trick plays. Tressel won't dig deep into the playbook and put anything on film for Texas to look at if he can avoid it. You might see a screen or reverse for Ted, but I wouldn't be on it. The offense should be vanilla, but effective.

Alright, let's do the whole "sum it up by completing the sentence" thing. Northern Illinois wins if. . .
. . . Ohio State overlooks them. If the Buckeyes are completely unprepared or uninterested, Garrett Wolfe will run all over them. If their preparation consists of "stop the star, Garrett Wolfe," they'll be surprised when Horvath throws the ball over their heads. On offense, Ohio State has a definite edge, but that will be nullified if the O-line thinks they won't have to work to push around the Huskies, or if Troy Smith believes he can throw wherever, whenever he wants.

And Ohio State wins if. . .
. . . they show up. The defense is talented enough to contain the Huskies' offense, and our offense has a big advantage on their defense.

Ok, give us your prediction for the game.
It'll take the Buckeyes about a quarter to settle down and get rolling, but once they do, they'll control the game. The running game will look very good and the passing game will be solid, though Troy might only pass for 150 yards. The defense is decent, holding Garret Wolfe to about 90 yards on about 25 carries, with a touchdown. The Huskies get, say, a touchdown and a field goal fairly late to make the game look closer than it is, but OSU controls the game and wins comfortably. 38-27 sounds about right.

OSU's currently favored at 19. You're saying don't take that bet?
I wouldn't be surprised if they beat the spread, but this is still a Tressel-coached team. He'd be happy to win by ten or so. I expect you to take OSU to beat the spread regardless of the points, though. It's important to get good mojo working, and I will not let any imaginary associates of mine build up bad karma for the Buckeyes.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Look at the News

First, basketball. Jim O'Brien's gonna get paid $2.2 million for being fired for NCAA rules violations. This sends a positive message to the kids: write up contracts that don't reward cheating. The university plans to appeal, but I don't like their odds. The judge said that the contract sorta screwed OSU over:
"It is clear that this seemingly unfair result arises from the extremely favorable provisions of the contract," Ohio Court of Claims Judge Joseph T. Clark wrote in his decision.

"The contract is extremely favorable to the plaintiff but it is not unreasonable," Clark said in his decision. "The parties in this case negotiated a contract virtually guaranteeing [O'Brien] that he could not be terminated for an NCAA infraction."
It's not all bad news in Buckeye roundball. Well, I guess as far as actual news goes, it is, but still, Andy Katz thinks That Matta's pretty sweet, and that has to count for something.

As far as that sport with the funny-shaped ball and all the awesomeness, the Big Ten Kickoff's going on in Chi-town. The media picked OSU to win the Big Ten, and Troy Smith was picked preseason offensive player of the year. I think both are good picks (of course), but I think Drew Stanton deserves more love. That guy's good.

Ohio State Online says Jim Tressel told the media that Alex Boone is penciled in at starting left tackle. I hadn't seen that anywhere else, but there's a lotta places I haven't looked, and there's no good reason for OSO to lie to me, so I gotta say I'm disappointed in Tressel. I still think Boone (who was convicted of DUI earlier in the summer, if you've forgotten) should at least not start the Northern Illinois game, and I wouldn't object to a suspension. I'm not exactly in the loop on the whole situation, so I'm basically running my mouth about something I know very little about (your standard blogger, in other words), but it seems to me like the guy's getting off light.

Oh yeah, a note for Sooners fans: Sucks to be you. The Troy Smith situation wasn't much fun, and that was just $500. With Bomar's payments for a job not done being reported in the thousands of dollars, it'll be that much worse. Just think back to the glory days of the late 80's. Ok, forget those days, too. Instead, just avoid the forums for the next couple weeks. Go fishing or something.