Tuesday, October 31, 2006
As always, let me know rather quickly if I made any serious errors, and I will correct them.
Ignore the delta numbers on the right, obviously. I missed last week's BlogPoll, which annoys me, but afforded me the opportunity to start over, which I sort of took. Some thoughts, by conference:
The Buckeyes still look like the class of the conference. Tops in the conference in scoring offense and scoring defense, with a defense that's improving every week. My biggest concern about the team is that they are probably being challenged more during practice than they are during gameday. That should change come November 18th, and I hope they're ready for it.
Just a note to those arguing that Michigan hasn't been as impressive as a #2 team should be: true, but that's no indication of the quality of the team. Just keep in mind, the 2002 Buckeyes seldom looked all that impressive, and look what they accomplished. Maybe (hopefully) Ohio State will blow them off the field in a few weeks, but I doubt it.
I'm not sold on Wisconsin. The offense is one-dimensional, and the defense is decent, but nothing special. If they beat Penn State, I'll reconsider.
Speaking of Penn State, I considered ranking them, again. I talked myself out of it, but their three losses came to my first, second, and tenth teams. There are 15 ranked teams that I would expect to do the same, with that schedule.
Am I giving no respect to the Big East? Absolutely. WVU's best win is Maryland, Louisville's is Miami, and Rutgers' is probably Navy. These are not good teams. If those three teams beat up on each other and everyone loses, I don't see myself ranking any of them above 15. It'll take one of the teams blowing the other two out of the water for me to consider them a top five team.
I don't really think all those teams are that good. That's not to say that it's a bad conference, just that I think they probably only have 2 or 3 legit top-10 teams. I just don't know the good teams from the bad at this point, so I threw them all in a jumble in the hopes that they'll sort things out. I tried to give Arkansas some respect, since just about the only reason they aren't as highly ranked as the other SEC teams in the rest of the polls is that they started the season unranked.
It's Texas and Oklahoma again. Awesome. I am so excited.
Texas A&M keeps winning, but seldom impressively. I'll have to give them some real respect if they handle Oklahoma Saturday.
I liked Missouri and Chase Daniels, but I would appreciate it if they stopped sucking.
Thanks a lot, Clemson. I bought into you, then you lost to BC and I decided you were the same old Clemson team, then you were really good again, and I decided you were legit, and you got stomped by Virginia Tech. Same old Clemson. I don't care what else happens this season. You're dead to me (in other words, stay the hell out of my top ten).
Virginia Tech's sort of a usual suspect in top 25's around the world, though I'm not sure they're that good. Beating a top ten team gets you into my top 25, but I don't know if that's because Tech's capable of being that good, or if (more likely) I just overrated Clemson.
I don't know what sort of events have transpired that have led to a Wake Forest team missing it's starting QB and RB going 7-1, but I think they may eventually lead to the end of the world.
And I have no idea how good Georgia Tech is. None. They baffle me.
USC lost, which made me happy, since I don't especially like USC. I don't think that means they're bad, though. There's still a ton of talent on that team. I think Cal's the more complete team, though. Other than that, I don't really have much of an opinion on the West Coasters, other than I'm looking forward to watching USC's last four games of the season: Oregon, Cal, Notre Dame, UCLA. Good times.
If I'd thought it would piss off Charlie Weis in any way, shape, or form, I'd have dropped Notre Dame out of my top 25. How can a guy be such a jackass when there's cameras and reporters around, but such an (apparently) nice guy to people when he's away from a podium? Shouldn't famous people be nice on camera, and jerks to the individual fans, not the other way around?
As for Boise State, meh. There, I said it.
Monday, October 30, 2006
The turf was replaced after the home game with Penn State on Sept. 23, in time for the next home game Oct. 7 against Bowling Green. But two frosts and unseasonably wet weather since then doomed that batch of sod, Patko said.Over at the FanHouse, JD isn't so sure:
"Nine times out of 10 it works out, but this just happened to be the one," he said.
I said this before the last resurfacing, and I'll say it again: resurfacing a field in the middle of the season is rarely a good idea.He goes on to make the point that it's a little late to be replacing the turf, and I agree. However, they have to do something. That field was just unacceptable during the Minnesota game. With three weeks to prepare, I think they should be able to get the field into decent condition for the Michigan game. And honestly, I think that's all they'll get out of it. After this much trouble with the field, I expect them to switch to artificial turf for next season. Why go to all this trouble with natural grass when you can install a synthetic field and then not worry about it? It's not like we have an extensive tradition of playing on grass; there was an artificial field from 1970 to 1990. And with the quality of artifical turf nowadays, it just seems like the way to go.
The Bengals faced this problem before they switched to FieldTurf. Neil Rackers struggled mightily as the Bengals kicker because of the sandy surface, and he thrived once he left. Once a field is bad, it's bad. If the grass didn't take the first time around, why's it going to take the second? Or the third?
Friday, October 27, 2006
Jack Nicklaus dotting the I is actually a bigger deal than I expected. I was half-expecting people to tell me "I didn't even know he went here!" But not only did I not get that, I had lots of people telling me how excited they were that he was going to do it. There isn't a lot of excitement about the game itself, somewhat understandably. Minnesota is good enough to not get blown off the field, but lacking any exciting playmaker. Plus, it's supposed to be cold and windy, if not rainy. Certainly everyone will be there and cheering, but the part of the day that will get the loudest cheers is when the Golden Bear dots the I, no question.
As for the costumes, they are a very important part of college. Halloween might not be the biggest party weekend of the year, but it's close. Everyone has a costume, from the people that spent weeks assembling incredibly clever costumes to the ones that put it off until the last minute and end up dressing as serial killers ("they look just like regular people!"). For some examples, check out CollegeHumor's Halloween section. Girls, it should be noted, have it easier than guys. If guys want to impress people with their costumes, they either have to find something clever or get a costume that looks uncannily like a movie or TV character. Girls, on the other hand, just have to pick a noun and put "sexy" in front of it. Sexy nurse, sexy devil, sexy cat, sexy duvet cover, sexy pizza - all are viable costume ideas. Once again, I must go to College Humor, which has an entertaining video that pretty accurately describes the situation:
As for me, I'm going as a grad student. I bought a long-hair wig that I've put into a ponytail, I picked up a cheap sport coat at Goodwill, and I'm going to wear a dress shirt and jeans. Basically, it's every male American teaching assistant I've encountered (that may be a slight exaggeration).
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Anyway, the season's more than half over, and most teams are halfway through their conference schedule, so I decided it's about time to take a look at the conference. I haven't watched a ton of Big Ten football, but I've seen all the teams, I've checked out the statistics, and I have the audacity (or arrogance) to think my opinion means anything, whether that's true or not.
So, from top to bottom by quality of team, not by current or projected record. . . .
Ohio State - Who else did you think I would put at the top? But it's tough to argue with the resume. The top scoring offense in the Big Ten, the top scoring defense in the Big Ten, and a win over the number seven team in the country. The offense is rolling, but we all expected that. The surprise is the defense. They're third in the Big Ten in passing defense, and second in rush defense (though they are way, way behind Michigan). Plus, the team has both the most takeaways and the fewest giveaways in the Big Ten. Basically, it's everything you could ask for in an offense, with much more than you could hope for from a defense (sort of) replacing nine starters. The biggest concern is the kicking game, which has converted only 7 of 11 chances. With the offense scoring as much as it is, and with the defense giving up so few points, it hasn't been a problem. If (when?) we're in a game where three points can make a difference, the kicking game could be a concern.
Michigan - Perhaps 1A. The offense has been decent (7th in total offense, 3rd in scoring), but survey defensive coordinators, and see if any of them would be eager to try and shut down Mike Hart, Mario Manningham, and company simultaneously. I still think that Chad Henne is nothing without quality receivers, but that won't be a problem once Manningham gets back. Mike Hart may literally fall apart on the field one day, but until then, the Michigan offense will ride him as much as possible. Stopping the offense isn't fun, but it beats trying to do anything on the defense. The pass defense is sixth in the Big Ten, which doesn't sound that impressive, but when you consider that teams have to resort to passing due to an utter inability to run against the Wolverines, it sounds much better. U of M leads the Big Ten in rush yards allowed, and they're better than five hundred yards ahead of the second place team, your Ohio State Buckeyes. That's just crazy. But if that wasn't crazy enough for you, consider this: Michigan leads the Big Ten in field goal kicking, converting 85.7% of their kicks. It's like living in Bizarro world, isn't it? November 18th's shaping up to be huge.
Wisconsin - There hasn't been much of a step down since trading in Barry Alvarez for Bret Bielema. They're still running all over teams, and they've managed the third-best defense in the Big Ten. PJ Hill is good, John Stocco is not making mistakes, and the defense is being pretty awesome. When people talk about the conference being the Big Two again, I think they're doing a disservice to Wisconsin. This is a legitimately good team, early-season non-conference hiccups nonwithstanding.
Penn State - I think of them as about as good as Iowa, but then I look at the players, and there's a lot more to like about the Nittany Lions. So why are they nearly equal in my mind? I don't know. The importance of a quality quarterback? Remnants of preseason Iowa hype? Stupidity? You decide. This is a team with problems, regardless. Tony Hunt has been good, but the offense as a whole has been kinda shaky. Anthony Morelli's not playing up to expectations, and the offensive line hasn't been very impressive. The defense is good, but they aren't helped by a defensive coordinator that is apparently betting against his team. PSU has looked its best when blitzing, yet they don't do that much of it. Why? I don't know. But still, if they get those problems fixed, there's a lot to like about the team, including Hunt, Derrick Williams, and arguably the best linebacker in the Big Ten (I'm talking Dan Connor, not the one you're thinking of).
Iowa - Is it just me, or does this team always have injury problems? Not long ago, they were starting like a fifth string running back, and lately they've been all but starting the entire second string. When healthy, they aren't a bad team. Drew Tate's a good QB, and Mitch King's a good DT, and both are proably my least-favorite non-Michigan college football players, so they got that going for them. But they definitely miss the receivers and linebackers they graduated. They're just kind of a blah team to me. They have some talent, and they'll win some games, but you don't say, "Aw, cool, I get to watch Iowa play." I'm betting they'll be around this part of the Big Ten for at least the next year. Drew Tate's the only thing keeping this offense going. He doesn't have the weapons this year, and he's gone after this.
Purdue - Well well, look who found some offense. Curtis Painter is far and away the Big Ten leader in passing yards per game, and he's spreading the ball around nicely (three of the top six in receptions per game are Purdue receivers). This is the Purdue offense we all remember from the Drew Brees years. However, the Boilermakers are 10th in the Big Ten in scoring defense and last in total defense. If they ever find a defense, they might be a good team. But they don't have one, so they're no better than decent.
Michigan State - Um, wow. They blow the Notre Dame game, and appear to completely fall apart. Then they stage the biggest comeback in Division 1-A history against Northwestern. Anything is possible with this team. They're hurt by losing Javon Ringer for the season, but I'd still pick them over any team I have below them. Well, I'd pick Good Michigan State over them. Bad Michigan State could lose to anyone. So I'm not real comfortable with MSU here, but could I honestly say that any of the other options are better? No. Incidentally, the big comeback against Northwestern did not save John L. Smith's job. Well, it might have stopped him from getting fired in the locker room after the game, but he's still done for.
Minnesota - The high-powered rush offense isn't there this season, and they're hurting for it, both in the "quality of team" sense and in the "me caring" sense. Quality-wise, they're worse than in previous years, but not a lot worse. They're low-middle of the pack on offense and defense, but without a real offensive identity, I don't have much interest in watching them, or in writing about them (though I think I'll try some more this week).
Illinois - I didn't see the game, but from what I understand, the Illini had some success against Penn State with the option. They've got a freshman at QB in Juice Williams, who has a lot of promise, but who probably isn't ready to lead an offense short on playmakers. Asking this guy to read defenses and throw to bad receivers is probably a bad idea, but asking him to run around and decide "pitch or keep" is probably something a freshman can handle. So there is some hope for the offense. And, as bad defenses go, the Illinois defense is pretty decent, and that's a ringing endorsement if I've ever heard one. So there's a little hope.
Indiana - The running game still needs some work, but I think they made a good choice putting Kellen Lewis in at QB. He's young and inexperienced, and he'll make plenty of mistakes, but he adds a dimension to the offense that Blake Powers didn't have. Lewis is fast enough to make defenses worry about him scrambling, and he's not bad at throwing the ball, either. The defense is not good, but. . . well, there's no but. The defense is not good. Basically, I see Indiana as Illinois, only less so. And really, that might describe the states as well as the schools.
Northwestern - They get a free pass for this season, and that's a good thing. They are not good. Basically, they're no better than eighth in any meaningful statistical category except rushing offense. And for a team with Tyrell Sutton at running back, fifth in the Big Ten is not something to be proud of. They're 2-6, 0-4 in the Big Ten, and that's about what you can expect from them. C.J. Bacher provided a glimmer of hope, looking pretty good against Michigan State, but who knows if that was him being good, or Sparty being Sparty (God, I can't believe I just wrote that)?
Friday, October 20, 2006
So instead I'm going to use this space to talk about the experience of being the number one team. Basically, I'm still not used to it. Since Jim Tressel took over as coach, the Buckeyes have been sort of a juggernaut underdog, if you will. The talent's never been a question, the defense has always been solid, but for years, this hasn't been a program that the entire country believed in. You'd have Trev Alberts arguing that Iowa was better, or people saying they couldn't handle Miami's speed, or people wondering if they had enough offensive firepower to beat any of several teams. And when you consider the tightrope they walked pretty regularly against teams they should have beaten easily, the national doubt is somewhat understandable.
Not that we, as Buckeye fans, generally looked at it that way. "So what if it's close or boring," we'd say, "we're still winning. That's all that matters." The Buckeyes were low on style points, but generally had more of the regular points than the other guys. However, it seemed like the style points were what mattered, and all the talk about the teams racking them up out on the west coast, in Florida, and in other places around the country has made us a little defensive. If you looked at message boards over the past couple years, pretty regularly you'd see a post along the lines of "ESPiN/SI/Whoever Disrespecting the Bucks AGAIN!!!"
Now, things have changed. The defense is still good, but they're good in a fancier way, creating turnovers left and right. More importantly, the offense has become more telegenic. Ted Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez are threats to score whenever they touch the ball. Troy Smith is making plays with his feet and his arm. Antonio Pittman isn't exactly Barry Sanders or Walter Payton, but even he is breaking tackles and taking runs outside in a way that's more fun to watch than the ol' three yards and a cloud of dust. The team is getting a lot of attention, they're number one, and they are the favorite to win the national championship. It's a new role for the team, and a new role for the fans to get used to.
Some of us are having trouble with the new role. I'd say Buckeye fans this season have reacted to being the favorites in three main ways (yay, another list!):
- Denial - These are the people that act as if nothing's changed from previous years. To them, the mainstream media is still giving the Buckeyes no respect. These are the people that read "Troy Smith doesn't have to be great for the Buckeyes to win. He just has to distribute the ball" and say "The media says Troy Smith isn't any good!" Occasionally they do actually find someone that doesn't like Ohio State, but just as often, they're reading a bit too much into things.
- Suspicion - I fall into this category sometimes. We're the sort of people that have conditioned themselves to doubt everything the pundits say, because the "experts" have been wrong so regularly, especially about the Buckeyes. However, now that the same experts like the Bucks, we're thrown into confusion. Does that mean they're wrong about Ohio State too? These people start to look at the team too critically, seeing shortcomings where there aren't any, or at least overemphasizing the flaws. If you see someone criticizing Troy Smith, you shouldn't necessarily assume he/she is an idiot; they may just fall into this category, and have conditioned themselves to disbelieve everything Lee Corso and Lou Holtz say to the point that they're applying it to their own beloved Buckeyes.
- Happiness - These are probably the most well-adjusted Buckeyes. Their team is number one, everything is great. The offense is great, the defense is one of the best in terms of points allowed, the coach wears snazzy sweatervests. What more can you ask for?
Be like Happy Cat.
Don't be like Angry Cat.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Sorry for not posting more, Evil Accounting Exam of Doom kinda required my attention. Anyway, I don't even really remember what games I watched, so I'll just skip straight to my thoughts, expanded somewhat from the usual:
The Top Nine
1. Ohio State - We've looked consistently good, Michigan's looked consistently good. I've got the Buckeyes just a little bit ahead of Michigan, based mostly on the win over Texas. It's better than anything anyone else has.
2. Michigan - Some would argue that their win over Penn State was better than ours, and it's tough to argue otherwise, so I won't. My response instead would be that our win over Michigan State was better than theirs, so they cancel out. Fortunately, we get to settle the whole thing on the field, and it's looking more and more like it'll be for all the proverbial marbles.
3. USC - I kinda think several teams below them would beat them, but going undefeated in a real (i.e. non-Big East) conference counts for something, so they stay top three.
4. Texas - Interesting factoid: this weekend's game against Nebraska will be the first time they've traveled outside of Texas this season. They may have been the quietest top ten team this season. They had the loss to Ohio State, then they've split their time between destroying crappy teams from other parts of Texas and looking respectable against decent Big 12 competition. I'll feel a lot better about the top five ranking for them if they get by Nebraska.
5. Tennessee - I think one of the SEC teams is a top five team, but which one? Momentum has gotten the Vols to this ranking, but I don't really know if they're the best of the conference or not.
6. California - Probably the best team in the Pac 10, but that whuppin' at Tennessee should still be factored in. USC plays them followed by Notre Dame in a couple weeks, and those two games will go a long way toward sorting out the top ten.
7. Notre Dame - They don't really seem like a top ten team, but who else is there? They got stomped by Michigan, and they were going to lose to Michigan State before they made like Cinderella at midnight and turned back into MSU, but they've been fine other than that. Maybe they just have a problem with teams from Michigan. None of the directional Michigan schools are on the schedule, so it's smooth sailing for the Fighting Irish.
8. West Virginia - All they do is run the ball. They don't throw it, and they don't play defense. But they run the ball really, really, really well. I think, though, that all the teams ranked above them (and maybe several below) could stop their rushing attack. Therefore, they're at number eight.
9. Clemson - They also run the ball really well. They're sort of West Virginia minus the option and plus a bit of defense. I think they're more talented than West Virginia, in fact. However, the fact remains that they are Clemson, the Michigan State of the ACC. As a result, I have difficulty putting them any higher than this.
And the rest:
All those SEC teams - will you all kindly sort out who's good in the conference? Everyone's beating up on each other, and I understand that's all good, exciting, rough-and-tumble southern footbaw, but as a Yankee observer, I have a tough time telling if that means you're all good, or all decent. Until a pecking order emerges, I'm just going to stick Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, and LSU in a jumble.
14. Georgia Tech - They sure looked impressive against Bye, huh? Ok, I'm not sure why they got that boost. But I don't think it's too crazy a place for them. Calvin Johnson's awesome, the defense is good. Why not #14 for them?
15. Louisville - I saw Cincinnati. They have potential, but they aren't good. If you expect me to think you're a top ten team, you should not have to hold on to beat Cincinnati at home.
18. Wisconsin - Gradually establishing themselves as the third-best team in the Big Ten. How good does that make them? I dunno, but 18 feels about right.
20. Oklahoma - Not their fault, but Oklahoma minus Adrian Peterson is probably not a top-25 team. I'll wait until they lose before I kick them out, though, just in case.
Miami - I know I'm piling on here, but fighting with Florida International? Really? C'mon, guys. I expected better. If Youngstown State tries to pick a fight with the Buckeyes next season, I expect the players to laugh in their collective Penguin faces. I certainly don't expect any players to step in swinging helmets.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
In the meantime, I've put some work in on the sidebar. I added the freshman year guidelines to the greatest hits section, just to put something else there. I cleaned up the mainstream media links a bit. And I added a bunch of OSU blogs. First up is the Buckeye Expat, a blog from a Buckeye in ACC country. I gotta say, I like his NFL picks this week (as well as that bonus college pick). We've also got the POJO Dojo, a fellow Cavs fan as well as a Steelers fan, which probably makes life a little difficult in Cleveland. There's also the Penalty Kill, a quality blog despite not appreciating the comedic genius of John L. Smith. I also added AOL's OSU blog, run by JD of Around the Oval. There's also Buckeye Battle Cry, he of the great YouTube videos, and Eleven Warriors, another quality OSU blog, which also has probably my favorite logo of all of them. I'm not sure why, I just like it.
Those last two are noteworthy also because they allow me to do this:
I don't think there are any other good blog names in there, but if anyone starts up a "Smash Through to Victory" blog, I'll be happy to link to you.
In old Ohio there's a team
That's known throughout the land
Eleven warriors brave and bold,
Whose fame will ever stand.
And when the ball goes over,
Our cheers will reach the sky,
Ohio Field will hear again
The Buckeye Battle Cry!
Drive, Drive on down the field,
Men of the scarlet and gray;
Don't let them through that line,
We've got to win this game today,
COME ON OHIO!
Smash through to victory,
We cheer you as we go!
Our honor defend we will fight to the end
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Games Watched: All of OSU-BG, parts of Michigan-MSU, Arkansas-Auburn, Penn State-Minnesota, and Nebraska-Iowa State
- Based on what they've actually done, the top three are pretty close to interchangeable, depending on your personal bias. Mine is reflected above.
- Southern Cal has possibly been the least impressive of the unbeatens, including Missouri, Boise State, and Rutgers. But I, like most everyone else, believe that eventually they will play like the team composed of top recruits that they are.
- Tennessee's looking like the most complete team in the SEC, but you have to give credit to Florida for getting it done, even if they're low on style points sometimes.
- The Vols' resurgence makes Cal's loss to them not look so bad anymore, which is good. Something has to make them look good, and those yellow uniforms they broke out sure didn't (har dee har har).
- Clemson in the top ten seems sketchy, but who else should go there? I'm still not sold on Louisville (or West Virginia, for that matter).
- I was tempted to keep Arkansas below Auburn, but then I said to myself, "Self, you have two one-loss teams. One beat the other. Therefore, the one should be ranked above the other." It made sense to me
- I was certain Georgia was going to lose a low-scoring game. I thought we'd all agreed: the Bulldogs have a good defense, but no offense. Then they go and score 30+ and give up 50+, and now I'm confused. What's the deal down in Athens?
- I may have shown some irrational exuberance on PSU. None of the Penn State bloggers have them ranked, and an overtime win against Minnesota that required a little luck isn't too impressive. Of course, now the Nittany Lions will come out and beat Michigan, and I'll look like a fool for ever doubting them. But I'd be okay with that, if it makes Michigan fans unhappy.