Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Live Blog: Ohio State at North Carolina

9:25 PM:
Ohio State - 26
UNC - 19

At the first commercial break of the game, I'm left in total surprise at the way the Buckeyes are coming out. The whole team really seems to be running on all cylinders, as they are getting off to an uncharacteristically fast start. Watching Mike Conley, there's no doubt in my mind that by season's end he will be considered one of the top point guards in the entire nation. Ron Lewis is slashing to the hoop better than he has all season, and that's really what we need out of him the most. He's been trying to take on the scoring load this season by establishing a three point shot, and although he's been good from beyond the arc, he is most effective when he gets the ball on the perimeter and drives to the hoop. Butler, Conley, Cook, and even Harris can handle the load from 3 point. I don't mind Lewis taking the occasional long-range shot. He is, after all, our top offensive option. I just think he can do a little bit better when deciding between pulling up for the jumper and attacking the hoop.

One thing to worry about at this point is that with the pace the Buckeyes are at right now, that they get tired as the game wears on. The team lacks a lot of depth, especially down low, so fatigue and foul trouble could be issues later on (UNC is still getting in the paint at will at this point).

9:39 PM
Ohio State - 33
UNC - 25

These kids are not freshmen...

Ohio State - 48
North Carolina - 44

Although Ohio State still holds a multiple-possession advantage, you wouldn't know it by the way the momentum has swung since my last update. After that point, Conley was given a rest and the team switched to a zone defense. Both decisions proved near-fatal. North Carolina had no trouble finding the obvious holes in the zone. The announcers mentioned that Ohio State had run only seven possessions all season long, and had allowed 12 points. Now I know that much of the team was in serious foul trouble, but I would be surprised if the Buckeyes didn't come out in man-to-man to start the second half. When you're on the road against the #6 team in the nation, it's not normally a good idea to experiment with things that don't work. As the saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," well, the man-to-man was working fine, with the exception of a few foul calls.

When Conley left the game, the offense looked totally lost. Oddly enough, there was only one freshman on the court at the time (Lighty), and the rest were all upperclassmen, and everything was going wrong. There was a lot of standing around, and the passes being made were absolutely horrendous. When decent passes were made, they were dropped and stolen. Conley came back for one possession, and the offense looked like it's old self, but he got called for a charge, and was forced to sit for the rest of the half.

All-in-all, I think Matta could have handled the rotations of the players and the defensive selections better in the first half, but I understand that it's a difficult thing to do when there are only eight scholarship players available, and half of them had two fouls. The second half should start out much like the first half did, and if we're ever put in a situation where there are four upperclassmen on the court again, I doubt they'll play as lackadaisical as they did in the first half.

10:43 PM
Ohio State - 68
UNC - 70

Ivan Harris is really an interesting specimen. He was a highly touted prospect out of High School, playing his ball with Carmelo Anthony at the factory known as Oak Hill Academy. However, he has been a bit of a disappointment in his collegiate career. I'm not sure if he's just uncomfortable in the system, or he's not getting the looks, or he's just got one heck of an On-Off switch. Whatever it is, he's hit three three pointers in a row and is really finding his niche today.

I don't know what the deal is with the rebounding. For some reason, it seems as if we think it's a better idea to swat the ball haphazardly rather than to pull it down. I don't know how many sure defensive rebounds I've seen go the other way, but it makes me sick to my stomach everytime it happens.

Othello Hunter is a bit of an inconsistent defender. He either goes all out and gets the block, or he just lets Hansbrough do whatever he wants. It's starting to get annoying, but it's the really only option we have right now. He is a passionate player, though, so I can give him that.

Once again, the team is playing better with Conley running the floor. I don't know what it is about this guy, but when he's out there he just makes everyone around him better. He may not be as fast as the guy he's assigned to guard, but he is much quicker when it comes to making cuts and splitting the defense. Vitale has touched on it a couple of times, but Conley's mental state of the game is superior to just about any other freshman you'll be able to find.

Ohio State - 89
North Carolina - 98

Ohio State is in desperation mode right now, so I'm going to start giving my final opinion on the game a bit ahead of time. Ohio State played great, and did much better than I would imagine. However, with the way the game played, I hate to see them lose the game this way. As I predicted, fouls and fatigue were major issues in the second half, and they were ultimately our downfall.

I'm sick and tired of Dick Vitale. I never really had a problem with him before, but he's never really done an Ohio State game recently. He has made about three legitimate points all time -- all points that I could make -- and he just repeated them the entire time. Every other sentence he said was "Just wait until Greg Oden gets back, baby! Patrick Ewing! Shaquille O'Neal Baby!" Yes, this will be a much different (and a much better) team when Oden arrives, but he just sounds like he's making excuses for Ohio State, and nobody wants that. We gave them our best shot, and they beat us. Sure, I'd want to see Ohio State take these guys on again with Oden on a neutral court, I think everyone would.

Ivan Harris is a real frustrating player to watch. You never know what you're going to get out of him. Tonight he was fantastic offensively, but when it came to defense, we were better off with four guys on the court. He, along with the rest of the team, made some real careless mistakes in the second half passing the ball, and those are just unacceptable for a team like this. Matta is the closest thing college basketball has to a Jim Tressel, and there really is no excuse for the simple mistakes.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Defending conference champions, preseason favorites to repeat, the country's best young talent coming in to play, one of the top coaches out there, and a #1 ranking. Oh yeah, the football team is pretty good, too. That's right ladies and gentlemen, thanks to losses by North Carolina and Florida (not to mention a whole lot of hype, too), the Buckeye Basketball team is currently ranked #1 in the nation in the Coaches poll. The Associated Press Poll (Hey! It actually matters in this sport!...kind of!) has a tad more of an appropriate ranking for the Buckeyes at #3, behind UCLA (#1) and Pitt (#2).

This marks only the third time in collegiate sports history that a school has had both the football and basketball teams ranked #1 at the same time. The other two were UCLA and Notre Dame. However, I can't help but feel that this is the most overrated #1 team in college basketball in quite some time. The Buckeyes have been more than impressive with their young core of players so far this season, leading the Big Ten in scoring offense (87.0 ppg), Field Goal % (52.6%), assists (18.5 apg), steals (10.0 spg), defensive rebounds (27.0 drpg), 3-pointers made (10.5 3pt-pg), and margin of victory (26.2 points). However, let me remind everyone out there that the toughest opponents on the schedule so far have been Loyola-Chicago and Kent State, and it's unlikely that either of those two schools ever get their names mentioned by anyone for the rest of the season.

So far this season, the rebounding has been absolutely atrocious. Don't let the statistics fool you, just about each and every one of our opponents have been overwhelmed as far as size is concerned, and many times the rebounding differencial is much closer than one would be content with. Until Mr. ESPN The Magazine takes the court (Matta has confirmed he will not play against UNC, but from what I hear the new target date is 12/16 vs Cincy, however if I were you I would be keeping up to date with BuckeyePlanet's Greg Oden-watch), the issues in the paint will be unresolved. Othello Hunter is a nice compliment to Greg Oden, but he's nothing more than a role player, and Matt Terwilliger's name isn't the only reason he's known as "Twig" out there. If Oden's injury turns out to be one of those season-long nagging ones, or -- heaven forbid -- he doesn't live up to the hype, teams with any size at all will dominate in the paint against us.
However, the biggest positive out of the Buckeyes so far this season has been the excellent play of the "other" two 5-Star players from the Thad 5, Mike Conley Jr. and Daequan Cook. Through six games this season, Conley seems to be living up every bit of the hype. I know it's incredibly premature to be saying this, but if he continues to progress through his career as he has through these six games, and he shows up in the big games, he will be better than Scoonie Penn, undoubtedly (we still love you, Scoonie). Conley is the kind of player that is all over the court, and has an incredible nose for the ball defensively for a freshman. His speed and passing ability bring a whole other demension to the game for his defenders to worry about. Also, although I don't have any statistics to back it up, Daequan Cook has got to be near the top of the nation in bench scoring this season, if not above everyone else. I was initially worried that with him playing behind two veterans in Ron Lewis and Jamar Butler, he wouldn't get the chances to show his stuff. Boy, was I ever wrong. So far as the sixth man this season, Cook is averaging 17.8 points per game, 7 rebounds per game, and is shooting at a 48% clip from beyond the arc. The one thing I would like to see Cook improve on, though, is his ability to hold onto the ball. He is averaging 2.2 turnovers a game, and has an Assist-Turnover ratio of .77:1. That kind of thing will only come with time, though.

Regardless, Ohio State has a big chance at validating that top ranking this Wednesday as they take on the Tar Heels of North Carolina. As I mentioned earlier, despite all of the rumors flying around, Thad Matta has deactived Greg Oden for the game, and his debut will have to wait for another time. Since that is the case, this gives Tyler Hansbrough and excellent opportunity to dominate and really show the country just what he is capable of. As the #1 offensive option and leading scorer for the Tar Heels, I expect Hansborough to have a huge game, and for the Tar Heels to win, which may be the best thing to happen to the Buckeyes. Until Wednesday, the furthest the Bucks have been from home has been Nationwide Arena. This will be a great learning experience for the young guys, because they need to learn how to lose before they win. I know it sounds crazy, but a win in a game of this magnitude so early in the season will only create a sense of complacency, or probably worse yet -- cockiness. Remember, this isn't football season. Early losses are expected, and they don't ruin national title hopes.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Pure ecstasy

It wasn't quite the classic we were all hoping for, and the back seven was soft all day, but when the dust settled all was right in Columbus as the top ranked Buckeyes defeated the #2 Wolverines by a most unexpected of final scores, 42-39.

Often times it is difficult to judge what defines a good player from a great one. One of the hardest decisions to make as a fanbase as a whole is to put a player into the same category as the Griffins, Georges, Spielmans, and Kerns. This, however, is no such time. Never before in the 116 year history of Buckeye football has there been a more prolific passer, nor has there been a better leader from under center than the one we are blessed to have today in Troy Smith. Hoying and Germaine had the stats, Kern and Krenzel had the moxie, but none of them put it all together the way Troy Smith has in his 26 starts as quarterback. With a career passing efficiency of 159.72, Smith is the Big Ten's all time most efficient quarterback of all time. In big games, Smith has been a nearly flawless player, and while he is only the second quarterback in school history to defeat Michigan three consecutive times, he's the only one to do it as the focal point of the offense all three times. Even if Brady Quinn goes 50-50 for 600 yards and seven touchdowns against USC next week, Smith will walk away from this season as Ohio State's seventh winner of the Heisman trophy. With his performance against Michigan, Troy Smith ended the debate on the greatest quarterback in OSU history, and very well may have re-opened the debate as to who is the greatest football player in school history. He's been that good.

The latest BCS rankings have just been released, and to the surprise of some, Michigan retains their #2 ranking. I've expressed my opinion on a rematch in the past, but haven't gotten into much detail about it before. The thought of a rematch is absolutely absurd, and the very possibility that it may actually occur is mind-boggling. Most people like myself had convinced themselves that yesterday's duel was in fact the national championship game, and that the two best teams in the nation were going at it. Michigan had their opportunity, and they didn't make the most out of it. Ohio State had three turnovers, Michigan was the beneficiary of many non-calls by the refs (see Mike Hart's first touchdown), as well as some questionable calls that were made (Pass Interference on Jamario that brought Michigan back. It may have been piss poor coverage, but there was no penalty there). Michigan had plenty of chances to win this game, and they didn't make the most out of it. For the people that want to see this game on a neutral field, there's no doubt in my mind that Ohio State will still have a home-field advantage. Regardless of opponent, I expect the National Championship crowd to be very similar to the OSU-Miami one which was 80% scarlet. Plus, in Ohio State's two other prime time games this season, they were on the road both times and put on two of their finest performances of the season. Although Michigan probably is still the #2 team in the nation, and faired better than any other team most likely would in the Shoe, there still isn't any proof that USC or the SEC champ wouldn't do any worse. I hate to give the computers the benefit of the doubt here, but the Sagarin conference rankings have had the Pac-10 and SEC at the top of the nation just about all season long, and one of them definitely deserves one shot at Ohio State before Michigan deserves two.

If a rematch does actually happen, and Michigan does end up beating Ohio State, what justice does this do to either school, or to the BCS? It would be like playing a two game World Series, and naming the winner of the second game of the series the champion. It would be completely unfair to Ohio State to ask them to defeat Michigan once, and then ask them to do it a second time, completely forgetting about the initial game. All this is going to do is create yet another BCS controversy, and no one wants another one of those, do we? The smart thing for the voters out there to do is to put either USC or the SEC Champ as their number two team, and leave Michigan at #4. Right now, disaster is inevitable for the BCS, but the controversy between USC or the SEC Champ at #2 would be a lot less severe than the debate over Ohio State or Michigan
at #1.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Michigan Game Thread

No thanks to a nice little stomach virus, I'm pushing up the gameday thread to right now. I was planning on this post to be a keys to the game and/or remembering Bo kind of thing, but as luck would have it I am essentially bedridden, so you all will have to settle for my score prediction for the game. One can only hope that this is all gone by tomorrow, because there's no chance that I miss this game, even if it means infecting the entire C-Deck.

I originally expected a 10 point, high scoring win for the Buckeyes, however with the loss of Bo at the most unexpected of times, one has to imagine that the Wolverines give us a fight we haven't seen in quite some time. I still think Ohio State will come out victorious, because I don't think there's any chance whatsoever that after coming out so clutch so many times before, that Troy Smith puts on a lackadaisical performance on his final home game.

Ohio State - 31
Michigan - 27

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Rose Bowl would be a disappointment

Before I start, let me tell you that I am heavily opposed to a potential National Championship rematch, and am speaking under the assumption that the loser of the game will play in the Rose Bowl.

Usually I'm the kind of fan that likes to find the positive in every situation. For example, if a team is struggling, I'm usually the first guy that points out young guys taking advantage of an opportunity, and seeing how it could be a sign of brighter things to come.

However, in the situation that Ohio State is in right now, a loss is totally and completely unacceptable. Although I'm sure Woody would say that a loss to the bad guys up north is always unacceptable, in most situations I still would have been content with a Rose Bowl berth. In fact, if you had asked me in the preseason what kind of season I would have been happy with, I would have said making it to the Rose Bowl. However, despite our preseason ranking, this this team has exceeded the expectations of just about everyone out there. Was anyone totally confident in Ginn's route running in August? What about the kicking situation? The defense? Everything coming into the season that had a question mark surrounding it has turned out for the positive. Any team that can go into Austin, playing perhaps the nation's most hyped defense, and put up 24 like it's nothing, despite being the underdog is worthy of a number 1 vote in my book. After going undefeated in a month of September which featured 3 ranked opponents, two on the road, this team went from one of the worst preseason #1s of all-time to potentially one of the better teams of recent memory, which is why anything below a trip to Glendale would be disappointing.

A decade later, a comeback like this just wouldn't be the same

Ohio State hasn't been to a Rose Bowl since the 1996-97 season; the Rose Bowl is still considered the Grand Daddy of Them All for good reason. However, thanks to everybody's favorite computers, the Rose Bowl has lost almost all tradition as it, much like the rest of college football, has become commercialized over the years. Perhaps this is why so many people anticipate the OSU/UM game every season, because it is one of the last few things about College football. At this point, The Rose Bowl isn't much different than any other BCS Bowl. Ever since the BCS was conceived in 1998, there has only been three match-ups between the Pac-10 and Big 10...not exactly your traditional rivalries.

Although in the grand scheme of things we really shouldn't be ashamed of going to the Rose Bowl. After all, there are a total of 32 bowl games this year, and the Rose Bowl is in the upper tier of those. In the day and age and which our collegiate football-related lives are run by computers, the Rose Bowl just isn't what it used to be, and a National Championship should be the standard for a team that has accomplished all that it has this season.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My stance on Michigan

Often times, when talking about your team's rival, it's usually a situation where you either love 'em when you aren't playing them, or you love to hate them. However, when it comes to me and the bad guys up north, I honestly cannot come to a decisive side as to where I stand.

Maybe this is because of the large numbers of Michigan fans that I have gotten to know. Although I live in the Columbus area, you would be surprised at the number of Michigan fans that live here (or maybe the number just seems larger because the few Michigan fans stick out more). Some of my closest friends are also my biggest rivals. Of course, there are people in the community that cheer on Michigan purely for the sake of nonconformity, but you just learn over time which fans are for real and which ones aren't. Perhaps it is since I've been in these relationships since such a young age, I've learned to respect the university. Maybe I've just come to realize that there are better reasons to dislike someone than what football team is their favorite, and that has translated into how I view the school as a whole. I can actually talk about football to these people without throwing out excessive curse words. For the past few years, I've watched the game with a Michigan fan, and outside of the usual trash talk that happens during the game, we respect each other enough not to handle each other for those 3 and a half hours (except in 2003 when they take a Michigan flag and run down the street singing Hail to the Victors...yes Kevin, I'm talking about you).

However, my duties as a fan do have to step in somewhere. I can honestly say that I have never once wanted Michigan to win any game. Not this season when they played Notre Dame, not when 1 vs 2 became a real possibility, not in any bowl games, not ever. I cannot bring myself to cheer for a team that I have been taught, trained, and raised to hate. Most people will ask, "Don't you want Michigan to represent the conference well?" No, I don't. I've never been a guy to cheer for teams just because they play in the Big 10. Just like Michigan, I consider the rest of the conference a rival to Ohio State, just on a much smaller scale. Those same people will ask, "Well don't you want both teams to be undefeated coming into the game, so it will mean more?" Now this answer is a bit more complex. Yes, it is great to have a 1 vs 2 match-up for the first time in the school's history, believe me. With this on Saturday and my birthday tomorrow, this is the best full school week anybody could imagine. But in reality, how much more important does that make the game to me as an OSU fan? My dream as an Ohio State fan is to go into the game with a Big 10 title on the line. It's irrelevant to me just how good or bad Michigan is. True, a victory over a #2 Michigan team would be sweeter than a victory over a 7-4 Michigan team, but a victory over Michigan is a victory over Michigan, regardless of how you slice it. I love seeing Michigan lose, and I would love seeing them lose 5 times in a season more than one loss in a season, even if it means that the game isn't as "big" as this year's. After all, it's only "big" to the third party out there: the fans with no allegiance to either side. It's always big to fans like me, because I'm a heavy believer in the theory that, in rivalries such as this, either team can win at any time, regardless of who is coaching and what their records are.

And this is where I am divided as a fan. I've heard people say that you aren't a fan unless you totally despise your rival, and hope they lose every game. I've heard other Ohio State fans say that you aren't a fan unless you cheer for your rival so that way the game means more. I love seeing Michigan lose, but I have too much respect for the school and their true fans (key word being "true," I can't stand the people that call themselves fans just for the sake of being different from the rest of Columbus) to actually want that to happen. In my opinion, how you view your rival doesn't affect your status as a fan nearly as much as how you view your own team.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Battle Of the Blogs: Pfef vs MZone

No posts from me today, guys. But don't worry, that doesn't mean there isn't anything I've written out there for you to read. I've recently partaken in CSTV's Battle Of The Blogs, which puts an OSU Blog up against a Michigan blog each day. Today, I faced The MZone in the debate, "Which Stadium is better?" It's not my best work, but I feel that I gave enough info to win it. Although MZone wrote more, they did it in classic MZone fashion, spending as much time making immature jokes about Ohio State (i.e. the guards at the stadium; Heaven forbid the fans be safe), as he does giving quality analysis on the team he's supposed to blog about. I will give him the part about the field, though. The way we handled that situation over the season was rediculous, but it shouldn't be a problem if and when we get turf like Michigan's installed.

Yesterday, Keith over at Buckeye Commentary had the task of comparing the game day atmospheres of the schools. I fail to see how a team with fans that leave at halftime because for the most part it is "Too cold and rainy" has that much of a great game day atmosphere.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Championship picture gets a whole lot clearer

Well, this just got a whole lot less controversial, didn't it? Including Louisville's loss on Thursday, a grand total of four teams lost their chances at going to the BCS Championship in GlenDale, AZ. So just what are the possible match-ups remaining? Let's take a look:

Winner of Ohio State/Michigan vs Florida/Arkansas
How will this happen?:
  • Obviously, Florida must defeat Western Carolina and Florida State in the coming weeks; and Arkansas needs to defeat Mississippi State and Louisiana State
  • If both teams make it to the SEC Championship with only one loss, the winner will likely represent the conference in the National Championship.
This is the most likely of all the championship scenarios, because Florida and Arkansas are the two only teams remaining that controls their own destiny. Both teams have difficult tests heading into the conference championship, however. Arkansas has a key date at home with LSU, and Florida has their annual rivalry with Florida State at Tallahassee. If both teams make it to the SEC Championship with only one loss, both of their rankings should jump up and put the winner of the game in a position to go to the National Championship.

Winner of Ohio State/Michigan vs USC
How will this happen?
  • USC defeats Cal, Notre Dame, and UCLA
  • Arkansas defeats Mississippi State, but loses to LSU. Then, they defeat a 1-loss Florida team in the SEC Championship
  • OR Florida loses to Florida State, but then defeats a 1-loss Arkansas team in the SEC Championship
Essentially, for USC to make it to Arizona, they need the winner of the SEC to have two losses. For this to happen, one of the top two teams in the SEC will have to lose once more in the regular season, and then win the SEC Championship. This will give both teams 2 losses, and make it nearly impossible for the team to have a prayer at the championship game. Also, USC has two of their hardest tests of the season ahead of them, playing a revenge-seeking Notre Dame team and a Cal team coming off of a tough loss. If they can get past both of those tests, and the rest falls into place, there should be no problem for USC getting to the championship.

Winner of Ohio State/Michigan vs Notre Dame
How will this happen?
  • Notre Dame runs the table, beating Army and USC
  • Winner of Ohio State/Michigan wins convincingly
  • SEC Champion finishes with two losses
I already described just what needs to happen for the SEC Champion to have two losses, so I won't go through all of it again. If the loser of the Ohio State/Michigan team gets absolutely hammered in the game, their ranking should fall further than #2 and eliminate any chance of a rematch. However, if the above does happen, it should make Notre Dame the highest ranked one-loss team in America, and that should be enough to punch their tickets.

Winner of Ohio State/Michigan vs West Virginia/Louisville/Rutgers
How will this happen?
  • West Virginia defeats Rutgers en route to a 1-loss season or Rutgers finishes undefeated
  • Louisville finishes season with 1-loss
  • Cal defeats USC
  • USC defeats ND
  • SEC Champion finishes with two losses
This is an incredibly unlikely scenario. Regardless of who wins the conference, there is still a good chance that they get left out of the National Championship. Everyone is rooting for Rutgers to make it, but there is absolutely no chance of that happening. The best one of these teams can hope for at this point is a BCS Bowl berth against a team that isn't Boise State.

Winner of Ohio State/Michigan vs Loser of Ohio State/Michigan
How will this happen?
  • The result of the game on the 18th is incredibly close, and isn't decided until the final play.
  • All current 1-loss teams outside of the Big East lose
  • Rutgers loses
Ah, yes, the dream scenario that everyone wants. Well, everyone except me perhaps (more coming later this week). Every other legitimate national title contender needs to lose within the next few weeks, which is just about impossible to happen. Realistically, Rutgers probably doesn't need to lose for this to happen, but you never know with the voters nowadays.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Northwestern Gameday Discussion

Unsurprisingly, ever since last week's close call with Illinois, there have been some people out there putting Ohio State on upset alert. Well there's one reason that it won't happen: I was unable to wear my lucky Archie Griffin 45 jersey last week. Just kidding. But no, really. The only other game this season I haven't worn the jersey was when I wore scarlet against Penn State to support the "Sea of Scarlet." That's two close calls that happened when I haven't worn the jersey. Coincidence? Almost definitely. But between today and next Saturday, I'm not taking any chances. Now, onto actual reasons as to why Ohio State will win and win easily today:
  • Tressel seems to have learned his lesson. When you have a coach that openly admits to poor play calling on his part, you can bet that the playbook won't be so quick to shut for the rest of the season. As opposed to the past few weeks, I'm expecting the passing game to be a tad more vertical, and for Pittman to finish with right around 20 carries, as opposed to last week's absurd total of 32. If all goes as expected, Troy Smith's passing yardage should be in the 200s, his legs will be a non-factor, and he will have at least three touchdowns. With all of the second half running last week, it was interesting to note that not once did we go deep to Ginn on play action. That may have been the first game all season we didn't try it, so expect some deep passes headed #7's way.
  • re‧sil‧ient[ri-zil-yuhnt, -zil-ee-uhnt]: recovering readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyant. The one thing that separates Illinois from Northwestern in the Big Ten cellar is that the Illini are much more resilient than the Wildcats. Randy Walker's death was a huge setback to Northwestern, and it seems to me watching Northwestern this season that at the first sign of trouble, the team just falls apart. Although the game was close for a while against Michigan two weeks ago, was there ever any doubt as to who would win that game? Exactly. If Ohio State goes up 17-0 like we did against Illinois, there will be no chance at a comeback.
  • Final Prediction: Ohio State - 31 Northwestern - 7

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Troy Smith nursing injured thumb

There has been many questions coming up over the past few weeks as to just what the deal was with Troy Smith's wrapped up thumb on his throwing hand (seen here). Well, what was once speculation is now a fact: Troy Smith has a bum thumb.

Smith insists that the injury has had no effect on his play this season, and I have absolutely zero reason to believe that statement. This definitely seems to go a long way when it comes to Troy Smith's recent production (or lack thereof) through the air. He has seemed much more timid in the pocket in recent weeks, which one can only assume is a direct result of a lack of confidence in his ability to make the throws he had no problem making in the early part of the season. Also, it seems to me that when the easy throw isn't there for Smith, instead of finding a way to squeeze the ball into tight pockets, he is simply taking off and running instead. Also, one has to think that this injury played a large role in the horrendous, one-dimensional play calling from the final half of the Illinois game.

AROUND THE NCAA I'm currently watching the Louisville-Rutgers game on ESPN (Louisville is on pace for a win at this moment), and I actually have a bit to say about not necessarily this game, but for the Big East conference as a whole. People have been saying that the Big East is "Back" because of the two recent huge conference games (this one and last week's Lousiville/WVU matchup). Just exactly how can a conference regain prominence when they're beating up each other on Thursday nights? The premier teams in the Big Least need to start performing against other upper-tier teams in the nation. So far, of the top three teams in the conference, the biggest win they've had came against a Miami team that was in total disarray. How am I supposed to believe that a conference that never schedules games against any other top talent teams is good enough to play in the National Championship? Although I do feel that Louisville would be a worthy team to play in the Championship, that's just based solely off of what I've seen them do against mediocre talent and what I feel they are capable of. If Louisville made it to the championship I wouldn't necessarily be angry, but I don't think they deserve to go because they haven't shown their abilities as much as, say, Texas or Florida have this season.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

New clock rules on their deathbed, plus basketball!

Men of the Scarlet and Gray, a blog made famous for it's analysis on rule 3-2-5e, also known as "The New Clock Rules," has pointed out what is surely to be the dagger in the heart of these rules. To sum it up shortly, last Saturday, Wisconsin head coach ordered his kickoff team to go offsides twice in a row. Since the clock now starts upon time of kickoff (as opposed to when the opposition touches the ball initially), he was able to run off the final 23 seconds of the first half. Thanks to the wonderful tool of linear regression, a team could take off as much as a few minutes off the clock. The NCAA needs to change this rule as soon as humanly possible. Imagine in the National Championship game (the real one, you know, on November 18th), Michigan scores a go-ahead touchdown with two minutes to go in the game, and Ohio State never gets the ball back? Hopefully Lllloyd (or any other coach in the nation) has enough respect for his opponent and doesn't do this, but chances are, this is going to happen on a huge stage, and it will happen sooner rather than later.

On a different note, the Columbus Dispatch released their official Men's Basketball Preview. The front page of the sports section has a picture that perfectly represents how this season will be: One big man (Greg Oden) towering over (overshadowing?) everybody else. The preview makes sure to cover all of the facets of the Thad Five, but also takes looks at the rest of the conference, as well as the rest of the nation.

Another feature on the preview was the "Keys to the season," and I must say I'm very disappointed in the Dispatch. For a Columbus based paper, you'd think they'd give Jamar Butler the respect he deserves, and not let the Mike Conley hype machine take them over. Well, apparently, Conley is the second coming of Scoonie Penn (which he very well may be, just not now), and Jamar Butler is just a good shooter. As I've noted in the past, Butler is the wheels that keeps the offense moving, and he probably deserved to be first team All-Conference last season, if not conference player of the year. I could understand him being overlooked last season by Je'Kel Foster's shooting ability and Terrence Dials' presence in the post, but this year, he's the only sure thing coming into the season. The fact that the Dispatch of all papers fails to see past the recruiting class is pretty saddening. They also say that the Buckeyes will make it to March Madness if they play defense and rebound. The rebounding woes (outrebounded by 19 in exhibition games against Findlay and Walsh -- yes, Findlay and Walsh) will end the moment Oden gets back. Even if he's not as effective as expected, the imitation factor alone should win us the physical-facet of the game every time we take the court. As for defense? Well, a ton of bad defensive teams make it to March. Now, as for making it to the Final Four, then I would agree.

Monday, November 06, 2006

It could be worse, we could be trekkies.

Not much to say here today, but boy do I have plenty to show you. As you'll remember two weeks ago, Jack Nicklaus dotted the "I." Well, last week at the Michigan-Ball State game, it turns out that Patrick Stewart -- or as you may know him, Picard -- conducted "Hail To The Victors" as the Michigan marching band marched in place in a shape looking like this. To compare, you have the single greatest professional golfer of all time being honored in one of the most time-honored traditions in college football vs. a Trekkie. You know, Ohio State may do a lot of stuff outside of football that embarasses me, but at least we know how to pick halftime celebrities.

Now I'll let you beam down to watch the video.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Illinois Gameday Thread

We're only about 3 and a half hours until kickoff, so I suppose I'm running a bit behind. I guess that's what happens when you don't fall asleep until the wee hours of the morning.

  • ESPN did a nice feature on what goes through Troy Smith's mind as he drops back to pass. It's really a great piece on just how smart of a person Smith is. It's really incredible that in a span of 1.5 seconds, a quarterback can go through his progressions, while someone is trying to drag him down at the feet, and hardly even leave the pocket. You can watch it on ESPN Motion right now if you want.
  • As far as game predictions go, I'm picking Tony Pittman and Gonzo to have big games offensively. Illinois has given up 11 TDs on the ground so far this season, and so far, Pittman's stats haven't been as impressive as last season. Something has got to give. Also, it's been a few weeks since #11 has made much noise, so look for him to be more involved in the offense as well.
  • That doesn't mean Troy Smith won't have a huge game himself, either. Most people are considering his performance last week sub-par, and Heisman winners don't have two bad games in a row.
  • Defensively, watch out for Vernon Gholston and Laurinaitis. 'Juice' has been very interception-prone so far as a freshman, so it'll be interesting to see if The Animal can get back on track as far as picks go.
  • Other random predictions: Troy has another rushing TD, Beanie doesn't fumble, Malcolm Jenkins gets at least 1 pick, and Ginn has one big touchdown (whether it be pass, run, or return is anyone's call).
  • Final Score Prediction: 38-13
Give any thoughts/analysis in the comments section if you wish to do so.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Analysts are people, too

I'd like to take some time today to stand in defense of Kirk Herbstreit. As many of you have most likely heard by now, Herbstreit recently stated on his radio show on 1460 The Fan that in his opinion, Ohio State will blow Michigan out of the water and that the game won't be very close for very long. Here are the key excerpts for those of you that haven't already heard about this:
∙ "I personally don't think [Michigan's] defense, the way Ohio State will spread them out, can just dominate the game and shut Ohio State down."

∙ "If those two teams were to play right now, just the way they're playing, I don't even think it would be close. Ohio State not only wins that game the way they're playing right now, maybe by a few scores."

∙ On Michigan receiver Steve Breaston's role once injured star Mario Manningham returns: "Breaston can go back to whatever he's doing these days, if they could ever find a way to actually apply him in the offense. He's worthless in my mind, outside of returning a few punts."
Now, this didn't sit too well with one particular Sports Illustrated columnist. In fact, he actually seems offended by it all; something that is rather ironic considering his job as a journalist is to stay objective at all times, and as he criticizes another journalist for biased remarks, he himself becomes rather subjective. As Second Rate News does a fine job in pointing out that there is a huge difference when one is presenting himself as a balanced analyst among a national television audience, and when he is hosting his own Columbus-based radio show, obviously trying to pump the Buckeye faithful up. Although radio journalism is still journalism, it's a much more laid back form that is created for a specific type of audience. If I were a contributer to a national news network such as ESPN, and also had this blog on the side, you can bet that there would be a large difference in the tone and opinions expressed between the two. If Desmond Howard had a radio show based in Ann Arbor, and he was asked to predict what would happen on the 18th, I don't think anybody would doubt that he would go with the Wolverines in a heartbeat, and completely discredit the Buckeyes.

After all, he did sing "Hail To The Victors" on top of the Horseshoe.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Vote or Die.

For those of you out there who have the pleasure of going to school with me, you probably noticed today that I was wearing a "Troy for Heisman" T-Shirt. Some of you out there even went as far as to joke that me wearing the T-Shirt wouldn't have a say in how it all goes down. Well, you guys were wrong. Back in '99 the guys in charge of the Heisman had the brilliant idea of letting the fans get one collective vote to help decide who wins the trophy. Well, since the Buckeyes have their first legit Heisman candidate since this process started, it's time for the Buckeye Nation to do their part to enshrine Troy Smith. Click Here to vote for Troy. The way it works is, when the balloting ends, the person with the highest percentage of votes gets one vote on the official Heisman ballot. And right now, Steve Slaton is giving the rest of the crew an ass whoopin'. Buckeye fans are some of the craziest out there, and if there's ever something to get riled up about, this is it. The ballot is designed to only let you vote once per week, but if you clear your history and cookies, you can vote as many times as you need. Frankly, if Troy Smith doesn't come back -- or at least give Slaton a run for his money -- I will be thoroughly disappointed in all of the Buckeye fans worldwide. This is the kind of thing that we should be dominating, and not fighting to fend off that goody two shoes Brady Quinn.

Hat Tips to: The Penalty Kill and The Buckeye Blog for bringing this to my attention.

Shameless Advertising: Spread the word around your schools, jobs, and anywhere else by purchasing a Troy Smith for Heisman T-Shirt or one of many others in the Pfef's Sports Blog Team Shop!