Rest period is over at the Bucket – everybody back in the pool!
I took a bit of a personal break over the holidays and compiled a whole new Bucket List for 2013. Plus, in the spirit of those holidays, I am pleased to have given all of you – my feckless readers – a break from me, as well, and ample time to decompress from the onslaught of Bucketology after an OSU football season for the ages.
The Bucket was concocted years ago to be both a little bit irreverent and a little bit editorial in nature. Yes, we have opinions here. Editorial? As an inspired wag once put it: “Editorial writers are like snipers hiding in the hills. Once the battle is safely over, they come down to shoot the survivors.” Time for me to come down from the hills once again. My Bucket spillage is more an “opt-ed” rather than editorial, as I opt in and out as the spirit moves me.
The break gave me a time to catch up on my reading, as well. To prep for this column, I went into the local bookstore and asked where I could find a book that discussed Big Ten coaches that could beat Urban Meyer. The clerk politely told me to go to the fiction section. Ba-dum-bump. Reading further, it all reminded me a bit of my Bucket mentor, Groucho Marx, who once said: “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read”
I’ve been busy, I tell you. I spent a few weeks boycotting the bowl games although I must say it was hard to turn away from the 8th annual San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.
And I spent a long week ignoring the anti-climactic crowning of Johnny Foosball. Yes, we have opinions. I scoffed manfully at the coaching carousel as I now am free to admit that I don’t remember which coach is in charge of what school’s program and which conference the school is in anyway. Coach Sleepy Slumberville has now gone from Auburn to Texas Tech to … Cincinnati? “Tommy Tubs– Baldwin Wallace is on line two!” Bret Bulemia binged and purged himself of a five-loss-Rose Bowl season by going from a top level Big Ten school to a mid-level SEC school, where his bigger-than-life Yankee personality should really help him on the Arkansas recruiting trails. (“Grits? You call these grits? We make ‘em with whole milk up in Wisconsin.”) Could the Cheeseheads replace him for just one game? Sure, Barry Alvarez came back and lost the Rose Bowl so that was quite the statement there. How we doing for coaching tenure in the Big Ten? Having just completed his second season, Indiana's Kevin Wilson is now the senior coach in the Leaders Division. Big Tenure.
But it all comes back to the Buckeyes, for me. The years 2012 and 2013. In 2012, Ohio State went to war with itself. And Ohio State won. All we have to stay away from in 2013 is triskaidekaphobia and ’13 will be our lucky year. I can feel it! Hey – didn’t I predict an undefeated season in ’12? Yes, I did - even before the season, you cynics…
It’s my new year now. And my only New Year’s resolution was inspired by our IT department as I promised to change my monitor screen to 1600 x 1200. And I wonder: What do people that aren’t fat or drunk or smokers do when asked to make New Year’s resolutions? I decided to switch from being an alcoholic this year to merely a drunk once I found out the drunks don’t have to go to meetings. Who has the time?
And I finally made the time to look back on 2012 and look forward (really looking forward, man!) to 2013. As Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion once put it: “All the experts are exerts on what was. There is no expert on what will be. To become an expert on the future, vision must replace experience.” We’ve got that vision. We have Butch Cassidy vision here at the Bucket. “I got vision and the rest of the world wears bifocals.” That’s why the pre-season polls are ALWAYS wrong. Notre Dame wasn’t in the Top 25 and USC was picked first. Backwards-looking versus forwards-looking. That’s why it’s silly to talk about how a team played another five times over the last 30 years. What do they have in common other than the names?
Right now, I see it as The Buckeyes vs. the world.
I am ready for a new season in which we take (the nation’s longest winning streak) of 12 straight against a new, truly crappy schedule and should run it to 25 in a row until we are rightfully tested. That’s kinda cool, in a hometown and parochial way, right? What can stop us? Uh, just about anything, I suppose, as we have learned over the years. Usually, it’s some administrative buffoon, doing in the football program. So, you can imagine how excited I was two weeks ago when I saw the headline “Gene Smith fired in Jacksonville.” Dare to dream…
The 2012 campaign ended with the recent bowl exhibition season and – once again – I saw the glass as half full for the Big Ten, despite the punditry’s analyses. We were 3-3 against the spread in the bowls with Minnesota, Michigan State and Northwestern covering. Purdue, Nebraska and Wisconsin did not. Michigan lost by 5 and they were 4.5-point underdogs on the opening line and it closed at 5 or 5.5, depending where you bet. So basically a push. Interestingly, the only game in which a Big Tenner was a favorite was Northwestern (by 1 point). They won by two TDs in snapping college football’s longest post-season losing streak at nine and winning their first bowl game since 1949. In all other games, we were underdogs. The basic reason for that is not the craptastic nature of the conference. No, we were playing teams ranked higher than us because Ohio State and PSU could not play, so the 3rd ranked team had to play BCS, and so on.
Of course, we are looking forward more than backwards and we noted Bill Hancock’s (head of the BCS) announcement last week that the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game for 2014 has been moved to Monday, Jan. 6. The game, to be played at the Rose Bowl Stadium, had originally been scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 7.
There you have it.
You know where and you know when. I will tell you the rest of the details of the 2013 season as they develop!
As to the rest of the odds and end zone material the football world graciously strewn in my path during my three week sabbatical, I have this to say about that:
Why Alabama? And why Notre Dame?
Some saw the 2012 rendition of Notre Dame football in the same light as the 2002 Buckeyes, who took on Goliath and emerged with David in the winner’s circle. Like Ohio State of 2002, this year’s Notre Dame team won with defense, prevailed in games they should have lost, had lots of close wins and somehow came in undefeated to face a prohibitive favorite that had won the national championship the previous year and was graced with a bevy of high-round NFL draft choices.
But what was unlike the Ohio State-Miami comparison?
Well, Miami had dominated every team they had played for two years. Alabama lost two games in that span and barely squeaked by two conference foes last season, as well as backing into the 2012 national championship exhibition game (oh, yeah, you don’t think so, man? What if Kansas State or Oregon hadn’t inexplicably lost a game at the end of the year? Alabama would have been rated about fourth…). And while we had comparatively close games in 2002 against comparatively dog-crap teams the same as Notre Dame did (last-second wins against Cincinnati, Purdue and Illinois for our beloved Buckeyes), does Notre Dame have a Maurice Clarett or a Michael Jenkins or a Chris Gamble or a Nuge?
I will grant you that both “new coaches,” Jim Tressel and Brian Kelly, got the most out of their teams and out of their karma and Notre Dame started the year looking like they had one of the great daunting schedules in history. Then we found out many of those teams were seriously overrated. Ironically, the Irish’s signature wins WERE against good teams (Oklahoma and Stanford) but their not-so-signature wins (upon reflection) were:
2) Michigan State
3) Brigham Young
And what about Alabama while we are talking post-hoc analysis:
1) Ole Miss was supposed to be an early tester game. The old Miss went 6-6 this season.
2) Arkansas (4-8) and Auburn (3-9) had historically bad seasons.
3) Alabama played four games against good teams: Michigan (8-5!), who Ohio State also beat; LSU (Bama won in a desperate comeback – 21-17 – courtesy of Les Miles screwing up); Georgia (should have lost with equally bad game management; Bama only won because time ran out); and Texas A&M – which they did lose? Invincible? Not!
4) They also romped over such worthies as Western Kentucky (7-5), Florida Atlantic (3-9) and D-II Western Carolina (1-10) in Week 10 when other national powers were playing their toughest foes.
A killer’s row? Not!
What’s my point(s) here? Alabama was one of the best teams in a year of college football parity. And they sure were a lot better than Notre Dame (a team that has never won a BCS game and lost the four it’s been in by a 152-57 cumulative score); whose insufficiencies showed up by the bundle in their MNC exhibition game. I don’t know if Ohio State could beat Bama – yet – but I am of the minority opinion that if Geno hadn’t wangled this suspension year for us, we would have faced and beaten Notre Dame in the title game. And, as we are now, Ohio State would be the only undefeated team in the 2012 season.
Is STAT all there is?
Figures lie and liars figure and never the Twain shall meet. Samuel Clemens is also accredited with saying (although actually said by British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
Figures don’t really lie, but liars really do figure out how to spin them, which brings me into the picture of football stats and the Bucks. Ironically, that approximate line was also attributed to Mark Twain but was probably first said by statistician Carroll Wright, who probably knew what he was talking about! All this goes to prove that Twain was much better at publicity than either Wright or Disraeli. Go figure…
At the end of a football season that ended before its natural ending, all we have left is spinning the stats. Like Russian revisionists, the winners get to write the history. We won all 12 of our games last year (you can look it up) but somehow weren’t considered winners in the end.
This, then, ends it:
1) Talk about Heisman winners … and they don’t always go to the king of stats, but I found it ironic that Troy Smith gave Urban Meyer the “12-0 Trophy” in a very moving ceremony at year-end. Didn’t he already once hand Meyer a national championship, a few years ago after the 2006 season?
1) A Texas site told us that Mack Brown recruited the last two Heisman winners – both as defensive backs!
2) In 1973, an Ohio State sophomore finished 5th in the Heisman race. He ended up winning it in 1974 and 1975.
Freshmen? Linebackers? It was a peculiar year for Heisman selectors with front-runners dropping off as fast as front-running Michigan fans. Braxton as a fave this year? Not yet. He disappeared from too many games. Then, again, he had about as much experience as Johnny GigEm, having not been properly coached since Wayne High school two years ago.
2) They were watching…Ohio State’s Nov. 24 win over Michigan, televised nationally by ABC, was among the top-five rated college football broadcasts this season. Our bowl game…
3) Moore is better … Jerry Moore is stepping down at Appalachian State after winning three National Championships. The most memorable victory – by far - was beating Michigan in 2007 at the Big House.
4) College football regular-season attendance dipped to its lowest average since 2003… College football still drew 35.3 million fans into stadiums and remains one of America's most popular sports. But the average regular-season attendance has decreased 3 percent since peaking at 46,739,000 in 2008. As higher ticket costs continue to price out average spectators, many fans found they can watch more comfortably and cheaply from home on their HDTV.
5) And later reprised in Sports Illustrated…Wreckem247 (Texas Tech) published one of the most viewed stories in the young history of our new 247Sports network:"Tuberville left recruits at dinner.” Another stat: “Two.” That was the number of recruits not finding this whole thing very funny after dinner…
6) Badgered out of Madison …Wisconsin has now lost more than 12 coaches in two years. Gotta affect recruiting at some point, no?
7) November to remember … When we played our toughest competition (Wisconsin, Michigan and – yes – Illinois) and when we finally gelled on “D”, Ohio State ranked second nationally in total defense, allowing just 269.7 yards per game.
8) Rush to judgment … Some interesting offensive stats including some about the good guys: Ohio State’s 2012 rushing offense was tenth in the nation (the passing offense 101st). And rushing defense? 13th. As points of comparison, Michigan was 39th and 57th as well as 80th in total offense and 95th in passing offense. Long live Coach Borges! (Michigan’s Jim Bollman?)
9) Carload of Hyde … Despite dings and bruises and a slow start and missing time, Carlos was a surprising 24th in the nation in rushing average and 10th in scoring.
10) Suckiest stats of the Buckeye year…We were 1) 86th in kickoff returns 2) 72nd in pass defense 3) 93rd in sacks allowed. Yechhh…
11) Best stat of the Buckeye year: W, W, W, W, W, W, W, W, W, W, W, W; Scoreboard, baby!
There are those that still complain about the 2012 campaign and focus all too much on the flaws and not the beauty. In discussing “flawed beauties,” Notre Dame and OSU coaching alum, Lou Holtz once said: “The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely the one who dropped it.”
We’ll leave it there for now…
The brave new world of Buckeye recruiting
The Tressel Era of recruiting is definitely behind us as Meyer’s Moraine is just as plainly in view. And the crevasse between those two recruiting “ages” stands stark and distinct. As Urban has communicated: We don’t want to have the best class in the Big Ten. We want the best class in the SEC (i.e. in the nation). The fact that Ohio State has to achieve that goal without cheating, without sliding in academically-worthless kids and without over-signing simply adds to the degree of difficulty. We will do it, according to St. Urb.
Coach Meyer has a national Top Three class working right now but I believe his “big move” to the very top will be his 2014 class. More on that as it develops, of course. About that Big Ten versus the rest of the world, though: If the Buckeyes simply do their work in Ohio, they will have the #1 or #2 class in the Big Ten each year regardless. That should be the floor and not the ceiling.
Urban is still protecting Ohio’s borders but rather than roping in 13-15 of the top kids in Ohio (a la JT), he seems to want the top five (to maybe the top eight) and then just 2-3 of the next ten.
Because there are better kids out there, nationwide. That’s why.
And the distance Ohio State (and even Michigan) is putting between themselves and the rest of the Big Ten? Hoo boy…
If you don’t think that both Michigan and the Bucks are lapping the rest of a beleaguered Big Ten field, check out the rankings on 247Composite Ratings for this year’s classes:
Ohio State #2
Penn State #20
Michigan State #41
Back to the Urban Way versus the Tressel trail: One specific example to underscore this “old” versus “new” approach would be the position of linebacker and Ohio State. In just the last three recruiting classes, the Bucks have “given away” Jordan Hicks (Texas), Trey DePriest (Alabama) and Chris Borland (Wisconsin) at a position that is likely OSU’s weakest right now. These three difference-maker candidates would have flipped the current equation.
Yet, with a broader emphasis on national recruits, we wouldn’t have lived and died with the one “national” Ohio linebacker each year. That is a critical distinction.
There are still a ton of good-to-great kids in Ohio that certainly exhibit D-I skills and talent. Checking this out, you can also envision why Michigan has an inherent uphill fight and why they need for them to generate a far greater national recruiting landscape than the Bucks. Look at the numbers:
Ohio players on Michigan rosters:
Michigan State 28
Michigan kids on Ohio rosters:
Bowling Green 13
Ohio State 2
Kent St. 2
Ohio U. 1
Yes, simplistically, the Michigan kids fill out MAC rosters and the Ohio kids are another rung up. UMichigan not only has the problem that they have to cover the nation to find talent (plus they only seem to know how to recruit offensive linemen…) but they also seem to be slipping back from an early rush made by the Hokester as Urban now hits his stride.
Could it be that Brady and His Bunch made big headway a year ago when they scared recruits that could have come to OSU by haranguing them about potential OSU penalties? Those days are over, bub…
Coming out of the Class of 2013 gate, Michigan was whippin’ our ass – in theory. Now, truth-telling time, by most counts Ohio State’s top six recruits are better than Michigan’s #1 recruit. Check out the ESPN list for example:
Shane Morris (Michigan’s #1 guy) is dropping like a stone. Why? They saw him actually play in a football game…
Back to my original thesis for this arcing bullet point…
If you don’t think that The Urb is different than The Vest, check out what our resident deep thinker, Duane Long, had to say about just one facet of that difference: “Recruiting season has come upon us so fast it is hard to believe we are this close to the end. About six weeks remain. Then it is on to the Class of 2014. I am going to hit you with a number sure to shock you: 81. I am aware of 81 Ohio State offers out to Class of 2014 prospects. Yes, I said 81. Jim Tressel would go through an entire year and not offer 60. We are definitely immersed in a new era of recruiting.”
A final consideration about the new Urb-it of recruiting: We always recruited well in Florida and Pennsylvania and glommed on to a couple of outliers from New Jersey, Texas or even California. But what about talent rich states like Georgia? How do you make a long-term splash?
Here’s a squib from 247Sports stud reporter, Keith Niebuhr, about the incredible in-roads Ohio State is making into Georgia:
“One thing has become abundantly clear at the Rising Seniors Georgia Junior Bowl -- Ohio State is making its presence known in the Peach State. Consider the following …
-Both five-star inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan and four-star athlete Myles Autry call the Buckeyes their leader. McMillan, the state's No. 2-ranked player for 2014, went so far as to say Ohio State had a pretty good edge over his No. 2 team, Clemson.
-Four-star receiver Demarre Kitt, a one-time Georgia commit who until recently was thought to be a strong Clemson lean, said the Buckeyes now are tied at the top with the Tigers.
-Four-star Clemson quarterback commit Deshaun Watson, a Tigers commit since last February, lists Ohio State as his No. 2 but admits the Buckeyes are giving him much to think about.
-According to numerous players on hand at this event, several of them -- Autry, Georgia safety commit Nick Glass, Kitt, McMillan, defensive back Nicholas Ruffin and Watson included -- intend to visit the Buckeyes together this spring.
At last check, Ohio State already had double-digit offers out for 2014 in Georgia with more likely to come. Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer not only visited several schools here this fall, but was in the Georgia Dome recently to check out some state championship action.”
Finally, I remember all too many years when the juniors in a Cooper or a Tress class left early and left us rebuilding focus-positions with untested underclassmen.
No matter how good the incoming superstars might be, they can’t hold a candle to the experienced superstars they are slotted to replace. So, there are no more important “new recruits” than the old recruits we got to return.
What’s all old is new again in the roller coaster world of Ohio State football recruiting…
Bottom of the Bucket ...
There’s no one we ad-Meyer more than Urban (see above, multiple times…) and no one the rest of the world should fear as much as the Ohio State coach. And you think they don’t? Well, now. Sometimes it takes an icon to topple an icon. There’s a movie out about this very topic. Maybe you haven’t seen yet. Here’s the trailer:
Discuss amongst yourselves …