And so it begins. Right from the beginning, everyone already wants to know, well…how it is going to end! We’re talking college football here. The season, the Urban Era, and the rest of the show.
Yup. I'm back.
On one show in particular, they asked me:
Interviewer: So, Mr. Bucknuts, how great will it be in the end?
Mr. Bucknuts: Well, it’s not great yet, now is it? Here in August, I mean.
Interviewer: So what does that mean to you?
Mr. Bucknuts: That means that it isn’t the end…
No, we are at the beginning. And as we lower our heads in prayer before we partake in the feast of college football, we have lots of hopes and faith and trust on the line this year. And in the end, we shouldn’t pray that life will be easier. We should pray that we will be stronger.
Yes, I am back, chained to my desk for football season; allowed out only on Saturdays to attend games and to create subsequent Bucket mischief. I enjoyed my time away but missed the brawling and withering criticism in this space. Thanks to all the superior writers that guest-hosted during my sabbatical, including the Bucket All-Stars, Bax and Duane and the Technician and the inimitable Ramzy. And now I am back; careening between irreverent and irrelevant, and hoping to add a unique smorgasbord of style and substance to the discussion.
I also hope I have mellowed and can avoid the historical caustic rants and transparent sarcastic analogies. Parodies lost? Well, parodies found. (That’s from Uncle Miltie if you want attribution.) My mind was out wandering for the summer. I'm just not sure where it is quite yet but I do know its football season. And after studying at the foot of the masters and mystics over the summer, I am back to share what I learned. F’rinstance:
He talks. They listen. Intently.
1) This is not your father’s NCAA anymore. It is edgy and nervous and a little vindictive. That is balanced out by an inherent and traditional inability to act fairly or resolve issues to anyone’s satisfaction.
2) Despite all the symbolic disciplinary actions throughout the newly aligned conferences, the SEC is still the only conference that remains “self-regulating.” That is, they discovered long ago that you only get caught and penalized if you turn yourself in and they aren’t going to do that. Then, they make fun of those teams that do.
3) I have discovered that experience is the thing you have left when everything else is gone. I am getting more experienced as I go.
4) From discussions with other football friends, I now understand that we never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public. Even me. Even now.
5) Ohio State players really are afraid of Urban Meyer. It’s almost a physical thing. They ignored Cooper, were inspired by Tressel and fear Urban. The mystics will tell you, “Without fear, there is no wisdom.” Buckeye players are much wiser than they used to be!
6) I thought this through: Buses stop in bus stations. Trains stop in train stations. On my desk is a work station. Hmmm…
7) Braxton 2.0 is geometrically better than Braxton 1.0. And the offensive coaching staff has moved to version 3.0 after trying version 0.0 last year. Check out the upgrade this fall.
8) Michigan fans proved over and over in this past offseason that you're never too old to learn something stupid.
Get ready for 2.0 ...
9) And for those Michigan fans that read my column, consistently disagree with my analysis and then write insulting comments, all I can say is that I can’t force you to pay attention; I also can’t force you to understand.
10) Is it me -- or do Buffalo Wings taste like chicken?
Well, be careful what you wish for: Mr. Bucknuts is back. Let’s get it on for the 2012 Ohio State football season!
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The new 247Sports…We couldn’t be prouder or more excited to be partners in the 247Sports network, now having grown to 40+ sites and remains the only one of the three major cyber-sports college networks to continuously upgrade and add on features.
The latest and greatest of the unusually pragmatic ideas from the minds at 247Sports intergalactic headquarters is the 247Composite Rating; a proprietary algorithm that compiles prospect "rankings" and "ratings" listed in the public domain by the major media recruiting services. It converts average industry ranks and ratings into a linear composite index capping at 1.0000, which indicates a consensus No. 1 prospect across all services.
The 247Composite Rating is now the industry's most comprehensive and unbiased prospect ranking and will be included on the networks player profiles, team commit page, 247Composite ranking and will also be the exclusive data used to generate the 247Sports Team Recruiting Rankings. All major media services share an equal percentage in the 247Composite Rating.
The composite index equally weights this percentage among the services that participate in a ranking for that specific prospect. All industry services have a different philosophy on number of "stars" distributed with each class. The 247Composite Rating assigns stars based on an approximate average distribution of stars from the industry.
As of today? Ohio State is ranked #7 with only 16 recruits, the fewest of any team in the Top Ten. We are kicking ass and about to move up…
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The new me…An old dog? New tricks? Well, not exactly, but there is a “new me” of sorts lurking inside the “old me.” With so much of my material having been eliminated or co-opted by ruling bodies and those-in-charge (see, they obviously read the Bucket and have all finally come around…), there will have to be new directions to be taken in this space. So, I have mounted the yoke of reportage squarely on these slim journalistic shoulders and say, “Take a look.” No, not at me, silly, but at stranger stuff like the new BCS mess; I mean, the playoffs.
As others have mimed, college is important because without it there wouldn’t be college football. For a hundred years or so, some well-meaning drunkards and other sports lounge rats simply selected a college football national champion - despite the fact that all the teams only played about 10 times a year, and rarely against each other, and in all types of different climates and against all types of different teams. Fun times, but not very satisfying to all the people all the time. Thus, to piss off everyone equally, a few ivory tower cynics on a lifetime bender came up with the BCS (Basically Cynical System) that ruled and ruined college football for the past 14 seasons. With no basis in fact, science or common sense, teams were selected through an analytical model that would have made the creators of stock derivatives proud. And you think the mortgage market was a mess based upon the quants and such, eh? The same thinking applied to the BCS model: pick random formulas and quantify everything to look not-so-random in the end.
I had proposed (often and ad nauseum) a 16-team playoff that would also make the regular season have more accountability as to ultimate seedings, home field advantages and playing in different climates that would then take into account different teams’ strengths. Way too insightful for the elitists, they decided instead to merely dip their toes into playoff waters by groping for a four-team playoff. Having already ruined the bowl games with thoughtless paradigms that only enriched the games’ directors (and certainly not the fans), the new four-team approach essentially kills the bowls without birthing a real playoff system. So it goes. The BCS selection sham might have officially died but the taint lives on. As all-time cynic, H.L. Mencken aphorized about life itself, “Life is like drunkenness: the pleasure passes away but the headache remains.” That fits perfectly as a descriptor of the BCS. (Well, Terrelle Pryor, too, but – hey – this is the new me!).
Those bowl games that the “They” were trying to save? There are so many of the exhibition games and so few truly worthy teams that teams going 5-7 might “qualify” for a bowl game. As a message boarder pointed out in a query, “Remember when the NCAA, BCS and the bowl games wanted to preserve the tradition of the bowl system for all those years while they were fighting against a playoff format to determine the national champion?” This vain attempt to buttress tradition (long having sold out to the filthy lucre) could now include teams with a losing record as the NCAA Board of Directors approved a new selection process for bowl games that could permit 5-7 teams to qualify for postseason play.
In a spasm of fine print that would make a plaintiff’s attorney blush, the NCAA-ers came up with a tie-break system for these last dozen or so spots that say that if there are not enough bowl eligible teams to fill every open spot -- there are currently 35 bowls and 70 spots -- or if a conference doesn't have enough teams to meet its bowl affiliations, the NCAA has a new six-tiered tiebreaker to do just that with the last criteria being “A 5-7 team if that team finishes with a top-five APR score.”
Now, that we have a “program” to settle the top four teams at the end of the year by having a group of guys pick them, let’s look back at the last few years’ top four teams and the fifth team left out. What would have happened if a four-team playoff had been instituted in – say – 2005 instead of the 2013 season? By final BCS rankings, the third and fourth teams would have been (and the fifth team on the outside looking in on the simultaneous equations and algorithms that determined such modeling):
2011: #1 Alabama #2 LSU #3 Oklahoma State and #4 Stanford (#5 Oregon)
2010: #1 Auburn #2 Oregon #3 TCU and #4 Stanford (Wisconsin)
2009: #1 Alabama #2 Texas #3 Cincinnati and #4 TCU (Florida)
2008: #1 Florida #2 Oklahoma #3 Texas and #4 Alabama ((USC)
2007: #2 LSU #1 Ohio State #3 Virginia Tech and #4 Oklahoma (Georgia)
2006: #1 Ohio State #2 Florida #3 Michigan and #4 LSU (USC)
2005: #2 Texas #1 USC #3 Penn State and #4 Ohio State (Oregon)
A lot of good teams (four of them Pac-12) would have been screaming “foul” and they would have had a case against weaker-conference teams such as Cincinnati or TCU.
Baby steps, right? What is really right is that the playoffs should include at least eight teams (hah – give TCU and Cincinnati a chance!) and shouldn’t be at the whim of a secret committee. But we are “getting there”, sports fans. Those of us that have seen the future for years now and just intuitively know right from wrong. As Saint-Exupery once opined: “One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”
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Penn Statement…Like watching a slow-motion traffic accident, you just can’t turn away no matter how much you want to. I said months ago that I wouldn’t comment on the Penn State tragedy. As mentioned earlier, my writing “style” wavers between irreverent and irrelevant and there is no room for either in this discussion. You can’t be glib or flippant or funny and all that needs to be said has likely been said at this point.
For a couple weeks, the talk centered upon the statue of Joe Paterno when they should have talked about of “Joe Paterno statute,” one that delivers the death penalty to a school permitting its football coach to run the university and ignore heinous crimes that were the antithesis of the school’s way-overblown and ultimately indecent image. Joe took the death penalty upon himself, not that his death slowed down the tarnishing. In fact, it just seems to be beginning.
The question becomes how appropriate is it – really – for the fall festivities to continue at Penn State; the frenzied fans and the tailgating and the frivolities as if the storm has passed and we should just turn away. Charles Yesalis, a retired sports science professor from PSU was even more critical. “I’ve written about sports scandal and this is, by far the worst in the history of college sports. I am astounded that there are going to be fans in those stands a few weeks from now, cheering while a football team runs out on the field. That’s an embarrassment. They shouldn’t play football this year. And the NCAA shouldn’t have to decide that. If Penn State really was what it’s been telling people it’s been about for all these years, they would stop the season. But they’re not and I’m embarrassed about that”
It’s like the 9/11 week when sports simply stopped, because otherwise it would be out of context, prioritized beyond its scope. Like Penn State did for all those years. Like they are still doing now…
Of course, out of the post hoc emotion and frenzy of finger-pointing, the NCAA couldn’t just stand around and not do something needless and, well…pointless. So, they are now willing away all the seasons since 1998, as if that really matters or impacts anyone except publishers that have to re-write record books and the like.
And does anyone think we didn’t beat Michigan two years ago because our players took their own trophies and traded them for tattoos? How did that give us an advantage on the field? Now, if you paid players (USC, Miami and almost all of the SEC, as examples…) or allowed them to take performance-enhancing drugs (see: “Division One Football”), then that would be different and records should fall and books should be re-written. And – technically – what exactly does the revisionism at State College do other than remove the stain of Joe Paterno being the “winningest” coach of all time?
*** Does this now mean the Buckeyes are considered outright champions in 2005 and 2008?
*** We moved up to fifth in all-time wins. The Nits dropped from 5th to 14th.
*** Wisconsin is the only competitive team now in our division and “guaranteed” a spot in the meaningless championship game this December. What does that prove, exactly?
*** After this year, all the Buckeyes have to do probably is just beat Wisconsin and then we are in the “championship game”. And what does that prove, exactly?
*** It seems that this PSU settlement of charges and penalties will make Pitt the power in Pennsylvania, if their coach works out, as he will get three or four more of the best players each year in the state. After four years of that…
*** In fact, Urban will go all-Pennsylvania on these recruits as well and the rich (OSU and Pitt) will grow richer while the poor (the Nits) will be beleaguered for a long time.
And the tragedy continues because they are Penn State…
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Don’t stop me if you’ve heard this one…My son was quite the high school phenom and was recruited by Penn State, amongst others. We were guests of the school and the Paternos (Joe and Jay) back in October of 2002 when they defeated Northwestern 49-0 on a cold slate-gray day. Afterwards, I watched Paterno tear into reporters and act so gracelessly that the fathers of the recruits divided into two camps: 1) Those that thought JoePa was simply “mean old Joe,” an autocrat who would stomp all over their kids; and 2) Those that thought JoePa was a demi-god and he must have good reasons to treat the other coaches, the kids and the press so arrogantly.
Turns out that the first group was right, given the perspective of time and hindsight. And how do the fathers feel years later to have let their kids learn life lessons from this morally corrupt megalomaniac? The kids were abused in that program. But the parents were also abused when they found out what kind of program – and man – was abusing their trust. I know. I feel it today and still cringe…
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Stupid season has passed…To add a corollary to Jerry Rudzinski’s oft-repeated admonition that “You can’t win a championship in the off season, but you can lose one,” I bring you the seldom discussed concept of Stupid Season. Jerry was really talking about how hard players work physically in the off-season. I am talking about how frequently players do something truly stupid to wreck their chances – and their team’s chances – of succeeding in the fall.
While we have had horrific issues in the past – like, say, a year ago – there is nothing at Ohio State in 2012 compared to the Honey Badger alert this year. Now, you know it’s bad when one of the cheatingest teams in the nation has to cut loose the (arguably) best defensive player in the nation. Something really stupid, I am guessing.
Nothing can compare to last year’s nearly incomprehensible Stupid Season, of course, when about half of our offensive talent got impaired or eliminated from the fall altogether. A Heisman trophy candidate QB, the starting tailback, NFL high round draft picks at wide receiver and left tackle and – oh, yeah – the coach, too! Tough offseason, that one.
And this year? Not so bad, really. The tally stands at about six or seven. Jake Stoneburner and Jack Mewhort pee-d in the bushes in Dublin; and if that is your biggest problem, well then life is good. Storm Klein might or might not have beaten up his girlfriend and the Bucks are operating as if guilty until proven innocent. Brionte Dunn got some traffic violations that initially looked worse; and, Dominic Clarke and Derjuan Gambrell had rules issues and were gone. We lost Kenny Hayes to migraine headaches, which was a shame for both him and the team, but suddenly he seems to have recovered and is being re-recruited by Michigan State amongst others. Adam Bellamy had other symptoms and has also moved on (for now).
All in all, we got through the offseason basically intact and ready to rock. I think sometimes that the coaches, busy on the road recruiting, just hope they will have gained more players than they lost after Stupid Season ends (the unofficial ending date is about August 1 when the players start coming back to campus).
Usually, off-season losses have to do with money under the table or money that goes into inebriants. Is it a new phenomena? No. As Will Rogers asked more than fifty years ago, “When should a college athlete turn pro? Not until he has earned all he can in college as an amateur.”
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1998 revisited…There were half a dozen “perfect storm” events that converged to create Bucknuts, the website. And out of the chaos of Tohu came the calm and orderly approach we take to Buckeye nuttiness. Well, sorta…
One of those precipitous events was the calamity of Nov. 7, 1998, when a truly great Ohio State team inexplicably took their eye off the ball (both literally and figuratively, as it turned out) and collapsed in the second half against a really average Michigan State squad. That ruined an undefeated season and what was likely to be a national championship team.
It also – in an entirely synchronous way – became my introduction to Jerry Rudzinski. Two years later, after we had fired off the initial thruster of Bucknuts.com, Jerry joined in and lent us insider access, some street cred and re-aligned our previously abstract approach to everything that is Bucknut-inesss.
Upon the advent of the compromise playoff solution, I immediately thought of that 1998 season and how a four-team playoff format would have resolved the 10-12 minute on-field gaffes in an otherwise mystically wondrous season. And I asked old Captain Jerry to weigh in here on a subject he has been – frankly loathe to discuss these many years:
“With the recent postseason changes, I have been asked how the 1998 team would have fared had there been a four-team playoff. Fully emotional, I quickly claim the National Championship. "Of course we would win it all!" Then I get asked to defend that stance unemotionally. The reality is we had a balanced and potent offense. Many offenses are explosive, but that group could do it with the run or pass. Load up the box? Joe changes the play and hits David and Dee. Respect David and Dee? Joe changes the play and we get 4 or 5 yards running it. Defensively, Diggs and Pickett and Winfield and Katzenmoyer and other future NFL guys knew their gaps, responsibilities, and expectations too well. Anyway, its fun to talk about, but we knew the BCS format before the Michigan State game. Tennessee won all their games and we didn't.
Had the playoff existed 20 years ago, I think the 1996 team makes the four-team playoff. I'd love to include the 1993 and 1997 teams, but the 1996 squad was more of an elite team. Orlando Pace was Orlando Pace, and the supporting cast on offense was good enough to finish in the Top 4. Defensively, that group was special. I marveled at that defense as I watched from my reserve role on the sideline. Vrabel and the defensive line were athletic and angry enough to make big plays but responsible enough to prevent the other team's big plays. Bellisari was one of our most under-rated linebackers ever. Springs took the opposition's difference-makers out of the stadium. That defense was as good as they come. The 1996 teams makes that four-team playoff, too.”
That’s from the field level and Jerry Rudzinski has always been level-headed in his thinking about OSU football, almost to a fault…
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An unbelievable story that is probably true… Any time I can mix iconic Ohio heroes, cosmology, sports and sex into a bullet point, you know I am going to go for it. And here’s such a time. Neil Armstrong, was the first man to walk on the moon and is from nearby Wapakoneta. He tells this story now so you have to think he isn’t pulling your leg (a la Mr. B).
On July 20, 1969, as commander of the Apollo 11 lunar module, Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon. His first words were famously: “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for all mankind.” We all remember that proudly. What fewer know is that just before he re-entered the lunar module, he made the mysterious remark, “Good luck, Mr. Gorsky.”
Many people at NASA thought it was a casual or random remark, possibly even concerning a rival Soviet cosmonaut. But there was no “Gorsky” in any of the space programs and Armstrong consistently declined to explain that enigmatic remark.
But on July 5, 1995 in a Q&A in Tampa, Armstrong finally addressed the then 26 year-old question. Since Mr. Gorsky had died, Armstrong now felt he could clear up the mystery. Here was the story he told:
In 1938, when he was just a kid back in Wapak, he was playing baseball with a friend in the backyard and an errant throw landed the ball in his neighbor’s yard. Right by their bedroom window, in fact. His neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. Gorsky. While retrieving the ball, young Neil overheard Mrs. Gorsky shouting at her husband, “Sex! You want sex? You’ll get sex when the kid next door walks on the moon!”
He swears it’s a true story. And it obviously left a lasting impression.
Unlike most of my stuff. OK, who out there doesn’t already miss the guest hosts of the Bucket? Good luck, Mr. Ramzy…
NEXT WEEK: Mr. B makes his annual predictions, and – this year – he predicts they will be right. Don’t miss it!