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Mr. B Not Feeling Special ...

The Buckeye-Toledo game? Nothing to write home about.

I'm back, baby! Albeit briefly ...

Not much to write a column about, either. Pretty much everyone was wrong and everything looked a little wrong, as Ohio State outlasted a visibly sharper Toledo team, 27-22.

Have I mentioned yet that our special teams kinda sucked? It is probably too soon in this otherwise-reasoned critique. But a blocked punt for (basically) six? Btw, this “spread punt” formation has now resulted in three blocked punts in just the last 13 games. Gimme a break.

Well, Toledo gave us plenty of breaks with 14 penalties, most of which came back to haunt them and allowed OSU to beat a team that was an 18-point dog. The Buckeye faithful thought we would have an easy time to get to 2-0 for the sixth consecutive season. We all thought that because the last time the Buckeyes failed to open the season with two victories was 2005 when they lost a 25-22 decision at home in the second week to eventual national champion Texas. I saw Texas when they were good, brother, and Toledo is no Texas.

I did mention that special teams sucked, right? Our kickoffs looked like we just gave up trying to cover them. Squib kicks, pooches, regular kicks – didn’t matter: We couldn’t cover any of them!

The Buckeyes are now 3-0 all-time against Toledo and the previous two games were both shutouts. OSU won 49-0 in 1998 and won 38-0 two years ago in a game played at Cleveland Browns Stadium. This was not that Toledo. This was a Toledo we thought would be a perfect matchup for Braxton Miller to get plenty of chances to show his stuff. And when Joe Bauserman started to look like the “Bauserman of old,” the fans assumed Brax was ready to go. So, where was he? Where was he?

“Bow Wow” Bauserman was plucky and stayed in there, throwing balls away and not making any mistakes. Or any good plays or many drives, either. Well, there was that first drive that caused us 57 subsequent minutes of delusion. And where WAS Braxton? And why?

We OSU fans complain in defeat and complain in victory so these particular complaints are not breaking new ground. F’rinstance, didn’t the special teams really, really suck? Drew Basil is now 0-for-forever in field goals, muffing two last year, two (in one series) last week and one yesterday. What’s the future for us in a position that will only grow in importance?

It was a frustrating day on a beautiful afternoon as it felt like we got outcoached and outplayed by a bunch of guys (many from Ohio) Ohio State didn’t want in Columbus. Tim Beckman came within 17 yards of coming full circle since the time he coached here. It felt to me a lot like the Cincinnati game in 2002 where the ‘Cats had to drop two-three passes in the end zone for the Bucks to win. It was that close and that perilous.

Wait – don’t forget the two good punts; despite the special teams sucking. Like I said, we don’t want to be all about the complaints.

I do think we weren’t as good as we looked against a bad Akron team (who convinced me of their total badness by losing to Temple Saturday, 41-3). And we weren’t as bad as we looked against a good Toledo team. We could say that our two-deep was depleted and the reserves struggled. But Toledo was missing 4-5 guys on its starting defense both coming into the game and due to injuries during the game. Our excuses are getting as thin as our bench strength. You go with what you got and that’s got to be better than yesterday.

And this Toledo team was a lot better than most of us had been led to expect. But they aren’t Miami. Or Penn State or Nebraska or Michigan State or Wisconsin …

We need a lot more parts and pieces than we thought we needed a week ago after bashing a hapless Akron bunch. We need Jordan Hall back (although Hyde ran well and Chris Fields had a sweet punt return). We need Travis Howard back (although the corners played pretty great). We need Nate Williams to generate a rush and Devier Posey to generate some receiving and Mike Adams to open some holes and Boom just to be Boom.

And we need Braxton. Somewhere other than the bench.

I am not going to say anymore about that mess that passed for our second win. Let’s hope the whole thing was an aberration. We will likely find out next Saturday night …

* * * *

It’s Hurricane season … Sometimes that means a big blow is coming but often it’s a lot of hot air signifying nothing.

Yes, the Miami game is upon us – or the “Yahoo! Bowl” as some pundits would have it. Please turn down your sound during the game so you are not punished by those pundits; the sarcasm and knowing looks and all-around cynicism is starting to build from a tropical storm to something truly hideous.

But it’s not about the off-season or the off-field behavior. It is about the football. Since Tress isn’t here anymore, we can say that! And the football says this is a match-up that has us all a bit bewildered since many of the frontline players haven’t played and we don’t even know which Ohio State team is going to show up.

The Buckeyes lost 10-11 starters last year from the team that beat up Miami in the ‘Shoe 36-24 last September 11. We also have lost about 10 players that should be back but that story has been told and isn’t relevant to this game anymore. Miami lost some people too and we are told that one of those is not Jacory Harris, which is a good thing hopefully because he is always a pick-six waiting to happen.

Who else is missing from Miami from last season?

Damien Berry, their No. 1 tailback
Craig Cooper, a strong second RB
Orlando Franklin, their LT
Seantrell Henderson (yes, that one…) to injury; their starting RT
Leonard Hankerson, their No. 1 WR
Richard Gordon, their TE
Allen Bailey, their All-American rush DE and sack leader
Colin McCarthy, their No. 1 LB and tackle leader
Kyle Robinson a starting OLB
Ryan Hill their best safety
Brandon Harris their best cover corner
DeMarcus Van Dyke their other corner

Their losses are likely bigger than our losses and their incoming class isn’t as good as our fabulous 14 freshmen.

And did you see the new-look Hurricanes in the Maryland game? The uniforms were the big losers there (Maryland’s) but Miami got the official “L” and showed the traditional “Da U” flashes of profound athleticism and team mediocrity.

We should have the advantage since the Buckeyes have had two games to prepare for this seismic tilt and Miami has had only one for all those newbies to adjust. We have also had seven months to assimilate the off-the-field ugliness and Miami has had but seven weeks. Will that really matter? I will answer that query next Saturday night.

My answer as to “Who will win?” today is…“Ohio State”. But I am feeling a lot queasier than I did a week ago. I say the Buckeyes prevail, 27-17.

* * * *

September 11 and Tressel 10 years ago … It was JT’s first season and a wobbly one at that. The Buckeyes were scheduled to play San Diego State and on that Sept. 15 in 2001, a Saturday after the Tuesday when the terrorists hit the Twin Towers. It was a first in a year of firsts, of course, and college football did the appropriate thing in rescheduling the week of games. I was impressed by Tress when he took only the high road and talked about patriotism, our armed forces and harm’s way. I reflect on that now as 10 years have gone by, Coach T is gone, too, but the pain and memories of this tragedy linger, like the unfinished business that it is.

We should never forget. Especially today, the 10th anniversary…

* * * *

The Luke-O-Meter

The Fickell Finger of Fate gauge … We promised to gauge the progress of Luke Fickell this year and compare him with the previous five new Ohio State coaches (going back some 60-plus years!). If Luke went 12-0 and recruited big, that would be a “100” to me on the Luke-O-Meter. Only Earle Bruce got close to that score his first season, as he won his first 11 games and came within two points of winning a national championship. That would be enough to bring Fickell back for even the hardened “Fickell fans,” right?

After two weeks, here’s the updated Luke-O-Meter:

Wes Fesler:1947 - Beat Missouri 13-7, then lost at Purdue 24-20; he was 2-6-1 for the season.
Woody Hayes: 1951 - Beat SMU 7-0, then lost to Michigan State 24-20 at home; Woody was just 4-3-2 in his first year.
Earle Bruce: 1979 – Beat Syracuse 31-8 and won 21-17 at Minnesota; he went 11-1.
John Cooper: 1988 – Beat Syracuse 26-9 and then lost 42-10 at Pitt; Coop; was 4-6-1 that year.
Jim Tressel: 2001 – Beat Akron 28-14 then took off the second week before losing at UCLA 13-6; JT was 7-5 (but beat Michigan 26-20)

After those two weeks, Luke is now 2-0, better than anyone but Earle Bruce (!). And after barely surviving the Rocket attack, he gets a Bucket score of 85 on the Luke-O-Meter, downgraded significantly from being a perfect 100 following the Akron game. For contrast, Earle Bruce finished his first season as a 98 since he got within those 2 points of a national championship. Woody, Fesler and Cooper had ratings of less than 50 on their way to El Stinko years and Tress was only about a 60, but with a long-term contract. Luke? He better turn it up against Miami because – at least on the Luke-O-Meter – the trend right now is not his friend…

* * * *

Give it to me stat … OK, its early. OK, this is a little silly; but when did that ever stop something from going into the Bucket?

****After two games, Ohio State is 53rd in the nation in total offense and 10th in total defense.

****The good news? We are fourth in rushing defense, seventh in sacks and first in sacks allowed, as we have yet to give one up!

****The bad news? The offense is statistically mediocre and we are – once again – 109th in net punting. But we are an amazing 14th in punt returns; even more amazing because that’s with our third- and fourth-string returners!

****Miami? On not much evidence (one game), they are 80th in total offense and 113th in total defense, two areas in which they rank far behind Toledo (31st and 38th respectively).

We will see what all of this means in the real world in another week …

* * * *

Spittin’ and whittlin’; factoids and figurin’ … Ok, so Jim Tressel is “suspended” for six games in the NFL ‘cause, well...’cause it seemed like a good thing to do to a part-time analyst? But Pete Carroll brought down the house at USC and nothing like this was ever considered. Is there really hypocrisy in sports? Yes. Now, let’s move on to other topics and factoids:

1) Pass me another two dozen cupcakes, please … The BCS system discourages Top 20 teams playing other tough teams as it is all downside for them the way the system is now rigged. No one has taken that admonition more seriously than Wisconsin, who has won its last 30 non-conference games against some of the worst competition in the nation. As Darren Everson reported a week ago, “Since the Wisconsin run began September 20, 2003, the combined record of their non-conference opponents is 87-190 (.314) - the lowest of any school in the six major conferences. Of Wisconsin’s 29 victims (as of last week), 13 were either non-Football Bowl Subdivision schools or teams that went on to lose double-digit games. The last time a regular season non-conference opponent of Wisconsin’s ended the season in the AP’s Top 20 was West Virginia in 2002 – which finished 25th.”

Yesterday, they bested Oregon State, which is now 0-2 after losing to powerhouse Sacramento State in its opening game. This big Wisky win should provide even more luster to the Badger non-con bona fides …

2) The Urban legend and Spiels … I missed the televised badinage last week as I was at the game itself (a poor substitute for getting to see it on TV, I am told!). I am also told Urban Meyer beamed over the airwaves and was impressive as a talking head. Spielman? Not so much. As one of my couch potato friends put it, “Urban is a huge step up from Griese. The only downside is that Griese made Spielman sound like a genius and Urban makes Spielman sound like a middle linebacker.”

3) First Woody, and now Woods … And watching all the woodwinds for you. After 25 years of directing The Ohio State University Marching Band, Jon Woods has announced his intention to retire at the end of the 2011-12 academic year. From OSU officialdom: “Steeped in tradition, The Ohio State University Marching Band is one of the few all-brass and percussion university marching bands in the country and one of the largest of its type in the world. Woods’ announcement comes as the band celebrates the 75th anniversary of its trademark “Script Ohio,” considered by many to be the most memorable tradition in college band history.

“For a quarter of a century, Jon Woods has always struck precisely the right note as director of The Ohio State University Marching Band,” said President E. Gordon Gee.
Forget Woody (for just a moment) and forgive Les Wexner for his transgressions, but this is a man – Jon Woods – who definitely needs to be dotting the “I” real soon.

4) You woulda thought … With the economic malaise hitting our country these past two years and the semi-scandal hitting Ohio State, that this would be a particularly bad time for donations and fundraising at OSU. You woulda that that and you woulda been wrong.

As reported Friday in the Dispatch, private gifts hit a record high at OSU plus the number of donors also breaks the old mark and the number of donors giving million-dollar gifts is up. Private donors gave $259 million to Ohio State University in fiscal 2011, setting a record despite the country’s continued economic troubles. Ohio State also received a record 40 commitments of at least $1 million, compared with 32 the year before. “You could say that the university had a blockbuster year,” said Jeff Kaplan, OSU’s senior vice president of development and president of the university foundation.

Yes, you could say. That $259 million represents money that Ohio State actually has collected from a record 177,322 donors. There is no evidence that any of the gifts came from Terrelle or his buddies …

5) How hot was it, Johnny?... In the old days (defined loosely here as those days before the 1970s…), Ohio State didn’t usually play a home football game until mid-to-late September. That’s another reason to assume the opener against Akron might be the hottest home game ever. There was a scorcher when the Bucks played Texas Tech in 2002 and that game was in August, way back then.

Other little heat-oids worth remembering from a week ago: 1) Two different refs had heat issues and left the game; 2) The band took off their jackets when they were seated; 3) Four band members were said to have gone to the hospital and others weren’t able to play after the game; 4) A message board poster had it that Columbus had 22 of its 44 ambulances at the stadium … there also was 100 calls for medics; and 5) If you went underneath the stands to the vendor booths, there seemed to be more people there than in the stands!

Some say this was “bad planning” by the stadium people. Uh, no. I say Fickell is planning ahead – we will be ready for Miami!

6) Shariff is shot, and other speculation … I once speculated (just to myself until today) that if the nations’s No . 1 rated high school D-Tackle, Shariff Floyd had come to Columbus as he intended to do before Urban Meyer gave him his infamous “Deathbed Speech,” the Buckeyes might have the best starting four down linemen in their history: Nate Williams, Big Hank, Floyd and John Simon. We might be close even without Big Shar and we probably have the best eight d-linemen ever at OSU anyway.

And speaking of “anyway,” the Shariff is down in Florida this year. Two weeks ago, Florida announced, "We have declared Shariff Floyd ineligible and he is not eligible to compete until his eligibility is reinstated the NCAA," and also that, "This is an issue that is not related to sports agents, University of Florida boosters or his recruitment to Florida." It was announced this week that Floyd would be suspended for two games for “receiving $2,500 cash over several months from an individual not associated with the university. Floyd used the money for living expenses, transportation and other expenses. In addition, he received impermissible benefits prior to enrollment, including transportation and lodging related to unofficial visits to several institutions.”

Hey - all he would have received if he had come to Ohio State would have been some tats-for-memorabilia, and none the cash. But – of course –he would have received a five-game penalty instead of two!!

7) Notre Dame and Texas – natural rivals or just rivals of ESPN? … Forget all the talk of expansion – the real psycho-drama is what will happen amongst the media conglomerates that really control college football? Which made these comments from the Rivals Northwestern board all that much more insightful:
The Big Ten just wrapped up a meeting to initially consider all of the terms presented by the schools. Notably, there is a general discontent with the reporting of the situation by ESPN with specific regard to Texas. ESPN has, for self-serving purposes, drastically exaggerated the lean of Texas to the Pac12 conference in nearly all commentary. ESPN has essentially waged a propaganda campaign to drive support among the Texas stakeholders to the Pac12 conference. ESPN has gone so far as to attempt to accelerate the disintegration of the Big XII to pressure Texas into making an immediate conference change decision. Texas has steadfastly resisted change, and will do so until the appropriate time occurs for Texas to stand in a strong position to renegotiate television contracts, including with ESPN.

In reality, the preference expressed by Texas' relevant leadership is to depart the Big XII for the Big Ten at the time that gives Texas the greatest leverage in negotiating a new television rights deal. The Big Ten and Texas agreed that Texas should do what is best for Texas, which they also both agree is a move by Texas to join the Big Ten Conference. Delaney's top priority has been to create an environment for Texas and Notre Dame to join the conference on mutually beneficial terms.

8) Two different weeks, two different looks … The Big Ten isn’t scheduling as many doormats for their non-conference scrimmages but some weeks are easier than others. For the week of Sept 24, it’s hard to imagine losing to any of: Louisiana-Monroe, Central Michigan, North Dakota State, Wyoming, Western Michigan, North Texas, Colorado, Eastern Michigan and South Dakota although the mysterious Minnesota bunch could cough it up to San Diego State that week, thereby preventing a “sweep.” Next week, though (the week of the 17th), is a much sterner test with Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Miami (OH), Miami (FL), Washington, Arizona State and even Temple could be tough for our league.

9) Back to the future and those schedules … Interestingly (?), Ohio State has its 2014 schedule set with non-con games against Navy, Cincinnati, Kent State and Virginia Tech. But the 2013 schedule still had two TBA/open dates for the weeks of Sept 7 and Sept 21. I guess we wanted to see what the sanctions would be like by that time. And who our AD might be …

10) Will volcanoes cool our warming Earth? … He asks, knowing that the responses will have nothing to do with science. Before you dash off your fiery rejoinder, I will stipulate that I do like to stir the pot about global warming, only to the extent that everyone KNOWS its “true” and there can be no room for real debate. I always rail against such accepted conventional “wisdom.”

And now, so does science writer, Matt Ridley, from the Wall Street Journal. He takes a different approach, saying that natural events (mostly volcanoes) have cooled the earth for thousands of years including when Mt. Pinatubo went off in the Philippines in 1991, “causing a brief drop in world temperatures.” He also notes that roughly 97-percent of the carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere each year is from nature, not human activity.

Finally, to get your lava boiling, Ridley concludes by saying, “Savage lurches in the global climate will happen one day, whether by manmade warming or by global cooling.” I bring this to your attention both as a public service and to get more comments heating up here at the bottom of the Bucket…

* * * *

Gene Smith does the work of three men … Unfortunately, they are named Larry, Curly and Moe. And speaking of stooges, Fickell became Gene’s stooge this past week as he unwittingly worked us through another of Smith’s mangled press conferences, announcing the three suspended Buckeyes would be returning for the Toledo game. This from a guy (Smith) who was once the NCAA infractions chair! Ohio State’s AD proved again that “you don’t know what you don’t know” as he blundered through another public debacle in public. Really, the Ohio State public relations department needs its own PR department to defend itself!

To be safer this week, Smith simply admits he has no idea how these suspensions will work out. To paraphrase the football philosopher, EG Gee, Fickell shouldn’t have to worry about his own job security, Gene Smith should worry that Luke doesn’t dismiss him

If you have other “bottom lines” to discuss, I turn the rest of this space over to you ..

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