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2013
Woody’s generous side often overlooked | Football, racism and an unbreakable bond: The tale of Rudy Hubbard and Woody Hayes | Message not resonating with some Ohio State players | OSU's Greatest Football Wins: Michigan | The Truth About Aaron Hernandez and Urban Meyer | 

2012
Hayes’ final win came vs. Indiana | Urban Meyer will be home for dinner | Top 25 Reasons to Love the Ohio State Buckeyes | Ex-OSU, NFL star Byars cherishes ties to Dayton (& Ohio State) | Let’s Start Paying College Athletes |

2011
The Smartest Guys in the Room | This had to happen, for benefit of program | Buckeye Motors: Welcome to Cargate!  | Concrete Blonde: He's a Buckeye, and he's fake - but he's not a fake Buckeye. | Fused together by wins and pride, separating Jim Tressel from Ohio State would be no easy task | Woody and The Vest -- Two coaches united by success and scandal | Jim Tressel as Jim Tressel | Even OSU's 'worst case' isn't end of the world | First Woman, Ohio State grad, elected U.S. President  | Ohio State Could Do Itself a Favor by Making Football a Topic Again | What if OSU story is complete? | Tressel's character is on trial, and that hurts | NCAA president: Time to discuss players getting sliver of revenue pie | Ohio State coach Jim Tressel should not be defined solely by his wrongdoings | The Case for Regicide | Putting A Wrap on It: Time For Us to Rally | Defending OSU's Jim Tressel | CFN Analysis: Should Tressel Have Been Fired? | Lame defense affirms winning is the only thing that matters for Jim Tressel | Jesse Owens third on list of 50 greatest Big Ten icons? That's outrageous | Cornerback Big Question Mark For Buckeyes In 2011 | Patching the holes: We're Losing OL Numbers Game | Some college football coaches make Signing Day less than a signature moment |

2010
There's no profit in standing up to NCAA | The Buckeyes need to enact the "Do Right Rule" | Ohio State football greatest era debate I: The stats are comparable, and the players of 1968-77 kept their noses clean | Ohio State football greatest era debate II: Increased degree of difficulty gives current Buckeyes the nod | Tokens of Ohio State football traditions apparently are for sale | Let’s Talk About SEC Oversigning | Payoffs versus playoffs | Tressel Can’t Close | BCS system is no friend of Big Ten | Eight simple suggestions to better the current BCS system | Eight simple suggestions to better the current BCS system | I Thought the World of Him | Tressel got mad, OSU got better | Myth That Tressel Only Beats Up On Bad Michigan Teams | Special teams need new attitude | Ohio State Must Cut the Cupcake Diet | I remember Woody |  OSU players should relish being teams' No.1 target |  Pryor is big part of running game |  Big Ten hellbent on taking $tupidity and greed to the next level |  Move The Game? Not if Woody, Bo were around |  OSU-Michigan date must stay where it is |  Big Ten selling out tradition |  Pryor showing maturity of a leader |  Captains and Concerns |  It's time for Big Ten to force Irish's handBreaking |  Down The Buckeyes: Early 2010 Big Ten Predictions |  High hopes can ruin fun for OSU fans |  Dark Clouds On The Horizon For The Offensive Line? |  Heyward picks fun over big paycheck |  We rank the BCS-era national champions and you can, too |  Emerging Pryor could lead Buckeyes to next year's title |  Terrelle Pryor's future (and Ohio State's) is now | 

2009
Whether or not the Buckeyes return to the summit, their coach remains one of the elite |  Art Schlichter, Earle Bruce differ on 1980 Rose Bowl what-ifs |  Hayes' punch gave OSU easy out |  Tell Us How You Really Feel, Herbie |  Breaking Down The Buckeyes: Complete Pryor Evaluation |  Take Pryor off his pedestal |  Terrelle Pryor must be Ohio State's answer at quarterback | 





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Bob Hunter commentary: OSU players should relish being teams' No.1 target

Not long after top-ranked Alabama lost at South Carolina on Saturday, one of the dozen reporters in the Ohio Stadium press box still sweating blood over their deathless prose about Ohio State's lopsided win over Indiana erupted with some surprising news.

"Hey, some of the OSU players are tweeting that they don't want to be No.1," he said.

A surprised "really?" escaped from more than one mouth. No one would deny that it made sense on one level: No.1 puts a target the size of Montana on the back of any team that wears it, and at this stage of the season, there are no guaranteed benefits. Only six times in 12 BCS title games has the team ranked No.1 in the first BCS standings (which come out Sunday) even played in the championship game.

But really, Ohio State players posted that? When they are handed their first uniforms, they are issued a target as part of the package. Unless one of their teams ends up being woefully mediocre, which might happen once or twice in a generation, they won't play a game where opposing players don't have the incentive knobs in their brains cranked up to high.

Being No.1 doesn't change that. It doesn't change anything. The Wisconsin players wanted to beat the Buckeyes as badly as anything they have ever done on the football field when OSU was No.2, and they want to beat them just as badly now. If the Badgers win, the victory might taste a tad sweeter because of that No.1 ranking, but the real benefit to the Badgers will come 50 years from now when some gimpy gray-hair tells bored neighbors for the 140th time about the day his team beat the No.1 Buckeyes. Saturday night, under the bright lights of Camp Randall Stadium, there will be no difference.

This isn't the case everywhere. If Oregon were No.1, it would be the first time in school history that has happened. The Ducks' No.2 spot in the Associated Press poll ties the program's highest ranking ever, so it only figures that a first-ever taste of the top spot might add some pressure. Hey, Ducks are only, uh, human, right?

But at Ohio State, rankings in general and No.1 in particular has long been part of the deal. Since 1930, the Buckeyes have played 78 games while being ranked No.1, and in 11 of those games the opponent was in the top 10 and in 27 of them the opponent was ranked in the top 25. The Buckeyes have played against 13 teams that were ranked No.1, winning four. Beginning with the 2002 BCS title game against the University of Miami, the Buckeyes have been part of five No.1 vs. No.2 matchups. This isn't a strange new land they have entered. It's part of the neighborhood.

Two weeks ago, after the Buckeyes stomped on Eastern Michigan like a colony of ants in their driveway, coach Jim Tressel said he doesn't spend a lot of time thinking about "style points."

"I suppose if someone isn't sold on your league, maybe that's something that you consider," Tressel said. "But we've always said that if we could be successful in our league and obviously in our nonconference schedule that we'll have enough style and you'll see where you land."

It's not all about your conference, though. Ohio State is one of a handful of traditional powers that figures to get the benefit of the doubt as long as it wins; if Michigan State finishes unbeaten, it might deserve the top ranking and still not get it. It's why this current system of determining a national champion is so flawed.

But from the Buckeyes' vantage point, it's hard to see much of a downside of being ranked No.1 at any point during the season. The teams that have them circled on the schedule today had them circled at the beginning of the season, and when you're at OSU and No.1, there are no scoreboards to watch and either/ors to consider.

Win the rest of their games and they are almost guaranteed a place in the national championship game. There are a lot of worse things than that.

Source: Columbus Dispatch October 12, 2010
by Bob Hunter, is a sports reporter for The Dispatch.
Article Link: Bob Hunter commentary: OSU players should relish being teams' No.1 target
Contact Bob Hunter


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Rob Oller commentary: Pryor is big part of running game

The term "quarterback" originated in European rugby, and it made its way across the pond when American football found its 19th-century niche in eastern U.S. cities.

In those days, pre-forward pass, grinding it out on the ground was the only option. Each backfield consisted of four runners who lined up at varying distances from the thick-necked linemen in front of them. The player farthest, or fully back, from the line was the fullback. The two halfbacks were halfway between the line and the fullback. The quarterback lined up in front of the halfback.

No one second-guessed the quarterback's role. As a "back," his job was to run the ball. And so it is that Ohio State is repeating history this season by making quarterback Terrelle Pryor as important to the Buckeyes' running game as anyone else in the backfield. In a sense, he is the tailback.

Running the QB by choice and not just by necessity isn't exactly a novelty elsewhere in college football. Michigan's Denard Robinson, for example, currently is the nation's leading rusher.

But it is an approach often overlooked by OSU's critics, who have the tendency to judge a running game solely on the merits of the tailbacks and not by the guy handing them the ball.

Every year about this time, some portion of the football program comes under intense scrutiny. This season, the focus is split between shaky special teams and a running game that appears to be lacking.

The sense is that special-teams problems are fixable. The concern is that the running game issue, which mostly is a running backs issue, has no real solution. Daniel Herron and Brandon Saine are what they are. Herron is a power-lite back who will make no one forget Chris "Beanie" Wells. Saine is a sprinter with good hands and suspect cutback ability.

There is only a tepid push by the public to try Jordan Hall or Jaamal Berry at tailback. The offensive line has received its usual 40 lashes of criticism. Fingers point at Herron and Saine, who are judged to be merely serviceable. The catchall phrase is, "What is wrong with the running game?"

My answer comes by way of a definition. If "running game" is to be defined as the line blocking and the tailback running, then the Buckeyes are behind schedule at the moment. Saine averages 52.7 yards per game, Herron 45.7. Neither is getting the number of carries typical of a traditional OSU tailback, nor what has been typical for backs in nine seasons under coach Jim Tressel.

But when defining the quarterback as being part of the running game, then Ohio State's ground attack is not so bad.

Pryor leads the team at 55 yards per game, and the Buckeyes rank a respectable 25th nationally at 206 yards per game. There is no Eddie George, Maurice Clarett or Beanie to ooh and ahh over, but the collective of Pryor, Herron and Saine is better than average.

That explains why running backs coach Dick Tressel said that although he is not happy with the running game, he also is not unhappy. Some of the components might need work, but the overall product is operating smoothly enough for now.

Jim Tressel said this week that Pryor running 10 to 15 times a game is optimum.

"We would like five, six times, seven times a game for him to end up running when we call a pass, simply giving credit to the fact that people might drop more folks than we're sending out and there might not be anyone open," Jim Tressel said. "And then if we have five to six designed quarterback runs in the game, now we're at a dozen, that's where I'd kind of like to be."

Pryor as the dangerous runner is not lost on OSU's opponents. Ohio University's defensive plan last Saturday was to stop the run - and specifically a running Pryor - even if it meant freeing up the Buckeyes to pass the Bobcats to death. Miami went at it the same way two weeks ago. The Hurricanes liked their chances against Pryor's arm better than against his feet.

Oops. He rushed for 113 yards against them.

Those who play against Pryor have no problem seeing him as a legitimate piece of the Buckeyes' running game. It is up to everyone else to wrap their minds around the idea that Pryor crossing the line of scrimmage is not always an act of last resort.

On this team, Pryor is as much of a running back as Herron and Saine. That offensive system might not be an OSU fan favorite, but so far it has proved effective.

Source: Columbus Dispatch September 25, 2010
by Rob Oller is a sports reporter for The Dispatch.
Article Link: Rob Oller commentary: Pryor is big part of running game
Contact Rob Oller


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Big Ten hellbent on taking $tupidity and greed to the next level

The drumbeat started low and slow, with hardly anyone at the time putting much stock in the insane ramblings coming out of the normally lucid and coherent Sweater Vest.

"There's always going to be change," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said at the Big Ten's media days back in early August when asked about expansion changing the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry. "I don't think -- I can't imagine that there would ever be a change from the fact that Ohio State and Michigan are going to square off and it's going to be exciting and meaningful and all the rest.

"How it will be done exactly and where within the year and all those things, I'm sure if we look back in our history, most recently it's been in the last regular season game. Prior to that, it wasn't."

While Tressel's quotes caused a more-than-minor ripple, Michigan athletic director David Brandon shed all pretense and cannonballed into the discussion of moving the UM-OSU game from the end of the season -- where it's been for 70-plus years -- to earlier in the season and allowing for the possibility that the two long-time and hated rivals could meet twice in a given season -- once in the regular season, once in a conference title game.

"I think there's a distinct possibility that game will be a later game in the season but not necessarily the last game of the season," Brandon said. "That's simply because I don't think the coaches or the players or the fans or the networks or anyone would appreciate that matchup twice within a seven-day period."

Brandon's counterpart at Ohio State, Gene Smith, was a little more demure, but no less using a public forum to brace fans for what seems like the inevitable, when he said "we may end up playing the last game of the year, or not. I just don't know that yet."

The latest to chime in on this potential abomination is Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. And, just like Tressel, Brandon and Smith before him, Delany hinted strongly that the die has already been cast, and one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports is about to be devalued by moving up on the calendar when the conference announces its divisional alignments.

"I would put Michigan-Ohio State among the top five events in all of sports for rivalry," Delany said. "It'll get played. Now the question is, how best to play it? Are they in the same divisions or are they not? Do they play in the last game, the second-to-last game, the third-to-last game? How to do that is still under discussion. ...

"You could make a good argument that Michigan and Ohio State should never really be playing for a divisional crown. If they're going to play, play for the right to go to the Rose Bowl. When Tennessee and Florida play, when Auburn and Alabama play, only one of those teams is going to go to the championship game because they're in the same division."

How exactly has the Iron Bowl suffered by the two schools being in the same division, as Delany intimates? Last time we checked, 'Bama-Auburn in many parts of this country is viewed as the greatest, most heated rivalry in all of college football, and they've somehow found a way to keep that hatred alive and well for nearly twenty years while residing in the same division.

And what's to say that the two schools intertwined in a decades-long conference rivalry have to have the opportunity to face each other in a title game, anyway? There's no sound logic or any semblance of a good argument in Delany's attempt at justifying a move by shifting the attention to conference title match-ups. How much more would be on the line if a shot at the Big Ten title game hung in the balance that weekend after Thanksgiving? Certainly a whole helluva lot more than if The Game were the meat in a Indiana/Illinois or Northwestern/Minnesota October sandwich.

What happens to the 2006 game or the 1969 game or the myriad other classics if they were played at any time before the end of the regular season? Here's a hint: they fade into oblivion and become a footnote to the rest of the regular season most years, with a slight chance that one could avenge the prior midseason loss in the conference title game. And the reason they'd fade? They'd be lost amongst what happened in the two or three or four games after The Game Lite was contested.

When those games were played had as much to do with the memories as how the games were played or ended. There was something on the line, either a Rose Bowl/BcS berth or the opportunity to ruin the other's season; move The Game from the end of the regular season, and you lose that something being played for every single year on the off-chance that they meet up, what, once every four, five years with something on the line?

This is not the era of the Ten-Year War. There were no Penn State's, Wisconsin's, Iowa's or Nebraska's to speak of back in the days of Woody and Bo, at least not consistently. This is a more balanced Big Ten, rife with top-shelf programs that would make the conference's seemingly desired target of a twice-a-year grudge match between its two flagship schools much less likely than the league's officials would care to admit or consider.

Be warned, Big Ten: you move The Game, you will rip the heart and suck the soul out of the single greatest property the conference owns. And for what, a few more advertising dollars every few years when they do happen to stumble into a title showdown? One that will, incidentally, likely be contested in a sterile, domed, neutral location as opposed to yet another reason that The Game is what it is -- The Big House and The Shoe.

The shame in all of this is not the fact that it's nearly a done deal; the shame is the fact that it's being considered at all.

Source: CollegeFootballTalk.com August 24, 2010
by John Taylor
Article Link: Big Ten hellbent on taking $tupidity and greed to the next level


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Move The Game? Not if Woody, Bo were around

If Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler were still around, the sacrilegious proposal to move the Ohio State-Michigan game off its end-of-the-season perch would have been stillborn. No one would have dared float this stupid idea in public.

No self-respecting commissioner, university president or athletic director would have tried to make this sound like a reasonable alternative in the Big Ten divisional debate because they couldn't have gotten away with it. They would have faced the angry rants of two strong-willed coaches who made a great rivalry even greater, men who sometimes exercised more power than the suits who thought they ruled the league.

Hayes would have let Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany have it with both barrels. He would have called him names - unprintable names - for even thinking about trashing tradition, and Ohio State's president and athletic director would have received similar treatment if they didn't support him. His downs-marker-destroying tantrums on the sideline would have seemed tame compared with this tirade. No one who supported the idea of playing the game earlier would have dared venture within 10 feet of him.

Though Hayes could come off as a fire-breathing maniac at times, his deep-seated convictions ensured he would never give up defending what he thought was right. One time when he heard that a northern Ohio quarterback he wanted was going to Michigan, he picked up a film projector and threw it across the room. How far could he have thrown a conference commissioner who was threatening to turn a rivalry Hayes believed sacred into a glorified version of Ohio State-Iowa?

Schembechler wasn't as demonstrative as Hayes, but he would have been just as blunt in his assessment. He would have stared daggers at the revolutionaries who supported this lunacy and fired verbal bullets that would have had everyone in the league scrambling for cover.

When Michigan athletic director David Brandon was asked last week what Schembechler would say about this, he ran the old misdirection play:

"What would Bo say? Bo hated the idea that Penn State was allowed in the Big Ten. He hated it, he fought it, he thought it was a terrible idea. I love Bo, I owe a lot to Bo, I respect Bo immeasurably, but I can tell you the Big Ten is a much better conference right now that Penn State is in it. Bo would hate the idea that we let Nebraska in the conference. He would hate the idea of splitting into two divisions, and he'd hate the idea that we'd have a championship game to get to the Rose Bowl."

In other words, Schembechler's opinion is about as relevant as that of Amos Alonzo Stagg. It's easy to say that when he isn't around, isn't it?

The response of current Ohio State coach Jim Tressel hasn't been surprising, though it has been disappointing. When he says no change could harm the rivalry ("I don't think it will ever change in its importance and to the people who are involved in it"), it sounds like something penned by a public-relations snake. At first glance, the words look delectable on paper - hey, he's saying a nice thing about the rivalry, right? - but when you bite into it, it tastes like air.

This is one time I wish Senator Tressel were more like Sorehead Hayes. With college football's No. 1 rivalry in danger, a snarling, spitting, seething Hayes is exactly what this proposal needs.

A Michigan week speech Hayes delivered to his troops about the Wolverines in 1968 seems to fit the occasion. If Hayes were alive today, he might give a similar speech again:

"I despise those arrogant sons of (unprintable name)! I despise them all. I don't hate them. I'm not a hater. You can't be a hater in life. But I despise them. It's OK to despise. ... Those arrogant sons of (unprintable name) tried to move the Michigan game."

His last sentence actually ended with "tried to break Hoppy's leg."

But I think Woody would approve of the change.

Source: Columbus Dispatch August 29, 2010
by Bob Hunter, a sports reporter for The Dispatch.
Article Link: Bob Hunter commentary: Move The Game? Not if Woody, Bo were around
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Rob Oller commentary: OSU-Michigan date must stay where it is

With all due respect to Big Ten presidents, athletic directors and others in positions of power who are considering moving Ohio State-Michigan to earlier in the season: Are you people nuts?

Bump one of the best rivalries in sports, the marquee game of the Big Ten football season, and then rationalize it by promising it will remain the best show? That's like saying the Masters would remain the best golf tournament even if it were played in September. Or that Christmas would feel the same in July. Nothing says Jingle Bells like the taste of eggnog in summer.

The move hasn't happened yet, but I know how conference bigwigs think, and they need to be cut off at the pass before their thinking ruins - yes, ruins - one of the best sporting events in America. No overstatement. To ruin something does not necessarily mean to kill it, but to negatively alter it. Moving Michigan-Ohio State a week or two earlier, or into October, would change it for the worse.

Lost would be an entire season's buildup that culminates in opportunity, a chance to cap a successful year or at least wreck the other team's season with a final dagger thrust. Late November brings scarlet and gray scarves, maize-and-blue mittens and clouds of breath you can see. Mid-October brings Indian summer and stunning autumn colors. Nice, but Ohio State-Michigan is about brutality, not beauty. The only leaves still visible should be plastered to Buckeyes' helmets.

When even jaded sportswriters get goose bumps over a final regular-season game, something is wrong. Or in this case, something is right. When a colleague of 35 years in the business observes, as was the case several years ago, that "this still is pretty special" - this being Michigan players simply milling about during warm-ups - it says the game already is perfectly placed on the schedule. Don't mess with success.

But I know how Big Ten pooh-bahs think, and that worries me. Their thoughts are not evil, nor are they even necessarily ill-intentioned. They are, however, developed in a cloistered atmosphere of meeting rooms and conference calls where mainstream opinion has limited input. It is during these sheltered discussions that a false sense of reality sets in. Change is inevitable, so why not change things now?

This reverse realism is not confined to Big Ten boardrooms. It exists anywhere there is a conference table surrounded by chairs. Fortune 500 companies. Churches. Doesn't matter. What develops inside those often windowless walls amounts to group-think - one head nods, they all nod - where the final decision is seen as the obvious best solution, even when it's not.

What is obvious to the rest of us is that the solution often lacks common sense. Decision-makers analyze every angle until their methods of evaluation become mechanical. Emotion has no place in the process. The public, meanwhile, relies more on feel and simplicity. Choose the path that makes the most sense, not the most money.

Decision-makers are influenced by TV networks and athletic clothing companies whose deep pockets wield deep power. Fans cling to tradition, not marketing strategies and media reach.

These two opposing views are playing out in the pending decision whether to move Ohio State-Michigan off its traditional perch, which it has held since 1935. To a lesser but still significant extent, the Big Ten and many Wolverines and Buckeyes fans also are at odds over whether the schools should be separated when the conference splits into two divisions in 2011.

Neither option - moving the game date or separating the schools - is preferable. The latter opens the possibility that Ohio State and Michigan could play during the regular season and again in the championship game, possibly a week apart. Still, the date change remains the bigger negative because even though a championship game rematch would be a mere possibility, a date change would be an annual reality.

Then there is this potential double whammy: Ohio State and Michigan could be put in different divisions and the date might still change, given TV networks' concerns that national ratings would suffer if the Buckeyes and Wolverines played in consecutive weeks.

Whatever happens, do not be snowed by those who promise that The Game will retain its electric atmosphere even if it is played in October. No question it will remain a good time, but good always falls short of best.

Source: Columbus Dispatch August 26, 2010
by Rob Oller, a sports reporter for The Dispatch.
Article Link: Rob Oller commentary: OSU-Michigan date must stay where it is
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Big Ten selling out tradition

Michigan and Ohio State first played football in 1897. Never once has it taken place outside Columbus or Ann Arbor. Since 1935, it’s served as the final game of each team’s regular season.

It’s not just the culmination of a football campaign, but an unofficial, yet beloved, holiday in the Midwest. It represents a Saturday afternoon in late November, after the crops are in, touched by faint sunlight and a crisp wind that occasionally drives flakes of snow.

It’s meaning is everything. To this day the final segment of practice at Ohio State is called the “Maize and Blue Period” complete with the Michigan fight song, “The Victors,” blaring over the loudspeakers to infuriate, and motivate, the Buckeyes. Beating Michigan or beating Ohio State is what the teams work toward. It represents seeing the season through, either for their own glory or to ruin their rivals.

“They build their seasons up to it,” said Michael Rosenberg, Detroit Free Press sports columnist and author of “War As They Knew It,” a book about the 10 years of games between Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler.

Through it all, going on 104 years, it’s become one of the greatest rivalries not only in college football, but also in all of American sports. While that’s a debatable title, there’s no question Michigan-Ohio State would be in the discussion.

It’s not just about who wins and who loses or what is won and what is lost. It’s a celebration of a culture, a day both look forward to and look back on, a feeling of time and place, of memories and roots that run deep in the Midwest soil. You watched with your grandfather. You’ll watch with your grandchildren. No matter when things are good or things are bad – and with both football and the economy, these two states have seen both – it is always there, always the same. To play in it is to play in something bigger than yourself, your team and even your school.

“A remarkable festival,” the announcer Keith Jackson described it on its 100th birthday.

It’s special. It just is.

And now the Big Ten wants to pretend it isn’t?

------------------------------------------


They are going to move the game to October and they are going to split Michigan and Ohio State up and put them in opposite divisions of the new 12-team Big Ten to allow for the possibility of a league title game rematch starting in 2011.

This hasn’t been announced. It’s all but certain though, the drumbeat of public relation leaks assuring it. Commissioner Jim Delany has talked about it. So too has Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and Michigan athletic director David Brandon.

They want the idea to float out there so it isn’t a shock to the system when it becomes official next month. It may not shock, but it should sadden.

Ohio State and Michigan should be placed in the same division and meet in the final game of the regular season. It works for Auburn-Alabama, Texas-Texas A&M and a host of other great rivalries that have survived the super conference era. It’s a nod to the concept that these are more than just games, that they aren’t just a product to package for television, that in college football, tradition should be honored, not reworked in the hope of a ratings bump.

“One of the best things that could happen, in my opinion in a given season, would be the opportunity to play Ohio State twice,” Brandon told Ann Arbor radio station WTKA.

No, it wouldn’t be the best thing that could happen. It might be fun the first time. It might be unique. It might be new. And then soon enough, it wouldn’t be.

Everything else about it diminishes an event built and maintained for five generations. When you control a 100-plus-year-old tradition, you don’t make decisions based on a four-year television contract. To do so is symbolic of the NCAA run by MBAs, where a projected spreadsheet means more than a history book. It is about selling out a century plus for an overnight rating and then trying to explain it away with specious and short-sited reasoning.

The game is the game because they don’t play twice a year. You get one crack and that’s it. It can make or break the season. Careers, both playing and coaching, are defined by it because the lack of a rematch raises the stakes. The single game increases the urgency of the present. Then the location on hallowed grounds – either the glorious Horseshoe or the brilliant Big House, not some corporate event at Lucas Oil Stadium – adds the perspective of the past. As such, the nature of the rivalry should be protected at all costs.

Instead, not only does the Big Ten want to split the teams up to assure a potential second game, but it also wants to move the annual clash to midseason in case both teams win their division. Otherwise there might be back-to-back meetings that could cost the title game broadcast casual viewers. This is the butchering of the regular season in an effort to protect the postseason.

There is no other reason to do it. It isn’t for competitive reasons, since it actually stacks the deck against Michigan and Ohio State – their cross-over opponent is a historic powerhouse.

The Big Ten title game is undoubtedly worth more if Ohio State and Michigan, two big brands with plenty of big television markets, can potentially meet. Nebraska may teem with history, but it doesn’t with people (just 1.7 million residents compared to the 10 million-plus of both Michigan and Ohio).



Although the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry was a close one when Bo Schembechler (left) and Woody Hayes were around (Michigan held a 5-4-1 edge), it usually is a rivalry of swings.
So what’s the mere possibility of a Buckeye-Wolverine Big Ten title clash actually worth? One television executive estimates it at best fetches an additional $2 million on a game that the Big Ten is seeking $15-$20 million no matter who is in it. “And with the state of (the Michigan) program, I doubt it’s that,” said the TV executive who requested anonymity. “That’s absolute the high end, and I haven’t done any research. It might be half that.”

So best case, the league gets $2 million extra per year, which divided 13 ways (12 teams and the league office) is about $150,000 per share. The Buckeyes and Wolverines are going to sell their one-of-a-kind tradition for a buck fifty per?

That’s the going price of history?

------------------------------------------


The likelihood of a Michigan-Ohio State rematch isn’t strong anyway (which the TV execs will realize upon research) and not just because the Wolverines went 1-7 in the league last year. Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that had the two teams been split into opposite divisions over the past 17 years, they’d have met just three or four times in a title game. This isn’t the old days of the Big Two and Little Eight, and that’s before Nebraska makes it more competitive.

Lesmerises notes that only five times since 1988 have both teams been ranked in the top 15 on game day. While the 2006 game between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan springs to mind, the rivalry is mostly about one team trying to ruin the other’s big year.

It’s also a rivalry of swings. Bo and Woody may have gone back and forth – Michigan holding a 5-4-1 lead in that era – but prior to the Buckeyes winning eight of the last nine games, Michigan won 10 of 13.

That the game maintained – if not increased its appeal – during these runs of dominance is a testament about how its value is in the total package. It’s about the people. It’s about the stadiums. It’s about the circle of the calendar. It’s about the often gloomy weather that in its own Midwestern way is beautiful. It’s about all the intangibles that make this game and this sport so great, far greater than some financial metric can measure.

Once there is even the potential for more than one game, once it is moved to a midseason date, once it isn’t the final test, once it isn’t about clearing (or being) the last hurdle to a season, once it is staged in some faux-retro NFL stadium, it becomes a little more like just another game. This is what happened to the once-wonderful Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry that in just more than a decade went from special to likely extinct, one more bit of history sucked from the sport in the name of a small pot of possible revenue.

“It’s always been about the anticipation,” Rosenberg said of Michigan-Ohio State. “It was about working to that final game, about what’s at stake, winning a championship or screwing it up for the other guy. That’s what was always special about it.”

So special it came to define the league. Patience created a brand so strong it could command high broadcast fees and launch its own television network and draw in Nebraska and Penn State to the point where a title game is needed.

Now the suits are ready to think short-term and cash in on its appeal. Now it’s just another product to squeeze out $150,000 from.

------------------------------------------


Wetzel’s Divisions
How Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel would split the Big Ten into divisions:

Indiana
Michigan
Michigan State
Northwestern
Ohio State
Purdue

Illinois
Iowa
Minnesota
Nebraska
Penn State
Wisconsin

Source: Yahoo Sports August 23, 2010
by Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports' national columnist.
Article Link: Big Ten selling out tradition
Send Dan a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.


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Bob Hunter commentary: Pryor showing maturity of a leader

Two years ago, reporters marveled at a mature freshman quarterback named Terrelle Pryor on Ohio State's football media day. The consensus No. 1 high school recruit in America handled reporters as if they were an aggressive, blitzing defense, or so it seemed. He was the picture of cool, mature beyond his ...

"I think I was a little arrogant," he said yesterday. "I think I was arrogant, and I was kind of to myself. I didn't know what was special to me; I didn't know what I loved.

"When you grow up and mature around a great group of guys who tell you about yourself and tell you how you act and (how they) don't like it, it's great to hear that and grow from it. I think that's how I grew."

Make no mistake: Pryor has grown up. He seemed mature beyond his years two years ago, but the junior quarterback seemed much more grounded yesterday. It almost goes without saying that the Jeannette, Pa., native knows more football. He also seems a lot smarter about life.

"The fun part of what we do, every guy that comes in at 17 or 18, it's dramatic how we see them change," coach Jim Tressel said. "And Terrelle is no different. He just happened to be walking around with the spotlight on him the whole time. I think his changes have been as significant as anyone else. He views things differently than when he first arrived because he has a different perspective."

As adults, we shake our heads about some of the dumb things we did when we were young, when we thought we were pretty darned smart only because we didn't know what we didn't know.

The more questions Pryor answered yesterday, the more that thought kept butting in. Pryor the junior obviously couldn't believe how unaware Pryor the freshman had been. Cool.

"As a junior in high school, everybody praised me, everybody around me told me how great I am," he said. "You lose your humbleness. I appreciate everything (now). I think every day my freshman and sophomore year, I wasn't trying to get better. Now, I push myself to the limit regardless.

"I've gotten so close to the seniors now, I want to go out with a bang. I want to leave a legacy here. That's my goal. That's why I'll be here for four years. And I can't wait. I'm so happy."

Pryor hasn't always been so happy. His relationship with fans and teammates has been rocky at times, in part because he couldn't always deliver on sky-high expectations. The shocking loss at Purdue last season was a downer; he contributed two fumbles and two interceptions.

Two weeks later, he suffered a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against New Mexico State, but no one knew how serious the injury was and he played with it the rest of the season. Not until after he had a big game against Oregon in the Rose Bowl - 72 yards rushing and 23 of 37 passing for 266 yards and two touchdowns - did it become clear that the injury had limited him.

That game marked his "emergence" - Tressel's word - as a veteran quarterback. But somewhere along the line, Pryor's mind-set also changed. That was clear when he was asked about the Buckeyes' No.2 ranking in many preseason polls.

"We could go about it in a couple ways," he said. "We could go into it slow, taking it one day at a time, getting our rest tonight, getting up tomorrow and eating well, going in to watch film with everyone rested up and paying attention and getting better, and then go through the same thing over and over. Or we could just let everything get to our heads and lose our one or two games like we always do. I'd rather go with the (other) option."

When Tressel says Pryor has "become the kind of person, the kind of leader our team really appreciates," this is undoubtedly what he means.

The change could end up having as much impact as Pryor's football emergence in the Rose Bowl.

Source: Columbus Dispatch August 9, 2010
By: Bob Hunter, a sports columnist for The Dispatch.
Article Link: Pryor showing maturity of a leader
Contact Bob Hunter


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Buckeye Football: Captains and Concerns

The news in regards to Ohio State football has been scarce of late.

So, let’s create some.

How does a little banter about captains and concerns strike you? Not being concerned about who the captains will be (there is a host of deserving seniors to choose from this year unlike perhaps last season) but just a guess on who the captains will be, followed by the question marks I have for the 2010 Buckeyes. And since we’re talking about a team that will likely open the season ranked No. 2 in the nation, there won’t be many of the latter.

Let’s start with the matter of who will be donned captains for OSU. Most years, head coach Jim Tressel has elected to go with two offensive captains and two defensive. However, there have been exceptions, like during the 2002 national championship season when only senior safeties Mike Doss and Donnie Nickey were permanent captains and the Buckeyes had a rotating offensive captain each week. It ended up usually being Craig Krenzel, but he wasn’t officially a captain until his senior year in ’03.

Then there was last year when Tressel did something similar when he named three defensive captains (Kurt Coleman, Austin Spitler, Doug Worthington) but did not have a true offensive captain. The Buckeyes again used a “rotating” offensive captain each week, with Jim Cordle and Jake Ballard filling the role most often. But they were not technically captains.

This year, I don’t think quarterback Terrelle Pryor will be a captain. James Laurinaitis is the only junior to be named a captain during the Tressel era and that was during a year when there was a lack of senior leaders on the team. Plus, Laurinaitis exuded leadership like few Buckeyes before him.

So, crossing Pryor off the list, that leaves a quartet of seniors as the candidates: RB Brandon Saine, WR Dane Sanzenbacher, LG Justin Boren and RG Bryant Browning. Boren probably gets eliminated due to wearing the “ugly helmets” for the first two years of his college career, but doesn’t the young lad get credit for coming to his senses and making a very gusty jump to Columbus? Give the kid a break, especially considering the fact he’s the best offensive lineman on the team. (Well, maybe junior center Mike Brewster would disagree, but Boren definitely has the makings of a future NFL player.)

Considering all factors, I bet it’s Saine and Sanzenbacher that get the nod. Not exactly vocal leaders, but they are guys that the coaches love and they are well-respected by their teammates. And it’s the players who vote, although I’ve always felt Tressel gets a “vote” that counts for as many votes as he wants if you know what I mean. Otherwise, Pryor might have been a captain last year according to one player who told me that he did an informal poll and several players voted for Pryor last year and were surprised he didn’t “win” the vote.

Switching to defense, there’s plenty more choices to choose from – seven seniors in all. The first names that come to mind are DT Cameron Heyward, LB Ross Homan and LB Brian Rolle. There is also CBs Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence, SS Jermale Hines and DT Dexter Larimore.

I’m going with Heyward and Homan on this one. However, Rolle is a born leader as well and maybe Tressel will elect to have three defensive captains again. Should be interesting to see how it pans out.

Concerning the concerns that you were concerned about…

Again, there are not many weaknesses when you look at this 2010 Ohio State team. There’s a reason the Buckeyes are going to open the year with the No. 2 ranking. And that’s because it’s a weak year in college football with really no great teams on paper that are returning. OK, and because OSU is loaded with talent and has nine offensive starters and seven defensive starters returning.

As for my concerns when I study this team, it obviously starts with special teams. The kickoff and punt returning has been dreadful since Ted Ginn left (with a few exceptions from Ray Small which is the only thing of value he brought to the table) especially the kick returning.

Something must be done about this year and my guy would be Jordan Hall. And the blocking needs to be better as well. Hopefully Hall gets a crack at the job because he looked good returning kicks in the spring.

At punt returner, the Rose Bowl turned into a “Let’s hope they can just fair catch it” … and even that turned into an adventure. Maybe DeVier Posey was just shaky because he had never done it before at this level and he will be much better this season, but I just don’t see him as a big-time punt returner. He’s a big-time receiver, but not a punt returner.

And there aren’t a lot of legit options behind him. There’s Sanzenbacher, redshirt freshman WR Chris Fields, redshirt freshman WR James Jackson and Torrence (plus the incoming frosh like Corey Brown and James Louis) but Tressel usually likes using an older guy in that role. But he did make an exception for Ginn in 2004, so we’ll see how it goes. But it’s a big concern of mine.

I’m also concerned about the kicking and punting situation. Devin Barclay should be solid from 40 yards and in, but if the Buckeyes need a 46-yarder to win a game, can he nail it? Could they use Barclay as the short FG kicker and sophomore Ben Buchanan as the long-range FG kicker? (There is also true freshman Drew Basil, but I think they’ll try and redshirt him.) That might be the way it works out. Not a bad situation, but not exactly an ideal one either.

Then there is punter where Jon Thoma set the bar pretty low last year. Buchanan should be an upgrade over him, but walk-on sophomore Derek Erwin pushed him in the spring and actually looked better than Buchanan at times. Buchanan appears to have the job and the Buckeyes need him to be a weapon and not a liability like the punter was last year. For a team and a head coach that says “the punt is the most-important play in football” you better have a good punter.

There are really concerns on defense?

My lone concern in the defensive front seven is depth on the D-line. I love the starters with DEs Heyward and Nate Williams, and DTs Larimore and John Simon (and Heyward and Simon are interchangeable parts that will rotate between SSDE and DT) and even Jim Heacock says it is shaping up to be the best starting D-line he’s ever had. (Which is a bold statement considering the ’02 bunch had Will Smith, Tim Anderson, Kenny Peterson and Darrion Scott.)

However, if there are injuries, the Buckeyes could be in big trouble. I like sophomore Garrett Goebel as the first DT off the bench, but DE is a big mystery. Is this finally the year that fourth-year junior Solomon Thomas contributes in the fall and not just the spring? Is Melvin Fellows ready to be the main backup at SSDE? Buckeye fans better hope so because it looks like they are going to fill out the two deep. Although, sophomore Jonathan Newsome is listed as an OLB, but I think he’s a gifted pass-rusher who is going to be in the mix for playing time at DE in passing situations.

My only other concern on defense is free safety, especially since no one could beat Anderson Russell out last year and he was borderline terrible. Although, I feel better about the situation after a recent conversation with Kurt Coleman. He said sophomore Orhian Johnson plays physical and isn't afraid to throw his hat in there. That's all I needed to hear. I was a bit worried that Johnson wouldn't be physical enough given his somewhat slender build (6-2, 200) and due to the fact that he has never really played safety before (was a QB in high school). However, it sounds like he has a lot of promise and it will be interesting to see if he can deliver as a first-year starter.

I'm not worried at all about strong safety. I think Hines will be excellent in his lone season as a full-time starter.

Offensive worries?

Offensively, the obvious concern is left tackle. It’s gotten to the point where not many people are completely writing off Mike Adams, but it does appear as though it’s put-up or shut-up time for him this fall. Will he be the clear-cut starter? Will he share time with Andy Miller? Will JB Shugarts move to LT and Marcus Hall start at RT? We’re approaching the season and these are questions we still don’t know the answer to. And left tackle is a pretty important position on the gridiron.

I talked to Jim Bollman late last month and he didn’t seem concerned about it at all. In fact, he told me he thought “people are way too worried about that position.” Then again, he’s probably not going to say, “fans better start jumping off the Lane Ave. bridge – we’re going to stink something nasty at left tackle.” So, take what he says to a reporter with a grain, but maybe this is the year OSU doesn’t have a revolving door at left tackle. They need Adams to lock down the spot. Or at the very least for Adams/Miller to be an effective tandem.

The one other minor concern I have offensively is depth at wide receiver. Posey and Sanzenbacher are a strong starting tandem and the Buckeyes usually doesn’t use many receivers if their top guys stay healthy. Plus, sophomore TE Jake Stoneburner will likely be the de-facto No. 3 WR this season, since Stoneburner is not a classic, blocking OSU tight end. They have sophomore Reid Fragel for that. (And he’s going to play more than perhaps you think this year.)

But just looking at the wide receivers, the No. 3 spot is Chris Fields’ to lose entering camp. The redshirt freshman had a decent spring, but still has some work to do in the consistency department if he really wants to receive consistent playing time this season. Then senior Taurian Washington would have to be next on the pecking order. Like Thomas, he is a decorated member of the Bam Childress Club for spring excellence, but can he contribute when the chips are down this fall and he needs to produce in real games? He should get a chance to show what he can do. (Well, unless he drops a pair of passes in the season opener and then goes in the witness protection program for the remainder of the season like last year.) There is also senior Grant Schwartz who has mainly been a special teams player but ran with the second-team offense throughout spring. Redshirt freshman James Jackson will also be in the mix, but I continue to hear that the coaching staff is not high on him.

Therefore, I think at least one of the incoming freshmen wideouts – Brown, Louis or Ty Williams – will have to play at least a little bit right away. Not sure who it will be, but definitely look for at least one of them to see the field as a true frosh.

Source: Bucknuts.com July 14, 2010
By: Dave Biddle, a sports columnist for The Dispatch.
Article Link: Buckeye Football: Captains and Concerns


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It's time for Big Ten to force Irish's hand

Just about every Big Ten expansion story during the past 30 years has included that irritating kicker about Notre Dame.

Notre Dame is the most logical candidate to join the league, but ...

But. The Big Ten wants Notre Dame, but ... Notre Dame is a nice fit, but ... The "but" is always there, usually linked to the school's desire to remain independent.

Well, enough already. It's time for the Big Ten to kick that "but," one way or another. Conference officials met in Washington yesterday and were expected to give commissioner Jim Delany the go-ahead to pursue expansion. Depending on what they told him, the moment of truth might be at hand.

There has been talk of the league expanding from 11 to 12, 14 or even 16 teams. From here, it seems logical to go all-in, take in the five schools it wants and take the lead in re-shaping the future of college athletics. That would also give the Big Ten a chance to put this nagging Notre Dame story to rest once and for all.

Delany should get the South Bend folks on the phone the first thing this morning, make a little small talk ("Hey, whatever happened to that nice Weis fellow you hired?") and then deliver the sobering news:

We're expanding from 11 to 16 teams and you're either in or out. I don't want to sound overly dramatic, but if you'd don't accept our offer this time and league realignment does what we think it will to the sports landscape, it might end up being Judgment Day for Notre Dame athletics. This is your last chance. If you say 'No,' the Big Ten is going to move on. We won't call again - ever.

That looks like an offer Notre Dave couldn't refuse. With Big Ten membership, the Irish would increase their annual TV revenue from roughly $12 million to $22million per year, cut down on travel costs for all of its athletic teams and have its Olympic sports on the Big Ten Network. It would also find a safe haven in a college athletics world that could be facing a violent upheaval after the Big Ten expands.

Would Notre Dame go for it if it were given what amounts to an ultimatum? If I were in Delany's shoes, I probably wouldn't care. Notre Dame is the best choice for league membership, but there is a strong lineup of potential members - Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Rutgers, Connecticut, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Texas, Missouri and Nebraska - and it would be easy to turn the Big Ten into a super-league without the Irish.

At this point, the Big Ten probably offers Notre Dame more than the school offers the Big Ten, although the Irish would provide a good boost to the league's TV package. For example, if Notre Dame were to join, the conference could afford to turn up its nose at Rutgers, which gives the Big Ten an inroad into the New York TV market and not much else. Trust me on this one: If Notre Dame and Rutgers were both on TV in Manhattan, no one would watch Rutgers. New Yorkers might not watch Rutgers if there were nothing else on.

But Notre Dame doesn't mean as much to the under-25 crowd as it does to the fifty-somethings. When many in Columbus were getting revved up for the Buckeyes-Irish football game the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, my then-18-year-old son couldn't fathom why the oldsters thought it was such a big deal. The Irish hadn't come close to winning anything in his lifetime, and Knute Rockne meant no more to him than James Buchanan. The history didn't register with him.

New Irish coach Brian Kelly is a sharp guy and he might be able to restore the school's lost football status - might - but counting on that and saying "no" to the Big Ten represents a major gamble for Notre Dame officials.

If all of the major conferences undertake major realignments and Kelly can't restore the Irish to elite program status, the school could end up being the beautiful but snobby girl who ends up without a date to the prom.

While she sits at home, the Big Ten might just be life of the party.

Source: Columbus Dispatch April 19, 2010
By: Bob Hunter, a sports columnist for The Dispatch.
Article Link: It's time for Big Ten to force Irish's hand
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Breaking Down The Buckeyes: Early Big Ten Predictions

Here is a very early look at the top five teams in the Big Ten this coming season. Though I am sure you know the drill based on our past together, please share a comment or two at the bottom and let me know whether you agree/disagree with my assessments.

And let me begin with a statement that could inspire a response or two: The road to the Big Ten championship goes through Iowa City.

IOWA HAWKEYES:
2009 Record: 11-2 (includes 24-14 win vs. Georgia Tech in the FedEx Orange Bowl)
Big-Ten Record: 6-2 (lost 17-10 vs. Northwestern/lost 27-24 in OT at Ohio State)
New Starters in 2010:
OFFENSE (6) LT, OC, RG, RT, TE, and WR
DEFENSE (3) SLB, MB, and RCB
SPECIAL TEAMS (0)

STRENGTHS:
Returning starter at QB Ricky Stanzi with an experienced backup in QB James Vanderberg.
RB Trio: Adam Robinson, Brandon Wegher, Jewel Hampton
WRs and TE: Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Marvin McNutt, Allen Reisner
Best DL in the country? They return all four starters on the DL - including first-team All-Big Ten DE Adrian Clayborn.
Best safety tandem in the Big-Ten? Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood combined for nine INTs last season.

WEAKNESSES
Can they replace four starters on the offensive line without losing offensive production? If anyone has proven his ability to develop offensive linemen, it is head coach Kirk Ferentz and his staff.
Can they replace the production of former starters MLB Pat Angerer and SLB A.J. Edds?
Can they find a way to escape the desert heat with a win at Arizona in September?

Projected 2010 Regular Season Record: 11-1 (close loss vs. Wisconsin)

OHIO STATE BUCKEYES:
2009 Record: 11-2 (includes 26-18 win vs. Oregon in the Rose Bowl/loss vs. USC 18-15)
Big Ten Record: 7-1 (lost 26-18 at Purdue)

New Starters in 2010:
OFFENSE (2) LT and TE
DEFENSE (5) DE, DT, SLB, SS, and FS
SPECIAL TEAMS (4) PK, PT, KOR, PR

STRENGTHS:
QB Terrelle Pryor (based on his play from the bowl victory and second half of season)
RB tandem with depth (Brandon Saine/Dan Herron)
WR starters: Devier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher
LB combo: Ross Homan and Brian Rolle
CB combo: Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence
Big Ten candidate for Defensive Player of the Year/DL of Year Cameron Heyward (his numbers may not be as good as 2009, because he will likely be double- and triple-teamed on nearly every play this season)

WEAKNESSES:
Can they find someone to be a consistent player at LT? After watching Mike Adams and Andy Miller play last season, there is good reason to be concerned about this position.
Can they find two players to be productive at the safety positions? If Jermale Hines is so good, then why didn't he beat out Anderson Russell in 2009?
Will they miss having Gibson, Denlinger, and Worthington in the DL rotation, especially against the strong running teams like Wisconsin and Iowa?
Can they be productive on special teams with turnover at all of the key positions?

Projected 2010 Regular Season Record: 11-1 (close loss at Iowa)

WISCONSIN BADGERS:
2009 Record: 10-3 (includes 20-14 win vs. Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl)
Big Ten Record: 5-3 (lost 31-13 at Ohio State/lost 20-10 vs. Iowa/lost 33-31 at Northwestern)

New Starters in 2010:
OFFENSE (1) TE
DEFENSE (5) DE, DT, DT, SLB, and FS
SPECIAL TEAMS (0)

STRENGTHS:
Offense: Returning starter at QB and only one new starter in their two TE formation. They have a very strong power run game and dynamic passing attack with a good receiving TE and four senior WRs.
Could RB John Clay be a two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year?
Could QB Scott Tolzien be named first-team All-Big Ten?
WR/KOR/PR David Gilreath will be the BEST return man in the Big Ten with a couple game-changing returns.

WEAKNESSES:
Defense: Can they find productive replacements for last year's starters? Can the returning starters show improvement from last season? How will they be able to pressure and sack the opposing QB?
Will they look past an Arizona State team that visits Madison in September?

Projected 2010 Regular Season Record: 11-1 (high-scoring, close loss vs. Ohio State)

MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS:
2009 Record: 6-7 (lost 29-27 vs. C. Michigan/lost 33-30 at Notre Dame/lost 41-31 vs. Texas Tech in Alamo Bowl)
Big-Ten Record: 4-4 (lost 38-30 at Wisconsin/lost 15-13 vs. Iowa/lost 42-34 at Minnesota/lost 42-14 vs. Penn State)

New Starters in 2010:
OFFENSE (5) OC, RG, RT, WR, and WR
DEFENSE (4) DE, DT, WLB, and RCB
SPECIAL TEAMS (1) PK

STRENGTHS:
They return starting QB Kirk Cousins, who will have three experienced WRs, three productive TEs, and two young, productive RBs.
MB Greg Jones returns to lead the defense and should make a strong case to win the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Award.
WR/KOR/PR Keshawn Martin returns as one of the most dangerous return men in the conference.

WEAKNESSES:
How will they handle yet another off-the-field incident that involved several players, who were either dismissed or suspended?
Can they actually be better on the offensive line despite having to replace three starters?
They will be breaking in a new kicker in 2010. How will he respond in close games?
Have they done enough to upgrade the conference's worst pass defense?

Projected 2010 Regular Season Record: 10-2 (close losses vs. Wisconsin and at Iowa)

INDIANA HOOSIERS:
2009 Record: 4-8 (lost 47-7 at Virginia)
BigTen Record: 1-7 (lost 36-33 at Michigan/lost 33-14 vs. Ohio State/lost 29-28 at Northwestern/lost 42-24 at Iowa/lost 31-28 vs. Wisconsin/lost 31-20 at Penn State/lost 38-21 vs. Purdue)

New Starters in 2010:
OFFENSE (3) LT, RG, and TE
DEFENSE (7) DE, DE, SLB, WLB, CB, SS, and FS
SPECIAL TEAMS (1) PR/KOR man

STRENGTHS:
They return starting QB Ben Chappell, who will have three experienced WRs, one experienced TE, and one young, productive RB.
This will be head coach Bill Lynch's fourth season. They are now ready to win some of the close games they lost in 2009.
They should be strong and experienced up the middle with their two returners at DT, in addition to Tyler Repogle moving to the MLB.

WEAKNESSES:
With seven new starters on defense, can they actually be better on defense in 2010? They really cannot be much worse, as they finished near the bottom in nearly every statistical category.
Can they get past their recent history of losing to finally become a winning program?
They will miss the return skills of former Hoosier Ray Fisher on both punts and kickoffs.

Projected 2010 Regular Season Record: 8-4 (close losses at Ohio State, vs. Iowa, at Wisconsin, and at Penn State)

Source: Bucknuts.com April 9, 2010
By: Matt Littlefield, for Bucknuts
Article Link: Breaking Down The Buckeyes: Early Big Ten Predictions


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Bob Hunter commentary: High hopes can ruin fun for OSU fans

Fresh complaints about Ohio State's basketball loss to Tennessee in a NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal were still arriving via e-mail when an OSU fan asked me where the BCS national title game would be played this year.

It was hardly a surprise. When the real Terrelle Pryor played like fantasy recruit Terrelle Pryor against Oregon in the Rose Bowl, it was clear where OSU football was headed in a matter of months: the land of runaway enthusiasm and great expectations.

So, the Buckeyes men's basketball team's exciting, overachieving season ends on Friday and by the following Thursday it's already yeah, you guessed it, football season.

Spring practice opened yesterday, and some OSU sports junkies are already looking beyond a baseball season that has hardly started. It probably doesn't help that our Ohio teams haven't convinced many fans that a World Series is in their immediate future, but even the Big Red Machine probably wouldn't get their full attention.

The early returns look too promising: Rivals.com, ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach and Nationalchamps.net all have OSU ranked No.2 behind defending champ Alabama, and CBSsports.com's Dennis Dodd has the Buckeyes No.3 behind Alabama and Boise State.

In the age of instant communication, these things don't pass unnoticed.

The rush to football might explain why a 29-8 OSU basketball team had so much trouble filling Value City Arena. Some people who might normally have been watching basketball instead sat transfixed in front of their computers, reassuring themselves that Miami won't be too big of a threat in game two, reading up on defending champ Alabama's defensive losses and keeping a wary eye on what's going on at Michigan.

There's also the constant worry. The Buckeyes lost several key defensive players, including top pass rusher Thaddeus Gibson and safeties Kurt Coleman and Anderson Russell, so great defense is not a given. And what if that remarkable performance by Pryor in the Rose Bowl was more an aberration than a precursor of the season he has ahead?

Coach Jim Tressel allayed some of those fears after practice yesterday when asked how Pryor looks now compared to last spring. Maybe that's why so many worry-wart fans pay such close attention.

"I was trying to think about that as I watched today and I think he's a little more relaxed," Tressel said. "No less passionate, but I think he's a little more relaxed about what he sees and how he goes about things. Today I was trying to close my eyes and think back to last spring, and he just seemed to have a little bit more confidence."

The preseason rankings should give the whole team confidence. The Buckeyes will start the season in the top five - 15 returning starters off a team that won another Big Ten championship, beat Oregon in Pasadena and finished No.5 made sure of that. But expectations that were already in full bloom before the beginning of April say that this might be a trying, nerve-racking season for a lot of fans, even if it turns out to be a terrific one.

Expectations create angst, which can create ugliness. Last year, the Rose Bowl was a nice surprise at the end of a frustrating season. This year, many would probably regard the same postseason trip with contempt.

As exciting as it is to start with high expectations, the most enjoyable seasons are usually those where the success that follows is unexpected. Before the Buckeyes won the 2002 national title, they started spring practice with 12 starters back from a 7-5 team and a lot of people wondering whether Craig Krenzel would even be the starting quarterback.

That team started No.13 in the preseason rankings, and every victory brought a new level of appreciation. This team will be expected to win every week, and might even be vilified if some of those wins are close.

The end might be worth it, but it's a tough way to start.

Source: Columbus Dispatch April 2, 2010
By: Bob Hunter, sports columnist for The Dispatch
Article Link: Bob Hunter commentary: High hopes can ruin fun for OSU fans
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Dark Clouds On The Horizon For The Offensive Line?

It is official. The class is in. Everyone has signed that had committed.

My grade for this class is a C. It was never going to be more than a B, but the offensive line recruiting debacle has made it a C.

Ohio State got skill players. I don't think anyone has a better back class. They got the No. 1 back in the country on my board in Rod Smith. Carlos Hyde would have played a good deal if he was at OSU last year. He reminds me of Keith Byars. What makes a back Hyde's size a running back is the feet. Hyde has feet that a 200-pound back would love to have.

Corey Brown is what makes this a skill position class that we can be excited about. Maybe he is a running back, or maybe he is a slot receiver. Either way, he is a game changer.

Tyrone Williams is the best receiver that nobody was talking about. He was from a school that does not have a history of putting out talent, tore up his knee early and then had grade problems. He did not camp anywhere. He was always a Buckeye anyway.

This was the worst quarterback class on a national level I have ever seen and it is not even close. We have to have five-stars on the top players in a class, and I say there was not a single five-star quarterback in the class. Taylor Graham was as good as Ohio State could find. If he can overcome the loss of nearly two full years of missed time under center, he will be the steal of the class. The fact that Graham camped with so many schools with quarterback gurus who then made offers after seeing him cannot be overlooked. With what happened with offensive line recruiting, it is going to be hard to look at the positives with the skill players.

The offensive line... what a mess. The Buckeyes got one offensive lineman in this class. This is not about the fact that Morgan Moses decided at the last moment to go to Virginia. This is not about the fact that Matt James decided on Notre Dame after so much late buzz said he was going to choose Ohio State. This is about the fact that once again the staff has made a mess with the small unit principle with offensive line recruiting.

Don't tell me that Andrew Donnal was not Ohio State caliber. He is good enough for Iowa, a staff doing a much better job of identifying and developing offensive linemen than the Buckeyes are. Don't tell me that Skyler Schofner is not Buckeye-caliber. I heard the same argument with Zebrie Sanders, now the starter at Florida State. I heard the same argument from fans when OSU passed on Gerald Cadogan (Penn State) a few years back who went on the become an All-Big Ten tackle. I try not to think about what the line could have been with him at left tackle and Alex Boone at his more natural right tackle.

That Ohio State makes offensive line decisions with special teams in mind is something I have a hard time wrapping my mind around. They have thirteen scholarship offensive linemen going into next year, with four seniors. They will be going into the recruiting year looking at an in-state offensive line class that is not looking like it will help this program.

I go back to the Alabama example. Outside of the option offenses we are seeing more and more of, the best running game in the nation is Alabama. I think I may have put these numbers up before but they need to be put up again. A friend put this together a couple of weeks ago.

Alabama signed over the last five years, compared to Ohio State:

2006: Alabama 5; OSU 3
2007: Alabama 2; OSU 1
2008: Alabama 3; OSU 3
2009: Alabama 7; OSU 4
2010: Alabama 3; OSU 1
Totals: Alabama 20; OSU 12

Alabama is not recruiting better backs than Ohio State. Nobody is. They have a better running game because they have put enough recruits onto the field to make sure they have quality players. This is about offensive line recruiting and coaching.

The above chart says it all. The Buckeyes have recruited more than three offensive linemen once in the last five years. Alabama has brought in less than three one time.

Everyone is excited about the way the offensive line played this past year. Do you really think that is going to last when they do not have the numbers to fill out a two-deep on the depth chart?

As it stands right now, the Buckeyes go into 2011 with nine scholarship offensive linemen. Don't say they will get more players next year because the crop of offensive linemen in-state next year makes that suspect. There are only two Ohio State-caliber linemen in the state -- Michael Bennett and Donovan Clark, and both may be better DTs.

We are seeing how difficult it is for OSU to pull in out-of-state talent. They are in a mess and it goes back to decisions made by this staff. If the principles of small numbers and versatile linemen worked we would have been consistently good, but this past year was the first time we have seen a good offensive line in the ten years of the Jim Tressel era.

Overall this was a solid class, but they made a mess of needs. The Buckeyes got one quality safety when they needed two, and they only get one offensive lineman when they needed four just to break even. Once again, a poorly planned class with the offensive line.

Source: The Duane Long Report February 3, 2010
By: Duane Long, The Duane Long Report
Article Link: Dark Clouds On The Horizon For The Offensive Line?
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The Winners Manual
by Jim Tressel
 
 
The Rivalry
Now available on DVD!
 



 
Heyward picks fun over big paycheck

The NFL told Cameron Heyward he would be a second-round draft pick. He doesn't buy it.

"I think they just say that because they don't want to say first round and then have you not get drafted in the first round," Heyward said.

In other words, the Ohio State defensive end believes he could be an elite NFL player right now. Most offensive linemen who have faced him would probably agree.

By choosing not to enter the draft this spring as a junior, Heyward passed up millions of dollars.

Coach Jim Tressel has said that if a player is going to be a first-rounder, it's probably smart to leave.

But here's what dollars and common sense don't take into account: Heyward is having too much fun being a college student.

"I'm just a 20-year-old, and (the NFL) is a lot of responsibility to put on a 20-year-old," Heyward said. "I'm enjoying college -- classes and everything. I'm enjoying the guys here, I'm moving toward something I want, which is my degree, and I just like the overall atmosphere here. It's a great experience."

Defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said he was not surprised that Heyward decided to stay.

"Cam really enjoys college life," Heacock said. "I knew his passion for Ohio State and college football. He enjoys every game, it seems."

He certainly enjoyed most of the games last season. Through his first two seasons, Heyward played solidly, starting 20 of 26 games and recording 5 sacks.

But he took a big leap forward in 2009, becoming someone who "has an ability to take over a game by himself," linebacker Ross Homan said.

Heyward led the Buckeyes with 6 sacks, including two (and a career-high 11 tackles) in a 24-7 victory at Penn State on Nov. 7 that jump-started OSU through a tough stretch of games.

He added a defensive touchdown at Michigan (and another sack), then capped off a tremendous team defensive effort in the Rose Bowl against Oregon with another sack.

Heyward (6 feet 6, 287 pounds) was sort of a hybrid tackle-end in his first two years. But he worked hard last offseason to improve his speed and quickness, with the result being he played much more end in 2009.

"He showed pretty good improvement in those areas, and it really helped him," Heacock said.

Heyward said his focus now is to improve the mental side of his game.

"A lot of people look over the fact that this game is strategic and a very technical game," he said. "I want to be really good at that -- that can only help me."

His decision to stay at OSU pleased his mother, Charlotte Heyward-Blackwell, who "loves being one of the parents, and she wants a fourth pair of gold pants (for beating Michigan)," Heyward said.

Heyward also is dating volleyball player Allie Schwarzwalder, also a junior, though he said that their relationship was not a factor in his returning.

"She was going to support me no matter what," he said.

He's looking forward to being the unquestioned leader of a defensive line that loses some key players (Thaddeus Gibson, Doug Worthington, Todd Denlinger, Lawrence Wilson and Rob Rose), but which has some experience returning (Dexter Larimore, Nathan Williams and John Simon).

Overall, the defense returns six starters and the offense returns nine for 2010. It has the potential to be a big year.

"It's going to be a fun ride," Heyward said. "We have a lot of guys who want it and are hungry -- a lot of guys are still improving. We have a great chance to go undefeated."

Source: Columbus Dispatch January 24, 2010
By: Ken Gordon, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Article Link: Heyward picks fun over big paycheck
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2010 Rose Bowl Game
 




 
We rank the BCS-era national champions and you can, too

Alabama became the 12th Bowl Championship Series national champion since the BCS started in 1998. Where does the Tide rank in the BCS era? Birmingham News staff writer Jon Solomon takes a crack with this subjective list, which includes the 2003 USC team as a split champion.

13. 2007 LSU (12-2)

Average margin of victory: 21.8 points

Division I-A opponents' record: 103-75 (.579)

Wins vs. Top-10 teams in final AP poll: 2 -- No. 5 Ohio State, No. 9 Virginia Tech

Wins vs. Top-25 teams in final AP poll: 5 -- No. 5 Ohio State, No. 9 Virginia Tech, No. 12 Tennessee, No. 13 Florida, No. 15 Auburn

Bottom line: The Tigers handled Ohio State in the BCS Championship Game. But they got there only thanks to a handful of final-day losses that jumped LSU from No. 7 to No. 2 in the last BCS standings. LSU lost to two eight-win teams, Kentucky and Arkansas.

12. 2002 Ohio State (14-0)

Average margin of victory: 16.2 points

Division I-A opponents' record: 100-81 (.552)

Wins vs. Top-10 teams in final AP poll: 3 -- No. 2 Miami, No. 9 Michigan, No. 10 Washington State

Wins vs. Top-25 teams in final AP poll: 4 -- No. 2 Miami, No. 9 Michigan, No. 10 Washington State, No. 16 Penn State

Bottom line: Thanks to a questionable pass interference call, Ohio State stunned a talented Miami team in overtime to win the national title. The Buckeyes won half their games by a touchdown or less, using a conservative offense and relying on a strong defense.

11. 2006 Florida (13-1)

Average margin of victory: 17.5 points

Division I-A opponents' record: 108-61 (.639)

Wins vs. Top-10 teams in final AP poll: 2 -- No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 LSU

Wins vs. Top-25 teams in final AP poll: 5 -- No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 LSU, No. 15 Arkansas, No. 23 Georgia, No. 25 Tennessee

Bottom line: The Gators barely snuck into the BCS Championship Game and proved their worth by throttling Ohio State. Florida's 2006 season was all about survival through a brutal schedule that included a loss at 11-win Auburn.


10. 1999 Florida State (12-0)

Average margin of victory: 21.3 points

Division I-A opponents' record: 82-67 (.550)

Wins vs. Top-10 teams in final AP poll: 1 -- No. 2 Virginia Tech

Wins vs. Top-25 teams in final AP poll: 4 -- No. 2 Virginia Tech, No. 12 Florida, No. 15 Miami, No. 20 Georgia Tech

Bottom line: Chris Weinke to Peter Warrick was a wildly successful passing combination for Florida State, which played in a much-weaker ACC back then. The Seminoles got a scare for a while in the title game against Michael Vick and Virginia Tech.


9. 1998 Tennessee (13-0)

Average margin of victory: 18.6 points

Division I-A opponents' record: 82-71 (.536)

Wins vs. Top-10 teams in final AP poll: 2 -- No. 3 Florida State, No. 5 Florida

Wins vs. Top-25 teams in final AP poll: 5 -- No. 3 Florida State, No. 5 Florida, No. 14 Georgia, No. 16 Arkansas, No. 25 Syracuse

Bottom line: Who needed Peyton Manning? With Tee Martin at quarterback, these Volunteers mashed opponents upfront on offense and defense -- and had a little luck against Arkansas along the way. Tennessee won two Top-25 games on the road.

8. 2003 LSU (13-1)

Average margin of victory: 22.9 points

Division I-A opponents' record: 88-79 (.527)

Wins vs. Top-10 teams in final AP poll: 3 -- No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 7 Georgia (twice)

Wins vs. Top-25 teams in final AP poll: 5 -- No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 7 Georgia (twice), No. 13 Ole Miss, No. 24 Florida

Bottom line: Nick Saban's first national championship team had one loss, to eight-win Florida. LSU beat Oklahoma by a touchdown in the BCS Championship Game. Too bad the Tigers and USC, the AP national champion, never got to play.

7. 2003 USC (12-1)

Average margin of victory: 22.7 points

Division I-A opponents' record: 85-79 (.518)

Wins vs. Top-10 teams in final AP poll: 2 -- No. 6 Michigan, No. 9 Washington State

Wins vs. Top-25 teams in final AP poll: 2 -- No. 6 Michigan, No. 9 Washington State

Bottom line: The Trojans opened the season with a road shutout of eight-win Auburn and finished with a two-touchdown win over 10-win Michigan. USC finished the regular season No. 1 in both human polls, but got left out of the title game because of the computers.

6. 2000 Oklahoma (13-0)

Average margin of victory: 22.1 points

Division I-A opponents' record: 87-70 (.554)

Wins vs. Top-10 teams in final AP poll: 3 -- No. 5 Florida State, No. 8 Nebraska, No. 9 Kansas State

Wins vs. Top-25 teams in final AP poll: 4 -- No. 5 Florida State, No. 8 Nebraska, No. 9 Kansas State, No. 12 Texas

Bottom line: The Sooners would rank higher if not for a boring title game vs. Florida State. Over three consecutive weeks in October, Oklahoma defeated then-No. 11 Texas, then-No. 2 Kansas State and then-No. 1 Nebraska, and later beat Kansas State again in the Big 12 Championship Game.

5. 2009 Alabama (14-0)

Average margin of victory: 20.4 points

Division I-A opponents' record: 101-67 (.601)

Wins vs. Top-10 teams in final AP poll: 3 -- No. 2 Texas, No. 3 Florida, No. 10 Virginia Tech

Wins vs. Top-25 teams in final AP poll: 5 -- No. 2 Texas, No. 3 Florida, No. 10 Virginia Tech, No. 17 LSU, No. 20 Ole Miss

Bottom line: Some pundits are questioning Alabama's validity because Colt McCoy got hurt in the title game. Yet Alabama played most of 2009 without one of its best defensive players, Dont'a Hightower, and went undefeated for the second straight regular season. History could view the Tide more favorably. Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Rolando McClain, Terrence Cody, Javier Arenas, Julio Jones and Hightower -- to name a few -- could be major contributors on Sundays.

4. 2008 Florida (13-1)

Average margin of victory: 33.1 points

Division I-A opponents' record: 100-58 (.633)

Wins vs. Top-10 teams in final AP poll: 2 -- No. 5 Oklahoma, No. 6 Alabama

Wins vs. Top-25 teams in final AP poll: 4 -- No. 5 Oklahoma, No. 6 Alabama, No. 13 Georgia, No. 21 Florida State

Bottom line: Yes, the Gators suffered a loss, by one point to nine-win Ole Miss at home. It's a blemish worth overlooking. Florida blew out opponents and grinded out wins. The Gators contained Oklahoma's record-setting offense in the title game. Years from now, Percy Harvin, Carlos Dunlap, Joe Haden, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Spikes, Tim Tebow and others could be household NFL names.

3. 2005 Texas (13-0)

Average margin of victory: 35.3 points

Division I-A opponents' record: 88-66 (.571)

Wins vs. Top-10 teams in final AP poll: 2 -- No. 2 USC, No. 4 Ohio State

Wins vs. Top-25 teams in final AP poll: 4 -- No. 2 USC, No. 4 Ohio State, No. 20 Texas Tech, No. 22 Oklahoma

Bottom line: Texas produced seven games with 50 points or more and outlasted USC, thanks to Vince Young, in a memorable national championship game. The defense, led by Michael Griffin, wasn't too bad, either. Just as impressively, the Longhorns went to Columbus early in the season and defeated Ohio State.

2. 2004 USC (13-0)

Average margin of victory: 25.2 points

Division I-A opponents' record: 82-70 (.539)

Wins vs. Top-10 teams in final AP poll: 3 -- No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 9 California, No. 10 Virginia Tech

Wins vs. Top-25 teams in final AP poll: 4 -- No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 9 California, No. 10 Virginia Tech, No. 19 Arizona State

Bottom line: The Trojans posted two eventual Heisman Trophy winners in their backfield (Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush) and a dominating defense. USC's Pac-10 schedule wasn't overwhelming. But the Trojans went across country to beat 10-win Virginia Tech in Washington, D.C., and crushed Oklahoma 55-19 for back-to-back national titles for USC.

1. 2001 Miami (12-0)

Average margin of victory: 32.9 points

Division I-A opponents' record: 81-60 (.574)

Wins vs. Top-10 teams in final AP poll: 1 -- No. 8 Nebraska

Wins vs. Top-25 teams in final AP poll: 6 -- No. 8 Nebraska, No. 14 Syracuse, No. 15 Florida State, No. 18 Virginia Tech, No. 19 Washington, No. 21 Boston College

Bottom line: This team produced an absurd 38 NFL draft picks, including 17 taken in the first round. The '01 Hurricanes were a Who's Who of future NFL players: Clinton Portis, Andre Johnson, Frank Gore, Sean Taylor, Ed Reed, Antrel Rolle, Jeremy Shockey, Roscoe Parrish, and Kellen Winslow Jr., to name a few. Miami led overmatched Nebraska 34-0 at halftime of the 2002 Rose Bowl.

Join in the conversation by or e-mail Solomon at jsolomon@bhamnews.com.

(Vote for your favorite HERE)

Source: The Birmingham (AL) News
By: Jon Solomon -- The Birmingham News
Article Link: We rank the BCS-era national champions and you can, too
E-mail Jon Solomon


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Emerging Pryor could lead Buckeyes to next year's title

Let's pause for a moment so Ohio State and Oregon people can get out of town, and the next bunch can come in. The first wave of Alabama maroon and Texas burnt orange has just been spotted. The Rose Bowl was only the warm-up act, remember? That's the strange thing about the BCS system in the championship city. First, the traditional bowl, the hoopla, the parade.

Then the participants are shown the door, and the big guys enter for the title game. It must feel like being asked to leave a party just when dinner is being served. Impossible not to glare with envy at the lucky stiffs coming in.

Which brings us to this New Year's resolution of Terrelle Pryor.

"We've just got to keep on winning."

Now that we know Ohio State's plans for 2010 - pushed by the tailwinds from the Rose Bowl spanking of Oregon - this might be a good time to take a long look at the Buckeyes' quarterback and pose a question.

Does he remind anyone of Vince Young?

Young's dual threat firepower began to blossom his sophomore season, fertilized by enough experience and hard knocks.

Just like Pryor.

Young's promotion to a new level - from potential star to fully functioning playmaker - was announced in the Rose Bowl, when he passed and ran an opponent into oblivion.

Just like Pryor.

Young returned his junior season with a gaggle of other starters, guaranteeing his team would be one of the hunted in the polls before the first pep song from the tuba section.

So will Pryor.

Young won the national championship as a Texas junior.

See where we're headed with this?

You can do three good things in a bowl game, besides simply winning it.

-- You can say a proper goodbye. See Tim Tebow and Bobby Bowden.

Poor Cincinnati and West Virginia. They thought they were being invited to play in a bowl game, when they were really being asked to serve as shrimp cocktail for two farewell parties.

-- You can enjoy the moment by ignoring caution, prudence and conventional wisdom and turn the entire game into something like one long Hail Mary pass. See Auburn and Northwestern in the Outback Bowl.

A standing ovation, by the way, for Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, faking a field goal and going for the win in overtime, even if it did end up an exploding cigar. Bowl games are perfect for all-in bets.

-- Or, you can do something that suggests the future could be yours.

Ohio State, for instance.

"It's a springboard," defensive end Cameron Heyward said of the Buckeyes' efforts in Pasadena. More like a preview of coming attractions.

Plan to see nine Ohio State starters likely returning next season on offense!

Don't miss a friendly 2010 schedule with eight home games, including Miami, Penn State and Michigan!

Already mentioned as one of the year's best --Terrelle Pryor III!

Listening to Pryor discuss his development as a passer is like listening to a car mechanic describe what it took to replace an oil pump. It seems to confirm that he now truly understands his job description.

"I think you need to earn the head coach's trust and even your teammates' trust in throwing the ball," Pryor began. "I had 10 turnovers this year but it was somewhat of forcing stuff.

"I was trying to force too many throws, trying to prove to everybody that I'm a quarterback, and I wasn't taking off when I could run. I need to use what I have."

Veterans talk like that. Ohio State will take an accomplished leader into 2010, most of his weapons, and the memory of blowing through Oregon.

Terrelle Pryor, meet Vince Young? We'll know next January in Glendale, Ariz., if the Buckeyes are coming into town while somebody else is going out.

Source: Gannett January 2, 2010
By Mike Lopresti, Gannett Syndicated Columnist
Article Link: Emerging Pryor could lead Buckeyes to next year's title


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At long last, there can be no doubt:
Terrelle Pryor's future (and Ohio State's) is now


Silver victory confetti sparkled in the Rose Bowl lights when the Granddaddy of Them All ended in a roar of victory from the Ohio State stands. The glittering blizzard looked like leftovers from the biggest New Year's Eve bash you could imagine.

The new year rang in a newly resolute Ohio State team with a new quarterback in Terrelle Pryor who is no longer about promises unkept, but instead about promise being fulfilled. The Buckeyes beat favored Oregon, 26-17, in the Rose Bowl, and Pryor, the sophomore who was more heralded than any quarterback in OSU history when he came to Columbus, made the game his own victory parade.

He said when he came to Columbus that he would help coach Jim Tressel "get over that little hump" in the biggest games. Hump day was Friday. It marked the end of his sophomore season, the midpoint of his college career and the first, but probably not the best, day of the rest of his life.

Pryor was the Most Valuable Player. He was involved in 57 plays (a stunning 37 passes, with 20 completions for 266 yards and two touchdowns). He ran 20 times for more yards than anyone on the field (72). He had 338 yards of total offense. Oregon's astro-offense managed only 53 plays all game and just 260 yards.

Who has come further than Pryor since his anemic 5-for-14, 66-yard passing performance in last year's Fiesta Bowl loss to Texas?

"We were playing for our rep," Pryor said. "And we were playing for our conference's. The other teams are part of our reputation too."

Nobody, however, delivers the same street and poll credibility as the Big Ten's flagship program. Five years in a row the Big Ten champions, Ohio State restored its own reputation at the same time as Pryor liberated much of the state of Ohio from defeat, disappointment and doubt. Along the way, he freed himself from the clutches of Oregon hands and skeptics' misgivings.

"The game plan was to make him throw," said Oregon defensive end Kenny Rowe. "But when he throws like that, the game plan didn't go too well."

Oregon is a team with a philosophy of attacking defense and full-bore offense. But Pryor kept wriggling through the creases in the wall of green coming at him and breaking out for 24 yards, for 12, for 11. "He's big, but he's slippery too. He has a good stiff-arm and is tough to bring down," said Rowe.

Pryor found an exquisite balance between his legs and his arm, hitting deep balls to DeVier Posey, Brandon Saine and Jake Ballard to complement the high percentage slants and quick outs he otherwise threw.

On the drive of Ohio State's season, with the Buckeyes leading 19-17, 13:03 left in the game, and OSU desperate to play keep-away from Oregon's offense, he was responsible for 67 of the 81 yards that ate up 6:01 of the clock before the Buckeyes scored.

Twice, he ran for first downs on second-and-8 and then on third-and-6. Twice, he threw for first downs on third-and-11 and third-and-13.

On the fade pattern Posey ran that ended in a tumbling 17-yard, game-clinching touchdown catch, Pryor put it all together -- the footwork he has worked on more often than a "Dancing with the Stars" contestant, the film he has watched of Peyton Manning, the touch -- so often mislaid -- developed to put the ball where no one but Posey could catch it.

This game gave the lie to the perception of Tressel as too hidebound, too cautious for his own good, too risk-averse to trust his young quarterback. Pryor passed on the first six plays. "We wanted to come out flinging it around," said Tressel.

Pryor earned his coach's trust by no longer forcing the deep ball. He earned his teammate's respect by gutting out big games at Penn State and against Iowa with the partial tear in his knee that had him limping early against Oregon. He earned Hesiman Trophy buzz for next season by playing his best game last.

"He looks like a defensive lineman," said Oregon coach Chip Kelly, who tried to recruit Pryor. "When I saw him in high school, he was a man against boys. He was a man against boys tonight too."

Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer January 2, 2010
By Bill Livingston, The Plain Dealer
Article Link: At long last, there can be no doubt: Terrelle Pryor's future (and Ohio State's) is now


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Whether or not the Buckeyes return to the summit, their coach remains one of the elite


"Jim Tressel set expectations at Ohio State sky high after the Buckeyes' 2002 BCS title victory, but he's never seemed to worry that much about his critics, says Bill Livingston."

To a coach, December rushes by, like the dwindling pages of the dying year's calendar.

Friday, the blur resolves into the sharp focus of a game that once was his heart's desire. Friday, Tressel will be on the sideline in his first Rose Bowl as OSU's head coach. The game used to be the be-all and end-all in the Big Ten. Incredibly, despite appearances in three national championships under Tressel, the Buckeyes have not been to a Rose Bowl in 13 years.

"It's something that, if you coach in the Big Ten or the Pac-10, it's certainly in front of you every day," Tressel said. "It's a goal that you want to be part of the Rose Bowl. Would there be something missing if you never got to go? I guess so, but I don't think too much about what's missing. I like to relish the good fortune we've had."

To a coach, December is about the journey as well as the destination. Did the team improve, plateau or regress as the season wore on? Did promise bloom or wither? Will the shorter layoff sharpen the team or fluster it?

Tressel is 57 now, the last nine spent in the pressure cooker of Ohio State football. Yet he has never forgotten his Cleveland roots or his long proving ground in the wounded city of Youngstown.

He met the coach of Rose Bowl opponent Oregon, Chip Kelly, a hot up-and-comer, for the first time in December. "We got to spin some I-AA yarns and talk about that -- and how both of us were looking forward to getting out [to California]," said Tressel. "We were talking about, 'hey, isn't this amazing, it's New Hampshire against Youngstown in the Rose Bowl and we were laughing a little bit about that. Who'da thunk it?'"

New Hampshire, where Kelly developed his reputation as an offensive coordinator, has been in what is now called the Football Championship Series playoffs six years in a row. Youngstown State has not sniffed a championship since Tressel won four.

To some extent, Tressel set the bar too high at Ohio State as well. The 2002 national championship created exorbitant expectations in Ohio, a state with a declining population base and in Columbus, a city with no surf or palm trees to entice out-of-state recruits.

Critics say his teams aren't flashy and can't beat the sunshine schools from the South. They pick and choose the numbers (in BCS bowls and vs. top five-ranked teams) to cast him as another glorious disappointment, like John Cooper. They belittle the Big Ten, as if it is the Mid-American Conference with better PR.

Cooper himself recently noted that he never got to play a bad Michigan team.

There is, of course, a simple explanation for that. Under Tressel, the Buckeyes have beaten losing Michigan teams the last two years. That is because, under Tressel, the Buckeyes were 6-1 before that against excellent Michigan teams. Tressel's success chased Lloyd Carr out of the coaching job in Ann Arbor. It led the Wolverines in their haste to catch up to hire a one-trick pony and flim-flam man named Rich Rodriguez, thus forgetting what made them Michigan.

If Tressel wins a second national championship, which is at least a discussion topic for next season, it would move him past Oklahoma's Bob Stoops (one) and USC's Pete Carroll (one and a half) in national titles. It's doubtful if he would then hang around after his contract runs out in 2012. Bobby Bowden was forced out at Florida State. Joe Paterno at Penn State is every whippersnapper's "old fogey" punchline nowadays. Urban Meyer, 12 years Tressel's junior, is considering retirement at Florida, a victim of stress-related heart problems.

Politics might beckon to Tressel, but the coach gets privately peeved at the strident minority of OSU fans who harp on his negative numbers. In a fiercely partisan political landscape, he would probably have half the state mad at him much of the time. Charitable work or faith-based service might be his next career choice.

He has become part of how we turn the calendar in Ohio. Ohio State in a big bowl game is like drinking eggnog, watching the glittering ball drop in Times Square and singing Auld Lang Syne.

Eventually, however, Tressel's coaching calendar will be out of pages. Many fans won't know what they've got till he's gone.

Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer December 29, 2009
by Bill Livingston, The Plain Dealer
Article Link: Whether or not the Buckeyes return to the summit, their coach remains one of the elite


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Art Schlichter, Earle Bruce differ on 1980 Rose Bowl what-ifs

Former Ohio State quarterback Art Schlichter revealed in his new book, "Busted: The Rise and Fall of Art Schlichter," that he cried in the locker room after the 1980 Rose Bowl, where one point separated rookie head coach Earle Bruce and his Buckeyes from an undefeated season and a national championship.

"I look back and realize now that was the one game that would have changed everybody's life forever," Schlichter wrote. "It would have elevated us to hero status, a lasting legacy as an Ohio State national championship team. The impact of a national championship in Earle's first year, I'm sure, would have changed his career as well."

With 30 years of perspective, would it really have altered Bruce's fate at Ohio State?

After the 1980 Rose Bowl, Bruce rattled off six straight 9-3 seasons, then a 10-3 and finally 6-4-1. He was fired in 1987 after three straight losses, replaced the next season by John Cooper. In his nine seasons at Ohio State, Bruce was 81-26-1, with at least a share of four Big 10 championships and eight bowl appearances, including another tight Rose Bowl loss to USC in 1985.

"I went twice and didn't win either game. That's sad," Bruce said. "That's the one thing I really wanted to win, a Rose Bowl."

But Bruce, who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003, doesn't believe winning the Rose Bowl and a national championship that first season would have provided him any more patience from up high once his bosses tired of his three-loss seasons.

"No, I don't think so," he said. "That's not what [the firing] was about. It was about politics."

Winning the Rose Bowl eight years earlier wouldn't have made a difference, said Rick Bay, the former Ohio State athletic director who quit over Bruce's firing because he disagreed with it. In fact, Bruce, who had gone 10-3 and thrashed Texas A&M in the 1987 Cotton Bowl, was already feeling unappreciated at Ohio State and considered an offer from Arizona, who wanted him bad.

"I really shouldn't have tried to talk him out of it," Bay said in retrospect, "but the assistant coaches came to me and asked me to do just that."

In this Nov. 21, 1981 file photo, above, Earle Bruce is carried from the field on the shoulders of his players after Ohio State defeated Michigan 14-9 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Bruce finshed his Ohio State coaching career with a 81-26-1 record, but was 0-2 in Rose Bowl appearances.Bruce and Bay, knowing the power struggles that sealed the coach's fate, realize a national title and Rose Bowl victory in 1980 wouldn't have mattered much in the end. But others on the field that classic New Year's Day aren't as convinced.


"For him to come in and do what he did, taking over for Woody [Hayes] -- you're not going to replace him," said Marcus Marek, who was an awestruck freshman linebacker that day and is now in the lobster-wholesale business in New Hampshire. "You're talking about replacing a legend. Talk about pressure. Had he won the national championship, they'd probably still be talking about it."

"Ultimately," Schlichter said, "winning a national championship would have established Earle as one of the greatest coaches in Ohio State history, and he is anyway, but when you're talking about a major college, like OSU or Texas or Michigan, no one gets the monkey off their back unless you've won it all."

" 'National championship' is a line on a résumé that stands up even when you're a target," said former USC head coach John Robinson, who ordered up one pitch sweep after another that afternoon to grind down the Buckeyes defense.

"It gives you that medal on your chest that says, 'He did it,' " Robinson said. "It's like, 'You can't win the big one' until you win the big one."

Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer December 24, 2009
by: Bill Lubinger, Plain Dealer Sports features and enterprise reporter
Article Link: Art Schlichter, Earle Bruce differ on 1980 Rose Bowl what-ifs
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Hayes' punch gave OSU easy out

Woody Hayes once was asked by Ohio State assistant coach Tiger Ellison if he ever intended to retire.

"Hell, no," Hayes said. "I'll die on the 50-yard-line at Ohio Stadium in front of 87,000."

"If you do, I hope the score's in your favor," Ellison said.

"If it isn't," Hayes said, "I won't go."

He meant it, too. That's why the uncomfortable situation involving 80-year-old Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, finally resolved when he "retired" yesterday with a shove from his bosses, sent me back to that bizarre scene at the 1978 Gator Bowl.

There is no way to know exactly what would have happened with Hayes if he hadn't slugged Clemson's Charlie Bauman on the OSU sideline after the nose guard's crucial interception near the end of the game. But by morning, Hayes was gone and with him went any chance of his career turning into a Bowden-Joe Paterno-style campout.

I've always wondered if OSU athletic director Hugh Hindman didn't use the punch as a rare opportunity to fire Hayes, not because the act didn't merit it but because Woody had committed his share of volatile acts over the years and never had come close to being fired for them. Hindman must have known that Hayes would have been a difficult guy to push into retirement regardless of his record; recent events with Bowden and Penn State's 82-year-old Paterno when his Lions went 3-9 and 4-7 in 2003 and 2004, respectively, are clear evidence of that.

Hayes was 65 at the time of the punch and was finishing off a disappointing 7-4-1 season. His teams had been very good throughout the 1970s, but the Buckeyes had suffered an embarrassing 35-6 loss to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl the season before, and there were those who thought the game had passed him by. He had a talented freshman quarterback named Art Schlichter who seemed destined for a productive NFL career, but it seemed unlikely that Woody would make full use of his talents. There were already grumblings over how Schlichter was being used, both from the public and from some members of his staff, and his teams had lost three straight games to Michigan.

If Hayes hadn't punched Bauman and returned to have mediocre seasons in 1979 and 1980, who at Ohio State was bold enough to tell him it was time to hang 'em up? And even if someone had been willing to go there, would it have even been appropriate? When he was fired, Hayes had more victories (238) than any active coach other than Alabama's Paul "Bear" Bryant. His teams had won 13 Big Ten titles in 28 seasons and he had undefeated national champions in 1954 and 1968 and had coached 58 All-Americans.

Hayes died in 1987, so he couldn't have gone on as long as Paterno and Bowden have, unless you subscribe to the theory that working the sidelines might have staved off his coming health problems. Woody had his gall bladder removed in 1981, suffered a stroke in 1984 and had a second heart attack in 1985 -- his first came in 1974 -- so he might have realized he wasn't able to continue and called it quits on his own.

But Woody kept an office in the campus ROTC building, welcomed visitors and gave as many as eight speeches a week during his retirement, not exactly the image of a man who was ready to play shuffleboard with his pals at the nursing home.

And make no mistake about it, Hayes was the power in the athletic department. Getting rid of him without an incident would have been next to impossible if he didn't want to go.

It reminds me of an old joke about a guy who dies, goes to heaven and finds a guy in a white, short-sleeved shirt and one of those old black Woody hats stomping up and down the sidelines of a football field.

The newly deceased watches the guy stomp for a few minutes, seems puzzled by it and finally turns toward St. Peter.

"But I didn't think Woody Hayes was dead," he says.

St. Peter shakes his head.

"Oh, no, that's God," he says. "He just thinks he's Woody Hayes."

Source: Columbus Dispatch December 2, 2009
Article Link: Bob Hunter commentary: Hayes' punch gave OSU easy out
By Bob Hunter, a sports columnist for The Dispatch.
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Tell Us How You Really Feel, Herbie

I couldn’t hang onto this anymore. When ESPN’s Colin Cowherd hosted his midday radio show "The Herd with Colin Cowherd" in Columbus on the eve of Ohio State’s Homecoming game with Minnesota, the recurring topic was the tenuous state of the OSU offense. Throughout the four-hour national program, Cowherd offered his take on quarterback Terrelle Pryor after the sophomore self-destructed in a 26-18 loss at Purdue the previous weekend. He also grilled OSU head coach Jim Tressel on the topic during one segment

But when ABC/ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit participated by calling in with his own two cents, the gauntlet was thrown down. A former Ohio State quarterback himself, Herbie pulled no punches when critiquing the execution of Pryor, the state of his blockers up front or the play calling by Tressel

After Cowherd asked him to assess the situation, Herbstreit began his comments by comparing the elementary state of the offense to five years ago – the middle of the 2004 season. The following is the blow-by-blow from there:

"I think people at that point were ready for Coach Tressel to give up calling the plays – ‘This is a terrible offense.’ ‘He needs to hire an offensive coordinator.’ – and all of a sudden Troy Smith got a few games under his belt and ’05 and ’06 (followed) and he went on to win the Heisman Trophy," Herbstreit said

But just when it sounded like Herbstreit was beginning to defend Tressel, he continued in another direction

"My point is, I think what happens with Coach Tressel is because his offense is don’t create turnovers, be smart, that’s his style of offense -- not attack the defense, just be smart on the offensive side," he said. "And when he doesn’t have full confidence in his quarterback, he calls a very generic, very predictable, very vanilla game

"And when you do that with a quarterback like Terrelle Pryor, who has terrible mechanics – his footwork is unsettling, his body language is uncomfortable, he doesn’t look happy – it just becomes a huge, obvious concern

"And I think what he’s betting on is the more this kid plays, the more he’s going to be able to recognize defenses, and then eventually on the back end of all this there’s going to be a big reward. But Terrelle Pryor is going to determine that, his ability to work to become a complete quarterback. Forget about the NFL and forget about being the No. 1 ranked recruit."

Herbstreit then began to talk in incomplete sentences but was on a roll

His ability to work in the film room, work on his footwork … his footwork right now is horrendous – and his offensive line," he said. "Historically for Ohio State, the one Achilles’ heel is their line is the most underachieving offensive line in college football every year. They’re big, they’re fat and their slow and they don’t attack off the line of scrimmage. So that is not necessarily something that is going to help his cause in developing as quarterback, so that is something he’s going to have to overcome

"Really the ball is in Terrelle Pryor’s court because Coach Tressel is just going to wait for him to develop and then eventually he’ll open up the playbook. And if he doesn’t develop, then it’s just kind of going to be this generic offense just trying to survive."

The "back end" Herbstreit refers to appears to be next season or maybe even the season after that at this rate. The back end of this year’s schedule is ominous: at No. 11 Penn State Saturday, home for top-10 Iowa on Nov. 14 and at archrival Michigan on Nov. 21

Unfortunately, evidence to this point suggests that Herbstreit is right – that the offensive line can’t move well enough or drive defenders enough to open up holes consistently and that Pryor’s fundamentals are so poor he doesn’t stand much chance to suddenly find another level in three high-stress games

Of course, there is always hope. Two games have passed since the ESPN talking heads summed up the national view of a hapless OSU offense and progress has been made. However, that was against a Minnesota defense ranked in the bottom third of the Big Ten in every conceivable statistical category and a New Mexico State team that, well, I’ve already made my feelings know about the quality of the Aggies squad that just visited Ohio Stadium

It’s time to go back on the road and the big boys are waiting. It’s time to do something other than sputter with the football if the criticism is ever going to abate this season

Source: Bucknuts.com November 3, 2009
by Jeff Rapp
Article Link: Tell Us How You Really Feel, Herbie


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Breaking Down The Buckeyes: Complete Pryor Evaluation

I truly did not want to talk at all about Terrelle Pryor this week, but it seems there is simply too much interest in his progress … so I must. Let me be clear … nobody knows exactly what Pryor is being coached to do (besides TP and his coaches). I am simply describing his strengths and weaknesses as I see them from watching him play and present to you what I see from my experience evaluating the position.

What are Pryor's strengths?

He has the frame of a defensive end and the speed of a wide receiver. He is very athletic, deceptively fast, and tough to bring down by a single defender on the move. He is a rare athlete for a long-legged guy; he has very good foot quickness, change of direction ability, and lower body flexibility. He is more of a build-up speed athlete, than an explosive, jitter-bug type. However, he accelerates fast and changes pursuit angles for defenders quickly.

As a passer, he appears most comfortable and efficient working with a two-minute type of offense. He gained confidence in the fourth quarter at Purdue, then regained it before the half vs. the Gophers this week. He has very good arm strength to make all the necessary throws for the position. He also appears to have solid composure out on the field, even when things are not going well.

He leads the team in rushing, passing, and total offense, accounting for five rushing TDs (one 2-point conversion) and 12 passing TDs. His career record as a starting QB is 15-3.

Where does Pryor need to improve?

He needs to do a better job of securing the football. He fumbles way too much for a man of his talent, especially in the pocket under pressure. It is simply a matter of keeping both hands on the football when dropping back to pass, while keeping it high and tight in his arm when he becomes a runner. To date, he has accounted for nine INTs through the first eight games this season, resulting in 21 points for the opposition. He has eight fumbles with three lost, resulting in only three points for the opponent. He MUST improve in this area in order to give his chance to win the really tough games coming up on the schedule (at Penn State/vs. Iowa/at Michigan).

He appears to me to determine who he wants to throw to when they break the huddle. He tends to stare down his primary receiver, thereby drawing coverage to the throw. Experienced passers keep their eyes down the middle of the field in their drop-back in order to hold the safeties in their positions. Really good QBs can fool the safeties by looking to the opposite side of their intended receiver.

To make matters worse for Pryor, he gets lazy with his feet in his drop and seems to elongate his delivery, trying to aim the ball. Perhaps due to his confidence being shaken a bit, he appears to be trying to be too perfect with his delivery, thus slowing it down and giving defenders more time to close on the ball in the air. That also costs him both velocity and accuracy on his passes to all levels.

He does not appear to be very quick to read and recognize defensive coverages, especially underneath. He also has too much confidence in his ability to complete passes into tight coverage. He tends to throw the ball up-for-grabs, forcing a throw that shouldn't be made. He needs to learn it is not a failure to throw the check-down to the TE or RB, or else to run the ball for a positive gain. Like many young players, he seems to want to hit the big play downfield, even if it isn't open.

He is very inconsistent with both his touch and his accuracy on all throws. The underlying problem is his inconsistency with both his footwork and passing mechanics. He has a strange way of making the same throws look different mechanically within the same game and sometimes within the same series. More specifically, in terms of his accuracy, he needs to improve his ball placement, putting it in a spot for the receiver and away from the defender. He must continue to develop consistency with his footwork and his passing mechanics if he is to ever become an effective passer.

If he had to be encouraged by head coach Jim Tressel to congratulate his teammate after a good play, as reported during the broadcast on Saturday, there may be some serious maturity and leadership questions about young Terrelle. I recall before the Michigan State game last year, TE Jake Ballard said something critical in the paper, which gave the impression there was a split among the players as to who they wanted to play QB.

Who really knows what kind of a leader he is off the field? Is he respected by his teammates? How does he handle the role of leader of the offense in meetings and in the locker room? You cannot be simply installed as a leader; you have to work hard to earn the trust and respect of your teammates. Does he work hard to get better on his own? Does he watch more tape than he has to? Does he encourage a teammate when he is struggling? Does he take the blame for his mistakes or does he make excuses?

I have no idea what kind of young man he is. Hopefully, he understands the significance of his critical leadership position. You don't have to look very far to witness a QB with size, arm strength, and physical talent destroying his career before our very eyes. See the poor example provided by Oakland Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell, former first overall pick. It isn't a question of talent; it is everything else. Look even further back and recall the poor examples shown by former Charger Ryan Leaf and former Colt Jeff George.

In conclusion, Pryor’s raw athletic and physical tools are obvious to everyone. Back in high school, he was likely able to do whatever he wanted given his size and ability. In 2008, the Buckeyes were an experienced team with many strong leaders on both sides of the ball. He could just fit in and be ONE of the key contributors to their team success. This season, nearly all of those experienced players are gone, many of them playing on Sundays. He has nearly the full weight of the offense on his shoulders this year. His maturity, work ethic, and character are being tested greatly.

Source: Bucknuts October 30, 2009
By Matt Littlefield, Bucknuts Contributor and Midwest area college scout for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Article Link: Breaking Down The Buckeyes: Complete Pryor Evaluation


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Take Pryor off his pedestal

Quarterback Terrelle Pryor was in the midst of a third-quarter meltdown yesterday, and no one on the Ohio State sideline seemed to give a passing thought to sitting the sophomore down.

During a four-minute stretch of a 26-18 loss to Purdue, Pryor made a bad option pitch to Brandon Saine, threw two interceptions and nearly threw another. He slammed his helmet on the ground after one of the interceptions and had words for intended receiver Duron Carter, who he thought should have played "a little defense" on the pick.

Did coach Jim Tressel consider taking Pryor out for a series or two to give him a chance to regain his composure?

"No," Tressel said flatly.

But the Buckeyes were down by nine to a 1-5 Purdue team and

"I really don't think that was an option because that's our quarterback and that's our guy," sophomore receiver DeVier Posey said. "We love him. I love him."

Love is good. So is a vote of confidence from the coach. But pressure seems to be building, from inside Pryor and from outside the program, and this might be a good time to acknowledge that Pryor is no different from anyone else.

Pryor was cast in the role of Superman before he played his first down at Ohio State. People didn't ask whether he would play as a freshman, but how much. They didn't want to know if he would win the Heisman Trophy, but how many. There was talk of All-America teams and championships.

Hard as it is, it's time for everybody to forget that Pryor was once judged to be the top high school recruit in America and think of him as just another talented but erratic second-year player. As Superman has morphed into Jimmy Olsen the past two weeks, the built-in expectations add a lot of noise and a little more tension to what is beginning to feel like an awkward situation.

Treating Pryor differently from other players -- Tressel avoiding questions about him was a masterpiece of verbal muck -- and holding him to a different standard isn't fair to him. It does no one any good, least of all the team.

If Pryor plays poorly, there is nothing wrong with saying so. Pryor doesn't have a problem doing that and, while he's at it, he sometimes inadvertently says things that hint at his inexperience.

"I fumbled the ball and threw interceptions; man, there ain't much to say," Pryor said. "They brought pressure from a whole different type of level. I never seen anything like it on film. I think they had a pretty good game plan on us. That pressure they were bringing, it was something different. I'm going to check it out on film, because Minnesota, I'm sure they're going to bring some blitzes like that."

Ohio State can be a brutal place for any quarterback to play, even when the Buckeyes are winning. There were frustrations with the offense last week even though Ohio State beat Wisconsin 31-13. There have been complaints that Tressel is letting Pryor pass more because of promises made on the recruiting trail, even though he could help the team more by running.

This is expected fallout from top-recruit status, but the pressure on a kid who has never known failure has to be growing. He said he hasn't lost confidence but, even if it's true, he seems to be regressing. The offensive line did a horrible job of defending him, but his performance can't be denied: four fumbles, two lost, and two interceptions.

"He's a sophomore and he's going to get better," Posey said. "I don't know what you guys want. I don't know if you guys want a Heisman candidate right now, but everybody's path is different. I'm going to defend him. He has a lot of getting better to do, but he's a great player. We're going to get together, and when we win, he's going to be our quarterback."

Source: Columbus Dispatch Sunday, October 18, 2009
Article Link: Bob Hunter commentary: Take Pryor off his pedestal
By Bob Hunter, a sports columnist for The Dispatch.
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Terrelle Pryor must be Ohio State's answer at quarterback

This is odd advice for understandably angst-ridden Ohio State fans accustomed to success. But don't worry about wins right now.

It's not really Saturday's loss to Purdue that drove the backers of the Buckeyes crazy. It was the proof that the offense, now 91st in the nation in total yardage and 101st in passing yardage, isn't progressing.

At 5-2, second place in the Big Ten and No. 19 in the BCS standings, this season isn't lost, but it's not going to be one to remember. It's a step back, something that happens at programs all the time. What matters is whether it's worth it, and that won't be determined until 2010 and 2011.

If the Buckeyes go 8-4 during this regular season, but win the national title in one of the next two seasons, won't that be worth it? The best way, probably the only way, for that to happen is with Terrelle Pryor at quarterback. So settle in, hold on, close your eyes and hope the ride smooths out.

Because Ohio State has to stick with Pryor, and all that matters now is figuring out what the sophomore does best, what he'll never do well, and devising an offense to fit that. It's hard to imagine Jim Tressel and his coaches sat in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Sunday and thought, "You know, we're on the right track."

Maybe the best move is buttoning things up even tighter, taking absolutely no risks, throwing the ball 12 times a game and giving 20 carries each to Pryor and running back Brandon Saine, figuring that one or the other will break a big run once or twice a game and the defense can carry the day.

That's preferable to Pryor the turnover machine, who has thrown eight interceptions and lost five fumbles in seven games, and admitted Saturday, "sometimes I've got to quit going for the deep ball and the big plays and let it come to me a little more."

Except he hasn't done that yet. He throws up jump balls and fires into traffic like he's playing a pickup game, and hasn't shown any signs of eliminating that behavior. So maybe you eliminate it for him. His fumbles are as bad as his picks -- he looks almost panicked at times, trying to make plays in the middle of a sack when there's no hope.

Maybe the best move is a Big 12 type of spread, five receivers all the time, with a hurry-up mindset and short quick passes that Pryor can get rid of before the rush gets to him. Pryor seems most comfortable under the gun in two-minute drill situations, and he's always making allusions to how much he likes and wants to attack as an offense. So stop handing off on first down and really put the game in his hands for 60 minutes, not just when things get desperate.

Either way, the next five games need to be used to work that out, whether it's the best way to beat Minnesota or Iowa or Penn State on that day or not. You always try to win, but the big picture needs to take precedent, because Pryor was a big-picture, raw, risk-reward recruit.

When the Buckeyes won the Big Ten in 2006 and 2007 and were outclassed in two national title games, that wasn't enough for many fans. That's fine. But Pryor is the type of physical talent who can give Ohio State a chance against the best teams in the country. At the moment, he also happens to be a quarterback who can lead the way to a loss against one of the worst teams in the Big Ten.

Tressel tied himself to Pryor when he signed him and threw on a double knot when he benched senior Todd Boeckman for Pryor as a freshman.

The backups aren't the answer. Pryor scared two quarterbacks into transferring. He drove away top QB recruits in the current freshman class and in the class of high school seniors. The only reason to bench Pryor -- for a series, a quarter or a game -- is because you think that's best for his growth. Shaking him back to reality by proving that no quarterback that turns the ball over four times is safe in his job might be a worthy strategy.

Ask all the other questions. Is Pryor getting the best coaching possible? Is he absorbing that coaching? Must Tressel completely change his offensive philosophy to fit this quarterback?

But don't ask who the quarterback should be. For that question, for good and bad, Ohio State has only one answer.

Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer October 18, 2009
Article Link: Terrelle Pryor must be Ohio State's answer at quarterback
By Doug Lesmerises, Plain Dealer's OSU Beat Writer


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