Category Archives: College football

2014 Big Ten football picks

I think this will be one of the better Big Tens we’ve seen in the past decade or so, but I’m not sure there is an elite team in the league. There should be depth, and that could set things up for a strong 2015, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Ohio State is rebuilding on defense, but that unit could hardly be worse than it was when the ’13 season concluded, so it’s hard to count that as a negative. Michigan State’s offense was a sore spot early last season but finished on a high and returns almost everyone of consequence. They’ll have some new faces on the offensive line, but that unit wasn’t great anyway so they can probably get by with an average front again this season all things considered. Teams may play them differently now that Connor Cook is a known commodity, though. How he responds to that will tell a large part of the tale this season. Recent conference history is littered with quarterbacks who looked good early in their career but plateaued. Big Ten logo

Michigan State is, pardon the pun, green in some spots on defense, and it is unlikely the Spartans will be as tough there regardless of how good coaches Mark Dantonio and Pat Narduzzi have proven to be on that side of the ball. The same can be said of Ohio State’s offensive line, though, so it all could be a wash when the teams play Nov. 8. Continue reading

Ohio State football: The Song Remains The Same

The first game week of the season brings with it the first 2014 edition of my “Cus Words” column at BuckeyeSports.com.

After an eventful offseason that took a surprising turn toward the end, where do the Buckeyes stand heading into the Navy game?

I am curious to see the effects of Urban Meyer’s intense efforts to remake the culture of the program. Although he took responsibility, I think at least some of it is residue from the Jim Tressel era. That’s not to say it is from something Tressel was doing wrong but rather that these two coaches were not necessarily looking for the same attitude in a recruit.

Cus Words: The Song Remains The Same – Ohiostate – Scout.

Previous Ohio State surprise starters have performed pretty well

So, Ohio State is going to play the 2014 season with a new starting quarterback despite starting an underclassman the previous season. This might seem unusual, but it has happened for the Buckeyes what seems like a rather remarkable five times in the past 50 years. The reasons have varied but don’t include the previous season’s starter going pro (at least not for positive reasons). Miller meets media

Braxton Miller is the first one to be replaced because of injury. He ended up being the starter in 2011 after Terrelle Pryor left school in June amid questions about additional NCAA violations (he was already facing a five-game suspension for violations previously admitted). Like Miller, Pryor became a surprise true freshman starter in 2008 after senior Todd Boeckman struggled early in the season.

You might have already known about those circumstances, but what about the three that came before?  Continue reading

Buckeye defense hoping for 1996 redux

On the second day of Ohio State’s 2014 preseason football camp, Luke Fickell said this was the first offseason since he returned to his alma mater as a coach in 2002 that there was reason to feel bad about how the defense had finished the season.

That got me thinking about another season that ended with national title hopes going up in smoke in large part because of a defensive letdown — 1995.  Fickell practice headshot

Now the Ohio State defensive coordinator, Fickell was a junior in this third year as the starting nose guard for the Buckeyes that season, and Ohio State rose to No. 2 in the national polls in November, the highest ranking for the program in over a decade.

Most of that success was on the back of a national top 10 offense that featured the best running back (Eddie George), wide receiver (Terry Glenn) and offensive lineman (Orlando Pace) in the country as well as first-team All-Big Ten players at quarterback (Bobby Hoying) and tight end (Rickey Dudley).

The Ohio State defense boasted All-Big Ten players at defensive end (Mike Vrabel and Matt Finkes) and cornerback (Shawn Springs) and finished 12th in the nation in points allowed (16.7 per game), but it wasn’t on the same level as the scoring unit. That much was proven on the final day of the regular season as the Buckeyes traveled to Ann Arbor and saw their perfect season ruined by 12th-ranked Michigan, which got a record 313 yards rushing from Tim Biakabutuka en route to a 31-23 upset. Continue reading

Ohio State football: Preseason Day 2 highlights

Ohio State did not allow media to watch any part of day two of preseason football practice, but the school published a YouTube video of highlights.

Because this is the Internet and pixels cost little compared to ink and paper, here are about 30 seconds worth of takeaways from two minutes of clips:

  • Braxton Miller can still throw, and Devin Smith can still make one-handed catches.
  • Cardale Jones can throw interceptions. Related: fellow Cleveland Glenville alum Marshon Lattimore can catch interceptions. Lattimore is a youngster to keep an eye on defensively.
  • Also making an appearance: Super talented redshirt freshman Jalin Marshall, a receiver who had his first season wiped out by injury and could be a big-time player for an offense that figures to be somewhat retooled.
  • Cornerback Gareon Conley, another redshirt freshman the Buckeyes probably could have used something from last season, makes a diving interception on an out pass by Miller.
  • And in what can only be read as a nod toward Jim Tressel, the video concludes with a punt.

So there you go for now. We’ll be allowed in Wednesday afternoon for day three, so be sure to check back for details here, on Twitter and at BuckeyeSports.com.

Ohio State football 2014: Preseason thoughts

The dawn of another Ohio State football season is upon us, and 2014 figures to be an unpredictable year with so much change on both sides of the ball.

Most indications are the DNA is going to be different with the offense and the defense, one change being personnel-driven and the other caused by extreme struggles of a year ago. Both ways, Ohio State is going to have to count on a new cast of characters to carry out what is in all likelihood a plan that is at least somewhat different than it was last year, for better or for worse.

Preseason practice at Ohio State. The Schottenstein Center is in the background.
Preseason practice at Ohio State. The Schottenstein Center is in the background.

Offensively, Ohio State has the best player in the Big Ten back to trigger an attack that is probably going to look more like Urban Meyer and Tom Herman intended it to when they arrived than it has for the past two seasons. They want to have playmakers all over the field, not strictly smashing people up the middle.

Continue reading

Urban Meyer on Ohio State-Michigan State (and Michigan)

Monday in Chicago at the first of the Big Ten football media days, the head coach of Buckeyes was asked his thoughts on the Nov. 8 clash with Michigan State in East Lansing, a game getting more preseason hype at this point than the traditional regular-season ending clash with Michigan at Ohio Stadium.

“If we take care of business, it will be real big. But we’ve got some things in the way before we get there, so if we do our job it could be a real big game,” Meyer said. Big Ten logo

The natural followup was about the state of the “rivalry” between the Buckeyes and Spartans, the two teams that clashed in the Big Ten football title game last year and are considered the top two teams in the new Big Ten East Division this year.

“When I was at Ohio State back in the mid-80s they beat us at Ohio Stadium, so there’s a great rivalry already there. You’ve got to be clear, though, there’s one rival and that will never change. However, Wisconsin became a very big game and then obviously this one’s a huge game, and it’s a credit to both schools that they’re good programs, but there’s one rival.”

Who are the best Buckeye football players from out of state?

So, which state (other than Ohio) has produced the most Ohio State football players over the past 30 years? You probably won’t be surprised to find out it’s Florida with 52.

But who is the best of that bunch? After all, more than half have become starters, and one quarter have been drafted into the NFL.

Ryan Shazier talks to reporters in Columbus
Ryan Shazier talks to reporters in Columbus

We narrowed it down to six candidates and gave BuckeyeSports.com readers a chance to vote for their favorite. We did the same for Buckeye football recruits from Texas, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan, too, and you can find the stories below.  Continue reading

A look at the first College Football Playoff trophy

The crystal football of the Bowl Championship Series is gone, replaced with a trophy of hardened steel surround by gold brackets.

It is three feet tall, and like the last trophy is composed of two distinct pieces so the 26.5-inch 35-pound “virtual football” trophy can still be lifted off the base, as winners famously were able to do with the crystal football trophy.

The trophy that will go to the winner of the College Football Playoff that begins this season.
The trophy that will go to the winner of the College Football Playoff that begins this season.