Category Archives: College football

This Week in the Big Ten wants better basketball

Welcome to the first week of the year college basketball gets dramatic enough a large portion of the population can stomach watching a whole game in one sitting!

OK, maybe that was a little over-the-top, but I am somewhat amused at the growing sentiment that college basketball has a big problem as far as entertainment value. Where have y’all been? Do you not watch the NBA at all, because it’s practically a different sport when guys can, you know, make shots on a consistent basis.

A representation of Ohio State's game plan last week
The state of basketball play in college

It’s been going this way for a long time, and the one-and-down thing ain’t the biggest problem. It’s just the extreme example of the larger issue that not enough guys stick around long enough for teams to learn how to play together or become recognizable and marketable. Going to two-and-done would only be a slight improvement for this overall. I’d trace the decline back to when guys like Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury started making skipping more than one year of college more the norm.

I don’t blame guys for going pro when they can. They’ve got to do what’s best for them — or at least what they think is best, which sometimes turns out to be not the case. But the fact teams are harder to get to know makes following the sport more difficult. That’s generally a bad business prospect, but the decline of the product’s watchability has larger implications.

And based on a lot of what I’ve been reading lately, I’m not sure there’s much reason to expect it to get better.

Exhibit A would be a piece from Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated that presents two critical issues as “myths” then goes on to provide more evidence for their veracity than anything else.  Continue reading This Week in the Big Ten wants better basketball

Ohio State quarterbacks take center stage in spring football

Day two of Ohio State spring football featured chats between reporters and the Buckeye quarterbacks. Well, at least some of them.

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett
Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett

As you probably heard by now, only J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones took the opportunity to spend time with the media. A school spokesperson said Braxton Miller was offered the same but declined.

What does that mean? Probably nothing. Miller has never been great in the interview room nor a real fan of the process (which I think any of us in the media can admit is fairly flawed). My general theory on why the former is true is because at his core Miller still sees himself as just a normal guy who happens to be really talented when it comes to football. I asked him if this was the case two years ago at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago and he agreed.

So to me, if Miller doesn’t give great answers in interviews it is because he hasn’t put a lot of thought into what he might say, and that is because he still isn’t convinced any of us should really care. Nothing wrong with that.

As a member of the media, I want guys to come out and talk, but only if they’re really interested in doing so. We waste a lot of time with questions that don’t mean much and get a lot of answers that aren’t really sincere — either because that’s the fastest way to get the interview over with or it just sounds good. And nowadays everything is a soundbite waiting to happen, sometimes in and sometimes out of context.  Continue reading Ohio State quarterbacks take center stage in spring football

First impressions from Ohio State spring football 2015

Reporters were allowed to watch an hour of practice on the first day of Ohio State spring football, and then we spoke with Urban Meyer, Joshua Perry and Taylor Decker. There was not a whole lot to learn, but a few interesting things did pop up….

The issue of motivation becomes a cliched one, but Meyer and both players had some interesting things to say about the topic.

Ohio State football spring practice at the Woody Hayes Athletics Center
Ohio State football spring practice at the Woody Hayes Athletics Center

Well, Meyer actually said he’s not worried about it right now, which came as a surprise because I was under the impression he is ALWAYS worried about motivation and other various psychological issues surrounding his team. The coach said right now he just wants everyone in the mood to work hard, but I guess I would think that’s a matter of motivation, too.

Then I have to admit Perry and Decker both made fairly strong cases about how the Buckeyes — you know, the defending national champions who return 14 starters, including a whole bunch of guys who were really young and figure only to get better as more members of their recruiting classes move into starting roles — could actually be doubted.

Continue reading First impressions from Ohio State spring football 2015

This Week in the Big Ten is agreeing with The Vest

Some weeks figuring out the biggest story is hard. This was not one of those weeks.

Jim Tressel did something last Monday he almost never did when he was head coach of the Buckeyes: Create headlines with a substantive speech.

Not only did the former Ohio State head coach stir up the rivalry between his old employer and Michigan by declaring the Wolverines are “a ways away from being at the level where there’s going to be a 10-Year War,” he also shared one of the secrets of their decline over the past decade or so: problems recruiting Ohio.

In referring to his 2002 recruiting class that was highly acclaimed, mostly Ohioan and ultimately very successful, Tressel said (Per ohio.com), “I think we might have lost one guy that whole year to Michigan. The door closed and it hasn’t been open.” 20111221-071738.jpg

This is a key point. Michigan kept bringing in highly regarded recruiting classes in the years after Tressel arrived at Ohio State, but fewer highly coveted Ohioans became Wolverines than in the preceding decades when it seemed Michigan had a never-ending string of stars from the Buckeye State. Tressel was particularly dominant in northeast Ohio, the home of Desmond Howard, Elvis Grbac, Dan Dierdorf and Dennis Franklin, to name a few.

So Jim Tressel was not only 9-1 against Michigan, he also hurt the Wolverines’ chances to beat everyone else. He didn’t do it alone, though. The slide of Michigan also coincided with strong recruiting of Ohio by Big Ten schools such as Iowa and Wisconsin, but of course Michigan State is the gold standard in recent years. Zanesville native Mark Dantonio has made a mint on recruiting his home state since leaving Tressel’s OSU staff to become head coach at Cincinnati and then moving on to East Lansing.

In the past 10 years Ohio State and Michigan State have also won a lot of battles against Michigan north of the Ohio border, a double-whammy that has seen Michigan stripped of its backbone and having to face kids who are more fired up to beat the Wolverines than the average recruit who grew up somewhere else.

I’ll probably have more on this topic in the near future.

Elsewhere…

I’m surprised this came from a traditional media site, and I’m starting to wonder if they are losing their sanity in Nebraska.

Of course many traditions are up for interpretation and they can mean different things to different people, but the idea Bo Pelini making guys earn the Blackshirts was a mistake or some kind of crime against the tradition is fairly laughable for a few reasons.

First, if you read the history of the Blackshirts (which I have always thought from afar is an awesome, badass tradition, BTW), you’ll find they began as something that was earned from day to day. Second, Pelini took over a defense that was like literally the worst in school history, an actual laughingstock. It’s not as if Pelini took something that was working and undid it.

If ever there was a time to have to earn the jerseys, that would be it. Also note this is a very frequent practice among coaches these days, particularly with the current generation of players for which entitlement is generally considered a big problem. It’s actually happening right this minute with the Nebraska basketball team and the coach who was a darling as recently as last year.

Third, the defense actually got good for a while under Pelini, so I guess he knew what he was doing at least at one point. Fourth, the reason the defense went downhill is not because of the clothes but because Pelini didn’t recruit and/or develop good enough players.

If Riley doesn’t change that — and it would be a minor miracle if he does — it won’t matter what guys are wearing or when they get it. But I guess I’ll be interested to see how history is revised then, too…

Michigan’s new offensive coordinator says winning tends to cure most ills. I say so does not having to rely on too many young offensive linemen.

Whoever wins the starting quarterback job for the Wolverines can expect to have the attack tailored to his strengths, another departure from the previous regime.

Connor Cook has high expectations for himself and offers a frank assessment of what he did well and needs to improve from last season. He’ll need to find some new targets this year to continue to improve himself.

Five questions for Maryland as the Terrapins begin spring football.

Strange things continue to happen with officiating when Ohio State travels to Penn State for things.

This week in the Big Ten extolls nuance

So the intention is intended to be a weekender type thing, but sometimes life or other jobs get in the way, so here you go a little late…  

We start with one championship-winning football coach from northeast Ohio passing some heavy praise on to another as Jon Gruden called Urban Meyer’s 2014 “the greatest coaching job of all time.”

I can admit I was a doubter prior to the Wisconsin game, and I declared Meyer should be the unanimous national coach of the year if the Buckeyes won that game, so I am inclined to agree with Gruden here. But more interesting than his declarative about what Meyer did as far as a coach is what Gruden said about Meyer’s recruiting.

“I think what happened at Florida, he won the national titles, and then he wanted to be the No. 1 recruiting coach in the league and probably signed some players that didn’t fit the Urban Meyer profile. 

“When he went to Ohio State, I think he learned a little bit from that. He’s looking for guys that fit a certain profile, and he’s going to build his team around those guys. That’s clearly what he’s doing.”

This could be interpreted as a type of talent, but I think it’s more about personality. Meyer was so obsessed with putting together all-star teams at Florida, he ended up with a roster he couldn’t control. Now, every roster is going to have some questionable characters, in part because coaches are almost always willing to take a chance on a guy with talent and also because sometimes people just change — especially between the ages of 17 and 22. The best kid in high school could still turn into a problem in college when he gets away from his home and vice versa. That goes for those who grow up in Upper Arlington or South Florida, but the Ohio State players from Florida I’ve talked to over the years took pride in the chippiness and attitude their state is known for.

Meyer has to spread his recruiting over a larger geographic area, but he might find it easier to put together a more balanced roster at Ohio State than at Florida. This was something I’ve been curious about since the day Meyer took over in Columbus

Further discussing the silly freshman ineligibility discussion with some interesting spins last week were Stewart Mandel of FOX Sports and Matt Hayes of Sporting News. Mandel wondered about the real motivation regarding starting discussion about something that won’t happen while Hayes suggested it’s just the first shot over the bow in an effort to overhaul things.

Essentially the idea is administrators are going to start paying players more but feel that means they also have to emphasize the student part in student-athlete more, whether that is for the good of the game, the good of their business or the good of the players. It’s probably all of the above.

The business goes kaput if they have to go to an open market because too many schools would be priced out and too many fans would lose interest if they began believing all that was going on was minor league football or basketball. Some fans would still watch because they like the sports and the competition, but the golden goose would be dead.

FWIW, I do think the administrators truly care about academics. They want there to be a balance. Like anything, there are pros and cons to the arrangement that has evolved over the decades since college sports went from pastime to big business. I even think the vast majority of coaches care about academics to a significant degree, though under the auspices that winning is not optional of course.  And players care about academics, at least as much if not more than the average student…

Outside the sports world, the ever-changing fate of journalism and writing as a whole generally fascinates me, and Newsweek provided a moment that was even more ironic than it probably realized or intended over the weekend.

The magazine republished a column from 1995 titled, “Why the Web Won’t Be Nirvana” that as you might expect contained a bunch of amusing predictions about the Internet that turned out to be false and are thus hilarious to look back at 20 years later.

The writer mocked the idea of telecommuting, growth of virtual communities and the rise of online shopping and e-books. He was wrong to question the usefulness of making government data and documents available online (eventually), but I’m not too sure the Internet has improved democracy overall. It’s just made cheating a little harder to get away with (not to mention having a civil discussion about politics, but I digress…).

Most ironically he declared “no online database will replace your daily newspaper,” although I’m pretty sure magazines like Newsweek are in even worse shape, and it’s probably remarkable newspapers have held on for 20 years hence if we’re being honest.

Computers have enhanced the educational experience, but I think most would agree a good teacher still trumps learning from a computer as much as it does getting everything out of a book.

A “network chat line” beats being alone, but it is in fact “a limp substitute for meeting friends over coffee.”

So like most things, this story had plenty of bad but plenty of good as well. A piece by piece examination could be rather fascinating, but i guess the person who runs the Newsweek Twitter feed didn’t agree.

I guess nuance is just not something we do on the Internet in 2015. Did Clifford Stoll predict that?

Replacing senior QB has gone better than you might expect for Buckeyes

Things can’t go much better than they did in 2014 for Ohio State football, the winner of the national championship despite having to change signal-callers before and during the season, but this was not even the first season in which a senior watched while a sophomore led Ohio State to the promised land.  Continue reading Replacing senior QB has gone better than you might expect for Buckeyes

Ohio State football recruiting Mike Weber: Winners and losers

Am I the only one who feels like Mike Weber probably handled the whole circus surrounding his recruitment and the related coaching change better than anybody else?

Granted, his Tweet about being “hurt as hell” was a catalyst for the first wave of reactions, but it’s hard to blame anyone for having an emotional reaction to something affecting his or her future and expressing that reaction. That’s especially true with a teenager who just made a big life decision then saw some of the information he probably used to make it change almost immediately.

Feeling and expressing emotions is an important part of life no matter our age. But actually being part of the process is also kind of key to having an emotional attachment, isn’t it?  Continue reading Ohio State football recruiting Mike Weber: Winners and losers

Ohio State football: The new narrative

Of course when something like “winning a national championship” happens, everyone has something to say.

The theme of my reaction column at BuckeyeSports.com was simple: Ohio State not only won a fancy gold trophy on Monday night, it also wiped out every narrative people have used against the Buckeyes — sometimes more correctly than others — since that stunning night in the desert in January 2007.

Need proof? After the jump, find a sampling of the new narrative from around the web, including writers who cover Ohio State and others more national in scope.  Continue reading Ohio State football: The new narrative

Sugar Bowl Ohio State-Alabama coverage roundup

The time has finally come for Ohio State and Alabama to face off in the Sugar Bowl. The winner not only gets a cool trophy but the chance to play for the national championship.

IMG_0074

It’s been a busy week here in New Orleans, so I don’t blame you if you missed any of the great coverage from a variety of sources.

Here’s a rundown of my contributions….

From BuckeyeSports.com:

OSU WRs Bridging Gap from Good to Great – The Buckeyes’ receivers say they are better now because of last year’s poor finish

Overheard at Ohio State’s Sugar Bowl Media Day – Tidbits from Tuesday in New Orleans

Tide Defense Presents New Look for Buckeyes – Ohio State has not faced a defense as big as Alabama’s this season.

BSB’s Take: Sugar Bowl Thoughts – Our four writers in New Orleans break down the keys to the CFP semifinal.

Overheard at the Sugar Bowl: OSU Defense – Luke Fickell, Joey Bosa and other Buckeyes talked about their matchup with Alabama and more

Defensive Progress Gratifying for Fickell – Ohio State’s defensive coordinator prefers to pass praise around, but others expressed happiness

Overheard at the Sugar Bowl: OSU Offense – Cleaning out the reporter’s notebook from New Orleans

Jones Still a Secret Weapon for Buckeyes? – Alabama defenders acknowledged Ohio State prep hindered by lack of film

And from FOXSportsOhio.com:

Doran Grant called the Sugar Bowl the biggest game in college football history, but the Buckeyes say they will not be fazed by the rise in the stakes — like they were the last time they were on this stage. LINK

What will Tom Herman tell Cardale Jones about how to beat Alabama? Just be himself. VIDEO

Taylor Decker called Jones a goofball, but he has seen a lot of growth from the QB. VIDEO