Sunday, November 29, 2015

Not Dead Yet

Hope is a cruel mistress.

Yesterday, after I watched The Game with my in-laws in St. Louis, I made the long, boring trip back down I-70 to Columbus. By the time I reached Indianapolis, the Spartans had already killed the Nittany Lions (no surprise), so I spared a wistful glance towards Lucas Oil Stadium, knowing I wouldn't be returning to cheer on the Bucks for a third straight year.

The Buckeyes won't be Big Ten Champions this season. But could a larger goal still be within reach? After all, both the 2001 and 2011 seasons featured teams that didn't win their divisions yet still made it to the championship (Nebraska in 2001, Alabama in 2011), and 2003 featured a conference championship loser (Oklahoma).

Ohio State entered the weekend ranked #8 in the College Football Playoff Rankings. They then scored a blowout road win against #10 Michigan. #6 Notre Dame and #7 Baylor fell, and both are a lock to fall past the Bucks. Notre Dame has no more chances to pad their resume, while Baylor has only a game against Texas, which isn't likely to move any needles, especially now that the Bears have 2 losses. This leaves only 5 teams ahead of the Buckeyes, 4 of which play again next week.


Only #3 Oklahoma, who completed their pre-bowl season with a win over #11 Oklahoma State, is a total lock for the playoffs at this point. #4 Iowa and #5 Michigan State play each other. A loss by the Spartans would give them 2 losses and surely drop them past Ohio State. The Hawkeyes might be a trickier out, but if MSU crushes them, the Committee would likely compare such a loss to OSU's 17-14 squeaker and move the Buckeyes ahead.

That gets the Buckeyes up to at least #5. What of the other two teams currently ranked ahead of OSU?

Even with the ridiculous deference the committee has paid to #2 Alabama this season, it's hard to imagine them staying ahead of Ohio State with 2 losses should they fall to Florida next week. Clemson, if they lost to North Carolina, would be a tougher case. Wins over Notre Dame and Florida State would be tough to ignore, particularly compared to Ohio State's wins over Michigan and...Penn State? But it would be a very late loss to a team nobody seems to have any respect for. Can we really say that Clemson is really bulletproof at this point?


So a Florida win over Alabama or a North Carolina win over Clemson could at least open the door ahead of Ohio State in the playoff rankings. Do they need to worry about getting caught from behind?

#9 Stanford scored a win over #5 Notre Dame, but it's tough to see them jumping Ohio State this week given Ohio State's dismantling of a top ten team. However, a win over USC next week would give the Cardinal a conference championship, even if the USC win itself wouldn't really help Stanford all that much (Stanford beat USC this season already). Ohio State's loss is better than either of Stanford's, but this race would be very, very close.

#10 Michigan, #11 Oklahoma State, and #12 Florida all lost. Florida gets a chance at redemption next week against Alabama, and a win in that game would be huge, but it's terribly difficult to imagine Florida ending up in the Committee's top 4 after the November they've had.

The only other Power 5 team in the mix is #14 North Carolina. But they don't yet have a win over a team with fewer than 4 losses and their loss is to 3-9 South Carolina. I really don't see the Committee moving UNC ahead of OSU even with a win over Clemson.

Depending on how much the Committee weighs conference championships, Ohio State may still be very much alive in the title hunt. The surest path requires only a Florida win over Alabama (and maybe a USC win over Stanford, just to be safe), but a North Carolina win over Clemson might do the trick as well. Neither is terribly likely, but stranger things have happened to send OSU to the Playoff before. Missing out is not an option, so plan accordingly.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Week 13 - One Ga_e Season

1) Seeberg             44-18    (2-10 upset) 

2) Draper               42-20    (5-7 upset)
3) Hoying               40-22    (1-11 upset)
4) Schweinfurth     39-23    (2-10 upset)

It's rivalry week at Let's Go Bucks! With Ohio State's playoff hopes on life support, we turn our focus toward our first showdown with Captain Crazy (and a few other schools that happen to be playing as well).

#13 Navy _idship_en @ #20 Houston Cougars

Draper: Led by the greatest coach ever who never erred by ignoring a RB, Houston finally tripped up vs. a so-so at best Uconn squad.  Houston has had a pretty nice year, but they're still Houston.  Navy is chugging along with the only hiccup vs. the Irish.  I like Keenan Reynolds to keep the train a-rolling as the Cougs suffer a second straight defeat, this one at Chop-block-o-clock. Navy: 28--Houston: 24
Hoying: Take a good look, Buckeye Nation. Our previous offensive guru, your panacea for everything ailing the Ohio State O, just racked up all of 17 points in Houston's loss to the UConn Huskies. 17 points isn't going to get the job done against the NCAA's historic TD leader, Keenan Reynolds, and the devastating triple option. Navy has parlayed its first year in a conference into its best season since 1963 and it shows no signs of slowing down. Look for the streak to continue, setting up an AAC title showdown ahead of everyone's favorite rivalry. Navy: 31--Houston: 27

Schweinfurth: There is only one contest that counts this week. Navy: 24--Houston: 35
Seeberg:  Well, the Houston Hermans looked every bit like the Buckeyes last week, dropping an uninspired game to the UConn women's basketball team football Huskies by a field goal.  My guess?  A combination of lousy weather and looking ahead to their showdown with Navy.  Navy has showed up big in conference play all season and it's likely Keenan Reynolds and Co. will do so again.  However, the Cougars are likely to play some extra-inspired to make up for last week's dismal effort.  Had Houston coasted into this one undefeated (see:  Memphis) Navy likely would've anchored them down (see what I did there?), but off a loss the Cougars rise up and put up enough points to outscore the devastating triple option.  Navy: 38--Houston: 42

#7 Baylor Bears @ #17 TCU Horned Frogs
Draper: Don't look now, but Baylor appears to be raising a little stink after that OU loss.  Yeah, they're essentially too little too late (again), but they've essentially guaranteed playoff victory by tur:ning to a 3rd string QB.  100% of the squads in the playoffs led by a 3rd string QB have won the whole thing (it's science).  TCU put it all on the table last week and fell just short.  Nothing left in Fort Worth...and they're only on the second string...pfft.  Briles keeps alive for a New Year's Six bowl.  BU: 48--TCU: 35
Hoying: And here we have the 2014 Nearly Relevant Bowl. TCU's playoff hopes are officially dead after a furious rally against OU fell just short, while Baylor's are on life support after Gundy and the Pokes failed to score 40 against the Bears. We could possibly see a battle of the deep deep backup QB's, depending on how quickly Trevone Boykin recovers, but TCU's second-stringer has looked passable in his appearance last week, and Baylor churns out battle-ready QBs without losing a beat. Despite their effort last week, the Frogs are trending downward, while the Bears are unlikely to choke with a possible playoff berth in their sights. BU: 52--TCU: 45

There is only one contest that counts lets week. Lots of points, though. BU: 52--TCU: 55
Seeberg:  This is practically a war of attrition given the injuries on both sides of the ball.  The Bears are officially down to their 3rd-string QB but keep cranking out points and had an impressive win at Oklahoma State last week.  Tough to imagine TCU winning without both of their playmakers at full strength (Boykin may go but will be limited, and Doctson is probably still out).  I'm shocked myself, but Baylor may finish the regular season with back-to-back one-loss squads.  BU: 45--TCU: 34

Penn State Nittany Lions @ #4 _ichigan State Spartans
Draper:  Who will start for the Spartans? Cook wasn't needed this week (the Bucks saw to that), but he could be needed this week.  Saquon Barkley needs to show up in a big way, but in a cruel twist of fate, the Buckeye fate lies in the hands of Christian Hackenberg.  He's had a few flashes of brilliance, but a lot of 'huh?' plays.  This is the situation for Hackenberg to show the world why NFL scouts still (inexplicably) see the franchise QB of their future.  The weather allows for a passing attack and Lions reset the Buckeye train.  PSU: 24--Sparty: 21
Hoying: OK, Christian Hackenberg. You've sucked for a solid 3 years after showing a flash of talent as a first year. Do you have enough in the tank to pull off one consequential upset? The Lions have crapped the bed against the real live opponents they've seen so far this year (the Owls, the Buckeyes, the Wolverines), while the Spartans have petered along before scoring the knockout punch against our beloved Bucks. Cook is questionable once again, and the result of this tilt could depend on his availability, as well as Suckenberg's ability to find holes in a suspect Spartan secondary (sigh). Back in 2008, Buckeye Nation was rooting hard (in vain) for Penn State to fall flat on their face against Sparty in Happy Valley so that Ohio State could go to the Rose Bowl. Expect to be disappointed once again. PSU: 17--Sparty: 27

Schweinfurth: There is only one contest that counts this week. I will pick this how I want it to end. PSU: 17--Sparty: 14
Seeberg:  If ever there were a day when Hackenburg needed to fulfill all that potential, it's this Saturday for all of Buckeye Nation...but don't hold your breath Buckeye brethren.  The Spartans had their garbage game of the season and it still took a blown call for Nebraska to squeak out a win.  It's at home, and there's too much on the line for them not to be focused.  If Cook can't go or struggles, this one will stay close, but too much Sparty sack party does the Nittany Lions in.  PSU: 13--Sparty: 21

#17 Florida State Se_inoles @ #11 Florida Gators

Draper: Florida has dodged bullet after bullet sent by suck opponents.  Enter the Noles.  FSU had the inexcusable loss loss to Tech and an 'yeah, expected it' loss to the Tigers.  The Noles season expectations have changed for this year, but the focus on the Gators won't.  Cook and the Noles will be happy to oblige the Gators in their desire to practice losing before the SEC title.  Cook finally awakens those voters that forgot to be 'talkin bout the noles!'.  FSU: 27--UF: 10
Hoying: One, two three four five six...those Gators just about lost to Florida Atlantic. Such a loss would have been nearly as bad as falling to terrible terrible Georgia Tech. Is Florida losing its focus looking ahead to a titanic clash with the INVINCIBLE TIDE? Or have they truly been focused this week's contest against their rival? Treon Harris is still horrible, but the Gator D is as tough as ever. If Dalvin Cook can have a big day, expect the Noles to win. Florida doesn't have a Deshaun Watson to follow Cook blow-for-blow. The Gators couldn't stop Fournette, and they won't stop Cook either. FSU: 24--UF: 14
There is only one contest that counts this week. FSU: 28--UF: 13
Seeberg:  All right ladies and gentlemen, it's time for another game of "Will Florida score in the first half against an in-state opponent?"  Last week the answer was no...against 2-9 Florida Atlantic.  My guess is, even with an oddly unsettled quarterback position, the Seminoles will be just a smidge better.  Expect lots of Dalvin Cook to secure him an invite to NYC for the bronze stiff-arm, and another W for Jimbo and the 'Noles.  FSU: 24--UF: 6

#6 Notre Da_e Fighting Irish @ #12 Stanford Cardinal
Draper: The contest has huge playoff consequences, but I just don't care.  Stanford has been slogging through their schedule winning ugly and boring.  ND on the other hand...has done no different.  The difference is the huge injuries on the Irish side of the ball.  David Shaw finds a way to line up 11 on the line as the Cardinal end the Irish hopes.  Irish eyes will be crying in Palo Alto. ND: 17--Stan: 20
Hoying: Could this really be a year in which the Playoff features Sparty, the fighting Dabo Swinneys, AND the Irish??? Surely at least ONE of those has to choke before season's end. The Irish have been coasting on their road loss to #1 and a slew of AAC wins (over decent schools, to be fair), while the Cardinal have continuously been battle tested since week 1's loss at Northwestern. Stanford's star RB could be quietly working his way toward a few trophies at season's end, and a big effort in a win over a fellow Playoff contender will certainly help his case. ND: 24--Stan: 31
Schweinfurth: There is only one contest that counts this week. ND: 28--Stan: 35
Seeberg:  To be honest, I was leaning pretty strongly toward the Cardinal before the news that C.J. Prosise was out for this game.  Now?  Too much Stanford D that can feast on a one-dimensional Irish passing attack, and too much balance when the Tree takes the ball.  McAffrey and Hogan slice and dice the Golden Domers and officially (thankfully) knock them out of playoff talks.  ND: 17--Stan: 31

#5 Oklaho_a Sooners @ #8 Oklaho_a State Cowboys
Draper: The Pokes finally returned to Earth after rocking to a 10-0 record without anyone paying attention outside Stillwater.  We can all appreciate the offensive fire thanks to Gundy, but that defense is trash.  This contest is always good for an exciting couple of hours but the Sooners always tend to find a way to end on top.  Stoops was close to being snake bitten last week, but I don't expect a letdown here.  The OU defense isn't exactly spectacular, but they'll be enough with Baker leading the way.  OU: 51--OSU: 42  
Hoying: I was fooled. It looked like this would finally be the year the Cowboys finished a season, after crashing and burning in 2011 (and getting hosed by the voters). Now the Pokes need a big win over OU and a big loss by Baylor either this week or the next. OU's stud QB took a tough shot to the head in the win over the Horned Frogs, but he'll be back to lead what's turned into one of the nation's top offenses. I feel like I've seen the Sooners play out this story before, in which they need only reach out and grasp the opportunity at hand, but You-Know-What Bob chokes it away. I have that feeling again. OU: 38--OSU: 41
There is only one contest that counts this week. OU: 35--OSU: 42
Seeberg:  Man, this one seems WAY too easy on paper.  The Sooners are playing well on both sides of the ball save for about a quarter defensively against TCU, and Oklahoma State crashed and burned (again) losing to Baylor's we-found-this-QB-in-poli-sci-101-last-month 37th-string signal caller.  I'm fairly certain I could throw for 300 yards and 3 TDs per game in that system (remember, that's a below average day for their QBs).  Still, Stoops and Gundy can't both lose this game simultaneously.  It's a rivalry so anything can happen, but I just can't imagine the Sooners crapping away a playoff birth this late in the season...they already thought they'd accomplished that against the Longhorns.  Boomer Sooner indeed.  OU: 49--OSU: 35

#16 Ole _iss Rebels @ #23 _ississippi State Bulldogs
Draper: Woooo!! Egg Bowl!! Never know what's going down here.  Both the Dogs and the Rebels have been SUPER flaky this year.  The Dak Attack vs. the Landsharks should be quite fun.  The Rebs and Bulldogs both arrive off big wins (LSU and Bert respectively), but  I honestly don't know what to expect.  It's in Stark Vegas, so gotta go with CLANGA in this one because those cowbells are so sweet...or annoying. Rebels: 27--Bulldogs: 31
Hoying: Nothing says "Second-Tier Rivalry" like the Egg Bowl. This year's version retains a little significance, in the unlikely event that the Tide totally collapses against Auburn and the Rebels take their place in Atlanta, but it will probably only affect which school goes to the TaxSlayer Bowl and which one goes to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. The Bulldogs are likely frauds, with their best wins being over their state's top directional school and Louisiana Tech. Ooooohhhh. On the other sideline is a squad that, legend has it, was able to topple the Tide this very season (nobody told the Playoff selection overlords about it, though). Good Bo/Bad Bo has been replaced by Chad Kelly, but the Landsharks are still out in force. In honor of The Force Awakens opening in a few weeks, here's to a Rebel victory. Rebels: 31--Bulldogs: 24
Schweinfurth: There is only one contest that counts this week. Rebels: 31--Bulldogs: 17
Seeberg:  I have given up on predicting all things Ole Miss related since I somehow nailed their upset win of Bama.  The Bulldogs put up a billion yards against the Razorbacks last week (I'm too lazy to look up the actual number, but I know for a fact they had more yards in the first QUARTER than the Bucks did all game last week, so I'm guessing a billion is close) so Dak is back up and running after getting thumped by the Tide.  Given the nature of this nearly relevant rivalry both teams are likely to be up for this one, but that tends to lead to some errors from the mercurial Chad Kelly.  Prescott and Co. take advantage and take the egg bowl...presumably to make me an omelet later.  Rebels: 24--Bulldogs: 28

#9 THE Ohio State University Buckeyes @ #10 That School Up North
Draper:  There's only one thing that would be surprising...a close contest.  Will the Bucks rally under adversity to squelch the hated rival? Will the go quietly into that good night?  I expect either a flat defeated Buckeye squad waiting to get out and head to the NFL or a disrespected angry group ready to avenge the loss and take it out on the hated Wolverines.  Could a squad with the prodigious talent of the Buckeyes lay two eggs? I lean to no.  The line plays with renewed vigor, Zeke busts a few, JT actually throws a few passes for big gains, and the defense shuts down the crazy one on the other side.  Get the lights on Harbaugh, Saturday will lead to a nice breakdown or two.  It ain't worth winning if you can't win big.  OSU: 42--TTUN: 17
Hoying: I can recall a day when the Buckeyes were the consensus #1 squad but their bitter rivals were the nation's hottest, fresh off 3 straight shutouts. How the Spartans do shatter expectations in this conference. After a baffling total offensive failure, do the Buckeyes still have the will to give 100% in the biggest showdown of the season? Urban's boys always shine the brightest under the brightest lights (last week notwithstanding), especially when the Bucks are underdogs. And lookie, lookie, Ohio State is sitting at +1.5 going into this weekend. These are still two very good squads, but look for the OSU D-Line to get after Rudock and the Wolverine rushing attack after a subpar effort against Sparty. And it's possible that Zeke could actually get a few carries this week and run with a bit of purpose when given the chance. A win over Harbaugh caps a good season regardless of what happens in East Lansing, though not exactly a successful one. OSU: 28--TTUN: 20

Schweinfurth: This is the contest that counts this week. There are two ways these Buckeyes can go, galvanize together and win, or devide and get crushed. I have gone back and forth on which Buckeye offense will show up and I have settled on the one we expected to see. Urban is going to get involved this week and that usually signals a turnaround. After Zeke's little spat last week, he will run possessed. There is nothing quite like a butt whooping to cleanse the soul. The soul has been cleansed. The Bullets are still there and Jack Rudock is just a guy. The Bullets get two picks and the Bucks in another close one up north. OSU: 21--TTUN: 17
Seeberg:  Let's be honest, Buckeye Nation, we all knew that the Khaki Eclipse was going to bring ttun back to at least national respectability, but nobody expected them to be this good this fast.  How I LONG for Brady Hoke again.  If you had told me BOTH teams would be in the top ten for the 2015 version of The Game I would've laughed you out of town.  On paper it should be a 2-TD coast for the Bucks, but we haven't performed up to our paper status all year, and after the outbursts following the Sparty debacle, there's less reason to think we'll start now.  Plus, I'll let you in on a little secret:  I picked against the Bucks four times last year, and we went 4-0.  In all honesty?  I thought we would win two of them, but I didn't wanna ruin the mojo.  Time to recover last year's magic and inspire our Buckeyes by picking the stinkpile in Ann Arbor.  OSU: 17--TTUN: 20

Upset Special

Draper: South Carolina over Cle_son (screw it, go big or go ho_e)
Hoying: Illinois over Northwestern
Schweinfurth: Auburn over The Tide (I want to see the college football world burn)
Seeberg: Auburn over Alaba_a...KIDDING.  Let's go Georgia Tech over Georgia

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Top 25 and Heisman Ballots - After Week 12

Rankings, as always, are based on what teams have done so far, not how we believe they will finish. Leave a comment and console us in our misery.

Let's Go Bucks Index
1. Clemson (unchanged)
2. Iowa (up 1)
3. Alabama (up 2)
4. Michigan State (up 4)
5. Oklahoma (up 3)
6. Notre Dame (unchanged)
7. Baylor (up 9)
8. Oklahoma State (down 4)
9. Ohio State (down 7)
10. Michigan (up 1)
11. Florida (down 4)
12. Stanford (up 1)
13a. Navy (unchanged)
13b. Northwestern (up 4)
15. North Carolina (up 4)
16. Ole Miss (up 5)
17a. TCU (down 5)
17b. Florida State (up 2)
19. Oregon (up 5)
20. Houston (down 10)
21. LSU (down 6)
22. Washington State (unranked)
23. Mississippi State (unranked)
24a. Utah (down 6)
24b. UCLA (unranked)

Dropped from rankings: #21 Wisconsin, #23 Memphis, #25 USC

Others receiving votes: Toledo, Temple, Memphis, Texas A&M

Let's Go Bucks Heisman Index

1. Derrick Henry (RB--Bama)
2. Dalvin Cook (RB--FSU)

Others receiving votes: Baker Mayfield (QB--Okla), Christian McCaffrey (RB--Stan), Ezekiel Elliott (RB--OSU)

Draper Top 25
1. Clemson (up 1)
2. Iowa (up 1)
3. Alabama (up 2)
4. Notre Dame (up 2)
5. Michigan State (up 3)
6. Oklahoma (up 3)
7. Ohio State (down 6)
8. Baylor (up 9)
9. Oklahoma State (down 5)
10. Navy (up 1)
11. Michigan (up 5)
12. Florida (down 5)
13. Northwestern (up 6)
14. Stanford (unchanged)
15. TCU (down 3)
16. North Carolina (up 2)
17. Florida State (up 4)
18. Ole Miss (up 7)
19. Washington State (up 4)
20. Houston (down 10)
21. Oregon (unranked)
22. Mississippi State (unranked)
23. UCLA (unranked)
24. Louisiana State (down 11)
25. Temple (unranked)

Dropped from Rankings: #15 Utah, #20 Wisconsin, #22 USC, #24 Memphis

Draper Heisman Ballot
1. Derrick Henry (RB--Alabama)
2. Dalvin Cook (RB--FSU)
3. Ezekiel Elliot (RB--OSU)

Hoying Top 25 (forgive me)
1. Clemson (unchanged)
2. Iowa (unchanged)
3. Alabama (up 2)
4. Michigan State (up 5)
5. Notre Dame (up 1)
6. Oklahoma (up 4)
7. Baylor (up 8)
8. Oklahoma State (down 5)
9. Florida (down 1)
10. Northwestern (up 2)
11. Michigan (up 2)
12. Navy (down 1)
13. Stanford (up 4)
14. Ohio State (down 10)
15. TCU (down 1)
16. Mississippi (up 3)
17. LSU (down 1)
18. North Carolina (up 7)
19. Utah (up 1)
20. Oregon (up 1)
21. Temple (unranked)
22. Memphis (down 4)
23. Florida State (unranked)
24. Texas A&M (unranked)
25. UCLA (unranked)

Dropped from rankings: #7 Houston, #22 Wisconsin, #23 USC, #24 Toledo

Hoying Heisman Ballot
1. Derrick Henry (RB--Bama)
2. Christian McCaffrey (RB--Stan)
3. Dalvin Cook (RB--FSU)

Seeberg Top 25
1.) Clemson (up 1)
2.) Alabama (up 1)
3.) Iowa (up 2)
4.) Oklahoma (up 2)
5.) Michigan State (up 3)
6.) Baylor (up 6)
7.) Ohio State (down 6)
8.) Notre Dame (down 1)
9.) Oklahoma State (down 6)
10.) Stanford (up 1)
11.) Michigan (down 1)
12.) North Carolina (up 5)
13.) Florida (down 4)
14.) Florida State (down 1)
15.) Northwestern (up 3)
16.) Navy (up 4)
17.) Ole Miss (up 4)
18.) Oregon (up 4)
19.) Houston (down 3)
20.) Toledo (up 1)
21.) Mississippi State (unranked)
22.) UCLA (unranked)
23.) Washington State (unranked)
24.) TCU (down 9)
25.) Utah (down 9)
Dropped from rankings: #14 LSU, #23 Wisconsin, #25 USC

Seeberg Heisman Ballot
1.) Derrick Henry (RB--Bama)
2.) Baker Mayfield (QB--Okla)
3.) Dalvin Cook (RB--FSU)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Grading the Bucks: Week 12--Michigan State

No. Excuses.

The finger pointing has begun in Columbus, but make no mistake, this was a total team effort.  From the coaches, to the QB, to the RB, to the WR, to the lines, to the one is safe.

Offense: F
This was one of the most inept offensive performances by a Buckeye squad I've ever seen (the only one that comes close is 2004 Iowa--and that team was quite different).  If one unit must shoulder the bulk of the blame, it has to be the offensive line.  They were simply atrocious in this game.  Don't get me wrong, the Spartan D-line is very good and played an excellent game, but the trenches often determine the game, and the Spartans clearly outschemed and out'desired' the Bucks.  The line couldn't open up running lanes, couldn't protect JT for more than 2 seconds, and was simply abused.  Which brings me to the simple complaint, 'Why didn't Zeke get more carries?' Should he have? Maybe.  Was this a horrendous oversight by the coaches? Absolutely not.  Zeke refers to the power plays in which we 'gashed the Spartan D'.  He must have been watching a different game.  There was nowhere to run.  Again, should your best player be given more at-bats? Probably, but that doesn't address the 400lb gorilla of Shilique Calhoun and the D-line completely shutting Zeke down.  That isn't really on Zeke, but moreso on the O-line, but the team is a unit and the coaches need to look at the big picture.  The biggest flaw in the gameplan was utilizing Barrett on called runs over and over.  He had one or two successful plays, but not much room to run in general.  JT again made me look bad with another bad performance.  The conditions didn't help but he chose to tuck and run too quickly in my opinion.  Would Cardale have been better? Maybe but probably not.  The pocket was collapsing so fast (see O-line struggles) that Cardale's indecisiveness would have resulted in sacks rather than 'oh crap' 1 yard runs by JT.  Maybe, just maybe, we should have attacked Sparty's weakness of the secondary.  The weather didn't help but we threw deep 2 times.  Once, was to a wide open Braxton who was overthrown due to horrible pass protection and the other was against the wind in which Thomas had to prevent the interception.  Thomas, Braxton, Marshall, etc. are better downfield receivers but the Meyer scheme likes the quick screens...doesn't help when your receivers can't catch the ball.

Defense: B-
Only giving up 17 points to a top 10 team is a pretty good day, but not good enough.  The downgrade is for two major issues.  First, we were going against backup QB's in the muck.  Why are the safeties 15 yards off the line of scrimmage? MSU dared the Bucks to beat them over the top and we never tried.  Why didn't we do the same? If the backup hits it downfield, tip the cap, but allowing 200+ rushing yards (albeit against a really good team) when you know they are running the ball is a real problem.  The second issue is the lack of mental focus.  Every week, this team seems to roll the ball out there and expect to win based on the enormous talent gap (and yes, it is there).  Bosa had 3 HUGE offside penalties brought on by lack of focus.  Wipe those off the board, and I think the W is on the good guys end.  Think I'm going to far? one in particular was on a failed 4th and 8 making it 4th and 3 which was converted leading to a TD...seems pretty relevant in this game.  Oh yeah, that was the 3rd one.  How do you not adjust? Focus on what happened and learn.  Fool me once.... The secondary was fine, but the didn't have to do anything.  Perry got beat on the PA to the fullback for the touchdown but as I say, PA to the fullback is open 100% of the time (I may need to check the numbers, but sounds right).  He made a nice tackle but too late.  Of all the Buckeyes who saw their careers in the Show come to an end on Saturday, Perry is the only one who had a semblance of a decent game.

Special Teams: B-
A whole lot of 'eh' here other than the spectacular 5 yard punt by the normally solid Cam Johnston.  Most of his punts were fine, but that gem, while it didn't lead to points, bears note.  Hey! No kicks out of bounds and no missed kicks! Success!

Coaching: F
I'm gonna be that guy...I don't blame the coaching staff for not running Zeke repeatedly into a brick wall.  I would have given him a few more carries as opposed to the designed JT runs, but they were absolutely crazy to avoid the Bollman offense.  I will question the lack of stretching the field (or at least pretending to to back the safeties off).  Also, what happened to the option? JT generally runs it well although he had a few weird decisions in this game.  It all seemed to boil down to straight Zeke, straight JT run, or one read JT then take off (that's Cardale's job).  Defensive coaching was ok but to not cheat up with the safeties was a mistake to aid in the run game.  The biggest mistake from the coaches was not having the team prepared.  There was no gameplan, no motivation, no fire, no nothing.  We got complacent and it bit us...and that's on the coaches.  Don't get me wrong, the players sucked too, but the lack of fire is a lack of leadership both within and outside the huddle.

Overall: F
You play to win the game.  We didn't.  Everyone on that sideline contributed to the loss.  Everyone. This may be one of the most talented Buckeye teams in history, but because of this inexcusable performance, they will (likely) be an after thought in the annals of Buckeye lore.  That's a shame, but the truth.  You're remembered how you finish.  Last year, the team finished with a chip on their shoulder.  This year, the team flamed out amid a finger pointing, blaming, whine-fest.  You want to make a statement? There's only one thing left.  Pound Michigan into the ground so far that Harbaugh will regret leaving the University of San Diego let alone the Niners.  No mercy.  Or...come out flat, and be remembered as one of the biggest wastes of talent in recent memory.  The choices are yours and your alone.


Zeke: No
Don't you love the talking heads lauding Zeke for his postgame comments?  How many former players are siding with the stud RB?  Crickets.  Was he right in what he said? Maybe, but I'm not 100%.  Was he right to say it? NO. NO. NO.  This is the antithesis of a leader.  You have a problem with the coach, bring it up with him in his office.  You don't air the dirty laundry in the media.  Ever.  I don't care if he was completely right and the world knew it.  You don't throw your coaches/team under the bus.  EVER.
But he's just speaking his feelings...NO.
But he should have gotten more touches...NO.
But he's earned the right...NO
Imagine saying those things with Woody as the coach.  If I'm a player on the team, I lost some respect for Zeke shining the spot light on himself.  Players and coaches give lame answers to the media because that's how it's done.  If I'm Urban, I 100% sit him for the start of the game.  No, I don't suspend him.  He's earned the right to screw up, but actions have consequences.  You sit him for the start, not for his sake, but for the team's.  No one...NO ONE is bigger than the program.  Again, we're entitled to stumble but actions have consequences (a fact lost in our society today).  Imagine you have the world's dumbest boss and everyone agrees.  What happens if you publicly call him/her out? Actions. Have. Consequences.  He may be spot on with his comments (I happen to disagree in part), but you can't handle it like this because it foments doubt in the leadership.  The team with the cohesive goal is the team that flourishes (see 2014 Buckeyes).  Without the team mentality, we have a collection of really talented players, who have yet to put it together.

Want to go down in Buckeye lore in a more positive fashion? Hammer the Wolverines this week, Zeke.  Galvanize the team and throw your support behind the coaches.  One goal.  One mission.  BEAT BLUE!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Back into the Playoffs?

For the first time since September 2014, Ohio State lost. And despite only falling by 3 points, they looked bad doing it. From the reactions by the loyal fan base, you'd think this team had fallen out of bowl eligibility, let alone championship contention. However, is it possible that OSU, a team that doesn't even control its own destiny to win its own division, could find a way into the playoffs for a second straight year?

Surprisingly, yes. And it's not really that far-fetched.

Forget the rankings for now. It doesn't matter how far Ohio State falls or how many teams are ahead of them at this point. We saw last year how fluid the Playoff Commitee's rankings are, even during the final week. Keep your eye on the teams that could or would finish ahead of the Buckeyes when the dust has settled.

Obviously, Ohio State will have the most chances to impress the committee if they get back to Indianapolis first. Is that still possible? Yes. All it takes is a Buckeye win over That Team Up North and a Michigan State loss to Penn State next weekend. Unlikely? Sure. But not unheard if in a year chock full of upsets already.

If Ohio State beats Michigan and backs into the B1G title game, they'll face a (likely) undefeated Iowa. A win there gives them the following resume:

a neutral field win over 12-1 Iowa
a win at 9-3 Michigan
a home win over 8-4 Penn State
a home win over likely MAC champion Northern Illinois
a home loss to 10-2 (and likely still top 10) Michigan State
a POWER 5 CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP (which the Committee has repeatedly said is a big, big deal)

In order for this version of Ohio State to miss the playoffs, they'd need 4 teams to finish ahead of them. Let's start with the obvious teams that would likely finish ahead of 12-1 Ohio State:

1. ACC Champion 13-0 Clemson
2. SEC Champion 12-1 Alabama or Florida

Both of these would be no-brainers. But we need two more to relegate Ohio State to the Rose Bowl.

3. 1-loss Big 12 champion Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, or Baylor? Hard to say. Oklahoma State and Baylor would have resumes remarkably similar to Ohio State's, but with a worse non-conference schedule and without the added benefit of a 13th game. Oklahoma would have better wins but a real anchor of a loss (especially if Texas loses out, which they probably will). If Ohio State blasts Iowa 59-0 (hold your laughter until the end), don't be surprised if the Buckeyes jumped the Big 12 champion.

4. Whence comes the 4th? Not from the Pac-12, whose champion will have, at best, 2 losses. Let's consider 11-1 Notre Dame, which would have:

a win at likely Pac-12 champion 9-3 Stanford
a win at home over possible AAC champion 12-1 Navy
a win at 10-2 Temple
a win at 9-3 Pittsburgh
a win vs. (probably 7-5 but possible 9-4 Pac-12 champion) USC
a loss at probable #1 Clemson

Notre Dame would have the better loss and better overall wins, Ohio State would have the better top win and a conference title. Not a slam dunk for ND even with all the love the committee's given them to this point.

So if Michigan State does lose next week and Ohio State manages to win out, all they need is the slightest bit of chaos to befall the Big 12 champion, Notre Dame, Clemson, or the SEC champion.

It's unlikely to happen to the Big 12 champ. After last night, the Big 12 champion can't have fewer than one loss, and unless the champ is Oklahoma, that loss will have been against a pretty good team. As stated above, the Buckeyes might jump the Big 12 champion on resume alone (can't imagine that ever happening), but it's best to look for chaos elsewhere.

The scenario plays out most cleanly if Notre Dame loses to Stanford. Done.

Clemson poses an interesting puzzle. A loss to awful awful South Carolina would be devastating (just ask North Carolina), especially so late in the year. However, a win over North Carolina might mitigate that, particularly if the Notre Dame win holds up. On the other hand, if Clemson loses to North Carolina, they're done, likely taking the ACC's playoff hopes with them. No way the committee puts a 1-loss conference runner-up Clemson ahead of a 1-loss conference champion Ohio State. And North Carolina wouldn't compare favorably with Ohio State either (comparable top win, flimsier overall schedule, AWFUL loss).

As for the SEC, if Alabama loses to Auburn and Ole Miss wins the SEC, they don't go to the playoff. If Florida loses to Florida State and wins the SEC title, they don't go to the playoff (LSU loss is quickly going into the tank and the wins aren't particularly good). The most interesting question arises if Alabama loses to Auburn, Ole Miss loses to Mississippi State, and Alabama beats Florida. Does an SEC champion Alabama with 2 bad losses stay ahead of a 12-1 Big Ten Champion Ohio State? I would say "probably not," but the debates would be fierce, especially at SECSPN.

In summary, Ohio State no longer controls its destiny, but all that it needs to return to the playoff is (1) Michigan State to lose to Penn State, and (2) basically any other playoff contender to trip and fall on its face. And the Bucks might not even need #2 if they collect enough style points over the next two weeks to pass the Big 12 champion or Notre Dame. Compare this to 2007, when Ohio State needed 2 of LSU, West Virginia, and the Kansas/Missouri winner to lose in order to reach the BCS National Championship. And all 3 lost. In a year marked by the most big upsets since that crazy season, it's not too much to ask for 2 more.

And shhhh, but do you want to join me for the really crazy part?

Ohio State might not need Michigan State to lose this weekend either.

Consider the following delusional mishmash.

Ohio State beats the enemy.
Iowa crushes Michigan State in the B1G title game.
USC beats UCLA, then beats Stanford in the Pac-12 title game.
Oklahoma blasts Oklahoma State.
Baylor loses to TCU or Texas.
Clemson loses to South Carolina.
North Carolina loses to NC State and beats Clemson in the ACC title game.
Florida loses to Florida State.
Alabama loses to Auburn.
Ole Miss beats Mississippi State and beats Florida in the SEC title game.

Such mayhem would produce this list of playoff contenders:

13-0 (or 12-1) B1G Champ Iowa
11-1 Big 12 Champ Oklahoma
11-2 ACC Champ North Carolina
10-3 SEC Champ Ole Miss
9-4 Pac-12 Champ USC
11-2 Clemson
11-2 Michigan State
10-2 Alabama
10-2 Oklahoma State
10-2 (or 9-3) Baylor
10-2 (or 9-3) TCU
10-2 Notre Dame
10-3 Florida
10-3 Stanford
Group of 5 teams, none of which is undefeated

I see two teams on that list that obviously get in over 11-1 Ohio State. I'm not sure I see four.

Buckle up, Buckeye Nation. We could be in for a wild finish. But most importantly, make sure you BEAT BLUE!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Week 12 - B(1G)East Mode

1) Seeberg             41-14    (1-10 upset) 
2) Draper               40-15    (5-6 upset)
3) Schweinfurth     36-19    (2-9 upset)
3) Hoying               36-19    (1-10 upset)

We're ten games into the season, and the mission for the B1G East's elite remains the same as it was in August: win out and you're going to Indianapolis to (probably) play Iowa.

Meanwhile, the Big 12 season has finally arrived in earnest. Get ready for a sprint to the finish as Oklahoma State desperately tries to carry the BXII flag into the playoff for the first time.

#11 Michigan Wolverines @ Penn State Nittany Lions

Draper: Michigan survives another nail biter against a mediocre to bad team.  Everyone talks about Michigan as being super unlucky after the UM/MSU ridiculousness, but look at the last few games in which they COMPLETELY fell backwards into wins.  Here's the secret, Michigan's defense can handle a good running game.  Leidner played well, but Jordan Howard completely destroyed the myth of a stout UM defense.  Enter Saquan Barkley who is really really good.  PSU has the Hackenburg suckiness, but if Franklin hands the ball off 30 times, PSU wins a big one.  The Lion defense shouldn't have too much of a problem with Jake Rudock (you know, because they don't suck like IU).  Lions knock the Wolverines out of the BEast race backing them into a corner for the The Game. UM: 20--PSU: 27
Hoying: Did any of you actually think that Indiana would be able to hold a 4th quarter lead against a team with a pulse? OK, so last week taught us nothing new about the Hoosiers, but the last two weeks have revealed a disturbing trend regarding what was once the nation's hottest team: Harbaugh's defense has suddenly disappeared. Granted, Jordan Howard is very good and Mitch Leidner was very lucky, but 3 consecutive shutouts feels like an eternity ago. And here comes Saquan I-ran-for-194-yards-against-an-actual-elite-defense Barkley. Fortunately for that school up north, Jake Rudock seems to have become what Hackenberg was at his peak, and UM will need him against a stout Penn State D. This is a terrible trap game for the Corn and Blue, and they drop a big one at the most inopportune time. We'll find out how stern their stuff is next week. UM: 23--PSU: 24

Schweinfurth: Penn St. gets Michigan at a good time, right before playing the Buckeyes and in a good place, Happy Valley. After watching Jordan Howard run crazy and tenderize the scUM front seven, Saquan Barkley is set up for a BIG day. I expect lots of running and not so much passing. UM: 13--PSU: 17
Seeberg:  Unfortunately, scUM avoided a collapse against Indiana last week, and in the process won a borderline shootout- something the Wolverines didn't appear capable of doing.  This game is likely to feature a helluva lot fewer points, which is right in their wheelhouse.  With Sackenburg sitting in the pocket like one of those targets at the county fair that just moves back and forth every time you hit it with the pop gun, the Nittany Lions are likely to be in a lot of 3rd and longs which means the maize and blue defense will tee off on the immobile QB.  Crowd keeps them in it for a half or so, but (We Are) Penn State wears down late.  UM: 24--PSU: 13

#15 Louisiana State Tigers @ #21 Ole Miss Rebels
Draper: I don't know what to make of these teams.  LSU looked beastly until Bama destroyed them, then even Bert could take em down.  Ole Miss has been up and down all year but Nkemdiche is questionable and the best player on the field wear's purple and gold.  Are Miles and the Tigers going to go quietly into that goodnight? I don't think so.  Leonard Fournette restates his Heisman hopes (albeit a little too late). The Grove will be rocking but the Taigahs will geaux.  LSU: 27--Miss: 20
Hoying: LSU loses to Arkansas in another installment of the world's wackiest rivalry and the fans instantly complain that the wheels are falling off in Baton Rouge. I'm glad our fans are more patient and never freak out over a loss...But however bad it's been, it's about to get worse. Alabama drafted the blueprint for stopping Fournette, and the Landsharks aren't going to be to be any easier of a puzzle for the Tigers to solve. Maybe LSU can win by throwing over the top. Heh. Heheheheh. HeeheeeheeheeheehahahahaHAHAHAHAHAH! LSU: 17--Miss: 20

Schweinfurth: There is no way LSU loses three in a row right? Yes, Alabama gave the blueprint to stop Fournette (and really all you had to do was load the box because the Tigers don't have a QB). With that said, I just don't think Ole' Miss has the horses on defense, mostly becuase it's Ole' Miss. Fournette does just enough to win this for the Tigers. LSU: 20--Miss: 14
Seeberg:  Seriously, Tiger fans?  Les Miles is coaching for his job?  If there is even a shred of truth in that Miles should just bolt out the back door and never return.  In any event, LSU will likely be okay either way.  Bama put 37 on the Landsharks with an offense that has serious trouble throwing the ball.  Sound familiar?  I wouldn't expect any explosion quite like that, but the Tigers will Rag on that Ole Miss O (see what I did there??) and make just enough plays on offense to get back on track.  LSU: 24--Miss: 20

#17 Northwestern Wildcats @ #21 Wisconsin Badgers
Draper:  Another toughie.  Wisconsin has floated around the periphery after dropping the only two games of consequence.  Bama destroyed them and Iowa killed football with their 10-6 crapfest win (see Bengals on MNF).  Northwestern has the win over Stanford and....yeah.  I think the Badgers may be able to finally squeeze some life out of Camp Randall for a 'bigger than anyone will give them credit for' win.  The game should be competitive...but that doesn't mean good.  NW: 14--Wisc: 17
Hoying: How good is Wisconsin? The Badgers played 2 elite teams, lost to them both, and played NOBODY else. Northwestern's rebounded a bit from their midseason skid, claiming a nice victory over Penn State, but moving the ball against the nation's top scoring defense (!) might bring out the old Northwestern we know and love. However, even if Northwestern can't move the ball, Wisconsin has offensive struggles of their own, completely losing their identity without a viable running threat. Ehhh...I'm feeling the battle-tested NW defense to outshine a Badger D that's been feasting on cupcake row. NW: 13--UW: 10

Schweinfurth: If this game was in the "mighty" SEC it would be touted as a clash of two great defenses. There will be almost no points scored in this one. Northwestern's offense does just enough to win and Wisconsin is a shell of what they have been the past few years. First team to score a TD wins. NW: 10--UW: 9
Seeberg:  Another B1G clash with points at a premium.  Sadly for Iowa, the loser is likely out of the top 25, hurting their quality win status.  Iowa's hideous 10-6 win over the Badgers earlier in the year was against an extremely shorthanded Wisconsin squad.  The Badgers are marginally healthier now, and I expect them to completely shut down NW.  Will they score enough points to win?  Not in most cases- but this is the exception.  NW: 6--UW: 10

#16 Baylor Bears @ #4 Oklahoma State Cowboys

Draper: Shootouts continue in the Big 12.  Baylor faltered under the lights this week, but they get an immediate shot at redemption.  The Pokes came back from another late deficit, but keep winning.  While Baylor shrunk on the big stage, OSU tends to rise up.  Stillwater is always rocking so lean on the Cowboys.  Baylor had their hopes and dreams crushed last week, and I don't think this team has the intestinal fortitude to come back from disappointment.  Baylor: 49--OSU: 59
Hoying; Good news for the Big 12: the Pac 12 isn't churning out a champion with fewer than 2 losses, all but eliminating them from the playoff picture. Bad news for the Big 12: Notre Dame is still sitting at the 4 spot and only Oklahoma State has a chance to escape the conference unblemished. Considering Baylor's craptastic schedule, Bob Bowlsby's dreamcatcher is probably chock full of trogglehumpers of Baylor recovering from last week's loss to run the table. Fortunately for him, the Cowboys are a legitimate title contender who fight until the final pistol. The Force is with young Jarrett Stidham, but he's not a Big 12 contender yet. Baylor: 45--OSU: 56
Schweinfurth: That vaunted Baylor offense sure looked great last week...or not. Baylor just doesn't have it when they play top competition. Oklahoma State on the other hand has looked good lately and is climbing up the standings. Take the Pokes at home. Baylor: 42--OSU: 63
Seeberg:  I'll be honest, it'd be nice to see Baylor lose again so we can finally stop hearing from Art it's-un-American-to-leave-us-out-of-the-playoff Briles.  Fortunately, that's likely to come to fruition.  On the road with a backup QB whose only games thus far are a narrow win at KSU and a loss at home against the Sooners.  They'll score points as always, but that steel-sieve defense will be their undoing again.  Bay: 35--OSU: 45

UCLA Bruins @ #18 Utah Utes
Draper: Both of these teams are...I have no clue.  Utah had it all in front of them, and crapped themselves vs. Arizona.  UCLA has been a Jekyll and Hyde team all year.  Rosen, Wilson, who will emerge.  No clue.  I do know that Salt Lake is a pretty intense environment.  Utah has crashed after flying too close to the sun, but UCLA has been middling all year.  With the Utes fight back for a chance and the title or will good UCLA grab control of their Pac 12 South destiny.  No clue.  The loss of Booker for the year tips the scales slightly to the visitors.  UCLA: 27--Utah: 24
Hoying: Oh yeah, the Pac-12 is still playing football. I forgot how boring a conference race becomes when it's not likely to end with a playoff berth. Remember how many conferences suffered this fate back in the BCS era, when only 2 teams got to move on to the championship? They dragged me kicking and screaming into the brave new world of playoffs, but I think I've been proven dead wrong. I genuinely care about all the other games on this list because of the playoff implications they carry. In contrast, I can't come up with anything to say about this one. Really. Got nothing. UCLA: 27--Utah: 20
Schweinfurth: I really have no clue here. I did see that Booker may be questionable for Utah. That will be a huge difference in this one. UCLA: 24--Utah: 17
Seeberg:  I have been whiffing on PAC-12 games left and right all year and this one is no easier to prognosticate.  Both teams are coming off bad losses, UCLA is having an expected mercurial season with a true frosh QB, and Utah is just good enough to get your hopes up before falling flat.  I expect Rosen to play an inspired game after a lackluster performance last week, so I'll take the Bruins in an I-wouldn't-be-at-all-surprised-if-it-went-the-other-way contest.  UCLA: 31--Utah: 23

#12 Texas Christian Horned Frogs @ #8 Oklahoma Sooners
Draper: OU is flying up everyone's charts,  but their one win may not be that impressive if Baylor takes a dive.  That being said, no one has fallen quicker than TCU.  After losing to the Pokes, the near miss vs. one of the worst teams in the country is a major worry.  TCU is falling fast and OU is rising quickly.  While I'm not completely on the Sooner Schooner, I like what I'm seeing out of Norman.  The game's also in Norman? BOOMER!! TCU: 17--OU: 38
Hoying: Remember the 2010 national championship? Texas finally made it back to the big show after being controversially left out the previous year in favor of Oklahoma, a team they beat (although any Big 12 selection for the title game that year would've been controversial). They came out firing on their first drive...and lost Colt McCoy for the game to a shoulder injury. The Alabama-Texas clash of the titans never came to be and the Tide cruised to victory. I feel like we were robbed of a possible matchup of that level here. No Boykin, no Doctson, no chance for TCU to stop what's become the nation's most frightening juggernaut since That School Up North in early October. Bedlam next week will have never been Bedlammier. TCU: 27--OU: 42
Schweinfurth: Boykin and Doctson may be out for this one and that is most definitely not a good thing for TCU. Add the porous TCU defense this year and you have the perfect storm for a Sooner win. TCU: 21--OU: 38
Seeberg:  TCU's defense has gotten moderately healthier in the last few weeks; however, their offense has gotten much more ill.  Both Trevone Boykin and Josh Doctson are questionable for the game with nagging injuries, meaning if both can give it a go they won't be at full strength.  Meanwhile, the Sooners are riding high after dethroning the Briles Bears last week.  TCU is too good for the Sooners to look past like they did against Texas for their annual Bob Stoops Inexplicable Loss of the Year Award (TM).  Onto Bedlam as a potential playoff play-in game.  TCU: 28--OU: 42

#8 Michigan State Spartans @ #2 THE Ohio State University Buckeyes
Draper:  Is MSU good? They have the fluky win over the Wolverines and a lot of near misses against subpar to bad competition.  The Bucks finally get their first test, but I'm not totally sure if this is the test that we thought it would be in August.  Cook is hurt (no matter what the Spartans say) which pretty much removes the offense.  LJ Scott is a nice back and the receivers are alright, but without the signal caller, there's not much there.  Oh yeah, the Buckeye defense has been fantastic of late.  The Bucks, on the other side of the ball, need to emerge from the cocoon as they did in the MSU game last year.  JT needs to take control and rebound after last weeks' 'eh' performance.  More importantly, the O-line needs to slow Shilique Calhoun.  I think they will and the Bucks make a statement before facing the fighting Harbaughs.  MSU: 17--OSU: 42
Hoying: Did you know that Penn State can still win the B1G East? All they need is to win their final two games and hope that the Buckeyes lose out. I hate Penn State more than any other team (except one), so it's very important that our boys slam the door on any Rose Bowl hopes for the Lions with a big win over Sparty. Back in September, these teams were #1 and #2 for a brief period before Michigan State went all 2002 Ohio State and started struggling against poor opponents. This is not the same Sparty that terrorized the B1G for a couple years with a dominating defense, but that might make Buckeye fans more nervous. No one scores consequential upsets over Ohio State like That Other School Up North. From wins over Archie and the gang back in the early 70's to ending the Bucks' title hopes in the BCS's opening and closing seasons, there are plenty of reasons not to take this team lightly. The good news is that Urban has had this game marked on his calendar since last season ended, so Buckeye fans should expect to see the best performance from the Silver Bullets and a fully armed and operational JT Barrett-led offense (don't expect any field goals, though). A Penn State win over Meatchicken (see above) and the Buckeyes clinch a spot in the B1G championship a week ahead of THE GAME. MSU: 17--OSU: 35

Schweinfurth: Sparty is mad about last year. Ya know, that one game they played Ohio State and couldn't stop the QB power when everyone knew it was coming. The Buckeye offense since the Virginia Tech game has looked very vanilla and has still put up decent numbers. With JT shaking the rust off last week, I expect the playbook to be wide open this week. The Spartan secondary has been very suspect lately, but they can get a pass rush. Urban and Warriner have been working to shore the pass blocking up the past few weeks and we should see dividends Saturday afternoon. With Connor Cook possibly injured, this game could get ugly, but emotion keeps Sparty in through the first half. MSU: 17--OSU: 42
Seeberg:  Anybody see/believe the betting line on this? We are a 2-touchdown favorite.  That terrifies the heck out of me.  As we know the offense has been sputtering for much of the year, but a pleasant surprise, at least to me, has been the Silver Bullet D.  They seemed to embrace The Grind a bit more than the O, and are already playing at CFP-level form. I do believe the offense will begin to round into shape, but not fully against a tough Sparty D.  Regardless, bettors should take Sparty, but the Bucks take the game.  MSU: 17--OSU: 28   

Upset Special

Draper: Virginia Tech over North Carolina
Hoying: Tulsa over Navy
Schweinfurth: Boston College over Notre Dame
Seeberg: Indiana over Maryland (seriously, MD is a 2-point favorite)