Possibility of a USC-Oklahoma title game, Oregon's QB curse and more
Well ... I guess I can go ahead and pack it in for the next 12 weeks. USC fans have already punched their tickets for Miami, Oklahoma has given no reason to believe it won't do the same and Georgia fans are already griping about a possible repeat of Auburn's 2004 snub. I'll just disappear to the Caribbean for a few months and return in time to cover the chaos in early December.
Have we all forgotten what happened a year ago?
Last year, it seemed the most appropriate question all year long was "who will survive until next week?" This year, the question to me is "how competitive will the Oklahoma-USC game be on January 8th?" Am I way off base? I don't see anyone else good enough to run the table. And Georgia fans, I include your team in this because of their offense, not their schedule.
OK, so Kevin does raise a valid point. One of the reasons last year was so chaotic is that we simply didn't have any truly elite teams that separated themselves from the pack, a la USC in 2004/'05 or Miami earlier this decade. While I can't emphasize enough that it's still early, the Trojans and Sooners certainly appear capable of becoming those kind of teams. I'm not yet sold on Georgia but could come around pretty quickly after the Dawgs' next two games against Arizona State and Alabama.
It stands to reason that this year will be a little more orderly at the top because most of last year's season-long contenders were fairly young (LSU excluded). While USC, Oklahoma and Georgia were all pretty darn good last year, they're all much more experienced at key positions this season. Therefore, they should become more dominant. The Trojans' running backs and receivers look light years ahead of where they were last year which, when combined with what was already a championship-level defense, has turned them into a much scarier team. And it's hard to believe that a year ago, QB Sam Bradford, RB DeMarco Murray and DT Gerald McCoy were only freshmen. While last year's Oklahoma team racked up a bunch of early blowouts as well, this one would seem more equipped to stand up over the long haul.
But any way-too-early projections like this one fail to take into account a crucial element: injuries. How different would last year's national-title race have been if John David Booty never broke his finger? Dennis Dixon didn't tear his ACL? Pat White didn't miss the bulk of his team's two losses? Half the LSU defense didn't get banged up the second half of the season?
So yes, it would appear as of now that USC and Oklahoma have both the personnel and the favorable enough schedules to run the table (though remember, the Trojans have lost at least one Pac-10 game they had no business losing the past two seasons, and I'm sure Texas and Missouri are itching for their shots at the Sooners). Meanwhile, I can't imagine Georgia or any other SEC team making it through to December without at least one defeat. But all that could change in the blink of an eye with even a single injury to a key player. Just ask Ohio State.
Speaking of which ...
You've never hesitated to rub it in the face of one of your readers that made a pregame comment that sounded incredibly stupid postgame. I think it's time for you to eat some crow. Your tale about how the OSU-Ohio game didn't worry you the way it did some of your colleagues -- yeah, that didn't work out so well for you.
I'll admit it: I was wrong. Not just about that Ohio game -- about Ohio State in general.
I'm the idiot that wrote off the Florida and LSU title-game blowouts as aberrations. I'm the idiot who continually insisted that OSU was a perfectly good team that wasn't getting properly tested by its conference competition. I'm the idiot that ranked the Buckeyes No. 1 in the preseason.
And yet for some reason people still seek this idiot's opinion on football matters.
Why do YOU think Ohio State has choked so terribly during its last three big-time games against non-Big Ten opponents? They send as many guys to the NFL as anybody, and as some have pointed out, they have as much talent as most everyone else out there this year. Each game (Florida, LSU and USC) they have come out and scored first and looked up to the challenge -- then they quickly fell apart, both offensively and defensively.
In order to properly answer this question, you first have to acknowledge that Jim Tressel's teams used to win these types of games. They won their first three BCS games. They routed defending national champion Texas in Austin. But something changed with that infamous Florida game.
As we all remember, Florida's pass-rushers completely overwhelmed Ohio State's offensive line in that game. While Tressel has recruited no shortage of talent at nearly every other position (as the draft will bore out again next spring), it's abundantly clear by now that his offensive line flat-out stinks. I couldn't tell you why -- those guys, just like the rest of the Buckeyes, were all blue-chip recruits -- but they've been completely overmatched in all three games.
Secondly, you've got to look at coaching. It may well be that OSU was the inferior team in all three cases, but that's still no excuse for such lopsided margins. While Tressel has done enough right in his career to earn a high reputation, he's been quite clearly outcoached by Urban Meyer, Les Miles and Pete Carroll, particularly when it comes to in-game adjustments. It took Carroll all of two possessions to figure out how to counter the Todd Boeckman/Terrelle Pryor rotation, yet Tressel stuck with it well after it became clear the Buckeyes could not protect Boeckman.
But most of all, I think the shock of that Florida loss became permanently ingrained in OSU's psyche. As I wrote Saturday night, the Buckeyes' litany of mental mistakes against USC were eerily reminiscent of the LSU game. Tressel's teams never used to play so sloppy -- and they only seem to do so when the spotlight shines the brightest. I don't think it's a coincidence. OSU tackle Alex Boone even said afterward: "I think it might be nervousness. ... [As] much as we just say that it is just a game, it is, but guys come out here, they see 100,000 people and they get antsy."
I think a sports psychologist could write a book about these guys.
I'm writing you about It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, possibly the most cleverly written show since Seinfeld and, in my opinion, the best show on TV. We fans are depending on YOU to keep spreading the word to your audience about just how phenomenal it is. In other words, more Kaitlin!
Funny you should mention that ...