Sunday, September 14, 2008

NCAA game of the year postmortem

By Rick Morris

Since NBC's The Office is my favorite TV show, I end up reading quite a fair amount about it on the Internet. Of particular interest to me is the psychology that the writers use in crafting the characters. It's often noted that Jenna Fischer's Pam Beesley is dumbed-down aesthetically, yet she is sexually harassed by many in the office. I once saw a characterization of her as "office hot," and that reminds me of what I see in Ohio State right now. Ohio State is "Big Ten good," and we see where that gets them in the grand scheme of NCAA football. Not that far.

The difference between OSU and other elite teams from the SEC (and obviously, now, USC) in terms of speed, especially at non-traditional positions such as defensive end, is immense, and yet that in and of itself does not account for the gap between the Big Ten and the rest of the big boys (incidentally, my FDH Lounge colleague Chris Galloway has a theory that high schools in California, Texas and Florida churn out faster players because the weather is less likely to contribute to a sedentary lifestyle that could grip even really good athletes in the Midwest in the harsh winters -- that makes more sense than anything I can think of in that regard). Coaching plays a part as well. Jim Tressel has suffered some key losses off of his staff in recent years, including Mark Dantonio, who was the defensive coordinator on the 2002 national championship team and now coaches Michigan State. The Trojans always had their key players in position to make plays last night, Ohio State not so much. Taking better advantage of the talent that is available is just as important as hitting the Sun Belt to recruit for superior speed.

One encouraging note for Buckeye fans last night was the liberal use of Terrelle Pryor and Dan Herron. Tressel has long favored less-talented upperclassmen "because they paid their dues, dagnabbit!" But last night showed that Tressel is coming along, however belatedly, to the notion that the best players must be on the field regardless of tenure. In that regard, don't be surprised if last night's game proves to be rock-bottom for this team in terms of perception as a national power. With proper corrective measures, this team could make a legitimate run by Pryor's junior season in 2010.

No comments: