Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Ohio State Might Win the Next Two National Titles

Site Update: New podacst has been posted. Go listen to the track titled "we hate golf people." Do it, jerk.

Twice in the last two weeks I've received text messages from my friend Kevin in California with a simple theme: Don't start writing about the Bucks now--you'll jinx 'em.

Sorry, but I can't help it. This team deserves my time. Anyway...

I've been known to look ahead every now and again. This is even more true when it comes to Ohio State football. This is because they are the one constant in my life--even when things reached low points, like the end of the John Cooper era, I knew that was as bad as it would ever get. That being the case, I never feel bad about looking ahead to things like next year's schedule and future recruiting classes. You don't always have to savor the present when the future is just as bright.

(By the way...did you ever realize that rooting for a college football powerhouse is the exact same thing as rooting for the Yankees? Seriously. I constantly complain about the stupidity of MLB, and how the lack of a salary cap is killing the game. The way the game is currently set up, the Yankees will always be--at worst--an 85-90-win team, with an outstanding shot at winning every World Series between now and the end of time. Which is precisely my situation as a hypocritical Ohio State fan. Tons of cash, tradition, in-state recruiting made easy, etc., make it impossible for the Buckeyes to ever truly stink. Translation: Nothwestern football fans have a lot in common with Kansas City Royals diehards)

OK, back to my reason for looking ahead...

Did you know, Buckeyes fans, that the best thing that could ever happen to the program would be a national title matchup against the upstart Kansas Jayhawks? Trust me, if the Buckeyes take care of beeswax and make it to New Orleans, you want to be facing Kansas.

This is not just because of the overwhelming disparity in talent between the two schools, although that certainly is a factor. It goes much deeper than that.

Here's a breakdown of what could potentially happen if a few breaks go Ohio State's way in the next fourteen months:

1. Beat Illinois. Beat Michigan. Likelihood: Slam dunk. I think.

2. Kansas finishes the regular season undefeated (at Oklahoma State, home versus Iowa State and No.6 Missouri), followed by a victory over top 5 Oklahoma in Big 12 championship game. Doing this will almost certainly push Kansas past one-loss Oregon, one of the two teams it currently trails. As for one-loss LSU--the other team--they probably have to lose, because I don't see any way pollsters won't keep them No. 2 if they finish with just one loss, and that'd be too much for Kansas to overcome. Either way, LSU could lose another game. The problem is that the worst matchup for LSU in the SEC title game would be Florida, and right now Florida is on the outside looking in. Anyway, for the sake of this column I'm making Kansas undefeated and ahead of LSU and Oregon in the final BCS standings, cool? Likelihood: Below average, but much crazier shit has happened.

3. Ohio State soundly defeats Kansas 30-10 to win the 2007 national championship. Besides the obvious difference in talent (as mentioned earlier), Ohio State won the game because they (a.) never forgot what is was like to get pummeled by Florida, so they (b.) worked their collective asses off during the seven-week layoff in preparation for Kansas, which (c.) kept them from buying into the hype that comes with being a two-touchown favorite against a perceived lesser opponent.

This attitude is fueled not only by last year's meltdown, but by the lack of respect that's been shown to this year's No. 1 team. Really, it's been sickening to hear Ohio State continually bashed because of what happened last year and because of the weak schedule.

I get angry (effectively making me a dork) when I hear OSU routinely crapped on, but it's the best thing that's happened to this bunch on a week-in-week-out basis. Nothing motivates athletes more than disrespect, and relatively speaking, this team is beyond disrespected. By my math, the Buckeyes have fourteen contributing players that will be drafted in the top three rounds when their time comes (in order of jersey number): Marcus Freeman; Malcolm Jenkins; Brandon Saine; Ray Small; Larry Grant; Donald Washington; Anderson Russell (my hero); Chris Wells; James Laurinitis; Vernon Gholston; Kirk Barton; Alex Boone; Brian Robiskie; Cameron Heyward. Fourteen guys who are heavy contributors! Of the fourteen, Jenkins, Wells, Laurinitis, Gholston, Heyward and probably Robiskie are first-rounders. Six guys! That's a staggering number that might even grow. The thing is, nowhere in my top-three-rounds projection was there a mention of Todd Boeckman (stock rising), Brian Hartline (white and athletic), Robert Rose (underachieving but immensely talented--should probably move to DT), Lawrence Wilson (injured but freakish for a DE--may be back for championship game), Chimdi Chekwa (biggest surprise of season), Doug Worthington (good now, better days ahead--wait 'til he adds twenty lbs.) or Jim Cordle (I don't know how to rate centers, but my understanding is that he'll play in the NFL). It's entirely possible that everyone I just mentioned will have meaningful careers at the next level. In fact, the only starters--besides offensive linemen--that I can't envision sticking in the league are Kurt Coleman, Todd Denlinger, Rory Nicol and the Fullback du jour.

I apologize for the tangent, but I think it helped make my point: This Ohio State team is is a force to be reckoned with, regardless of what Mark May says. And the fact that they can use Mark May's disrespectful words as motivation is a beautiful thing. Likelihood of Ohio State facing and soundly defeating Kansas to win the whole bag of onions: Below average, but again, crazier shit has happened.

Back to the dream scenario...

4. After Ohio State handles Kansas, they still have to hear about how they lucked out by not having to face LSU's overall talent or Oregon's too-fast-for-Big-Ten-country speed. This will allow Jim Tressel to play the disrespect card for the entire offseason. Yeah, we won, but nobody believes that we're a worthy champion. Likelihood: Once you get past the whole "Kansas playing for a title" thing, there is a great chance of this happening. If you're having trouble with the whole "Kansas playing for a title" thing, see points Nos. 3 and 4.

Upon hearing the national media discredit their accomplishments...

5. A handful (or maybe all) of the better draft-eligible players (Freeman, Jenkins, Laurinitis, Gholston, Boone and Robiskie) decide to return, with hopes of repeating. Matt Leinart returned for the glory, and he came up short. But what about the 06-07 Florida basketball team? They came back and cut down the nets again--so it wouldn't be unprecedented. Plus it would further cement their legacy, not only in Columbus, but nationally. Likelihood: No chance. Jenkins and Gholston are gone, and at least one other will follow.

But let's just say--again, for the sake of this column--that most of the guys return with hopes of going down in history as one of the best teams of all time. Combine that motivation with the "you got lucky, Kansas was terrible" thing, and you have an ultra-motivated bunch.

But wait, there's more...

7. Being that I look ahead, I can tell you that week three of the 2008 Ohio State schedule sees them travel to Southern California, to take on the mighty Trojans. I can assure you that Jim Tressel will not let an offseason go by without reminding his troops of how great and how talented USC is. This motivation worked beautifully in the 2005 and 2006 offseasons, when Tressel had his gang prepared to take on Texas early in each season. Trust me, Ohio State will not come out flat come September 13, 2008. Likelihood, assuming everything above has happened: Slam dunk.

8. Beat USC. Likelihood: Pretty good. Tressel likes being the underdog (just ask Miami).

9. Run through the remainder of the 2008 schedule with relative ease, including a thrashing of Les Miles and the Michigan Wolverines. Likelihood: Above average, at least in my fantasy sequence.

10. Win second straight National Championship. Likelihood: Screw it, that's a slam dunk.

This is the crap I think about all day long. I have problems.

(More Ohio State thoughts before the end of the week. For now, I have to eat a can of tuna before podcasting with my heterosexual lifemate, Craig)

-Brad Spieser (