Monday, December 17, 2007

I Hate Pat White THIS MUCH: Part One

I didn't see it coming. Nobody did. Pat White's dislocated thumb was supposed to be a good thing for Ohio State and their whacked-out fans. After all, that was one of many things that contributed to Ohio State backing their way into the national championship game.

Story interruption for long overdue rant...

(Note to Ohio State fans who resent the phrase "backing in" when applied to the 2007 Buckeyes: It's not a bad thing that it happened--in fact, it's a great thing. But it is what happened. Ohio State played their last game before Thanksgiving, a pressure-free tilt (relatively speaking) against a banged-up rival who was led by an uninspiring lame duck coach. Again, nothing to apologize for. But back to the "playing a pressure-free game" thing. Imagine if OSU played its final game on the first weekend of December--like many other teams--and needed a win for a title birth...don't you think the chances of a tightened sphincter would have increased tenfold? Or perhaps nineteenfold? Either way, I'm happy, and I don't care. Ohio State's in the BCS Championship game, and from where I'm sitting, they're a worthy bunch. Now this doesn't mean they'd definitely handle Oklahoma, USC, Georgia, a healthy West Virginia or even Florida on a neutral field. They might, they might not. I'll let you try to settle that debate in a crappy Westside tavern. What doesn't need to be settled is any kind of debate involving Ohio State backing their way into the title game. This is because I just settled it. Ladies and Gents, my name is Brad Spieser, and I write about topics two weeks after they become relevant. Stay tuned for my early-January piece regarding the Mitchell Report...)

Back to Pat White's injury and how it affected my livelihood...

When that bastard (who seems like a nice guy) went down with an injury versus Pitt, and when it became apparent he was out for more than a series, it was the third happiest I've ever been as a result of an on-field injury.

A quick breakdown of my top three:

1. Will Allen's fourth quarter devastation of Willis McGahee's left knee in the 2002 title game. I'm almost positive my ensuing joy reserved me a spot in hell.

2. Robert Reynolds' WWF-esque choke-hold on Wisconsin's Jim Sorgi in a 2003 loss in Madison. One of the smartest/dirtiest plays I've ever seen on a football field. Imagine what psychotic Buckeyes fans would've said had it been Krenzel, and not Sorgi, who was on the business end of that choke-job...

3. Pat White's thumb injury versus Pitt.

Look, the first two injuries are the kind you feel guilty about cheering for. But White's injury was perfect. It didn't affect his future earnings, which allows you to sleep well at night. More importantly, it directly benefited Ohio State football, and we can all agree, little ol' Ohio State is in need of good fortune. it turns out, OSU didn't need White's injury to help them; Oklahoma's dismantling of Missouri was all the Bucks needed to receive an invitation to New Orleans. But it was nice, at the time, to watch West Virginia's superstar QB on the sidelines, surrounded by every athletic trainer in the state. Remember, the West Virginia-Pitt match began almost 45 minutes before Oklahoma-Missouri...and that game wasn't truly out of hand until late in the third quarter. So at the time of White's injury, Buckeyes fans like myself were thankful for every little thing that could potentially aid OSU's title chances.

And I know I've taken too long to get to my point, so here it is:

If Pat White hadn't gotten hurt, West Virginia would've murdered Pitt. And a win over Pitt means a national title bid. And a national title bid means...

Rich Rodriguez is still the head coach at West Virginia, as opposed to Michigan, where he will give Jim Tressel a legitimate reason to worry heading into the last week of the next ten (or so) regular seasons.

It just hit me...Pat White's thumb injury is like the cigarette butt that starts a forest fire. Okay, that was gay. But you get the idea. Anyway...

I think you need to know something: I don't necessarily think Rich Rodriguez is a better coach than Jim Tressel. But he might be. All I know is that I don't know. And neither do you.

Michigan fans are smiling.

Rich Rodriguez is the innovative, charismatic recruiting whiz that Michigan has needed since the turn of the century. And the kind of guy who will help Michigan challenge for Big Ten supremacy. He was bloody successful at the NAIA level before taking his talents to the Division I level, where he somehow turned Tommy Bowden into a hot commodity.

As an offensive coordinator and play-caller at Tulane, Rodriguez unleashed his form of the spread offense on college football, and saw the Green Wave go undefeated in 1998, break countless records along the way and generally just confuse the hell out of their opponents. As he moved on to Clemson, with Bowden, Rodriguez was instrumental in turning Woody Dantzler (Woody Dantzler!) into one of the best duel-threat quarterbacks of all time.

Following the 2000 season, Rodriguez left Clemson for West Virginia, his alma mater. He took over for the legendary Don Nehlen (always a difficult move) and was handed the keys to a once-proud program that was now in shambles. It didn't take long for him to make his mark.

It would have been impressive had Rodriguez made the Mountaineers relevant again. The fact that he turned them into a national power in half-a-decade is simply amazing. He implemented the spread and somehow convinced elite-level talent to come to Morgantown, West Virginia. The history.

In 2005, West Virginia won a BCS game over a very good Georgia team, and did it with freshmen Pat White and Steve Slaton leading the way. Think about that for a second. In college basketball, when a perceived inferior opponent wins a few games in the tournament, it's generally due to veteran leadership, not an all-freshman backcourt.

Just last year, he posted a stellar 11-2 record...and that was actually considered a disappointment!

As for this season, he had West Virginia a few quarters away from playing in the championship game. WEST BY GOD VIRGINIA! PLAYING FOR A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP! What universe is this?

I guess what I'm trying to say is that Rich Rodriguez can coach. But you already knew that. My suggestion to Ohio State fans is this: please don't call for Tressel's head if he ever endures a 3-game losing streak to Michigan. Just because we knew Lloyd Carr was incapable of such results, doesn't mean it can't happen.

As an Ohio State fan, Rich Rodriquez has me shaking in my tube socks. And if he does convince super-recruit Terrelle Pryor that Ann Arbor is a better fit than Columbus...well, it will be full-fledged fear. I do not like this feeling.

That concludes "I hate Pat White THIS MUCH: Part One." Stick around for Part Deux, where I'll explain my other reason for hating Pat White. It won't be as long. Or as stupid.

-Brad Spieser (