Thursday, September 2, 2010

2010 Ohio State/College Football Preview! Neat-o!

I tried to try on Monday, but I was fooling myself.

Tuesday showed promise from the outset, but Tuesday morning quickly turned into Tuesday night, and this particular Tuesday night revolved around observing the oddities of karaoke culture (of which there are many). This happened in Henderson, Nevada.

I was unstoppably ambitious on Wednesday until I was sucked in to playing about eighteen games of heads-up poker with my roommate (a gentleman who was once sponsored by an obnoxious poker website; I lost $70).

And now it's Thursday morning on the west coast (hey, if every other dipshit on the planet is going to call Nevada the west coast, I may as well conform), and I still haven't written an Ohio State/college football preview.

Should I be ashamed? Probably.

Am I? Actually, yeah.

Considering this is my first post in 90 days, is there any chance it will be worth a crap? Let's give it a whirl...

First, the Ohio State stuff:

1. If I hear another effing word about Terrelle Pryor's "extraordinary performance" against Oregon in the Rose Bowl, I'm going to throw away my sister's My Little Pony collection and laugh in her face while she cries.

I get it: He played pretty well. But a 23-37, 266-yard performance (72 rushing yards, sacked 4 times) doesn't tell me that the light has come on or that he's finally living up to his superstar billing.

(Again: Pryor played a nice game in the Rose Bowl; unquestionably his finest hour with the Scarlet and Grey. But completing 62% of your passes -- and needing 37 attempts to gain 266 yards -- is cause for optimism, not promotional campaigns)

Pryor is getting better, and he's clearly the best quarterback on the team, but to think he's presently one of the top 50 players in the nation at this point -- or a genuine Heisman contender -- is patently ridiculous. The guy is so inconsistent, has no accuracy or timing on those all-important 20-yard passes over the middle and -- as I've stated before -- he's not the most instinctive guy on the block (especially as a runner).

Look, I find him to be a likable guy, and he's a good leader and the quarterback of a team I believe will be undefeated heading into 2011. But he's not there yet. Most importantly, he hasn't shown anywhere near the promise to be the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman (which somehow he is).

Ohio State has a great chance to win the national championship, and Terrelle Pryor might be the team's MVP, but he's not carrying this team on his back. And if he does, I'll be the first to tell you: I knew it all along (insert laughter from live studio audience).

2. I hate the backfield situation. Brandon Saine has lousy feet and Dan Herron is average at everything except being tripped up as he appears to be entering daylight (he's great at that). The diehards love to make excuses for these guys (especially Saine). I spend most of my days reminding the diehards that Saine and Herron are seniors, and with runningbacks you generally know from the beginning. Herron and Saine aren't terrible, but they're not ideal options on a championship-caliber sqaud.

3. Losing academic casualty WR Duron Carter was a direct punch to the face. For one, the guy was the most talented wideout on the team (remember, he was targeted on the most critical pass of the USC game). For deux, this receiving corps is painfully thin. Junior Devier Posey is a stud who might bolt after the year, and Dane Sanzenbacher is more than just the steady, reliable white kid he's been branded. After that............Jesus. Who knows. I'm sure most other coaches would chop off their pinkies to have OSU's stable of wide receivers, but again, this team is loaded, and good enough to cut down the nets (or whatever)...and having the forgotten (and never highly regarded) Taurian Washington as the No. 3 WR -- the same position Santonio Holmes and Anthony Gonzalez once held -- doesn't make me do cartwheels when I wake up. Which leads us to...

4. The obligatory mention of tight end Jake Stoneburner's increased role in the offense. It's unlikely to happen, but it should. Stoneburner is a super-athletic giant who thinks of himself as a tight end. I'll never forget watching his high school highlight tape, thinking, "Damn, Tressel's been searching for his Kellen Winslow ever since January 2003 and he finally found one."

Stoneburner's now a third-year sophomore with two career catches. I'm positive that Jim Tressel is qualified to head a college football program, but I'd like to see him step out of the 1930's and let Jake Stoneburner spread his wings (or whatever).

Blocking is important, no question. But Jake Stoneburner isn't a glorified offensive tackle, like so many tight ends before him under Tressel. Stoneburner's true value is up the seem, wreaking havoc on overmatched LBs and safeties. Protecting Pryor's blindside is endlessly important, but it should be done by players who are, you know, good blockers. Let the NFL teach him a three-point stance.

4. The offensive line. Blah. They will be fairly steady and occasionally frustrating. In other words: They'll be the best O-Line OSU's had in years. Let's move on before I say hurtful things about O-Line coach Jim Bollman.

5. Assuming Nathan Williams is healthy, this has a chance to be the best defensive line in the country. I honestly feel -- and I know this is the kind of comment that can and will be thrown in my face in three months -- that between established star Cameron Heyward, fast-rising meathead John Simon and on-the-verge-of-a-holy-shit-where-did-that-come-from-12-sack-season Nathan Williams, my Buckeyes possess three guys on their defensive line who could be All-Americans this year.

I love watching Williams come off the edge so much that, when Thaddeus Gibson decided to forgo his senior season, I was genuinely happy about it. Gibson was good coming off the edge, but Williams is better. He's meaner too, and maybe a better athlete. I've been a sucker for that guy since he unexpectedly became a valuable pass rusher as a true frosh. The opportunity is there, and I'm 100 percent convinced he'll seize it.

The stories about John Simon are hilarious. Apparently all this dude loves to do are lift and play football. Generally speaking, cat-quick 270-lb. defensive tackles end up at smaller schools -- maybe even Wisconsin or Iowa -- but never Ohio State. Ever. Same thing with do-it-all 5'10 quarterbacks, but that's a story for a different day. Anyway, players with Simon's measurables usually end up causing all sorts of trouble for lumbering offensive lines (like the ones OSU seemingly always have). But now...Ohio state has one of their own, and he's a goddamn beast. When you consider how good he was as an undersized true freshman DT (only three teammates had more tackles-for-loss), and how much he loves what he's doing, it wouldn't surprise me at all if he earned 1st-team All Big Ten.

6. The seniors who play linebacker, Brian Rolle and Ross Homan aren't Hawk and Carpenter, but they're better than Lauranaitis and Freeman. Don't believe me? Well, I have facts to back it up. Actually, I don't have facts to back it up, but I really like Rolle and Homan. And let's say this duo has roughly the same talent as that duo, I'll take Brian Rolle and Ross Homan for no other reason than Rolle plays with a mean streak and pumps up his teammates (which the workmanlike Lauranaitis/Freeman combo never did).

As for the other starter, junior (JUNIOR!) Andrew Sweat is talented enough to win the Butkus Award in 2011. I mean...obviously that's not going to happen. But every garbage-time minute he played last year impressed the hell out of me. Big, fast, instinctive, blah, blah, blah. More importantly, he looks like an elite Ohio State linebacker.

I'm not selling on Etienne Sabino, but I'm pretty sure Tressel made the right choice with Sweat.

7. I should probably write about the Tyler Moeller story, mention Jermale Hines, Devon Torrence and Chimdi Chekwa in some capacity, and reveal my growing concern of defensive backfield depth, but...oh wait, I just did.


I don't know if Ohio State will win the BCS Championship, but I'd be a little surprised if they didn't make it there. Pryor's progression + dominant defense + Jim Tressel knows what the hell he's doing = a team that is markedly better than anyone on the schedule (including Miami, who's in line for an eye-opening beatdown next weekend).

I'm expecting a lot of 38-7 and 24-0 scores this year. The Buckeyes will likely lead the nation in scoring defense, and with Jim Tressel leading the team every week, that's a great recipe for an undefeated regular season, which I fully expect. Give me a month before I decide if Pryor is ready to face Alabama (or whoever) on 4th and 6th with 2:15 remaining, down a point and 60 yards from field goal range. I'm not yet convinced that he won't crumble under pressure. I'm hopeful, but not necessarily optimistic (if that makes any sense).

I like sports!


Around the Nation (or something...

Alabama RB Mark Ingram is the returning Heisman winner, and yet he's not even the best back on his own team. That designation belongs to sophomore Trent Richardson, who reminds me of a faster Emmitt Smith -- and yes, I realize I just compared a backup college RB to the NFL's all-time leading rusher.

All I can tell you is what I see. And what I see is a perfectly built (5'11, 220 lbs.) monster with otherworldly feet and the burst to match.

For the record, Mark Ingram is an absolute animal. He's Rudi Johnson 2.0, and there ain't nothing wrong with that.


And as much as I love Richardson and Ingram, neither are as good as Virginia Tech sophomore Ryan Williams. They're all close, I suppose, but I like Williams the best. I've seen him caught from behind a little too much, but he's close to perfect in every other aspect of running the football.

This is going to be a special year for runningbacks.


While we're on the topic of special runningbacks, Penn State's Evan Royster comes to mind...mostly because he's the most overrated player in college football (and has been for a few years). He runs stiff and possesses lousy feet. I still can't believe he's about to become Penn State's all-time leading rusher.

He's not a crappy college runner, but he's not an elite prospect like most seem to think. His draft stock will fall one day very soon. Consider Royster the Jonathan Dwyer of 2010, and prepare to hear me say I Told You So an awful lot.

(Note: The great Phil Steele lists Evan Royster as a better pro prospect than Ryan Williams. In a few short months -- and especially in a few years -- you will understand how laughable that is.)


Georgia's AJ Green is once again the best WR in the country. I say "once again" because that was the case last year, and may have been the case two years ago (but probably not). Some might not think I'm making a bold statement here, however...when the very respected College Football News continually rank Alabama's Julio Jones as not only a better college player, but a better NFL prospect, I slam my head against the friggin' wall.

Do scouts feel the same way? Is it possible that everyone else isn't seeing one of the rare WR prospects who warrant a top-5 selection? AJ Green is big and smooth with ridiculous hands and, for my money (and I swear to everything holy I believe this)...he's in a class with Randy Moss, Larry Fitzgerald and nobody else when it comes to playing balls in the air.

If you gave me 6/1 odds on AJ Green making the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I'd jump all over it (assuming he stays healthy).

If you pressed a gun against my temple, I'd tell you pretty quickly that AJ Green is the best player in college football.

If you asked me what's my favorite food, I wouldn't tell you eggs (although I enjoy eggs very much).


Want to have fun this year? Pay attention to what's going on in College Station. Texas A & M is about to do some Loyala Marymount silliness. Aside from maybe Cincinnati, no team will play in more games totaling 75 points or higher.


Speaking of UC, I don't have a whole lot for you here, other than this: If you traded Ohio State's skill positions for Cincinnati's, I would bet 10 billion dollars on an OSU national title.

The receivers are deep and talented, Isaiah Pead is better than any Buckeye runner and Zach Collaros...Good God Man! At the end of the year I'm pretty confident that Collaros will be considered one of the top 5 QBs in the nation. Other than his height, please -- I beg you -- find a flaw in this man's game. You can't.

The Bearcats might not be able to stop anyone this year, but they have a legitimate superstar at QB...and nothing is more important than that.


I have to leave for work, boys and girls, so I'm cutting this piece short. I intended to play some good ol' fashioned College Football Name Game (there's a guy named De'Joshua this year!), not to mention a breakdown of the $2700 I just wagered on college football futures with my bookie in Cincinnati (and I live in Vegas!), but that will have to wait for another time.

I also don't have an illustration to kick off the post. Deal with it. I'll get around to it soon.


Keep the change, you filthy animals.

-Brad Spieser (