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Posted on: February 20, 2009 1:17 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2009 1:21 pm
 

The Four Faces of Ohio State's Mt. Rushmore

Adam Rittenberg, the Big Ten football blogger for ESPN.com has spent the past week listing the four people of each of the programs that more or less defined the team. Here's who he picked for Ohio State :

#1 Woody Hayes -- The coaching icon will always be the face of Ohio State football. He won five national championships and 13 Big Ten titles in 28 years on the sidelines at Ohio State. The fiery Hayes went 205-61-10 as Buckeyes coach and led the team to four Rose Bowls.

#2 Archie Griffin -- He remains college football's only two-time Heisman Trophy winner and one of the game's all-time greats. The College Football Hall of Famer had 5,589 career rushing yards and 26 touchdowns at Ohio State. In his four years the Buckeyes went 40-5-1.

#3 Chris Spielman -- There's certainly some debate about Ohio State's greatest defensive player, but Spielman certainly is at or near the top of the list. Plus, there are few figures more revered in the state of Ohio than Spielman, a two-time All-America selection who won the Lombardi Award in 1987. Spielman embodies Ohio State football and holds the school record for solo tackles (283).

#4 Chic Harley -- Yes, Ohio State football did exist before Hayes arrived, and Harley symbolized the program's dominance during the 1910s. A halfback and a safety, Harley led Ohio State to its first Big Ten championship in 1916 and another title in 1917. Harley earned All-America honors in all three seasons he played and helped Ohio State to a 21-1-1 record, with his lone loss coming in his final game.

There were many others considered for the list, including Jack Tatum, Howard Cassady, Les Horvath, Eddie George, Vic Janowicz, Bobby Hoying, Jim Tressel, David Boston, Jim Parker, Cris Carter and Orlando Pace.


I wholeheartedly agree that Woody, Chic and Archie should be faces one through three on the Buckeyes Mt. Rushmore, but Spielman's a head-scratcher for me. Yeah he was a great linebacker (with a Lombardi Award to boot) but he had the misfortune, at least by Buckeye Nation's standards, of playing on some mediocre teams back in the 80s. Unless Adam was deliberately trying to even the selection between the offense and defense, there are about two or three other people I would rather see on Ohio State's Mt. Rushmore.

My first thought was replacing Spielman with Paul Brown who is the supreme overlord of football in Ohio. Unfortunately, Brown wasn't the Buckeyes' coach long enough to truly establish a legacy like Francis Schmidt before him and Hayes, after the Wes Fesler debacle.

Others argued that Jim Tressel should be on the fourth face but I'm hesitant, despite really liking his personna and emphasis on developing character as much as talent. I don't always agree with his conservative play-calling or his unbreakable loyalty to mediocre offensive and defensive coordinators.

Then we've got Vic Janowicz, Ohio State's first Heisman winner. Here's a guy who even received praise from Woody in his first year of coaching (remember that this was a time when the players and most of Columbus was ready to banish Woody from Central Ohio): "He was not only a great runner, but also passed, was a placekicker and punter, played safety on defense and was an outstanding blocker. Janowicz epitomized the 'triple-threat' football player."

And then there's the first Heisman winner of the Hayes Era, Howard "Hopalong" Cassady, who as a runningback averaged at least one touchdown per game in his college career. In addition to his 1955 Heisman Trophy, Cassady was also a Maxwell Award recipient and was the Associated Press Athlete of the Year.

So who is the fourth face on Ohio State's Mt. Rushmore? Personally, I'd go with Cassady who in addition to the hardware and accolades previously mentioned, also helped the Buckeyes win their second national title in 1954, the first of many during the Woody Hayes era.

Also, when in the hell is Ohio State finally going to get a Woody Hayes statue? The athletic center tie-in is nice, but the man and his legacy are long overdue for a bronzed likeness near the rotunda of the Horseshoe.

Posted on: February 10, 2009 1:52 pm
 

Recruiting Rankings Hangover

I admit that I am new to the recruiting media frenzy (there's not much else to do right now other than watch Phoenix become the southwest's answer to Detroit) but for the life of me, I can't figure out why/how Ohio State dropped to #9 on the ESPN recruiting rankings :

1. LSU
2. Alabama
3. Texas
4. USC
5. Florida
6. Georgia
7. Miami (FL)
8. Florida State
9. Ohio State
10. Michigan

I could see #4 with LSU, USC and either Bama, Texas or Florida being ahead of the Buckeyes, but how, when Sports Illustrated/Rivals has them at #3 (behind Bama and LSU), Scout has them at #1, and CBS Sports/Tom Lemming has them at #2 (behind LSU), were Florida State, Georgia and The U better than Ohio State this year according to ESPN?

Oh nevermind, I forgot that its cold in Columbus and nobody wants to go anywhere that lacks palm trees and sandy beaches to play football.

In addition to having two components of the Trifecta of Stupid (Jenkins works for CBS Sports), I'm finding very little reason to continue patronizing ESPN for anything sports-related other than Bill Simmons.

Posted on: February 4, 2009 6:00 pm
 

Signing day musings

Last week we lost Tahj Boyd to Clemson.

This week, wide receiver phenom Marlon Brown signed with Georgia instead of Ohio State . As always, Tressel and Bollman opted to go for strong running backs over a passing game. Its not like a strong passing game is needed to beat the SEC and Big XII elites...

Why is it Ohio State's 2009 recruiting class is ranked #1 on Scout.com , but ESPN and Rivals both have the Buckeyes ranked at #4?

A lesser fan would argue that its because everyone hates the Big Ten, but lets be honest here folks: The Big Ten's reputation sucks and won't be getting better anytime soon unless the coaches figure out ways to maximize the potential of their recruits.

Also, it'd be nice if we could actually win bowl games, but I'm told these things are cyclical.

Posted on: January 23, 2009 8:06 pm
 

Ohio State: Go for the Crystal in 2010

Can't say I disagree with anything Stewart Mandel of SI.com says in a past mailbag about Ohio State and the Big Ten.

Plus, I'm glad someone's finally addressing the Tim Tebow Circle Jerk that's permeated sportscasting for way to freaking long.

Some highlights:

On why Oklahoma/Bob Stoops doesn't get the same amount of criticism as Ohio State/Jim Tressel despite having a worse BCS bowl record (OU is 2-4, Ohio State is 3-3):
While Bob Stoops has taken no shortage of criticism for the five-game BCS losing streak, you don't hear the same kind of all-out venom being directed at the Sooners as we have toward Jim Tressel and the Buckeyes (which, incidentally, are 3-3 in BCS games compared with 2-4 for OU). But at the end of the day, they're two different programs that have played in two entirely different sets of games. The reasons for the varying degrees of backlash are many.

First and foremost, the entire wave of backlash toward Ohio State took root with one game and one game only: The 41-14 loss to Florida. It wasn't about the result itself. It was due to the fact that the Buckeyes had been held up as the undisputed No. 1 team in the country all season, had taken part in the most hyped regular-season game (against Michigan) in more than a decade -- and then got brutally exposed. People felt duped, they held it against OSU into the next season, and when the Buckeyes lost again to LSU, and then got destroyed by USC, the backlash just kept multiplying.

Meanwhile, much of the venom toward Ohio State the past few years has actually been directed toward the Big Ten. The conference is clearly down, yet it keeps getting national airtime and multiple BCS bids. People are sick of the Big Ten, and OSU happens to be its poster program right now.

As for Oklahoma, the Sooners' equivalent to the Florida beatdown was the 55-19 loss to USC in the 2004 title game. At that time, there was plenty of criticism aimed OU's way, but then Stoops' team did a very smart thing: It disappeared from the national spotlight for a little while. Even the 2006 and '07 Big 12 title teams weren't all that hyped. That they then lost to Boise State and West Virginia in bowl games didn't help Stoops' image any, but the reality is, those were non-championship games that didn't have much of a bearing on anything.

As for this most recent BCS game, however, I don't think the Sooners embarrassed themselves in any way. Hardly anyone expected them to beat Florida in the first place, and their defense -- the subject of so much derision going in -- played extremely well right up until Florida's last touchdown drive. Stoops took some criticism, and rightfully so, for some questionable play-calling/game-management on the two wasted red-zone opportunities, but in no way was OU "outclassed" in that game like Ohio State was in so many of its big games recently (though not against Texas).

I do think, however, that at some point Stoops is going to stop receiving the benefit of the doubt. Were the Sooners to find themselves in another jumbled race for a BCS title spot next season along with, say, LSU and USC, I'd have to think Oklahoma would be the odd man out.


On the Big Ten's freefall in national perception and bowl games:
I know you guys get sick of hearing me say this -- but it's cyclical. When I was covering the Rose Bowl, there was much talk about the fact that the Big Ten hasn't won in Pasadena since Wisconsin beat Stanford on Jan. 1, 2000. (There were three years since then with no Big Ten entrant). However, there was a period in the mid-to-late '90s when the Big Ten won seven of eight Rose Bowls. This current drought is nothing compared to 1968-87, when the Pac-10 went 17-3 against the Big Ten in Pasadena. And before that, the Big Ten went 16-5 from 1947-'67.

The simple answer is: The Big Ten needs to recruit better players. A couple of days before that USC-Penn State game, a former Big Ten coach made a pretty good point to me illustrating just how far the talent level has dropped in the conference over the past decade. Think about this: In 1999, the Nittany Lions had LaVar Arrington, Courtney Brown, David Macklin and Brandon Short -- and finished fourth. This year's team had plenty of very good players, but none of that elite caliber, yet won the league.

And it doesn't stop with Penn State. Think about some of the names that played in the conference during the '90s -- Orlando Pace, Eddie George, Shawn Springs, Ty Law, Charles Woodson, Amani Toomer, Simeon Rice, Drew Brees ... and so on. Then you look at this year's All-Big Ten Team. With all due respect to first-team QB Daryll Clark, first-team linebacker Greg Jones and second-team receiver David Gilreath, I don't think they're going to be held with quite the same reverence years from now.

I know there are many who feel that it's a lost cause, that times have changed, that the Big Ten will never be able to keep up with speedier programs in the South and West, but I don't buy it. Speed is not a new phenomenon in college football. Before there was USC and Florida in the 2000s, there was Florida State and Miami in the '80s and '90s, and the Big Ten was still able to keep itself nationally relevant. Ohio State has already landed its next great star in Terrelle Pryor and, if you believe the recruiting rankings, is bringing in plenty more. Michigan will soon follow. And as those two programs go, so, too, does the conference.


On why Ohio State shouldn't be in the top 15 of the preseason polls:
Uh huh. It's just those "five to six people" happen to be Beanie Wells, Brian Robiskie, Alex Boone, James Laurinaitis, Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Freeman, otherwise known as the Buckeyes' best players.

Not surprisingly, I got a whole bunch of e-mails just like this one. Let's get a little perspective here, Buckeyes fans. Ohio State was a borderline top-10 team to begin with, and now it's losing the entire nucleus of its success the past few seasons. Yes, there's plenty of young talent in the pipeline, but it stands to reason that the Buckeyes will take a slight step backward in 2009 before returning to the BCS mix in 2010 when Pryor is a polished product with an experienced supporting cast.

And let me just reemphasize a point I made in the Oklahoma-Ohio State comparison earlier: This is a good thing. Ohio State, and the Big Ten in general, desperately needs a year out of the spotlight. Produce a 9-3 champion with no delusion of expectations. Land one BCS bid for a change. Then you've got a chance to make it through the bowl season without the same level of embarrassment before returning full throttle in 2010, when not only the Buckeyes, but Michigan, Penn State and any of several other rising programs will have had a chance to better fortify themselves.


Like I've been saying since before last season , Terrelle Pryor is never going to be in the same league as Troy Smith, Craig Krenzel, Joe Germaine, Rex Kern and other great Buckeyes quarterbacks until he improves his passing game. As much as I dislike his cockiness, the kid hates to lose, and with all the young talent on next year's squad, a hatred of losing (kinda like what you see with Tim Tebow and the Gators...) is a motivational tool if channeled properly.

There's going to be a lot of growing pains in 2009. We'll probably get blown out by USC in Columbus (actually, I almost guarantee that'll happen) and we have to play in Happy Valley (the only place as hostile, if not worse, than the beloved Horseshoe). The best we can hope for is for this team to mature in the offseason between 2009 and 2010. The best chance for a national championship run is 2010.

Oddly enough, that year the BCS Championship will be in Glendale Arizona, a place where the Buckeyes have yet to exorcise demons of bowls past.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com