Not often am I accused of being an optimist.
So when I say that the Ohio State Buckeyes are primed for a national title run in 2010, this team must be really good.
With 16 returning starters coming off an impressive Rose Bowl victory against heavily favored Oregon, the atmosphere in Columbus is cautiously optimistic. Not only is it the strength of Ohio State that makes a national championship possible, but the power of the Southeastern Conference appears to be waning.
Tim Tebow-less Florida?
Underachieving Georgia, South Carolina, and LSU?
Down and out Tennessee?
Am I honestly to be impressed with defending national champion Alabama? Didn't they have a heck of a time putting away a Texas team without Colt McCoy? Didn't they lose a bunch of defensive starters from that team?
The timing is perfect for the Buckeyes to exorcise their demons by ending a four-year era of SEC dominance, not to mention a dismal 0-9 record against the conference.
But as much as I like the 2010 Ohio State Buckeyes and their chances of once again kissing the crystal football, there are some things that should really concern Buckeye fans. The following is a list of things that could turn the season into a disappointment.
So much for my optimism.
Last season, coach Tressel endured the harshest criticism since he came to Ohio State, and for good reason.
Things came to a head after a shocking 26-18 defeat against lowly Purdue where Tressel completely abandoned the running game. Running back Brandon Saine touched the ball only seven times, and only once in the entire second half despite Terrelle Pryor's dismal outing.
To his credit though, coach Tressel regained a lot of fans' faith. He rebounded nicely by taking care of business in the toughest stretch of the schedule. He rededicated the offense to what Ohio State has always done best: running the football.
Ohio State's performance in the Rose Bowl also showed that Tressel and his coaching staff did their job in scouting the Oregon Ducks, something that couldn't be said about the 2006 national championship game against Florida.
Despite all this, there's still a small voice in my head asking for more consistency from our head coach.
No doubt that Ohio State does a good job of filling in the void left by those who graduate and/or leave for the NFL, and I'm sure that this year will be no exception. With that said, I already miss Kurt Coleman and the cornerback position has been worrisome for a while now.
Devon Torrence isn't flashy, but he does his job. But Chimdi Chekwa is more of a liability than anybody on that defense. He sometimes gets into penalty trouble and gets burned by the better receivers.
The key components of special teams don't look too encouraging for 2010, especially by the standards of "Tressel Ball."
Jon Thoma is the worst punter the Buckeyes have had since I've been following the team.
Everybody and anybody is being tested to see who the next kick returner is going to be. Might as well spin a wheel and see who it lands on.
But place kicker should be the most concerning element. Devin Barclay looks to replace Aaron Pettrey, but he struggles with anything longer than 40 yards. The importance of this cannot be underestimated.
Last season, in a tight game against the USC Trojans, Tressel was faced with a fateful decision on fourth down from the 36 yard line of USC halfway through the fourth quarter. Instead of going for a long field goal to go up by eight, coach opted to punt, giving the ball back to the Trojans leading them to march more than 80 yards down field to win the game.
Tressel was highly criticized for that decision. Maybe he lacked the confidence in his kicker to make the field goal. If that was the case, then more scenarios like this could be expected for this season. If coach doesn't believe in his kicker, then his approach to the offense could become more aggressive when it comes to fourth down situations. Whether or not that's a good thing is debatable.
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor rises and falls in sync with his head coach. The peaks and valleys just match up.
So, like Jim Tressel, who turned it on for the final stretch of the season, I still wonder if Pryor will continue where he left off in his impressive Rose Bowl performance or completely melt down.
Until we see some consistency to make sure it wasn't all a fluke, I'm going to keep some extra IPA in the fridge on Saturdays. I don't think I can take another Purdue performance sober.
Oh...and let's hope that knee holds up.
A recent article in the Columbus Dispatch insisted that off-the-field issues and injuries are why left tackle Mike Adams has failed to live up to lofty expectations coming out of high school.
I'll call it "lack of talent."
Being 300 lbs and 6' 8" might designate a good tackle in high school, but you'll need athletic ability to produce at the college level. Adams hasn't a shred of it.
Why then, in God's holy name, am I hearing him being mentioned as the frontrunner to replace Jim Cordle and protect Pryor's blind side? Why am I hearing of this ridiculous competition between him and Andrew Miller? Why is Marcus Hall considered to be a dark horse to win the job?
What a farce.
If the competition for left tackle were down to Adams and an orange road construction barrel, the only thing left to ask is if the barrel has one of those yellow blinking lights. If the answer is yes, then I'll choose the barrel over the human turnstile.
This issue is really driving my anxiety regarding Jim Tressel and his staff. I can't speak for Miller, but Marcus Hall should be the clear choice for left tackle. He was solid last year when filling in for "Mr. False Start" J.B. Shugarts.
Why coach can't see it is beyond me.
Boise State is basically catnip for those that hate the BCS, and once again, the media is drooling all over them.
If, heaven forbid, the Buckeyes stumble in Wisconsin or Iowa, would the Broncos be selected to play for a national championship if they run the table in their weak WAC schedule?
I'll be rooting for Virginia Tech on September 6. The rest of the Buckeye nation should do the same.