DT's Picks Of The Week: Sept12

Doubting ThomasContributor ISeptember 13, 2008

Always know where you've been
One year ago, Ohio State was preparing to play at Washington in dangerous game for week 3 of the 2007 season. The Buckeyes played extremely poorly in their first two games against Youngstown State and Akron, were replacing tons of talent that had gone to the NFL (including Heisman winning QB Troy Smith and WRs Ted Ginn Jr & Anthony Gonzalez), and had already lost a rising star in DE Lawrence Wilson for the season with a broken leg. A duo of co-workers and college football fans (one a Clemson die-hard, the other an Ohio State fan) asked another OSU fan in their office for his thoughts/prediction on the outcome of the Washington game. The Buckeye responded, "OSU played horribly their first two games. They showed no ability to run the ball, and the offensive line was porous. Their defense did not play up to their ability. If they play like that at Washington, with the Huskies mobile QB Jake Locker, they'll lose. I hate to say it, but my pick is: OSU 20, Washington 24."

Who knew then what would be sparked by that simple conversation? As we all know, that game was closely contested at half-time and OSU pulled away easily in the 2nd half. Those co-workers nicknamed that Buckeye fan "DT" (Doubting Thomas, a la the Biblical reference) for not trusting in his team. The next weekend, they asked for his thoughts on a few college football match-ups, and DT's Picks of the Week© was born. It's hard to believe we've been doing this for an entire year, spilling over into other sports once the college football ended. We thank you all immensely for your interest in this silly endeavor, and we hope to continue this well into the future. It has been a pleasure to write for you all, and serves as an outlet for DT's insatiable thirst to talk his favorite sport. So, thank you once again!!

Week 2 Upsets
East Carolina handed #8 West Virginia their first loss, Vanderbilt beat #24 South Carolina

Injury Report
- Chris "Beanie" Wells, Ohio State's bruising RB, will not play this week against #1 Southern Cal (foot).
- USC has a couple of their own minor injuries, to high profile LBs Rey Maualuga (hand) and Brian Cushing (wrist and hip). Both are expected to play tomorrow night. 
- Minnesota has lost starting RB Duane Bennett for the remainder of the season with an injured knee.
- Maryland QB Jordan Steffy will miss at least three weeks with ligament damage to his thumb.
- NFL report: Tom Brady, the starting QB for New England Patriots and professional model/actress companion, tore the ACL * MCL in his knee during the opening game for the Pats against the Kansas City Chiefs this past weekend. He will have surgery and miss the rest of the 2008 season. While this is certainly a blow to New England's chances in the improved AFC East, we doubt this will impact his aforementioned off-field identity...

Quick Hits
- We all may have differing opinions on former coach Lou Holtz as an analyst. But one undeniable fact is that sweet ol' Lou was a fabulous motivator, recruiter, and coach. Where or how did he obtain such successful prowess?? Sure, he learned under legendary figures like Woody Hayes. But is there more to it than that? One possibility that may have been overlooked is genetic disposition. For proof, we may have to look no further than Lou's son, Skip Holtz. In four short years, Skip has taken an East Carolina team that was completely off the radar and turned the Pirates a team that has knocked off 17 Virginia Tech and 8 West Virginia in back-to-back weeks. We'll have to see where this achievement ranks as this season progresses. But at this point, we should take a moment to give the younger Holtz his due...

- Before we get to the OSU side of last week's game against Ohio University, let's address what should be a fairly prominent question: should there be a QB controversy in Athens? Starting OU QB Theo Scott went down with a shoulder injury in the first quarter, and backup Boo Jackson was stellar in his assault on Ohio State. So, even if Scott is able to return, will the Bobcats even want him back?

- Former OSU LB Chris Spielman as sideline reporter? We weren't sure about this when we first saw the ESPN broadcast team throw down to him on the field. But after watching the game, we are convinced he is one of the best ever. With former players or coaches, even some of the best at their job, they are able to leave the field behind and embrace their new careers in broadcasting. Watching "Spiels" roam the sidelines, however, definitely looked like a former player wearing a headset. Half the time he didn't even look at the camera. He was full of in intensity, as if he was waiting for a ball carrier to drift near his area of the field so he could lay the wood to them. Chris was direct and frank with his commentary as well; such as when he compared the OSU offensive line to a pillow fight. Or when he was asked if he had been near the Buckeye bench and knew if the coaches were pressuring the O-line to play better and Chris said, "No I haven't. But if anybody ever has to tell an Ohio State offensive line to go out there and block people that are smaller than them, they have a bigger problem than you or I ever thought they did." Spielman has been the same way with his radio show in Columbus during the week. He is unabashedly a Buckeye through and through, and still has the same fire inside that he had when he played. We hope to see more of him in this role, especially for Buckeye games. If fact, DT wishes ESPN would put him on Saturday night with the Brent Musberger/Kirk Herbstreit team... For those worried about where Erin Andrews would fit in, we would ask that she just stands there and looks gorgeous.


George (Columbus, OH) With USC looming, should we be concerned about OSU's completely dismal performance against Ohio U?
trojanman2 (Sacramento, CA) If OSU can't even manage any offense against lowly Ohio U, they're going to get boat raced by the Trojans. They've been pasted in the past 2 NC games, and now USC will hopefully put the dirt on their grave and we won't have to hear about them any more. They're living off their reputation and their media darling status. Hopefully this game will finally put Ohio State out of the national spotlight like they deserve.

DT: This pretty much sums up the sentiment across the nation, doesn't it? After the past two seasons that ended with high-profile losses by Ohio State, their performance against OU has only multiplied the skepticism of the OSU program... Mel Kiper Jr. was on ESPNRadio at 9:30pm last Saturday, and said that the Ohio U contest was the epitome of a "trap" game. OSU began their season by blowing out an outmatched Youngstown State team, and had Southern Cal on the horizon the following week. As well, Kiper also stated that MAC schools always play very well BigTen opponents, to try and make a statement to the schools that passed up the players from their region (such as Ohio kids playing for Ohio U because they weren't recruited by OSU). Finally, Kiper said that OSU was just not playing with emotion or intensity, which would be different against USC. These assertions were mirrored by most of the ESPN analysts on Saturday night and all this week.

Does DT have a problem with what is coming out of ESPN, you ask? No, so long as our readers know that DT said all of it 6 hours earlier during the OU game... Let's be honest. Ohio State was not playing up to their potential. This much is certain. The question then becomes whether there is a larger mental problem with this team, or whether it was just the normal emotional low teams can go through during a season. However, the sad fact is that OSU is now under so much intense scrutiny that any performance will not be good enough. The program has crossed over the proverbial "love 'em or hate 'em" threshold, from which no team has ever returned. Regardless of their sport, these teams (Notre Dame, the Yankees, and the Lakers are just a few) have never gone back to just being a great or poor team. Every year, people hate when they win or cheer when they lose.


This is evidenced by the disdain spewed by our emailers from Georgia and California. They are unable to allow any leniency for performance, nor will any credit be given if the Buckeyes do anything well. This is then amplified by the media, which caters to national perceptions. The zany hole in this point-of-view is that so many people are adamant that OSU isn't any good, but if USC beats the Buckeyes tomorrow they will be given credit for a significant win against a major program. If Ohio State really is the caliber of a low-level SEC squad such as Kentucky or Ole Miss, why are they going to get treated like they just defeated Georgia or Florida?


Email your own question or comment to DT: questionDT@hotmail.com


Picks of the Week

Kansas @ South Florida (South Florida -3.5)

Helmed by QB Todd Reesing, Kansas has the nation's 10th best passing attack through two weeks of the season. Reesing has been accurate (76.67% completions) and a leader on the field. The ground game could use some work though, averaging 3.68 yds per carry and only two rushing TDs yet this season against Florida International and Louisiana Tech. Grinding time off the clock and controlling the ball will be needed to beat a USF squad that is coming hot off an OT win over at Central Florida. The Bulls' program has been building rapidly since its inception in 1997, making their way up to 2 in the polls last year before losing at Rutgers. USF QB Matt Grothe has comparable passing numbers to Reesing through two games, but the Bulls own the 24th ranked rushing offense in the country (four spots higher than Southern Cal). This is an intriguing match-up of Big12 and Big East contenders.

Kansas 28, South Florida 24


Georgia @ South Carolina (South Carolina +7)

After a dismal performance in their week 1 victory over a lackluster NC State team in week 1, South Carolina followed up in week 2 with loss at Vanderbilt. Despite having statistically the best pass defense in the nation, the Gamecocks haven't gotten into rhythm on offense. This explains head coach Steve Spurrier's decision to continue with the musical QB situation, with last reports of Columbia stating at least two QBs will play this week. Georgia, meanwhile, has rolled despite their depleted ranks due to so many injuries. The Gamecocks traditionally play very well against the Bulldogs. But until South Carolina begins to figure out their offensive identity, their opponents will have a distinct advantage each week.
Georgia 34, South Carolina 13
NC State @ Clemson (Clemson -19)
Has anyone else watched NC State play this year?? That pretty much says it all... The Tigers may have mental problems that lead to collapses against underdogs, but the Wolfpack would have to suit up Underdog himself to stand a chance in Death Valley.
NC State 6, Clemson 37
Michigan @ Notre Dame (Notre Dame +2)
The two programs with the highest winning percentages in history collide again this weekend. Both are trying to rebuilding their programs and restore them to their former glory. Michigan lost to a very good Utah team in week 1, barely managing to run the ball. That was followed up with an average performance in their win over a below-average Miami (OH) squad. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish beat San Diego State last week in their season opener. Both of these programs have so many questions and struggles that it makes it nearly impossible to predict a winner. But, we will try...
Michigan 20, Notre Dame 17
Ohio State @ Southern Cal (Southern Cal -11)
On to the mack daddy of them all for this week... This regular season contest will reignite a rivalry that has been going on for decades and been dormant since 1990. OSU and USC have played 21 times (OSU 9, USC 11, 1 tie). USC has won the last 5 straight meetings, dating back to 1974. Since 2001 when both Pete Carroll (USC) and Jim Tressel (OSU) became the head coaches of their respective programs, these two national powerhouses have been 2 of the 3 most dominating programs in college football (the other being LSU). Carroll has amassed an 85.5 winning percentage at Southern Cal, while Tressel has won 84.3% of his games. In case you missed it, that's a combined winning percentage of 83.5% and 3 of the last 6 national titles (with Ohio State having shots at two others).
There are many subplots to a game of this nature. Will "Beanie" play? Will he be effective? Is the USC offense as good as they looked against Virginia? Can Ohio State's defense, having lead the nation in almost every statistical category the past two years, stop any high-powered offense? Will true freshman and QB sensation Terrelle Pryor play many snaps, and can USC's defense stop him after struggling against other dual-threat QBs the past few years (see: Texas' Vince Young and Oregon's Dennis Dixon). Can Ohio State redeem itself with a win in the Coliseum, where only one team has managed to attain victory in 7 years (Stanford in 2007). Or will USC improve upon it's 11-3 record against top 10 teams under Pete Carroll?
DT's has 2 keys to this game: the OSU offensive line, and Ohio State's defensive packages. Yes, Chris Wells is an important part of the OSU offense. Yes, the USC defense could be one of the best in the country. But if Ohio State cannot control the line of scrimmage and give their talented RBs (and Pryor) holes to run through, the entire offense will collapse. The offensive line must hold, and push defenders back off the line of scrimmage. Just as important will be the Buckeyes' defense in the secondary. The few times OSU has lost in the past several years, it has always been when their zone defense has been exploited and OSU failed to make the necessary adjustments to man-to-man coverages. Shifting to "man" coverage allows a team to pressure receivers better and allocate more defensive personnel to stopping the ball carrier. However, it also opens up a defense to getting beat for larger gains if a defenders misses a tackle, since there are less defenders behind them to make a stop. If Ohio State's zone defense packages begin to fail them, they will need to make the necessary adjustments in order to compensate and just take associated risks. 
Ultimately, DT has come full circle... Week 3 of three of the 2008 season. An away game for Ohio State, after questionable performances in the week(s) prior. DT's thoughts on the game? OSU played horribly last week. They showed no ability to run the ball, and the offensive line was porous. Their defense did not play up to their ability. If they play like that at USC, they'll lose. I hate to say it, and I hope I am dead wrong, but my pick is..."
Ohio State 20, Southern Cal 24