Saturday, December 31

Buckeye Roundup

2011 was far from a banner year from our Buckeyes, but I'm not here to look back. The basketball squad is impressing and the gridiron gang will be looking to kick off 2012 the right way, with a win over Florida in the Gator Bowl.

More like Gay-tor
Even with a lackluster season and 6-6 record, Ohio St will still be bowling on New Year's Day (technically January 2nd, due to the 1st falling on NFL's Sunday). The Buckeyes will be headed to Jacksonville, Florida to take on Florida in the Gator Bowl. No, it's not a coincidence that Florida shares it's nickname with the name of the Bowl - they play their home games a mere 60 miles from where this one will be played. Despite the home-field advantage, I like this matchup for the Buckeyes, because frankly I think Florida blows.

The Gators finished the regular season on a 2-6 stretch, their two wins coming at home against Furman and SEC doormat Vanderbilt. In the finale against arch-rival Florida St, the Gators looked pathetic on offense in the 21-7 loss, with QB John Brantley tossing three INTs before leaving the game with a concussion. Braxton Miller's passing woes have been well documented this season, but he enters the game with more touchdowns and fewer interceptions than his senior counterpart.

With Brantley's struggles, the Florida offense revolves around super-speedsters in the Percy Harvin RB/WR mold - Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. Rainey comes in touting over 1100 yards of total offense, while Demps has a team-high six TDs. Ohio St has struggled this season containing guys with track star speed (fuck you, can't-tie), so certainly these two will be the focal point of the Buckeye defense.

On the Buckeye side of the ball, you have to think that the five weeks of practice since their last game has helped get DeVier Posey back into the game after missing the first 10 weeks of the season due to multiple suspensions. Ohio St is a different offense with this monster on the field, and I expect Miller to be looking his way early and often. Boom Herron, who missed the team's first six games, was back in full swing by season's end and should get a heavy workload in this one. These two have had fantastic careers in the scarlet and gray, and I expect them to finish strong after tumultuous senior campaigns.

If Ohio St can limit the big plays from Rainey and Demps, Brax and the OSU offense shouldn't have to produce a lot of points to come home with a third straight Bowl win. John Simon will be looking to pressure Brantley into making mistakes, and the suspect but opportune Buckeye secondary could have a field day.
Prediction: Ohio St 25 Florida 13

For the second straight season, the Buckeyes were not well-represented on the All-Big Ten teams. DL John Simon was the lone man on the first-team, with C Mike Brewster, T Mike Adams, LB Andrew Sweat, and DB C.J. Barnett representing on the second-team. RB Boom Herron, G Jack Mewhort, TE Jake Stoneburner, and DT Big Jon Hankins were all thrown a bone for honorable mention.

While it's disappointing to see so few Ohio St players on these lists, you can't really argue the selections. The only one with a real gripe would be Sweat being left off the first team. Without the suspensions, Adams, Herron and DeVier Posey would surely have been first-teamers.

Bowl Ban
Monday's Gator Bowl will be the last Bowl game for the Buckeyes for quite some time, as the NCAA finally levied their sanctions on the OSU football program from the ink-for-merch scandal that broke last December. Ohio St will face a one-year Bowl ban for next year's 2012 season, as well as an additional year of probation and a loss of three more scholarships on top of the two years probation and loss of five scholarships that Ohio St self-sanctioned.

If OSU would have self-sanctioned a Bowl ban this season, which was basically a waste anyway, they may have been let off the hook for next season. But really, it could have been worse. Braxton is still a year away anyway and this will give Meyer two years of recruiting to get his players in. Ohio St may have had a chance at the Big Ten next year, but a National Title was quite a long shot. If Miller can improve next season as he has throughout this season, and Meyer is the recruiting genius we expect him to be, Ohio St could head into the 2013 season as one of the favorites to win it all.

With all the attention surrounding the Gator Bowl, Urban Meyer, and the NCAA sanctions, Ohio St's basketball program isn't getting talked about much, but they have quietly put on quite an impressive performance this season. They currently stand at 13-1 (1-0 in Big Ten) and are ranked #2 in the nation. Their only loss came on the road against a very good Kansas team without Jared Sullinger.

In my Basketball Preview, I mentioned how Will Buford and Deshaun Thomas are not shy about shooting, and their shot selection could be a big factor in OSU's success this season. Well, nearly halfway through the season - so far, so good. Buf is using his reputation as quick shooter to his advantage, as he has incorporated an expert pump fake to bait defenders into leaving their feet, and then take a few more steps in for a better shot.

Tank Thomas looks far more experienced, and while he still shoots a lot, his shot selection is much better. When Sullinger injured his foot and had to leave the South Carolina game, Tank took the team on his back, scoring a career-high 30 points on incredible 13-16 shooting. The thing that's really been impressing me about Thomas is his hustle, constantly diving for loose balls and getting sneaky offensive rebounds.

Again going back my preview, I talked about the role players stepping up outside the big four guys. I was dead on with my prediction of the rotation, with Lenzelle Smith continuing to get the starts and Evan Ravenel and Jordan Sibert being the top options off the bench. I really like Ravenel. The Boston College transfer reminds me a lot of Dallas Lauderdale, and we know how much I loved me some Dallas. He's not quite the monster defender (no one was), but he is still very good defensively and provides solid rebounding when Sully needs a break.

Freshman center Amir Williams saw a lot of action when Jared missed those few games, and I liked what I saw. He is definitely really raw, but looks to have a lot of talent as well. Assuming Sullinger can stay healthy (fingers crossed), the Bucks won't need to count on Williams much this year, but could be expected to play a huge role in the years to come once Sullinger opts for the pros. Hopefully he can develop into a great post player.

The only real problem I've noticed this year is the lack of a backup point guard. Thankfully, Aaron Craft doesn't get much time on the bench, but when he is there the Buckeye offense basically comes to a halt. They have tried Buford as an Evan Turner-point forward type role, but a shoot-first PG is not what you want when you have a guy like Sullinger on your team. Freshman Shannon Scott has also seen some action, but doesn't look like anything special.

I love how they are calling Value City Arena the Nuthouse, and I want a t-shirt. In fact, I think I'm going to order one right now...Done.

Anyway, I really think this team has got a good chance to run the table in March.


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