Thursday, November 29

NFL Picks: Week 13

Last Week:
Nick: 8-6-2
Figgs: 9-5-2
AFF: 5-9-2
Joe: 8-6-2
Figgs' $ Picks: 2-0-1
Nick's $ Picks: 1-0-1, 2 Schrute Bucks

Season to Date
Joe: 82-88-4
Nick: 78-92-4
Figgs: 77-93-4
Figgs' $ Picks: 15-15-1
Nick's $ Picks: 8-8-1, +3 Schrute Bucks

Thursday Night Football, 8:20
FALCONS (-3.5) vs Saints
Figgs: Saints. Really looking forward to watching this game. Definitely wouldn't be surprised with any outcome, so I'll take over a field goal to back New Orleans.
Joe: Saints; Finally, a good matchup for Thursday Night Football!  These two always play close, entertaining games.  I look for another one here.  I'll go with the Saints, since they always seem to have Atlanta's number.  However, this is a rare case where, unlike what Ric Flair says, in order to be the man, the Falcons will not have to beat the man.  Even if the defending division champion Saints complete the season sweep, the ATL will still run away with this division. 
Nick: Saints. More than a field goal is significant, the Saints are fighting for their lives, and I continue to think that the Falcons are doing this with some smoke and mirrors.

Sunday 1:00 kickoff
BUFFALOES (-6) vs Jaguars
Figgs: Jills. I don't love this pick, but you know what else I don't love? chad henne. Hey, remember when Ohio St beat michigan last week?
Joe: Jags; I want to take Buffalo, but this seems like too many points to give.  The Jags are capable of playing teams close, and the Bills are not consistent enough or good enough to give nearly a TD.
Nick: Jags. Too many points.

BEARS (-4) vs Seahawks
Figgs: Bears. LOVE this line. I know the Bears haven't been at their best lately, but they're still a good team and Seattle is still on the road. I would have guessed this at 8 or 9. ($)
Joe: Bears; It's at Chicago, so that's all I need to give the 4. 
Nick: Seahawks. These teams seem relatively even to me, and I get more than a field goal? I think the whole "Seattle can't win on the road" thing has been a little overblown; they've had some tough luck.

RAMS (+7) vs 49ers
Figgs: Rams. Every time I start to give up on the Niners they start to dominate. Now that I think they're top-tier again is a good time for them to blow one.
Joe: Rams; They tied in SF, but the niners have looked unstoppable since they started Kapernick.  But in a road environment against a division rival, he might not be so dominant.  I don't know, basically I just don't want to give this many points.
Nick: Niners. I just deleted my Rams pick. Sure, this is probably a little high given that these two teams just played to a tie a few weeks ago, but the Niners are rolling with CK now. SF still has to win to stay ahead in the race for a bye, and they don't have the division wrapped up. If anything, I think the tie makes it more likely that they come out sharp and put the Rams out of their misery.

DOLPHINS (+9) vs Patriots
Figgs: Pats. Their history covering big spreads is well documented. Feel about as confident here without actually being confident enough to bet as you can get.
Joe: Pats; When they are on, they can score 50+ points on anyone.  I think it's safer to never pick against them, no matter the spread.
Nick: Pats. Miami is a playoff contender in the watered down AFC, but the Pats are in "we can score every possession" mode right now, and I'm not going to pick against them even if more than a TD feels high.

JETS (-5) vs Cardinals
Figgs: Jets. Is anyone more of a mess than the Cards?
Joe: Jets; Even though they are a train wreck and they might have the most unproductive, boring offense in NFL history, the Cards STILL haven't won since September and are playing a 3rd string QB.  I feel so sorry for Larry Fitzgerald and people that actually watch Cardinals games.  One of the best talents the WR position has ever seen has been completely wasted since Kurt Warner retired.
Nick: Jets. Classic "Jets crush a lousy team" game. ($ -3)

LIONS (-5) vs Colts
Figgs: Lions. Need a big game from Stafford to get into the fantasy playoffs.
Joe: Colts; I feel a Lions win at home here, but I'll gladly take the 5 points for Indy.  The Colts are a better team this year, have more to play for, and could easily win outright.  If not, I figure they keep it within a FG.
Nick: Colts. Tell me again why the Lions are favored by more than a FG here?

PACKERS (-10) vs Vikings
Figgs: Vikes. I think they keep it close. I just hope they don't go down big early and stop giving it to AD for the aforementioned fantasy purposes.
Joe: Vikings; I like the Pack to bounce back after last weeks embarrassment, but not by this many points.  The Vikes aren't bad, and should be competetive since they are still right in the thick of the playoff race.
Nick: Packers. I HATE giving this many points, but after winning four of their first five, the Vikes have proven to be smoke and mirrors. Minnesota only has one road win

TITANS (+6) vs Texans
Figgs: Texans. Two bad weeks in a row for Houston, but still Ws. They get back on and win big here. ($)
Joe:Texans; The Titans have looked pretty bad recently, and Houston is a Super Bowl contender.  Especially since it's under a TD, I'll gladly give these points. 
Nick: Texans. This feels a little too good to be true, but I'll bite.

CHIEVES (+3) vs Panthers
Figgs: Cats. Remember my question about the Cardinals? Oh yeah, KC.
Joe:Panthers; I finally got to see the Cam I was expecting this year this past Monday Night.  He should do it again against the worst team in football.
Nick: Panthers. I waffled for about two minutes on whether I should make a joke here, but it's way too sad. Still, Panthers.

(4:05 kickoff)
BRONCOS (-7) vs Bucs
Figgs: Bucs. Definitely see this being close. Wouldn't be shocked if they win it straight
Joe: Bucs; Denver is a Super Bowl contender and should win at home, but I still like Tampa to make a playoff run, so this is a big game for them.  They should keep it close.
Nick: Bucs. Tampa still doesn't get any respect.

(4:25 kickoffs)
RAIDERS (-2) vs Browns
Figgs: BROWNS. We gotta beat these guys. ($)
Joe: Browns; Identical records for these two teams, but we have been competitive in every game this year.  The Raiders have been a joke in most of their losses, and two of their wins come against the Chiefs and Jags.  We're a better bad team than them.  (Also, both of us hold victories over the steelers.  FYI.)
Nick: Browns. Love us here. ($ -1)

CHARGERS (+1) vs Bengals
Figgs: Cinncy. I typed in SD and even started writing a reason, but I didn't even believe it myself. I don't like the Bengals much at all, but I still think they are the better team.
Joe:Bengals; Cincy keeps showing me they are better than I thought.  San Diego is showing me that Norv Turner needs to get fired.
Nick: Bengals. As Bill Simmons mentioned on this week's Cousin Sal podcast, the Chargers are in the "don't pick them until they win again" zone. ($ +2)

RAVENS (-8.5) vs steelers
Figgs: ratbirds. Lot of points, but Charlie Batch? C'mon.
Joe: Ravens; ben is probably not playing (not that I would pick them anyway).  Ravens have the division sewn up, but they would love nothing more than to try and knock the steelers out of the playoff race.  (I too, would love nothing more than that).  
Nick: Ravens, but not confidently.

Sunday Night Football, 8:20 kickoff
COWBOYS (-10) vs Eagles
Figgs: 'Boys. Remember my question about the Cardinals? Oh yeah, Philly. And maybe even Dallas. I hate this game. That's a lot of points for a bad team.
Joe: Cowboys; This spread is way too high for a mediocre Pokes team, but I will gladly give it anyway.  Philly stopped playing weeks ago, and they haven't shown they can be competetive with anyone.
Nick: Cowboys. It's pretty clear that the Eagles have quit. It's been fun, coach Reid.

Monday Night Football, 8:30 kickoff
REDSKINS (+3) vs Giants
Figgs: Giants. Actually a better MNF game than Sunday night. We'll see if the Giants want to play or not. If they do, they cover this relatively easy. ($)
Joe: Skins; Great game in their 1st matchup, I hope we see another one on MNF.  The Skins swept NY last year and would have one the 1st one on the road if they wouldn't have let Cruz get behind the D for an 80 yd score when they were playing prevent defense.  Playing at home, with a shot at the playoffs, they have to be fired up to get the job done here.  I'll take em. 
Nick: Giants. An extra half point might have made me take the upstart Skins, but I'll go with the Giants and hope they don't have a letdown game after crushing the Packers. It's a road game and they can basically wrap up the division with a win. What could go wrong?

Wednesday, November 28

‘Renegade’ Buckeyes complete undefeated season with win in “The Game”

Beating michigan. That short phrase is the most important thing to any Buckeye coach, player, or fan, and after last Saturday’s 26-21 victory, has now been accomplished in eight of the past nine seasons. Ohio St’s offense struggled to finish drives and often had to settle for field goals, but the defense was nothing short of miraculous, especially in the second half. The Bucks held that team up north to a measly 60 yards on the 21 plays they ran in the final two periods while forcing three crucial turnovers. The final, a C.J. Barnett interception near midfield with 4:40 to go, sealed the wolverines’ fate. “It feels great,” said Barnett afterwards. “Taking it out for the seniors - that was our motto all season - and that’s what we did.”

The win ended Ohio St’s season at a perfect 12-0. Originally, I said I was OK with not qualifying for a Bowl game because there were several undefeated teams so we probably wouldn’t have made the title game anyway, and even if we did I didn’t give us much of a chance against the likes of Alabama or Oregon. Suddenly, Ohio St finds themselves as one of only two unbeatens, and with how much better this group has been playing in comparison to the middle of the year, I like our chances against Notre Dame.

But with that being said, you can’t really play the ‘what-if’ game. We all knew going into this season what it was, and that we couldn’t play in the postseason no matter what. So I’m going to enjoy the hell out of the Buckeyes finishing without a loss and, most importantly, beating that team up north.

Game Recap
Ohio St received the ball to start the game, and Braxton Miller wasted no time hitting Devin Smith for a 52-yard gain. Carlos Hyde capped off his monster season by running it in from five yards out, finishing tops in the Big Ten in points scored and putting the Buckeyes up early.

The defense was looking to set the tone early as well, and appeared to do so when freshman Adolphus Washington sacked devin gardner and forced a fumble recovered by Zach Boren. OSU followed that with a three-and-out, however, and quickly we were squared at seven when gardner connected with roy roundtree for a 75-yard touchdown.

Ohio St got the ball back and had a good, long drive down inside the michigan 25, but in what would become a theme in this game, stalled (thanks to a couple of penalties) and settled for a Drew Basil FG. Both teams get big plays early and finish the 1st quarter with a 10-7 Buckeye lead.

can’t-tie came in at running back and ran well, leading um on a long drive of their own, but one that they actually finished. gardner ran it himself for the score, putting the wolverines on top for the first time. Each team traded punts, and even though a couple more OSU penalties hurt them, sacks by Boren and Ryan Shazier evened out the field position and the Buckeyes were taking over from their own 41.

Hyde had two nice runs and with the ball at the um14 and two minutes remaining in the half, the next few plays were a whirlwind of action. Philly Brown caught a touchdown to give the Buckeyes back the edge, but that was immediately negated when can’t-tie broke one off for a 67-yard score. Not content to go the half down four, Ohio St came out throwing and gave Basil a shot at a 52-yarder. He buried it as time expired and the teams went to the locker room with um holding a one-point advantage.

Then Ohio St’s defense got mad. After giving up 120 yards rushing to robinson and over 100 passing to gardner in the first half, can’t-tie totaled 2 in the second while gardner threw for less than 50. michigan got the ball to start the half, and elected to go for a 4th and 3 from midfield. In what could have been the play that turned the tide and got things going for the OSU D, robinson was stuffed by Shazier for a loss of two.

Hyde picked up 17 yards on the opening play of Ohio St’s half, but the Bucks couldn’t do much after that and Basil was forced to knock in his third field goal of the game to put OSU back on top, 23-21. The Buckeye defense was right back at it on the following series when Christian Bryant forced a can’t-tie fumble that was picked up by senior Nathan Williams. Ohio St was yet again forced to attempt another FG, and this time Basil’s 39-yarder was no good.

There were no worries though, as this defense had no doubt they weren’t going to allow anything. They forced a quick three-and-out, and Braxton had his longest run of the game of 42 yards as the 3rd quarter ticked away. Unfortunately, he fumbled two plays later and michigan took over.

Both teams punted, then Michael Bennett’s sack on gardner with eight minutes left forced another um turnover when Travis Howard pounced on the loose ball at the 10 after several players from each team couldn’t handle it. Even at this short of a distance, Ohio St couldn’t punch it in the end zone and Basil knocked in his fourth kick of the afternoon.

Trailing by five and with time running out, michigan knew they needed something on this drive. Ain’t happening. Two incompletions and a holding penalty later, Barnett picked off gardner for the fourth um turnover of the game. But there was still 4:40 remaining in the contest, and the Buckeyes needed a few first downs to officially put this one away. Luckily, Carlos Hyde was in straight H.A.M. mode, and the clock ticked away without michigan getting another touch.

Game Ball
In a tradition I started years ago with Jim Tressel, due to his outstanding record against that school up north, the coach gets the GB nod. The job Urban Meyer did with this team this year cannot be expressed in words. It wasn’t the most talented team he’s ever coached, and they all knew going in that their season would be over at this point. Yet he still got them to get up and play hard for every game, improving almost every week as the season went on, all culminating and this win over that cesspool of the north. Thanks, Coach, for an outstanding season, and to more just like it in the near future.
Game balls to date: Miller (3), Meyer (2), Simon, Hyde, Boren, Guiton, Hankins, Roby, Howard

Big Ten
Although Iowa gave them all they had, Nebraska defeated the Hawkeyes on Friday, so the Big Ten title game was already decided going into Saturday’s slate of games. Montee Ball set the all-time NCAA mark for career touchdowns, but Penn St was able to prevail over Wisconsin in overtime. This loss officially dropped the Badgers to third in the Leaders Division, but as we all know they’ll still play Nebraska for the title in Indy this Saturday (8:00, FOX).

Purdue beat Indiana and Michigan St topped Minnesota to each get to the .500 mark and become Bowl-eligible. What a disappointing year from the Spartans. Northwestern routed Illinois to finish at 9-3, enjoying being one of the lone positives in the conference this season.

The Big Ten announced the conference awards on Monday and Tuesday, and obviously the 12-0 Buckeyes were well-represented. First-Team All-Conference performers as voted by the Media were QB Braxton Miller, OG Andrew Norwell, DE John Simon, LB Ryan Shazier, and DBs Travis Howard and Bradley Roby. The Coaches didn’t give the Bucks as much love, only giving Simon, DT Jon Hankins, and Roby the First-Team nod. RB Carlos Hyde, OT Jack Mewhort, and Hankins made the Media’s Second-Team, while the Coaches voted Braxton, Hyde, WR Philly Brown, Shazier, and DB Christian Bryant.

You have to be pleased any time the list in that long, but I still have a few grievances. The Coaches taking Taylor Martinez over Brax? Get a job. The Media leaving Big Jon Hanks off of First-Team and Coaches snubbing Shazier from the top squad are also pretty baffling to me. And I know Zach Boren only played half of a season at linebacker, but I think the difficulty he had to go through by making that switch should have been accounted for and I would have liked to seen him recognized with a Second-Team nod.

The Big Ten also gave individual awards, and a couple of Buckeyes took home some more hardware. Braxton was the recipient of the Griese-Brees Award, recognizing him as the conference’s best QB, as well as the Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year Award. John Simon took home the Smith-Brown Award for best defensive lineman and the Nagurski-woodson Defensive Player of the Year.

A couple of thoughts here. Still think Martinez was better than Brax, coaches? How one gets awarded the best overall offensive player but gets beaten out for the First-Team sounds pretty dumb to me. I thought Simon might get edged out by Penn St linebacker Michael Mauti. They both had outstanding years, but I think Simon got the slight edge because voters respected his phenomenal career as a whole instead of just focusing on this season. I have no qualms with PSU’s Bill O’Brien taking home the schembechler-Hayes Coach of the Year - what he did this season after walking into that shit storm was astonishing. But Meyer did go undefeated, just saying. The one award I do take issue with is Iowa’s Micah Hyde getting the Tatum-woodson Award for best defensive back over Bradley Roby. Iowa’s pass defense was horrible, and Roby had more passes defended, pass breakups, interceptions, and touchdowns than Hyde. Good thing he’s only a sophomore and will just win it next year.

Congrats to all Buckeyes receiving honors.

Ohio St will say goodbye to 20 seniors from this team, half of whom received significant playing time. Moving on will be WR Jake Stoneburner, OL Reid Fragel, DL John Simon, Garrett Goebel, and Nathan Williams, LBs Etienne Sabino and Zach Boren, DBs Travis Howard and Orhian Johnson, and P Ben Buchanan.

The biggest hit will be on the defensive line, which stands to loose even more assuming Hankins goes pro. John Simon is one of the greats to ever wear the scarlet and gray, and will surely be missed. The good news is - this is the deepest position on the team. Expect to see breakout sophomore campaigns from Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington next season.

The linebackers will also experience some significant losses, as two starters from a very thin unit are gone. It’s easy to put some positive spin on this one as well though, as Boren and Sabino both only played half of the year at LB. Coming back to the unit is Ryan Shazier, who should be one of the best ’backers in the country next season and ready to led the defense. Howard is a great cover corner, but he missed a lot of tackles and Roby, who will be returning, was definitely the leader of that secondary.

Ohio St is only losing two players who saw quality minutes on offense. Two. Both converted tight ends, Stoneburner switched to receiver and while he was a serious red zone threat, his 16 catches this season will not be hard to replace. Fragel did a remarkable job switching to tackle, but the other four starters will return and lead a very experienced line next season.

If he goes pro, Hanks will be a top 15 pick in the coming NFL draft. Simon might be a bit undersized, but due to his extremely high motor could be a 2nd round selection. Other than that, there's not a lot of NFL quality there. I could see Stoneburner and Howard going in the later rounds, but that’s probably it.

Final Thoughts
So another year is in the books, this one unfortunately earlier than usual. While no postseason is certainly depressing, I can’t express enough how impressed I was with this team and the job Urban Meyer did coming into a tough situation. I had an absolute blast watching our Renegade Bucks pull out a victory each and every week, of course most notably this past week’s win over that team up north. Next season looks outrageously promising - here’s to hoping to another one like this one, just with a ring at the end.


Tuesday, November 27

Mega-sports blowout all-rivalry super-weekend

Among the many, many things I had to give thanks for during this Thanksgiving holiday season was just a humongous dose of sports. My goodness did I watch a lot of sports over the past four days, and I loved it. I'll try my best to recap the whirlwind action, highlighted of course by another magnificent Ohio State Buckeye victory over the dastardly michigan wolverines and a rare, satisfying win over the demonic Pittsburgh steelers. This was one to remember.

First on the list: a plate of NFL action piled high on Thanksgiving day. Without cable, I haven't followed the NFL as closely as in years past, and it was nice to have the opportunity to catch all three games (and spend time with friends and family, of course). I was psyched enough at the concept that I even made a mediocre return to our weekly NFL picks article.

First up was Detroit's amazing botching of a golden opportunity to claim their first T-Day win in nine years, eventually losing 34-31 in OT to the Houston Texans. As someone who wanted nothing but ill fortune to descend on the entire state where the game was being held, I was pleased by this result, taking it as a positive sign of things to come.

Next was the Redskins taking the Cowboys in Big D, and as I suspected, Bob Griffin ran wild on the hapless Cowboys in a 38-31 win. Better luck next time, America's team. In another positive development, my hangover from Blackout Wednesday was fully erased by the tie this one kicked off.

The night game was great for Patriots fans, not so great for Jets fans or anyone else who likes even vaguely competitive football. I mean, with 10 minutes left in the first half, the Patriots were on offense at their own 20, holding a 7-0 lead. In less than seven minutes, the Patriots were up 35-0 (no, really), and TV sets across the nation were retuned. I think maybe I tried to be a bit too fancy with my Jets pick, huh?

After a tedious eight hours of driving, much of which was self-imposed by me forgetting some stuff at my Dad's, I managed to traverse some windy highways and get back in time for the Lake Erie Monsters game at the Q.

The once-again-so-so Monsters were taking on the mighty (?) Rockford Icehogs, and managed to fall behind 2-0 in the second period. With the help of two power play goals, the Monsters knotted it up in the third, though a Rockford goal on a superb individual effort put the visitors back up by a tally. Lake Erie's last best chance was an extended 5-on-3 power play where, I believe, they didn't get a shot on goal despite having the puck in Rockford's end the entire time. Way, way too many blocked shots. Rockford added an empty-netter for the final 4-2 margin. Oh well.

I wondered if perhaps the quality of AHL play would be improved with the NHL lockout ongoing, an I believe that it was. It's typically a good on-ice product, but you can tell it's a clear step below, as passes aren't as crisp, skating not as fluid, shooting not as sharp. I wondered if perhaps the presence of a lot of upper-level AHL'ers who might otherwise be filling out NHL rosters would improve the level of competition, and I think that it did. That having been said, wow is the NHL ever inept at actually getting teams to play. Two lockouts in a decade? Lame.

The main event was, as always, The Game, Ohio State vs michigan, being played this year for the 108th time. Prior to that was, as is my tradition, the Pigskin Classic 5k and Tailgate Party. I posted a 21:39, breaking a 7-minute pace for the first time in a while (despite blustery conditions), and good enough for a 38th-place finish out of 328 runners and 8th of 54 in my age bracket. Not bad for a guy with shaky knees who missed six months of training this year.

During the race, I noticed a girl sporting ugly um blue and yellow garb who was running off to the side, the wrong way, away from the course. I thought, of course: typical michigan fan, can't even figure out the course. Amazingly, she turned out to be a friend of a friend, we talked at the tailgate, and that was exactly what happened. I love when things work out like that. She actually watched the game with my crew and turned out to be a nice enough person, other than the whole um thing.

I'll let Figgs have at the Buckeyes' 26-21 win over the weasels, though I did make some post-game remarks in a post-game article, but in this space I'll just say: what a performance by the defense. In a game where an astounding number of questionable calls went against OSU and the offense struggled to convert its opportunities, the once-maligned defensive unit shut out the michigan offense for the entire second half. Solid.

I also was able to put the bow on a season-long tradition; txting Figgs after each game that "We're [# wins]-0, and we're not michigan fans." Saturday's was the sweetest.

Oh, and we have Braxton Miller for two more years. Maybe you'll have a shot in the 2015 game, michigan fans!

More good news from the Saturday gridiron! This wasn't technically a rivalry game, since my high school New Philadelphia was eliminated from the postseason weeks ago, but I'm not too old to enjoy watching a rival lose a postseason game even if my alma mater isn't involved.

Thus, I was pleased to learn that dover was dispatched by a humbling score of 48-13 by Saint-Vincent-Saint Mary high school. Wait, haven't I heard of that school from somewhere? Don't they have a famous alumnus that sports fans are familiar? Oh yeah...

After I woke up from a post-tailgate nap, I saw that the Cavs were hanging in there against the hated Miami Heat and former Cavalier #6. Could they do the improbable and waltz into South Beach on the second night of a back-to-back and topple the defending champions?


But damned if they weren't close, leading by seven points with less than two minutes to play. Then, I think, the Sporting Gods remembered hey, we like to fuck with Northeast Ohio more than anything, and a late Ray Allen three-pointer sent Los Caballeros to a 110-108 defeat. I tried (and mostly succeeded) in not letting this put a damper on what was otherwise a day to remember.

With the Buckeye game in our back pocket, FCF turned their attention to the pro game, where the Browns were taking on the hated pittsburgh steelers. It was hard to turn it around less than 24 hours after the OSU win, but that's why we're Browns fans.

The narrative all week leading up to the game focused on the steelers' injuries, especially to QB Ben Roethlisberger and his backup Byron Leftwich, forcing Charlie Batch into the starting role. This generated two storylines: 1) a rare golden opportunity for the Browns to snatch a win from the rivals that have dominated them over the years, and 2) that Batch is a veteran who won't be expected to do too much but is smart and won't lose the game for the steelers. Only #1 turned out to be correct, as Batch's three interceptions complemented five steeler fumbles as Pittsburgh handed Cleveland a 20-14 win, the first for the Browns since the Ice Bowl in 2009.

I'm sure "steeler nation" is already concocting excuse after excuse for the loss - Big Ben was out, the turnovers cost us, Richardson's carry late in the game should have been a fumble. To all of those I say: whatever. 20-14.

I'm not going to worry about any of that - the Browns not capitalizing on many of their chances, the injury situation, none of it. I'm just enjoying this win. The Browns are 3-8, but hey, they beat the steelers, and today, that's good enough.

Saturday, November 24

Does anyone know where I can get a shirt with this?

I can't overstate how much I adore this graphic, in the wake of Ohio State yet again dispatching the school up north. Did they print up shirts with this? I want one, I really do. There's so much to like, most notably the irony of the fact that OSU in fact finished 12-0, which for math-challenged michigan fans, is four fewer losses than your club suffered.

Then there's the fact that 11-1 (which, I must stress, did not happen) doesn't in any way fit into the graphical paradigm of O-H-I-O. It looks like O-H-11-1-O, which is totally different. You couldn't have tried to work the "11" into an "H" style? This is classic michigan - even though they knew it didn't work stylistically, they went ahead with their dumb idea. IT DOESN'T FIT.

And I love, love, love that they're still doing "Beat Ohio," in complete defiance of how spectacularly it backfired when Ohio (the Ohio University Bobcats) booted them from the NCAA basketball tourney. Hey, we're michigan, we never let a moronic, failed concept die. So pathetic. Also, you didn't beat anyone from Ohio, up to including Ohio State today. 364 days and counting, friends.

One final thought: I love that Carlos Hyde threw can't-tie's mind-blowingly stupid eating thing back in his face near the end of the game. LOVED IT. Enjoy your 1-3 career mark against the Buckeyes, #16.

Thursday, November 22

NFL Picks: Week 12

Nick talks a lot of smack for someone who's never won this competition. Just sayin'. However, that was a pretty strong week there from the old boy.

Last Week:
Nick: 8-5-1
Figgs: 5-8-1
Joe: 5-8-1
Figgs' $ Picks: 2-1
Nick's $ Picks: 3-0-1, +7 Schrute Bucks

Season to Date
Joe: 74-82-4
Nick: 70-86-4
Figgs: 68-88-4
Figgs' $ Picks: 13-15
Nick's $ Picks: 8-8-1, +3 Schrute Bucks

Thanksgiving Football

LIONS (+3) vs. Texans
Figgs: Texans. I will give Nick his props on this one - he's been saying the Lions aren't very good all year. Houston should be motivated by a scare from Jacksonville last week. ($)
Joe: Texans; I'm not really sure where that Jacksonville game came from, but no worries, because the Texans did what championship teams should do, and that's win games where you're not at your best. I look for them to be back to form this week while I eat my turkey.
Nick: Texans. Just not a fan of the Lions, and even though it's a quick turnaround I have faith in Houston. (4 Schrute Bucks)
Andy Fuckin' Francis: What's up, bitches? I'm back, one week only. Maybe I'll even start writing a bit, save Figgs from single-handedly carrying this joint. I'm taking the Texans in this game. Why? Because they're really good. They have the second-best point differential in the NFL, behind only a New England team buoyed by blowouts, while the Lions are at -10. I know it's Thanksgiving and all, but why do I only have to give three points here? I haven't followed the NFL too closely this season.

COWBOYS (-3) vs. Redskins
Figgs: Skins. Dallas isn't anywhere near good. I could see them bringing it at home on Thanksgiving against a medicore Washington team, but if I ever get the chance to take a team that I feel is better and get points, I'm not going to pass it up. ($)
Joe: Skins; I think they do more things well than Dallas does.
Nick: Skins. The Browns should have beaten the Cowboys last Sunday. I'm not sure what's in store for this game, but I wonder if the clock is getting ready to strike midnight for Garrett, and to a lesser degree, Tony Homo. (+4.5, 2 Schrute Bucks)
AFF After last week's painful loss to the 'Pokes, I talked with a Texan coworker of mine who is a Dallas fan. He told me, "I thought the Cowboys were the best team in the league at finding ways to blow games...but then I saw the Cleveland Browns. He was not wearing a giant Ten-Gallon hat when he said this, unfortunately. What I'm trying to say is, the Cowboys still suck, and I expect to see RG3 and the Redskins go in there and light Cowboys Stadium up.

JETS (+7) vs. Patriots
Figgs: Pats. I've never seen a team cover more high spreads with such ease as New England. Pats in a big way here. ($)
Joe: Pats; Reluctantly. Yes, they cover some spreads by 4 or 5 TD's, but they either lose or win very close in other big spread games. So I don't know which team will show up. If I have to guess, I'll go with Brady over Sanchez. Reason enough for me. But this game is just a side note to the actual event that will take place on Thursday night. That's right, the return to NBC of John Freaking Madden, and....wait for it.... the TURDUCKEN!!!!!!!! That's all the reason I need to watch this game.
Nick: Pats. It's a lot of points, but this comes down to the fact that I can't take Sanchez over Brady without getting more than a TD. Sorry bra.
AFF: For reasons not even I understand, I'm taking the Jets in this one. Yes, the Patriots cover big spreads, but they barely beat the Jets in OT in Foxboro earlier this year, and the turmoil around the Jets seems to have hardened their resolve, resulting in a solid win last week in St Louis. I dunno, seems too easy to take New England here.

Saturday 12:00 Kickoff
BUCKEYES (-3) vs a school up north
Figgs: Suck it michigan. Suck it long, and suck it hard.
AFF: This pick was made post-game, but OF COURSE I was going to take the Ohio State Buckeyes in this game. I'll have a few more things to say on this at a later time.

Sunday 1:00 kickoff
BROWNS (E) vs. steelers
Figgs: Browns. We've been in every single game this year and I definitely don't see this being any different, other than the fact that I actually think we pull this one off. Charlie Batch? Give me a break.
Joe: Browns; Not a doubt in my freaking mind!
AFF: BROWNS BROWNS BROWNS BROWNS BROWNS. Gotta get this one. I'm psyched. This weekend will see the end of michigan, and it will soon see the end of the steelers. I'm even taking the unprecedent step of tailgating two days in a row this week - the Pigskin Classic downtown for the Saturday beatdown, and then a trip to the Muni lot before the Browns avenge several more years' worth of losses to the squealers.

BEARS (E) vs. Vikings
Figgs: Bears. I was 100% wrong in last week's Monday Nighter in my thinking that the Bears where much better off with Campbell than San Fran was with Kaepernick. There's a chance Cutler goes in this one and if that's the case I like Chi-town no doubt. If he can't I guess I'll roll the dice with Campbell once again.
Joe: Bears; Ok, I too, was way off on the Bears last week. I want to go with the Vikes here, but they aren't getting any points. In a pickem game, I gotta believe the Bears are still the better team, especially at home.
Nick: Bears.
AFF: Bit of a dilemma here, because I'm leaning Bears in general, but I saw that horrifying MNF performance they submitted last week while I was at a bizarro trivia night. I think I'll take the Bears in a bounce-back game.

BENGALS (-10) vs. Raiders
Figgs: Cinncy. Give me the over on this one. I didn't think I could possibly take this bad Bengal team giving double digits points against anyone, but I think the Raiders just might be that awful.
Joe: Raiders; Revenge game for Carson. Anyone? Ok, Cincy is better than I have given them credit for, but I can't give this many points, even against these clowns.
Nick: Raiders. Just too many points.
AFF: I'm with Joe - I haven't been in this game long enough to give 10 with the Cincitucky Bunglers, as awful as the Raiders have been. Oakland it is.

COLTS (-3) vs. Buffaloes
Figgs: Indy. Luck and the Colts showed last week that they're not ready to play with the elite teams like New England. They'll show this week that they're still a big step above the lower teams like Buffalo. ($)
Joe: Bills; Just one of my gut feeling games that don't really make sense, but I seem to hit on them every time. I think the Bills pull this one out.
Nick: Indy.
AFF: I wouldn't bet this game in a million years, even if I was following the league closely, but I'm taking the Buffaloes here.

CHIEVES (+11) vs. Broncos
Figgs: Denver. I thought about this one for awhile, but if I can justify to myself giving 10 points for Cinncy, I can give 11 for a real team.
Joe: Broncos; The QB caroussel lands back on The Mighty Quinn this week. I don't think it matters. They are godawful. And Denver has Peyton Manning. Go ahead and take those 11 points, I'll gladly give them.
Nick: Broncos. I mean, I'd love to grab the points, but Denver is dropping 30 on everyone and the Chiefs have completely quit.
AFF: Blah, 11 points on the road, I'll take the Chieves in a pride game. Ugh, and now I'm stuck having taken a Romeo Crennel team.

DOLPHINS (+3) vs. Seahawks
Figgs: 'Hawks. Another one I debated on for some time. I don't like giving points to take Seattle on the road, but I also don't like taking Miami period.
Joe: Seahawks; Coming off a bye week, so don't give me that traveling cross country for an early start crap, Seattle. You are way better than this team, so act like it. Beast Mode all day.
Nick: Seahawks.
AFF: I think I'll take the field goal and look for the Dolphins to end their three-game slide. Does anyone else miss when Henne was their QB and Figgs lobbed bombs at them each week? Me too.

BUCS (+1) vs. Falcons
Figgs: ATL. If I weren't a Browns fan, this would definitely be the game I'd most like to watch on the 1:00 slate. Should be evenly matched, with the slight advantage the Falcons have being negated by TB being at home. In a game that could go either way, I have no reason not to take my boys.
Joe:Bucs; Falcons keep getting it done, but they seem to be playing worse each of the last several weeks. I don't mean to be a hater because I like their team, but the 5 picks Matty Ice threw last week are alarming. Tampa is solid and they are at home.
Nick: Bucs.
AFF: The Bucs have won four straight, are playing at home, and have roughly the same point differential as the good-but-shaky Birds.

JAGUARS (+3) vs. Titans
Figgs: Titans. chad henne seems to have given the lowly Jags some life. It also gives me a reason to pick against them every week now. he's probably going to still be crying after the beatdown his boys up north will have suffered to The Buckeyes the previous day.
Joe: Titans; I don't know where henne pulled that performance out of, but, given his track record, I'm giving these points, betting that he doesn't post back to back good games.
Nick: Jags.
AFF: There's the Henne hate I wanted! I seriously had no idea that was awaiting me. Good times. I'm taking the Titties in honor of yet another destruction of um today.

(4:05 kickoff)
CHARGERS (+1) vs. Ravens
Figgs: ratbirds. I'm done asking "What Charger team will show up?" I'm finally getting the picture - there's only one Charger team, and they're not good. (*$)
Joe: Ravens; 1 point? Really? I get a Harbaugh vs. Norv Turner? Uncle Frank, is this a joke?
Nick: Ravens.
AFF: Fuck the ravens, I'm taking the Bolts. Let's face it: these games are all toss-ups for us, so why sit there and hope the goddamn team that stole our franchise and wears "Art" patches wins? Fuck those patches, fuck them.

(4:25 kickoffs)
CARDINALS (-1) vs. Rams
Figgs: Rams. The Cards are now on QB3, and I couldn't for the life of me tell you his name.
Joe: Rams; The Cards still haven't won a game since September, and that includes a game last week where they picked off 5 passes! The Rams have an excellent front 7 and their going against the aforementioned 3rd string QB. I'll take em.
Nick: Cards.
AFF: I'm taking the Cardinals because you guys aren't.

SAINTS (+1) vs. 49ers
Figgs: Saints. You absolutely cannot not start Alex Smith, healthy or not, after what Kap did on MNF. That being said, I don't think he's able to repeat his performance.
Joe: 49ers; All right, they proved me wrong. I knew they had the great D, but I just thought their offense was pedestrian at best. After what they did to a great Bears defense last week, I'll buy into them again. I love the Saints offenseively, but if San Fran can keep this game in the 20's, I like their chances.
Nick: Niners.
AFF: It doesn't matter who SF starts - teams with QB controversies suck, especially if they have to roll into the Superdome the week after a Monday nighter and tangle with the suddenly-hot Saints.

Sunday Night Football, 8:20 kickoff
GIANTS (-3) vs. Packers
Figgs: Pack. I wouldn't be surprised with a Giant win, I never am with that team because I know what they are cappable of. But GB is the better and definitely more consistent team, so give me those points. ($)
Joe: Packers; Could go either way, but the Gmen have not looked good at all lately. They do this every year in November and then go on a run in December and January. Last I checked, it's still November, so I'll take my boys, the Pack.
Nick: Pack.
AFF: Pfft. The Giants don't have to win this game, so they won't. I'll take Mr. Rodgers and his Packers.

Monday Night Football, 8:30 kickoff
EAGLES (-1) vs. Panthers
Figgs: Panthers. Barf. Shouldn't this game be on Thursday Night? Guess I was wrong about the Vick injury being a blessing. I know it's only been one game, but Foles looked epically bad.
Joe: Panthers; Monday Nighters have been pretty bad this year. I gotta watch my boy Cam in prime time, but I'm long off the bandwagon of this being a good team. They suck.However, Ilike them to win because the Eagles are a trainwreck of epic proportions.
Nick: Eagles
AFF: A copy-and-paste error (by me) currently has Nick taking the 'Skins in this game, and frankly, given this appalling matchup, that's not such a bad pick. But, since I should probably take a team actually "playing" in this slopfest, I'll make the selection of the Eagles.

Figgs $ teaser: Bengals (-2)/Seahawks (+3)/Broncos (-4.5)

Wednesday, November 21

Buckeyes slip by Wisconsin in OT on shoulders of defense/special teams

Seven weeks into the season, Ohio St's defense was getting lit up by sub-par teams on a regular basis and their special teams was committing blunder after blunder. Then Urban Meyer took a special interest in the unit, and they improved dramatically over a month's time. That all culminated in the Buckeyes' 21-14 overtime victory over Wisconsin last Saturday.

In a game where the Bucks could only manage 15 first downs, 236 total yards, and seven points offensively, the defense and special teams came through in a big way. Philly Brown returned a punt for a touchdown early on, a score that we later found out was desperately needed, and LB Ryan Shazier and DE John Simon led a tenacious defense all game long.

Some may be quick to point out that Montee Ball rushed for nearly 200 yards, but they stopped him when it counted - most notably on Shazier's forced fumble at the goal line late in regulation. Also, I feel like Travis Howard's injury is being grossly overlooked. Ball was much more effective in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, when Howard was out. The reason for this was that Meyer didn't trust backup DB Doran Grant to go one-on-one with the Badger receivers, and therefore couldn't put as much pressure on the line of scrimmage. When Travis was in the game in the 1st and 4th quarters, Ohio St was able to effectively follow their original gameplan of putting eight or nine guys in the box to slow down Ball while Howard and Bradley Roby played one-on-one coverage.

It wasn't the type of game that we've been used to seeing this season and certainly wasn't Braxton Miller at his finest, but it was Big Ten football and another step closer to perfection for Ohio St. Now only one "team" stands in our way.

Game Recap
This may be the shortest recap ever. Not due to the typical reasons of me not wanting to relive a bad loss or just being plain lazy, but because well, there isn't much to recap. The punts came early and often from both sides, with all five possessions in the first quarter resulting in one. The difference being - with two minutes left in the period Philly Brown broke one straight up the middle for 68 yards and the game's first score. The blocking was terrific, and Brown hit the seam hard and only had to break one tackle before running past everyone to paydirt.

Wisconsin picked right up where they left off in the 2nd, punting within seconds. Braxton went 4/4 on the drive and Carlos Hyde ran one in from 15 yards out to go up 14-0. I felt very good at this point, but little did I know that that would pretty much be the end of the Ohio St offense. With Travis Howard on the sideline, Montee Ball ran right down the Buckeyes' throats before tying (ex-Cleveland Brown) Travis Prentice for the NCAA mark for career touchdowns. Both teams then reverted back to form, each punting twice more (while only picking up a combined one first down) before taking it to the half at 14-7.

The third quarter was more of the same, before Wisconsin had by far the longest drive of the game, eating up the final eight minutes of the frame. It was all for naught, however, as Kyle French missed a 40-yard field goal on the first play of the 4th. The miss may have just been karma, as the Badgers were bailed out earlier on the drive when Jordan Fredrick fumbled the ball to Ohio St, but the referees blew the call. As replay showed, Fredrick's knee was on top of an Ohio St player's hand and the ball came loose before he was actually down. Apparently the replay official thought differently (see: wrongly).

After the miss both offenses continued to struggle, and a botched Ben Buchanan punt set Wisconsin up near midfield and with the best scoring opportunity in a long time. They capitalized when Ball ran for 25 yards on the first play and eventually brought it down to a 4th and Goal at the one. Ball took the carry and when he saw no hole to run through, attempted to dive over top, stretching the ball out as he did so. Shazier was all over this, swatting the ball out of Montee's hands and into the waiting arms of Christian Bryant (we won't talk about why Bryant was standing alone behind the play to begin with).

With 2:46 left to play, Ohio St only needed a first down or two to seal their 11th straight victory. But those were hard to come by all game, and the Buckeye offense sputtered again with yet another three-and-out. The Badgers had to rely on Curt Phillips' arm for the first time all game, and even after John Simon's sack on the first play, the Badger QB responded beautifully. Phillips went 4/4 on the drive, the last completion to Jacob Pederson resulting in six. The point after sent the game to overtime all square at 14.

Even though the offense couldn't do anything since the 2nd quarter, I felt relatively confident heading into OT because frankly I knew we were a better team. My feelings were proved right, as the Bucks cruised to probably the easiest overtime victory I've ever seen. OSU took possession first and made quick work. Hyde ran for 11 yards on the first play followed by a 12-yarder from Braxton to lead to a 2-yard score from Hyde. When Wisconsin got their chance, the Buckeye D worked just as quickly as their counterparts on offense. Ball ran for six yards to start the series but was hit for a loss of two after a Phillips incompletion. On 4th and 6, Bryant broke up Phillips' pass intended for Pederson and that was all she wrote.

Game Ball
As I said, this win belonged to the defense. And while Shazier and his 12 tackles was phenomenal, one man stood out above the rest - John Simon. I feel like I've been giving Simon a bit of a bad rap on here this season, which was not my intention. His productivity has been at an extremely high level all year. What I was waiting for was the Simon I've seen in past seasons that completely took over and dominated a game. As of last Saturday, my wait was over. It was clear that no one on Wisconsin's offensive line could handle him. Simon was disrupting Phillips all game, resulting in four sacks and several other pressures that led to a teammate's sack, throw aways, or errant passes.
Game balls to date: Miller (3), Simon, Hyde, Boren, Guiton, Meyer, Hankins, Roby, Howard

Big Ten
All eyes in the conference were certainly on this Buckeye game, as not much else was going on. devin gardner continued to flourish as the michigan QB, with can't-tie adding a new wrinkle by lining up at running back and wide receiver along with gardner. The wolverines pounded Iowa, but Nebraska's win over Minnesota keeps them ahead of michigan via the tie-breaker, and is a win over Iowa this Friday away from facing Wisconsin for the Big Ten Title. Should the Huskers slip up, michigan would still have to beat Ohio St to pass them - which we all know isn't going to happen.

Heisman Watch
Ohio St being on a bye week followed by Braxton's mediocre performance in this game (97 yards passing, 48 rushing, 0 TDs) officially takes him out of the running. But since I've been talking about this for awhile I thought I'd quickly give you me thoughts on where the race stands now. Texas A&M's thrilling victory over Alabama two weeks ago knocked A.J. McCarron out of the race while catapulting the stock of Aggie QB Johnny Manziel. Collin Klein took a significant hit with K St's loss to Baylor, and right now it could be anyone's game. Kenjon Barner and USC WR Marquis Lee continue to put up video game numbers, while Manti Te'o has his Irish as the nation's only (eligible) unbeaten team. I would still give the slight nod to Optimus Klein right now, but Johnny Football is right on his heels.

My Rankings
1. Collin Klein, QB Kansas St
2. Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M
3. Manti Te'o, LB Notre Dame
4. Kenjon Barner, RB Oregon
5. Marquis Lee, WR USC

Up Next: vs. michigan (8-3, 6-1), 12:00, ABC
This is it; don't get scared now. michigan Week - my favorite week of the entire year. These rivals don't need any more motivation than to just look at the jerseys of the opposing team, but there is more at stake and more story lines in this year's matchup then there has been since the two came in ranked 1 and 2 in the nation in 2006. Ohio St is looking to cap off an unblemished season, michigan has hopes of taking the Legends Division and going to the Big Ten Championship game, Urban Meyer makes his debut to the rivalry, brady hoke tries to improve on his 1-0 mark against the Bucks, the wolverines are trying to win in Columbus for the first time in over a decade, and ann arbor is still a whore.

If can't-tie was still the um starting quarterback, I would have the full 100% confidence that I usually do going into this game. Now it's down to about 99.97%, because devin gardner scares me a bit. And while I've always got on can't-tie for his passing ability, or lack thereof, we all know how dangerous a runner he can be, and he could be very effective in this game if used correctly.

All that being said, it's still a michigan defense, and I fully expect the Buckeye offense to bounce back from its Wisconsin performance and put up some big points. I see similar numbers to the 300+ yards and three touchdowns that Miller accounted for against these boners last year. I think the defense continues their stellar play, and John Simon and his fellow seniors end their careers on top.
Prediction: OHIO STATE 95 michigan 0


Friday, November 16

Buckeyes Basketball Preview

With their football counterparts enjoying a bye last week, Ohio St's roundballers hit the hardwood and presented me with the optimal time to take a look at this season's Buckeye hoops squad. The Buckeyes begin the season ranked #4 in the country, and even with the mammoth losses of Jared Sullinger and William Buford, Thad Matta certainly has enough talent in Columbus for another deep run in March. Let's take a look at what could get them there and what could stop them.

Last Season
Ohio St came into last season thinking National Championship or bust. Although they put together a remarkable season and made an appearance in the Final Four, they eventually busted. The Bucks finished the regular season with a 25-6 record, and then cruised to the Big Ten Championship before losing a close Final to Michigan St.

That landed them a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and they rather easily disposed of Loyola (MD), Gonzaga, Cincinnati, and Syracuse on their way to the Final Four in New Orleans. There they ran into a tough Kansas team, where they let a game-long lead slip away and ultimately lost by a bucket. (I don't know why you would want to relive that game, but it's all yours if you're up for it.) As I said in that recap, even though Ohio St was a very, very good team, the uber-talented Kentucky Wildcats would have beaten anyone in the nation 99 times out of 100 in the title game, so that reality softened the blow of that loss a bit.

Jared Sullinger was obviously the heart and soul of that team, and went on to become the Boston Celtics' first-round pick at #21 overall. Will Buford, Aaron Craft, and Deshaun Thomas formed a phenomenal supporting cast, but ultimately the talented group fell just short.

The Rotation
Ohio St welcomes back three gentlemen that started all 39 games last season in guards Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith and forward Deshaun Thomas. There were position battles for the other two starting spots, and Matta may go back and forth with these early on until he finds a rotation that he feels best suits his team.

At SF, high-flying Sam Thompson has more experience than his fellow sophomore LaQuinton Ross, but both have enormous potential. Thad already showed that he's willing to tinker with the lineup, as Ross got the starting nod in the exhibition game but Thompson was there for tip-off in the season-opener (last week's 82-60 win over Albany). Whoever does not start will be the 6th man and both guys will log heavy minutes.

The lone senior on the team, Evan Ravenel, will most likely see the starts at center, but 6'11 Amir Williams will see a lot more action. Ravenel is a little undersized (6'8) for the five and offers virtually zero offensive ability, whereas Williams has a ton of potential. Ravenel will still get a decent amount of minutes at both the PF and C positions, however, due to his tremendous physical presence and solid defense.

Shannon Scott will backup Craft at PG and will also see some time at the two since Craft rarely leaves the floor. Matta typically doesn't use more than seven or eight guys, but should he look further down the bench, big man Trey McDonald and freshman sharp-shooter Amedeo Della Valle will be waiting.

The Positives
While Ohio St will need some answers to a few important questions that I'll get to in a moment, they do have some pretty big positives. After all, they're not ranked 4th in the nation for nothing. Two bright spots certainly stand out right away - Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft.

Tank Thomas is a Preseason All-American and sleeper Player of the Year candidate. He averaged 15.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last season while shooting at a 54% clip from the field and 34% from the outside - all in Sullinger's shadow. Now the offense will run through him, and he surely won't be shy about taking the lead. Tank has never seen a shot he didn't like, and his propensity to shoot the rock could be his downfall. Don't get me wrong - Thomas is the Buckeyes' best (and possibly only) scoring option and he needs to get his shots, he just needs to progress and find the right shot-selection, much like Buford did as his career went on.

Reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Craft is the best on-ball defender in the nation. He averaged 2.5 steals per game last season, and could even surpass that this year. Craft is the epitome of the guy you hate to play against. His quick feet and hands are constantly forcing turnovers, and even though he looks like the picture of innocence with that baby-face of his, he won't be shy to tell you about it. Craft is also a great passer and floor-general, always seeing everything on the court. However, he'll have to improve his jump shot and ability to get to the basket in order to lighten some of the scoring load off of Thomas.

Obviously, Craft is the opposing offense's main concern, but this Buckeye team in general is a talented defensive group. Smith can hang with just about any two- or three-guard in the country, Thompson's athleticism will create some blocks and steals, and Rav and Williams can be devastating inside. Williams averaged a crazy 0.8 blocks in only 6.6 minutes a game last season. With concerns about being able to put the ball in the basket, Ohio St is going to rely on this defense and attempt to win games in the 50's and 60's.

The Questions
Two of the finest players to don the scarlet and gray in recent memory are gone, and replacing them won't be easy. Sully and Willy Buckets combined for 43% of the team's scoring last season, and replacing those points will be Ohio St's biggest concern in 2012-13.

While there won't be another Jared Sullinger for quite some time, if Tank can progress a little bit his production shouldn't be too far of a drop off from Sullinger's - at least scoring-wise. Thomas isn't near the defender or rebounder that Sully was, but Ravenel and Williams should help out in those aspects. Tank should be scoring in the 20's in every game, with a few 30-point performances here and there.

The biggest challenge facing our current Bucks will be to supplant the outside scoring from Buford. OSU is really counting on Lenzelle Smith to continue to improve and score at the rate he was towards the end of last season, but with more consistency. When his shot was on, there were games when he looked like the best player on the court. In others you didn't even know he was out there. The sky is really the limit for Zelle, and he needs to produce at a high level on a regular basis if the Buckeyes are going to make a run at this thing.

If not Smith (or even better, along with Smith), the Buckeyes' best remaining options for points will come from Ross, Thompson, and Scott. LaQuinton is far and away the best shooter of the bunch (Thompson and Scott combined for 1-32 from beyond the arc last season - really) but inexperience could hurt the sophomore early on as he only averaged a few minutes a game last season. Thompson has absurd athletic ability and is always good for one highlight reel dunk or block throughout the game (just check this out), but needs to develop a more all-around offensive game. Scott is a serviceable backup, but I wouldn't count on him to score in the double-digits.

The Schedule
There are several guys that Ohio St will be counting on without much experience (Thompson and Scott each averaged 10.6 minutes per game last season, Williams 6.6, Ross 3.9) who will be helped out early on with a favorable non-conference schedule. With last weekend's Marquette game being cancelled, there are really only two serious opponents on the docket. The Buckeyes will renew their series with both Duke and Kansas, this time playing on the opposite court as they did last season. This means the #9 Blue Devils will have revenge on their mind after the beatdown we gave them in Value City last season, and you know Cameron Indoor will be rocking on November 28. The good news is we went toe-to-toe at Kansas without Sullinger in a close loss last year, so we'll welcome the 7th-ranked Jayhawks to Columbus on December 22 fr a shot at revenge of our own.

The Buckeyes will be participating in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off in Connecticut this weekend, where they will face Rhode Island on Saturday and the Washington/Seton Hall winner Sunday. The rest of the games are all against weak mid-majors and shouldn't pose any problems.

Then you get into Big Ten play, where the conference is loaded, as always. The Big Ten's top-tier teams can't be matched by a conference in the country. In addition to OSU starting out 4th, Indiana comes in as the nation's top team, with michigan right behind us at 5. Michigan St currently stands at #21 even after their opening night loss to UConn, and you know Tom Izzo will always have a great team. The Bucks don't see Cody Zeller and the Hoosiers until February, and you can go ahead and circle the dates January 13 and February 5 right now, as the Buckeyes will welcome the wolverines to V.C. before traveling to their shit-hole.

There is definitely a drop off in the conference after those top four teams, but 22nd ranked Wisconsin, Purdue, Minnesota and Illinois always have solid squads and will be tough competition, especially on the road. Iowa, Penn St and Nebraska don't usually bring much to the table, but you never know.

The Outlook
From a pre-season perspective, Ohio St looks like an above-average team that should contend for the Big Ten title and probably bow out of the tournament around the Sweet 16/Elite 8. But it's college basketball, and anything can happen. If Thomas and Craft aren't any better than last year and none of the other players step up, they could finish in the bottom half of the conference and be upset in the first round of the tourney. If Tank is POY-caliber, Smith is an All-Conference performer, and they get some improved scoring from Craft and some of the other role players, this team could make another run at the Final Four. I would not be shocked at any of those outcomes. You just never know, and I'm excited to watch this group and see how things shake out.


Thursday, November 15

NFL Picks: Week 11

Now those records look more normal. Although my six wins was still good enough to be six better than Nick. Let's see if he will grace us with his presence this week as we forge on.

Nick: This is going to be awfully embarassing when I spot you 15 games (forgetting once again to pick on Thursday) and still beat you this season.

Last Week:
Figgs: 6-8
Joe: 9-5
Nick: 0-14
Figgs' $ Picks: 1-1

Season to Date
Joe: 69-74-3
Figgs: 63-80-3
Nick: 62-81-3
Figgs' $ Picks: 11-14
Nick's $ Picks: 5-8, -4 Schrute Bucks

Thursday Night Football, 8:20
BILLS (-1) vs. Dolphins
Figgs: Fish. So Time Warner finally gets the NFL Network, and they make us suffer through these awful games that they put on Thursday Night.
Joe: Bills; These Thursday games have in fact been bad. I'll take a flier on the Buffaloes tonight because, hey, what the hell?

Sunday 1:00 kickoff
COWBOYS (-9) vs. Browns
Figgs: Browns. The Browns can't lose in heartbreaking fashion and have Dallas cover this at the same time. My money's on the Browns losing in heartbreaking fashion.
Joe: Browns; Coming off a bye week against a team where you never know if you'll get good Dallas or bad Dallas. I'm going with bad Dallas, and calling for us to get the outright win. Yeah, I said it.
Nick: Browns. More than a touchdown seems a little, considering how unimpressive the Cowboys have been. Even if the Browns are beaten down for most of the game, the backdoor cover is wide open.

FALCONS (-10) vs. Cardinals
Figgs: ATL. I was correct in going against them last week, I expect them to come back in a big way against a bad Cardinals team this week.
Joe: ATL; I'm not sure if I like giving this many points, but I love this Birds team, and Arizona doesn't have much of anything to love. After a 4-0 start, the Cards haven't won a game since September.
Nick: Cards. This could easily blow up in my face, but the Falcons have eight wins and only three are by double-digits. Bye week bump, anyone?

LIONS (+4) vs. Packers
Figgs: Pack. The Lions are 4-2 outside of their division. Unfortunately for them, they share a division with these guys.
Joe: Packers; Aaron Rodgers coming off a bye vs. an average Lions club. Sign me up. Being on the road shouldn't faze them because Green Bay's offense is built much more for a dome than outdoors in bad weather anyway.
Nick: Pack. I continue to believe that Detroit sucks. (4 Schrute Bucks)

CHIEFS (+4) vs. Bengals
Figgs: Cinncy. KC played inspired last week and are getting points in Arrowhead. Perfect time for them to fall flat on their face.
Joe: Chiefs; They are still terrible, but I don't like Cincy much either. I'll take the 4 at home.
Nick: Bengals. The Chiefs are the worst team in football. Shouldn't AJ Green be able to cover this number on his own? (-3.5, 2 Schrute Bucks)

RAMS (-4) vs. Jets
Figgs: Rams. The Jets are just such a mess right now.
Joe: Rams; I can see why the Jets brought in Tebow to attract attention. Without a side story, no one could possibly want to spend 10 seconds talking about this horrendous football team.
Nick: Rams. I love watching the Jets tank.

REDSKINS (-4) vs. Eagles
Figgs: Philly. The Vick injury could be a blessing in disguise. They wanted to go to Foles anyway, now they have an excuse. Let's see what this kid can do.
Joe:Skins; Figgs may be right, but if I have to take a rookie QB to win this game, I'll put my money on RG3.
Nick: Eagles. I don't like either of these teams, so give me the points.

PANTHERS (+1) vs. Buccaneers
Figgs: Bucs. I haven't been giving them enough credit this year. I still don't think they're quite a playoff team, but they are definitely several steps up from the bottom-feeders of the NFC such as the Panthers. ($)
Joe: Bucs; I started buying into them several weeks ago, and they have proceeded to win 3 straight and get over the .500 mark. I actually could buy them as a playoff team. They'll probably barely miss out with a 9-7ish record, but they are taking several steps in the right direction going forward. The Panthers....not so much.
Nick: Bucs. The Bucs keep flying under the radar, so I'll take them again here. Watching most of that Panthers game last week, it's astounding how incompetent that franchise is. The Browns are in better shape with a 44-year old rookie ginger quarterback. (2 Schrute Bucks)

TEXANS (-15) vs. Jaguars
Figgs: Houston. While 15 is a really big number, the Texans are second in the league in point differential, winning by almost 12 points per game, while the Jags are dead last, losing by over 13 a game. Put those together, and this could get out of hand in a hurry.
Joe: Texans; They can certainly win with offense, and last week they showed they can go toe to toe with a great defense and out playanybody on that side of the ball as well. This week, they'll show a lot of both.
Nick: Jags. Too many points. If you just blindly picked every dog that was getting more than 14, I bet your record would be pretty good.

(4:25 kickoffs)
RAIDERS (+5) vs. Saints
Figgs: Saints, Saints, Saints. Favorite game on the board, maybe even of the year. Oakland is really bad. ($)
Joe: Saints; I'ma little hesitant since it's outside the dome giving more than a FG. But it is Oakland. That's all I needed to hear to give the 5.
Nick: Saints. Trap game. TRAP GAME! Doesn't matter, Oakland is that bad. (3 Schrute Bucks)

BRONCOS (-8) vs. Chargers
Figgs: Bolts. From my favorite line of the week to my least. Denver is on a roll and should keep it going here, but 8 is just a point too high for me. Never know when SD will come out to play.
Joe: Broncos; Ever since the 1st meeting between these two, I have completely sold all of my Bolt stock. They will just never live up to their potential as long as Norv Turner is their coach.Oh, and Peyton Manning is starting to quietly look like he might win yet another MVP. Broncos, big.
Nick: Donks. This seems a point too high, but Denver has scored 31 or more points in 5 of their last 6. Why will that change against this porous Chargers defense?

PATRIOTS (-10) vs. Colts
Figgs: Indy. The Colts have won four straight, but all against weak teams. Now it's time to really see what they're made of. I'm banking that they are for real. This was always the most exciting game of the year, watching brady and Manning go at it. With Andrew Luck stepping in, let's keep the good times rolling.
Joe: Colts; I think they might be for real as well. I love getting such a big 10 pt cushion here, because even if the Pats are in control, that is a big number to give.
Nick: Pats. This is a tough one. Most of the Colts' wins have been against soft opponents, and you never know which Patriots team will show up. I'm going to bank on a letdown game for Indy.

Sunday Night Football, 8:20 kickoff
STEELERS (+4) vs. Ravens
Figgs: ratbirds. Byron Leftwich? Hahaha. ($)
Joe: Ravens; They have to win this game to take a stranglehold on this division. They looked fantastic last week, scoring 55 points (of course it was against a 1-AA opponent) and the steelers would have lost last week if it was against anyone but the lowly Chiefs. I look for this to be the 1st of a 3-game losing streak for pitts (that's right, I said it. I am aware of who their opponent is next week).
Nick: Pittsburgh. Can we just have Bane take out Heinz Field tonight? I'll be rooting for Baltimore hear (gag me), but I'm just not sold on the Ravens against a legit contender. Unfortunately, I think the Steelers are a contender in a lousy AFC, even with Leftwich in there. Plus, getting more than a field goal is significant in this game.

Monday Night Football, 8:30 kickoff
49ERS (-5) vs. Bears
Figgs: Bears. Every time we're ready to proclaim the Niners as NFC favorites, they lay an egg like they did last week. With Smith's and Cutler's status uncertain, this one could surely go either way. Give me the points and the more consistent team.
Joe: Bears; I'm probably the only one in the country that has serious doubts about San Fran not only being a Super Bowl contender, but being good period. I think Seattle may very well win this division. In this game, even if Campbell plays, I like the Bears. He is a servicable backup, and regardless, I love the Bears D going against a pedestrian offense. Plus, this should be low scoring by both teams, given their great defenses. So, all these reasons I have to take the Bears, AND I'm getting 5 points? Yes please.
Nick: Bears. Feels like a 19-16, grinder of a game. I'll take the points.

Thursday, November 8

NFL Picks: Week 10

Well, look at this - back-to-back 10-4 weeks from Figgs has vaulted him back into contention, with a 3-0 money pick record in Week 9 to boot. Joe halted his slide with a solid 8-6 slate, and Nick nailed a mid-second-quarter Thursday pick and an anti-Browns pick to move to 7-7 for the week.

This is the worst possible football weekend coming up, with OSU and the Browns both on byes. Andy will fill the gap by taking in the CMU Tartans' visit to Cleveland to take on the CWRU Spartans this Saturday (an unprecedented instance of me supporting a Pittsburgh club over a Cleveland one), but is still undecided on how to proceed without the Browns there to ruin his Sunday.

Last Week:
Figgs: 10-4 (!)
Joe: 8-6
Nick: 7-7
Figgs' $ Picks: 3-0 (!)

Season to Date
Nick: 62-67-3
Joe: 60-69-3
Figgs: 57-72-3
Figgs' $ Picks: 10-13
Nick's $ Picks: 5-8, -4 Schrute Bucks

Thursday Night Football, 8:20
JAGUARS (+3) vs. Colts
Figgs: Indy. Six home dogs this week, and I feel like I'm mostly going to go with the roadies to cover, even though that typically goes against my thinking. Definitely here. Andrew Luck is totally legit and the Jags blow more than Hootie.
Joe: Colts; I have been wonderfully impressed with Andrew Luck so far.  I watched a lot of him last week, and if you put a generic jersey on him, I would have sworn that was Aaron Rodgers making those throws.  He is as good as advertised.  These are the same Colts that went 2-14 with Curtis Painter, and this guy has them thinking playoffs.  Maybe, maybe not, but they beat the lowly Jags this week. 

Sunday 1:00 kickoff
BENGALS (+4) vs. Giants
Figgs: NYG. Going against the Bengals has done me well. The Giants may not be at their peak, but the way Philly and Dallas are playing they could run away with this division by just beating teams that they should, like Cinncy. ($)
Joe: Giants; Same old Bengals.

DOLPHINS (-6) vs. Titans
Figgs: Fish. I immediately typed "Titans" here then paused for awhile thinking of a reason. I couldn't come up with one. Six points seems way to high for a Dolphin team that plays up/down to their level of competition, but I just see more scenarios that play out with Mia covering. This will definitely be one I'll be upset about second-guessing myself if it goes the other way.
Joe: Titans; I think 6 is too high.  I could see a FG deciding this game, so give me those points. 

VIKINGS (+1) vs. Lions
Figgs: Vikes. This time I'll take the home dog. Detroit has proved me right in recent weeks with back-to-back covers, but these two teams are pretty much on the same level in my book, so if you're going to give me points to take the home team, I'm in. Minny already won in Detroit this season.
Joe: Lions; I picked them to beat the Vikes earlier when they played at home and lost, but I'm gonna do it again anyway.  I think that, like the Cardinals, we're starting to see that the Vikings just aren't very good. 

PATRIOTS (-11) vs. Bills
Figgs: Pats. NE has never been shy about covering big spreads.
Joe: Pats; The Bills built a 14 point 2nd half lead in the 1st meeting....and proceded to lose by 24.  The Pats may not be significantly better than the rest of the league anymore, but they are still solid.  And Buffalo is known for getting blown out by superior teams. 

SAINTS (+3) vs. Falcons
Figgs: Saints. I skipped this one and came back to it thinking I might have a better idea. I do not. I hate going against the ATL but I just think in New Orleans seems like a likely place for them to slip up and finally get a loss.
Joe: ATL; I have been waiting for the Falcons loss to come, but it hasn't yet.  I talked myself out of taking Dallas to beat them last week because it seems foolish to try to pick their loss every week just to finally nail it when it happens, meanwhile losing the rest of the time.  Watching them Sunday night, they remind me of (a more likeable version of) the steelers.  Not flashy, not glamorous, but efficient and more talented than anyone wants to give them credit for. 

BUCS (-3) vs. Chargers
Figgs: Bolts. The Bucs have won three of their last four, but two of those came against the dregs of the AFC West. SD is on a higher level.
Joe: Bucs; Same old Chargers.  Tampa is better at beating bad teams than San Diego is.  So, I'll take the Bucs, especially at home.  Oh yeah, and Doug Martin is good. 

PANTHERS (+4) vs. Broncos
Figgs: Broncos. Big game for Denver. On the road or not, they can't afford to give one away against an inferior team with SD right on their heels. ($)
Joe: Broncos; Cam finally looked good again last week and the Panthers got a nice win.  But this is Peyton Manning, and now that their in the soft part of their schedule, the Donks are gonna end up running away with this division. 

RAVENS (-8) vs. Raiders
Figgs: ratbirds. I'm done giving Oakland chances. They stink.
Joe: Ravens; I hate to give this many points for a Ravens team that looks capaple of collapsing any second now.  But Oakland is so dreadful, I can't convince myself to take them against anyone.  I wonder if Carson is kicking himself for coming out of the surfing heaven that is retirement for this crap.   

(4:05 kickoffs)
SEAHAWKS (-7) vs. Jets
Figgs: NYJ. I like Seattle to stay undefeated at home here, but 3 of their 5 wins in Quest have come by four points or less. Closer than the experts think.
Joe: Seahawks; The Jets are a dumpster fire and Seattle flat out wins at home.  With their pass rush, and a sitting duck Jets QB, I don't look for the Jets to score much.  Therefore, I'll give the full TD. 

(4:25 kickoffs)
EAGLES (+1) vs. Cowboys
Figgs: 'Boys. Don't love this pick, because I couldn't take either of these teams with confidence against anyone considering the downward spirals they are both in. I guess Dallas is spiraling slightly less.
Joe: Cowboys; Yeah^.  They are lesser of two trainwrecks. 

49ERS (-11) vs. Rams
Figgs: Niners. Another big spread that I am fully confident in. Before their bye week, the Rams played two quality teams (Packers and Patriots) both at home and lost by a combined 75-27. This one's on the road.
Joe: Rams; I have taken two many big favorites already, and while I certainly am not calling for an upset here, I just haven't seen enough out of San Fran lately to warrant giving this many points.  Aside from their opening day victory over the Packers, what exactly has San Francisco done that makes us think they are good again?

Sunday Night Football, 8:20 kickoff
BEARS (-1) vs. Texans
Figgs: Bears. Great matchup between two of the league's top teams. I said before the season that Chicago was my Super Bowl sleeper team, and they have made me look smart with that all season long. Might as well stick with them here, but this could certainly go either way.
Joe: Texans; Both of these teams are undefeated against everyone except Green Bay (which futher empasizes why I still think the Packers are the real deal).  It used to be a great defense always beats a great offense, but in the NFL 2012, I'm not so sure.  I think Shaub and company will be able to avoid the huge mistakes that the Bears thrive on.  If so, the Texans should win this possible Super Bowl preview. 

Monday Night Football, 8:30 kickoff
STEELERS (-12) vs. Chieves
Figgs: pittsburgh. I don't want to watch one second of this game.
Joe: steelers; KC is epically awful.  That's the only reason. 

Buckeyes dominate line of scrimmage, Illinois

Ohio St put together their most complete game of the season last Saturday in a 52-22 pounding of Illinois. When you break it down, this game was won in the trenches. The offensive line did a tremendous job opening up holes for Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde to run through all day, while John Simon and company spent the entire game harassing Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. The Buckeyes out-rushed Illinois 330-74 and held the Fighting Illini to only 2/14 on 3rd down conversions. Ohio St will head into the bye week at a perfect 10-0.

Game Recap
If you had to nitpick at this game and find a negative, OSU did come out of the gate a bit sluggish, which has happened nearly every game this season. After the Bucks went three-and-out on their first possession, a Christian Bryant pass interference penalty on third down kept Illinois' subsequent drive alive. The drive ultimately ended in a Nick Immekus field goal, after which Ohio St was able to respond with an 80-yard drive that was capped off by a Carlos Hyde touchdown. Bryant then had another costly penalty, this one a 15-yard personal foul, on the Illinois ensuing possession to set up another FG and the teams finished the 1st quarter with the Bucks holding a slim 7-6 advantage.

The second quarter, however, was completely owned by Ohio St. Braxton hit backup tight end Nick Vannett for 31 yards to begin the quarter, helping to set up a Drew Basil field goal. Illinois punted on each of their next three possessions, each of which was followed by a Buckeye touchdown. The first came on another short Hyde run that was set up with a long pass play to Philly Brown. Next was a quick strike when Miller connected with Rod Smith on a beautifully executed wheel route. Smith snuck out of the backfield and into the open field and Brax tossed a perfect ball to hit him in stride and allowed Smith to walk into the endzone for the 51-yard score. The last of the three scoring drives began at midfield, and four consecutive double-digit yard plays allowed Hyde to get the hat trick by halftime. Travis Howard picked off Scheelhaase late in the half to keep Ohio St's lead at 31-6.

After each team punted to begin the second half, Miller and Hyde reversed roles as Carlos had two 20+-yard runs to move Ohio St down the field and Braxton punched it in near the goal line. With the score at 38-6 and Ohio St back with the ball, Illinois finally got a break. Rod Smith, who has had issues with this all season long, fumbled and set up the Illini in OSU territory. They made quick work of the short field and Jon Davis ran it in for the score which was followed by a successful two-point conversion.

To possibly send a message to Smith, Hyde, who most likely thought his day was over, was back in on the next series to begin the 4th quarter. Either that or Urban Meyer just doesn't give shit about running up the score, because he was still throwing. Braxton hooked up with Brown again, this time the 37-yarder ending in six to make it 45-14. I love it.

The Buckeye D forced another punt, and myself and tens of thousands of others were treated to what we were sticking around The Shoe for - an appearance by Kenny Guiton. To show our appreciation for his heroics against Purdue, Kenny G was welcomed onto the field with a standing ovation. He lead a good drive into the Illini redzone, most of the yardage coming on runs by Bri'onte Dunn, but missed an option pitch to Dunn and the ball was scooped up and returned for a TD by Ashante Williams.

Illinois converted another two-pointer, but was unsuccessful on the onside kick. Dunn rushed the ball on seven straight plays, the last one resulting in another Buckeye touchdown. Freshman Adolphus Washington finished the game in fitting fashion, considering the havoc the OSU line wrecked all day, by sacking Scheelhaase to complete the 30-point victory.

Game Ball
This has been a long time coming, as the GB finally goes to Carlos Hyde. Hyde ran 18 times for 137 yards and three TDs. The staggering thing about Hyde's 7.6 yards per carry is that his longest run was only 24 yards, so it's not like he busted a few huge ones to inflate his ypc. He was just consistently getting 6-10 yards every time he got the rock. A lot of credit has to go to his offensive line as well, who did a phenomenal job in this game and have quietly been a very productive unit all year.
Game balls to date: Miller (3), Hyde, Boren, Guiton, Meyer, Hankins, Roby, Howard

Big Ten
Taylor Martinez's last-second touchdown pass to Jamal Turner completed Nebraska's dramatic comeback to beat Michigan St, 28-24. Minutes earlier, Martinez ran for a touchdown to cut the Spartan lead to three. This keeps Nebraska in the driver's seat in the Legends Division, but they stay tied with michigan after devin gardner's three touchdowns in replace of the injured can't-tie led the wolverines to a rout of Minnesota. Northwestern had a bye and remains one-game back, but will get their chance to make a move this weekend by playing in the gay house while Nebraska hosts a feisty Penn St team.

Speaking of the Lions, they slaughtered Purdue last weekend to keep within one-game of the Leaders-leading Buckeyes. Of course, with those two teams being ineligible to play for the BT Title, the idle Wisconsin Badgers are still the front-runner to head to Indy. However, Indiana's win over Iowa last Saturday suddenly gives the Hoosiers control of their own destiny. They will welcome Wisconsin to Bloomington this week (12:00, ESPN2) and will hold the tie-breaker if they can pull the upset. If Wisconsin wins, they will officially punch their ticket to Indianapolis.

Heisman Watch
The Heisman race took an unexpected turn last weekend, when front-runner Collin Klein was injured and forced to miss the final 25 minutes of Kansas St's win over Oklahoma St. His status for this Saturday's game against TCU is still uncertain. With Klein possibly missing some action, the others in the race made strong cases for themselves to get back in it.

'Bama QB A.J. McCarron had that "signature Heisman moment" when he led the Tide on a game-winning TD drive in the closing minutes to complete their comeback of LSU. In Oregon's biggest game of the season, RB Kenjon Barner rushed for 321 yards and 5 TDs to help the Ducks out-shoot USC. Meanwhile, Manti Te'o's Irish held off Pitt in triple overtime to remain unbeaten.

So what does this all mean for Braxton Miller? Well, it's not good. Even though Brax accounted for 300 yards of total offense and scored 3 touchdowns against 0 turnovers, he fell behind the pack last week. Klein is still at the top of list, and should he miss some significant time, I think McCarron's drive against the Tigers puts him as the best shot to dethrone the Wildcat QB. If it's stats you want - then Barner is your guy, while Te'o will get some votes from defensive guys as well as the sympathy vote.

My Rankings
1. Collin Klein, QB Kansas St
2. Kenjon Barner, RB Oregon
3. A.J. McCarron, QB Alabama
4. Manti Te'o, LB Notre Dame
5. Braxton Miller, QB Ohio St

The Future
Talking about Miller's Heisman hopes and the Buckeyes' remarkable 10-0 renegade season, it made me think to the future. Whether Ohio St finishes undefeated or 10-2, you have to think they will be ranked in the Preseason Top 5 next year for sure, possibly Top 3. Alabama will most likely be the obvious choice for #1, but other than maybe Oregon, who do you put ahead of the Buckeyes? With Meyer and Miller together for Year 2, I can't think of anyone. And while Braxton's quest for the Heisman looks like it'll fall a little short this season, he HAS to go into 2013 as the clear-cut favorite. It's only November and I'm already super excited for next season.

The Shoe
A few random thoughts from my trip to Columbus...

- This win over Illinois bumps my Horseshoe attendance record up to 9-1, and was the biggest blowout I've seen since back-to-back 41-point victories over Northwestern and Indiana in '04 and '05.

- I knew Ryan Shazier was a stud, but after having a PA announcer telling precisely what happened on every play, I put him on an even higher pedestal. I heard "Ryan Shazier in on the tackle" on essentially every play - it was ridiculous. Dude's only a sophomore.

- I was relatively blitzed by game time, so I was understandably pretty rambunctious during this beatdown, giving high-fives to everyone in sight after big plays. While everyone else gladly participated, there was this one guy behind me that continued to piss me off by nonchalantly holding his hand upside down by his waist like he was too good for high-fives. Beat it nerd, no one's above The Five.

- Canes is the greatest place on Earth. I look forward to getting that when I'm down in C-bus almost as much as I do the Ohio St game, and it never disappoints.

Up Next: 11/17 @Wisconsin (6-3, 3-2), 3:30, ABC
The Buckeyes will take their 10-0 record into the bye week before heading to Camp Randall in two weeks. While Wisconsin's 6-3 record and lack of respect from the pollsters make it look like they have underachieved this year, their three losses have each come by only three points to good teams. The Badgers will have that place rockin' as always, and I expect this to be Ohio St's toughest test of the season.

The obvious focus of the Buckeye defense will be RB Montee Ball. QB Joel Stave wasn't exactly lighting things up to begin with, and now his injury leaves Wisconsin in even worse position. Fifth-year senior Curt Phillips beat out Danny O'Brien and will get his first career start this week against Indiana.

We'll have to wait and see how Phillips does and what Stave's status will be in two weeks to figure out who to gameplan for, but really it doesn't matter. Meyer will need to utilize the same plan that he successfully did against Le'Veon Bell and Michigan St. If they can hold Ball under 100 like they did Bell, or even under 150, I think Ohio St wins pretty easily. But if he goes off for one of those 250/4 TD games like we know he's capable of, it's a whole other ball game.
Prediction: Ohio St 33 Wisconsin 23