Wednesday, October 31

Defense reigns supreme as Buckeyes win Ineligi-Bowl

The Ohio St defense was the source of much criticism for the first seven weeks of the season, and rightfully so. They gave up far too many big plays, missed an exorbitant amount of tackles, and were just straight-up awful at times on their way to a 7-0 start. Then Urban Meyer really took control of the unit and the past two weeks they’ve looked like the Buckeye defense of old.

Although Matt McGloin threw for a career-high 327 yards, most of that came in the 4th quarter on two scoring drives when the game was already out of reach. Penn St was desperately missing former RB Silas Redd (especially in the red zone, where three drives stalled), as the Lion rushing attack was completely non-existent, gaining a mere 32 yards on 28 carries. Yes, that comes out to 1.1 yards per carry.

The PSU defense was just as stout in the first half, as they continued their staggering streak of being the only team in the nation to not allow a first quarter point. But eventually the Bucks wore them out and Braxton Miller got going. He looked slightly tentative to run at times, but other than that showed no signs of the neck injury suffered the previous week against Purdue. Brax threw for 143 yards and rushed for 134 more while accounting for three touchdowns.

Game Recap
The first quarter and a half was chock full of punts and missed opportunities on both sides. Penn St was the first to figuratively and literally drop the ball, when star wideout Allen Robinson beat Travis Howard like he stole something, but the pass was under-thrown by McGloin and Robinson couldn’t hang on. Had the throw hit him in stride, it would have meant an easy six and an early lead for the Nittany Lions. Just sixty seconds later, PSU lost another touchdown when a defender jumped Miller’s screen pass but was caught looking toward the endzone before actually grabbing the ball. Not long after that, it was Ohio St’s turn for a letdown when Philly Brown got wide open near the goal line but Miller’s throw wasn’t even close.

After each team punted on its first five possessions, Penn St actually did something different on their sixth - a turnover on downs. Facing a 4th and 12 from the OSU 25, Coach Bill O’Brien elected to go for it, having no faith in his kicker. McGloin completed the pass but short of the first down, and Ohio St took over. Of course they went three-and-out, and with Ben Buchanan punting deep in his own territory, Penn St finally came up with the game’s first big play of the positive variety. Mike Hull, who had a monster game, blocked The Cannon’s punt and PSU recovered in the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

The Buckeyes responded with their first good drive of the game, going 75 yards on 12 plays in the final five and a half minutes of the half. Penn St and the referees both helped OSU achieve this, as they were punting yet again on this drive but a not-so-obvious holding penalty on the Lions at the line of scrimmage gave the Bucks a first down. Then Braxton’s 33-yard run set up the Carlos Hyde short TD. The teams headed to the locker rooms with the defenses dominating a 7-7 game.

The second half saw quite a bit more offense, but again it was the defense that made the first big play. Penn St received the ball and McGloin was quickly intercepted by Ryan Shazier who went untouched to the house to put the Buckeyes on top. If you weren’t paying close attention you may have been confused by the guy wearing #48 that looked an awful lot like Shazier. Ryan was donning that number instead of his usual #10 in honor of a close friend from high school that recently passed away.

McGloin had two big pass plays to bring the Lions to a 1st and Goal, but a holding penalty halted the drive and this time O’Brien sent out his much-maligned kicker, Sam Ficken, who converted the 27-yarder to cut into the Buckeye lead. Miller tried to answer by launching a pass deep downfield but his ill-advised throw into double coverage was intercepted by Adrian Amos. This was one of those times I was talking about where he seemed to be a bit hesitant to run the ball. It was a third-and-five and it looked like he had plenty of room to run for the first down after avoiding a sack but he declined and made a lousy throw instead.

Luckily the defense continued their stellar play by forcing a three-and-out and quickly gave Braxton a chance to redeem himself. He responded beautifully by taking his team right down the field, then scoring himself on a one-yard run. Although the play only covered a single yard, it will go straight to the top of the Braxton Miller highlight reel. The play was a zone read that originally looked to be going to Carlos Hyde, but as Penn St’s Sean Stanley was closing in Miller pulled it back at the last second, stutter-stepped, jumped back, then dove across the goal line. When asked about the play afterwards, Meyer had to hold back a laugh and smirked, "We work on that. We have a drill. Make seven people miss and dive across. All I heard in my headset was 'Oh my God!'"

After forcing another quick punt, Ohio St went right back to work to add to their 21-10 lead. Rod Smith had a big 28-yard run and another costly Penn St penalty had the Buckeyes knocking at the door. Braxton’s second consecutive 1-yard score involved a lot less theatrics, but basically put the game away. OSU’s 21-3 advantage in the third quarter gave them a 28-10 lead heading to the final frame.

Penn St tried to stay in it, mounting an excellent 80-yard touchdown drive, but the 18 plays took a valuable six minutes off the clock and the missed two-point conversion kept the lead at twelve. The Lions had one last chance when they had the Bucks facing a 3rd and 4 from their own 28, needing to get them off the field. Braxton wasn’t having any of that, as he found Jake Stoneburner behind the defense and ’Burner left them all in the dust on his 72-yard TD. McGloin racked up a boatload of yards on another meaningless touchdown drive in the closing minutes, leaving the final score at 35-23.

Game Ball
This game was all about the defense, and three guys in particular stood out to me. This may be unfair, but the level that LB Ryan Shazier and CB Bradley Roby played at in this game has come to be expected of them. LB Zach Boren has been doing this for a much shorter period of time than those guys, and therefore gets the nod for GB. His development in the three short weeks since switching positions from fullback has been astronomical, and never more evident than in this victory over Penn St. Hopefully the defense can keep this momentum going over the final few weeks of the season.
Game balls to date: Miller (3), Boren, Guiton, Meyer, Hankins, Roby, Howard

Big Ten
The six top-tier teams in the conference all went head-to-head last Saturday, making for a big weekend. Nebraska knocked can’t-tie out of the game early in the second half, and michigan could never recover (even though his stats were very weak for the second straight game even when his was in). Each placekicker knocked in three field goals, but the bookend touchdowns from Nebraska were the deciding factor in a 23-9 Cornhusker victory. This gives Nebraska essentially a two-game lead over the wolverines and a big advantage in the Legends Division, but with a tough schedule ahead they certainly don’t have their ticket to Indy punched yet. Michigan St rallied to beat Wisconsin in overtime, but the Badgers will still easily take the Leaders side with both Ohio St and Penn St ineligible.

The bottom half of the conference also played, and some points were scored and some teams won and some teams lost.

Heisman Watch
Braxton rushed for over 130 yards for the sixth time this season and continues to produce touchdowns like an 80’s rock band giving off STDs, but it wasn’t enough as Collin Klein put himself on a whole other level above the rest of the field with his four-touchdown performance over then 14th ranked Texas Tech. Klein now has ridiculous 18 TDs over the past four games.

Manti Te’o had 11 tackles and a sack to go along with his game-sealing INT to keep the Irish perfect by beating Oklahoma and moving himself into the best position to dethrone Klein. Kenjon Barner was over 100 yards again while scoring two more touchdowns and Alabama QB A.J. McCarron had a solid game in leading the Tide to victory over previously unbeaten Mississippi St and jumps into the ranks with Geno Smith on a bye week.

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

Up Next: vs. Illinois (2-6, 0-4), 3:30, ESPN
The last time Ohio St was 9-0, it was 2007 and they were ranked #1 when they welcomed Illinois into The Shoe. Juice Williams threw for four touchdowns that day, and the Illini shocked the world with a 28-21 win. Don’t expect history to repeat itself.

While Illinois went the Rose Bowl in '07, this team is absolute feces. They remain winless in the conference this year after being smoked by Big Ten doormat Indiana last week. If Miller has any chance to catch Klein in the Heisman race, he’ll have to do it this week with the opportunity for huge numbers. The defense should also be able to keep it rolling against an Illini offense ranked 111th in the nation and giving up over five sacks a game. I will be in Ohio Stadium for this one, and fully expect to improve upon my 8-1 record.
Prediction: Ohio St 43 Illinois 10


Thursday, October 25

NFL Picks: Week 8

Last Week:
Figgs: 6-7
Joe: 4-9
Nick: 7-6*
Figgs' $ Picks: 0-1
Nick's $ Picks:

Season to Date:
Joe: 47-54-3
Nick: 47-54-3*
Figgs: 37-64-3
Figgs' $ Picks: 7-13*
Nick's $ Picks: 5-8, -4 Schrute Bucks

Thursday Night Football, 8:20
VIKINGS (-6.5) vs. Buccaneers
Figgs: Bucs. What Joe said. Vikes probably win but it should be close either way.
Joe: Bucs; I want to  like this Viking team, and they do keep winning.  But they aren't exactly doing it with much offense.  Tampa has 3 fewer wins than them, but has actually looked more impressive at times, especially offensively.  So, the Vikes may win another game with defense and special teams, but 6.5 is way too much to spot a decent Tampa team, so I'll take the points. 
Nick: Vikes. Thursday night, home game, and Peterson looks GREAT. I think this one could get out of hand, and I'm not talking myself into a team that is worse at all the major offensive positions.

Sunday 1:00 kickoff
BROWNS (+3) vs. Chargers
Figgs: Browns. I don't know any more. Why not.
Joe: Browns; Apparently, we suck again.  But I was destined to suffer punishment every Sunday for some ungodly reason, and damnit, I'm not gonna start picking against us now. 
Nick: Browns. I'm starting to believe in this Weeden fella.

BEARS (-9) vs. Panthers
Figgs: Bears. I don't want to jynx this, but I may have actually been right on a team for once. (Not Carolina, I was way off on them.)
Joe: Bears; The Bears have one of the best defenses in football.  Carolina has one of the worst offenses in football.  The only thing that could get me here is a backdoor cover, a la Monday Night last week (Damn you Detroit with that garbage TD.  You cost be a 2 game swing in the standings with Nick.)
Nick: Bears. Classic backdoor cover game, but I think it's more likely that if this one gets out of hand, then the Panthers will completely collapse.

LIONS (-1) vs. Seahawks
Figgs: Lions. I really should have given up on this team by now. I guess this is why I'm twenty games under .500
Joe: Seahawks; This is a put up or shut up game for Seattle.  They are a better team than Detroit this year.  The Lions looked totally inept offensively on Monday.  And Seattle has the phenominal pass rush, plus a great running game.  So if the only reason they don't win here is because it's on the road, then they might as well just pack in the season now.  It shouldn't be as big of a difference as they make it seem.
Nick: Hawks. The Lions are a great example of fantasy football influencing perception. They just aren't that good, and Seahawks are fairly consistent.

PACKERS (-16) vs. Jaguars
Figgs: Jax. There's no reason the Pack can't cover this, but that's just too many points for me to take.
Joe:Packers; They are rolling on all cylinders now.  As scary as it is to say this, I might have taken the Jags if I knew Gabbert was gonna play.(!)  He actually was impressive last week.  But if there is even a chance that your boy Chad Henne plays, than Green Bay will cover this by halftime. 
Nick: Jags. It's just a ton of points; Green Bay's defense is still lousy, and they could take their foot off of the gas in the second half.

TITANS (-4) vs. Colts
Figgs: Titans. Johnson may have found a little bit left of his 2010 self.
Joe: Colts; I typed Titans in, and then immediately changed it.  I think they win, but if it's this evenly matched, I never like to give over a FG.  So, I take Indy and hope I get "Luck"y.  (Get it?)
Nick: Colts. More than three points? Don't mind if I do!

RAMS (+7) vs. Patriots
Figgs: Pats.
Joe:Pats; They may not be as dominant as I thought they were, but they are still one of the elite teams.  The Rams are improved, but no where near what I consider a strong team.  Plus, good job guys playing a "Home" game in London, England.  I'm sure Posh Spice and Prince William are huge Rams fans. 
Nick: Pats. Shouldn't this be right around 10?

JETS (-1) vs. Dolphins
Figgs: Fish. Another team I was pretty off on. They're not too bad.
Joe: Jets; It seems they are begging us to pick the Jets.  Well, consider me a sucker.
Nick: Dolphins. Is it weird that I find Ryan Tannehill more trustworthy than Sanchize? Sorry, bra.

EAGLES (-1) vs. Falcons
Figgs: ATL. This looks like the most obvious one on the board, which means I'm cleary going to be wrong. Gotta stick with my boys though.
Joe: Eagles; This is a tough one.  Atlanta is very good, but I would still have them behind GB and the Giants in my power rankings, so I figure they have to lose sometime.  This looks like a prime spot.
Nick: Falcons. I could easily be wrong, but I just don't trust the Eagles to give us any consistency week to week.

STEELERS (-5) vs. Redskins
Figgs: Skins. Screw you, pittsburgh.
Joe:Skins; It pisses me off, but that team located off of I-79 is probably gonna make the playoffs.  It sucks because this is one of those teams that looked like they would miss it, but the AFC is very weak this year.  That said, I have no choice but to go with my boy RG3 to dick all over those pricks.
Nick: Skins. C'mon RGIII, give 'em the death blow!

(4:25 kickoffs)
CHIEFS (-1) vs. Raiders
Figgs: Raiders. Brady Quinn is not an NFL starting quarterback, and that's all there is to it.
Joe:Chiefs; I have no clue here, but maybe Manfred Mann will be fired up on the loudspeakers at Arrowhead and will the Chiefs to victory on Sunday. 
Nick: Chiefs. Basically, I think there's a better chance that Jamaal Charles takes this game over than Run DMC.

COWBOYS (+1) vs. Giants
Figgs: NYG.
Joe:Giants; I can't see them losing 2 games to Dallas this year.  They are just way too good for that.  Actually, they showed in San Francisco a few weeks ago that they shouldn't lose to anyone, ever.  But they always are do for several letdowns a season.  This week, against a bitter rival, will not be one of them. 
Nick: Giants. Ladies and gentlemen, the sucker bet of the week! Whatever, I'm in.

Sunday Night Football, 8:20 kickoff
BRONCOS (-6) vs. Saints
Figgs: Saints. Too many points to give to a team that looks like they may finally be hitting their stride.
Joe:Saints; I was gonna take the Donks because it was Peyton going against the Saints poor defense, but that was when I thought the spread would be 2 or 3.  Six is too high for a mediocre AFC team against such a talented NFC offense. 
Nick: Saints. Should be a shootout, and I'll grab the points.

Monday Night Football, 8:30 kickoff
CARDINALS (+7) vs. 49ers
Figgs: Niners.
Joe: Cards?; I have totally given up on them as a contender, but getting a full TD at home against a Niner team that hasn't been very impressive lately?  Why not?
Nick: Niners. That's a lot of points to give, but the Cards' offense is so bad that I have to do it. Heck, San Fran's defense could cover this one on their own.

Wednesday, October 24

Guiton leads improbable Buckeye comeback

The worst offensive output of the season, two huge blown calls going against them, and most importantly, team leader and Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller going out with an injury at the end of the third quarter. Backup quarterback Kenny Guiton overcame all of this to lead Ohio St past Purdue in overtime, 29-22.

"I'm still trying to figure that bad boy out. We won, right?” was all a stunned coach Urban Meyer could muster afterwards. It certainly didn’t seem like it was going to be a win with 29 seconds left in the third quarter and the Buckeyes trailing 20-14. Braxton took off running and after a pickup of 37 yards was slammed hard to the turf. At first it looked like it could be just another usual Miller injury where he’d come out for a couple of plays (one of which typically being a Carlos Hyde TD) then be right back in the next series, but after staying on the ground for several minutes before being carried off the field it was clear things were much more serious this time. Miller was looked at briefly in the locker room before being taken to an ambulance on a stretcher.

Meanwhile, on the field, the Buckeye offense continued to struggle with Guiton at the helm. A bogus Purdue safety had OSU trailing 22-14 and a Guiton interception gave the ball back to Purdue with under three minutes to play. "(Coach Meyer) told me I was going to be OK," Guiton said. "I told the offense, 'We need to make plays and we're going to get it. So let's go, let's keep our heads up and let's start winning this game.'" Guiton got the ball back with 0:47 on the clock, and did exactly that.

Game Recap
Things could not have started any worse for the Buckeyes, as Boilermaker QB Caleb TerBush hit a wide open Akeem Shavers in the flat on the first offensive play of the game. LB Storm Klein was attempting to cover Shavers but appeared to have slipped a bit, and with no safeties in sight Shavers strolled into the endzone for an 83-yard score. Ohio St grabbed a little momentum right back by blocking the point after.

Freshman Mike Thomas got a rare catch on the ensuing possession and had the Buckeyes in business, but when Miller fumbled a snap from the shotgun Purdue got the first big break of the game. Braxton jumped right on the ball and was clearly laying on the ground with possession, but instead of calling him down the referees inexplicably allowed a Boilermaker defender to take the ball from him and awarded Purdue the ball. To make things worse, they didn’t even review it, even though all turnovers are supposedly looked at. Although the blown call may have taken points off of the board for Ohio St, Purdue couldn’t capitalize with points of their own and was forced to punt.

With neither team gaining a first down over the next five minutes of game play, there were suddenly two scores within twelve seconds. A third down conversion pass to Philly Brown set up a Miller rushing touchdown to give Ohio St their first lead. This was very short-lived, as Akeem Hunt took the kickoff 100 yards to put Purdue back on top. What’s with this team and dudes named Akeem?

The defenses reigned supreme for the remainder of the half, as both teams combined for five punts, two turnovers and a missed field goal. The lone good drive came from Purdue, but after moving the ball 85 yards TerBush was intercepted in the end zone by Christian Bryant on a tipped ball. Miller’s Hail Mary to close the half was picked off by Josh Johnson and the Boilermakers held a 13-7 halftime lead.

Each team began the second half right where they left off, with a punt, but on their second series the Ohio St offense finally showed some life. Carlos Hyde had a long run on 3rd and 3 and WR Chris Fields was dusted off for 35-yard gain. Hyde scored from two yards out and with the Buckeyes back in front I fully expected them to take over the rest of the game.

Of course I was wrong, as TerBush quickly answered with a 31-yard touchdown pass to Gary Bush. Two plays after the TerBush-to-Bush connection regained the lead for Purdue, Miller fumbled for the second time on the afternoon, and this time the Boilers legitimately recovered. A short field set up a Paul Griggs 34-yard field goal attempt, but Ohio St was able to block this one as well when Big Jon Hankins got a piece of it. The very next play was the Miller injury, and the teams headed to the 4th quarter with OSU down by six and an inexperienced Kenny Guiton coming in at quarterback.

On 3rd and 4 from the Purdue 33, Guiton’s first pass fell incomplete and forced Drew Basil to come on and attempt a 50-yarder. His miss off the left upright gave Purdue a field position edge that would soon come in to play a huge factor. One first down allowed Purdue to punt from midfield, and Cody Webster dropped in a beauty that was downed at the one. Hyde ran for five yards on the first play to seemingly give the Bucks some room, but when Guiton dropped back on the next play Andrew Norwell was called for an illegal block in the back in the endzone, resulting in a safety. This was another huge break for the Boilermakers, as replayed showed that Norwell didn’t actually touch the defender - the Boiler simply fell on his own.

Now with the score 22-14, Ohio St was rapidly running out of time. They got the ball back, but with three minutes left in the game Guiton launched one deep and was intercepted by Landon Feichter. Thousands started to file out of The Shoe with Ohio St seemingly on their way to their first defeat of the season. At this point I said that a victory wasn’t impossible, but I’d feel much more comfortable with Miller still in there.

The Buckeye defense did its job and forced a three-and-out, giving Guiton one last chance from their own 39-yard line with 47 seconds left. On the first play he found a wide-open Devin Smith for a pickup of 39 bringing them to the doorstep of the red zone. After such a good defensive performance for 59 minutes, I have no idea how Purdue allowed Ohio St’s biggest playmaker to get so free. An eight-yarder to Evan Spencer followed by a Hyde first down run suddenly had Guiton spiking the ball at the Purdue 11 with 15 seconds remaining.

Guiton’s next two passes were incomplete, but a pass interference call on the second gave it to the Buckeyes 1st and Goal from the two. With only enough time for one or two plays, Guiton rolled to his left and found Chris Fields for the touchdown. The pass was low and close to the ground, but replay confirmed that Fields got his hands underneath and the play stood. Because of the safety earlier in the quarter, Ohio St still needed a two-point conversion to tie it. Everyone left in the stadium had to be thinking what I was thinking: Carlos Hyde has to get the rock here. Instead, Meyer trusted in his backup QB and called for a pass, and Guiton repaid him with a soft toss to freshman tight end Jeff Heuerman to send the game into overtime.

With all the momentum and the superior team, the OT was completely owned by the Buckeyes. Guiton hit Jake Stoneburner for a 17-yard gain and just like that Hyde was into the end zone for the second time as the Bucks struck first. Purdue had nothing left in them, as three of the four TerBush passes in overtime fell to the turf and Ohio St was suddenly celebrating a 29-22 victory.

Game Ball
Kenny G! This game was all but over when Braxton went down, but no one was counting on the late-game heroics of Kenny Guiton. Urban Meyer was ready to throw Guiton off the team in camp because of his lack of effort, but he turned things around and began to show an entirely different work ethic, and thankfully so. I don’t see the Buckeyes winning a ton of games with Guiton going forward and they'll obviously need their star back, but for one glorious afternoon, the game belonged to Guiton.
Game balls to date: Miller (3), Guiton, Meyer, Hankins, Roby, Howard

Big Ten
Brendan Gibbons’ last-second field goal lifted michigan past Michigan St for an ugly 12-10 win. The wolverines successfully followed Ohio St’s blueprint by putting all their focus on stopping Le’Veon Bell, and it was enough, even though the Spartans shut down can’t-tie. Taylor Martinez’s late TD pass gave Nebraska a one-point victory over Northwestern, making this weekend’s matchup between michigan and Nebraska the possible deciding game in the Leaders Division. (Or is it Legends? Why do I still not know this by now?)

Penn St stomped Iowa and will take a five-game winning into their contest with the Buckeyes this week. Wisconsin blew out Minnesota to keep their stranglehold-by-default of the other division, and Navy rallied past Indiana for their first win of the season in a game watched by no one.

Heisman Watch
With more than half of the season in the books and Braxton Miller still thoroughly entrenched in the Hesiman race, I thought I’d take some time each week to touch on his quest for the bronzed stiff-arm. Obviously, things took quite a step back this week, as Miller had subpar stats to begin with (9/20 for 113 yards with an INT and 12 carries for 47 yards and a TD), then left with the injury. However, there is still hope for Brax in the race as well as Ohio St’s chances at an undefeated season. All of Miller’s tests on his head, neck and shoulders came back negative (meaning they're good!), and he was able to practice on Tuesday. He is currently listed as questionable for this weekend’s bout with Penn St, but Meyer expects him to play.

The two candidates that I would have ranked ahead of Miller going into last week squared off against one another, and it was a completely one-sided battle. Collin Klein accounted for seven touchdowns as his Kansas St Wildcats throttled Geno Smith and West Virginia. Smith had an even worse game than Braxton did, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns for the first time all year and rushing for negative yardage. Oregon RB Kenjon Barner rushed for three touchdowns in the first half against Arizona St, and LB Manti Te’o continues to lead a devastating Notre Dame defense. My current rankings would be as follows.

1. Collin Klein, QB Kansas St
2. Kenjon Barner, RB Oregon
3. Braxton Miller, QB Ohio St
4. Manti Te’o, LB Notre Dame
5. Geno Smith, QB West Virginia

Up Next: @Penn St (5-2, 3-0), 5:30, ESPN
We all know about the horrible mess that was Penn St’s off-season. Then star running back Silas Redd and several other key players transferred and the Lions started the season with tough losses to Ohio and Virginia. Those memories now seem like an eternity ago as Penn St has looked like one of the sharpest teams in the country over the past five weeks, winning all five of their games by an average 20.2 points.

QB Matt McGloin seems to have done a complete 180 from the inefficient quarterback we’ve seen the last two seasons, and he now has a legitimate receiving threat in Allen Robinson, who has eight touchdowns grabs this year. And as always, PSU’s defense is one of the stiffest in the country.

If Miller plays as expected, I still think that Ohio St is definitely the better team, but the Happy Valley edge really evens things up. If he can’t go, Penn St is the clear favorite. Hyde should be the workhorse of the offense whether Miller’s in or not, and I expect our defense to carry the energy from last week and stifle the Nittany Lion offense. I like the Buckeyes to prevail in a close, low-scoring affair.
Prediction: Ohio St 23 Penn St 19


Thursday, October 18

NFL Picks: Week 7

Last Week:
Figgs: 6-8
Joe: 5-9
Nick: 5-9
Figgs' $ Picks: 0-3
Nick's $ Picks: 0-1, -4 Schrute Bucks

Season to Date:
Joe: 43-45-3
Nick: 40-48-3
Figgs: 31-57-3
Figgs' $ Picks: 7-12*
Nick's $ Picks: 5-8, -4 Schrute Bucks

Thursday Night Football, 8:20
49ERS (-7.5) vs. Seahawks
Figgs: Niners. They're still one of the best teams in the league, I expect them to prove it tonight.
Joe: 49ers; Very tough call, but I don't want to let last week influence me to much. If this was at Seattle, I would pick the hawks getting points for sure, and probably to win outright. But they are just so different on the road. Plus, the last time the 49ers had a loss, they followed it up with a 34-0 victory.
Nick: Seahawks. Seattle has a really good defense and I'm taking this over a full touchdown puts this game on red alert for a backdoor cover.

Sunday 1:00 kickoff
COLTS (-3) vs. Browns
Figgs: Browns. 11-5 started last week. Let's keep on pace.
Joe: Browns; I'm feeling a winning streak coming on.
Nick: Browns.

BILLS (-3) vs. Titans
Figgs: Titans. I can't quite figure either of these teams out, and would not be surprised with any outcome. I guess when in doubt, go against Buffalo.
Joe: Titans; I agree^.
Nick: Bills

GIANTS (-6) vs. Redskins
Figgs: NYG. The way Eli's playing, I'll take anything under a touchdown.
Joe: Giants; I don't know why they don't play like they did last week every week. I can't figure out why they play down to their level of competition. That said, I can't use that as enough of a reason to go against them this week.
Nick: Skins. Classic letdown game, and all three of the Redskins' losses have been seven or less.

BUCS (+1) vs. Saints
Figgs: Saints. They are certainly not at the elite level that we've seen them at the past few years, but I think they're at least making their way back to respectable.
Joe: Saints; They still have all of the talent, and now that the initial shock of not having their coach is over, I look for them to make a strong push over the next several weeks.
Nick: Bucs.

PANTHERS (+1) vs. Cowboys
Figgs: 'Boys. I drank the Carolina Kool-Aid at the beginning of the year and will be the first to admit it was way too soon. They are still a ways away from being a good team.
Joe: Cowboys; I didnt want to do it, but I think I have run out of reasons to pick Cam. I haven't changed my opinion on him at all, but outside of Steve Smith (who is pretty old), the team around him is simply terrible.
Nick: Cowboys.

TEXANS (-7) vs. Ravens
Figgs: ratbirds. No Lewis or Webb, so Houston should be able to put up some points and I could see them blowing this open, but I just think Baltimore is still too quality of a team to give up a full TD.
Joe: Ravens; I think I (and all the "experts" as well) have overrated both these teams. Baltimore is so banged up defensively, but their offense is still healthy, and believe it or not, the offense is what the 2012 Ravens are all about anyway.
Nick: Texans. going against the Ravens on the road.

RAMS (+6) vs. Packers
Figgs: Pack. Remember when people were saying Rodgers was overrated? 6 touchdowns later, I don't hear anyone talking.
Joe: Packers; Aaron Rodgers is still the reigning MVP, and he showed it last week. I think Green Bay and New England are the two best 3-3 teams of all time. I like the Rams D, but not against this offense.Packers should win big here.
Nick: Pack

VIKINGS (-6) vs. Cardinals
Figgs: Vikes. Both teams' records are probably a little better than they actually are, but Minny is far more of a real contender.
Joe: Cardinals; I like the Vikings better, but I realized that I picked the same as my brother in every game so far, and that can't bode well for me having a good week. So, I'll go with the Cards here, and getting almost a TD, I can feel pretty comfortable about it.

(4:25 kickoffs)
PATRIOTS (-11) vs. Jets
Figgs: Pats. I wouldn't bet against brady after a loss, no matter how many points I have to give up. I could see this being 42-0.
Joe: Patriots; With Baltimore hurt, and Houston showing some flaws, the road to the Super Bowl still goes through New England. I won't put much stock in them losing in Seattle. We know how the Hawks are at home, and the Pats still had a lead most of the game. Coming home this week, I think they destroy Sanchez and company.
Nick: Jets

RAIDERS (-4) vs. Jaguars
Figgs: Raiders. Jacksonville is the worst team in the league. In the Black Hole? I'd be willing to give double this. ($)
Joe:Raiders; Carson Palmer is a USC QB that majored in surfing. Blaine Gabbert simply wishes he was.

Sunday Night Football, 8:20 kickoff
BENGALS (+2) vs. steelers
Figgs: Cinncy. I didn't care who they played or what the spread was, I was NOT picking those assholes again.
Joe: Bengals; I had a momentary lapse in judgement last week when I picked these jagoffs, and I won't let it happen again. At least not on the road, where they are still winless.
Nick: Bengals

Monday Night Football, 8:30 kickoff
BEARS (-7) vs. Lions
Figgs: Lions. Bears win, closer than the experts think.
Joe: Bears; I'm hoping for a good game, but I think the Bears are the real deal. They finally have weapons on offense in the passing game, Forte is still a playmaker, the defense is still solid and Charles Tillman will probably score a TD.
Nick: Lions

Wednesday, October 17

Defense implodes again while Miller, Hyde run past Indiana

In a rare move from a typically offensive-minded coach, Urban Meyer stood in front of his entire defensive unit and coaching staff in the team meeting on Sunday and called out to the struggling group. "I'm not happy at all with what's been going on on defense. Players, coaches - I think we can all get better,” said Meyer in the wake of giving up 49 points in last Saturday’s 52-49 victory over Indiana.

While the defense, which has allowed a combined 87 points in the last two Ohio St wins, continues to struggle, Meyer’s spread offense remains untouchable as Braxton Miller amassed 360 total yards and three touchdowns to go along with Carlos Hyde’s 7.1 yards per carry.

I am not that concerned with the fact that Ohio St only beat the Hoosiers by three points, as the game was never really in doubt until IU scored 15 points in 35 seconds with the help of an onside kick late in the game. The Buckeyes were the better team and it showed for the entire 60 minutes, but the missed tackles, big plays, and injuries by the defense are certainly worrisome.

I guess when you’re scoring over 40 points a game you can get past these defensive blunders, but eventually things are going to have to get better on that side of the ball or the Buckeyes won’t be able to continue their winning ways. Meyer realizes this more than anyone, and is personally making it his mission to improve the unit and get back to the defensive standard Ohio St fans have been used to for the past decade. "Instead of just complaining and whining, making noise, we've got to put a plan together. I am going to increase my involvement with the defense."

Game Recap
OSU got the ball first and stormed right down the field for a 75-yard drive that was capped off with a Philly Brown rushing touchdown. After each team traded a few punts, Miller threw a beautiful bomb to his playmaker Devin Smith that should have been a touchdown but was dropped on a drive that ultimately ended in a Drew Basil field goal. Indiana answered with a 59-yard touchdown from Stephen Houston and the quarter closed with the Buckeyes up, 10-7.

Houston picked up where he left off to start the second and quickly scored again to give the Hoosiers the lead. Brown had a couple of catches and Hyde made a few nice runs on Ohio St’s next possession, but Basil’s 35-yard attempt was no good after Braxton missed Philly on a third down play. The punters were back on the field for the next four series, the stalemate being broken when one of Indiana’s was blocked by Travis Howard. Bradley Roby recovered the block and found the endzone for the third time this season to put Ohio St back on top. Two minutes later Brax was looking for Smith on a deep ball yet again, and this time the two connected for a 60-yard scoring strike. The teams headed to the locker room with OSU holding a 24-14 advantage.

After a solid performance from the Buckeye defense in the first half, all hell broke loose in the second. Hoosier QB Cameron Coffman suddenly looked like Peyton Manning, leading scoring drives on three of their four 3rd quarter possessions. The first resulted in a Mitch Ewald FG on a drive where Buckeye DB Doran Grant was repeatedly victimized. This was immediately answered on the next play when Miller ran 67 yards for a touchdown. The run was standard Brax, as he made two nice moves to get by a couple of defenders near the line of scrimmage and then just ran past everyone else on his way to the endzone.

With Ohio St up 31-17, the game looked pretty well in hand, but Indiana would just not go away. Miller was intercepted in the endzone on a 2nd and goal play and Coffman wasted no time taking advantage by hitting Shane Wynn for a 76-yard score. The Bucks came back by driving 75 yards on the ensuing possession thanks to two IU 15-yard penalties. The latter came on a late-hit of Miller after he ran out of bounds, and for the fourth consecutive game he had to head to the sideline after being shaken up. Kenny Guiton came on and threw his first TD of the year, although all he did was shovel it off to Hyde and let his bruising back do the rest. Indiana responded with another field goal and we headed to the final frame with Ohio St leading 38-27.

Braxton was back in on the next series and for the third time of the evening threw a great deep ball to Devin Smith that Smith dropped for the second time. Thankfully Carlos Hyde was there to bail Smith out with two runs over 20 yards on the drive and a 1-yard touchdown. The see-saw battle continued as Coffman took the Hoosiers right back down the field and D’Angelo Roberts’ touchdown made it a 45-34 ballgame.

Looking to atone for his earlier drops, Smith caught a slant pass that was good for a first down on a third-and-four play, then broke free for a 46-yard touchdown. It was funny because when he first caught it I quickly said that I was shocked that Smith actually caught a pass that wasn’t a touchdown. Apparently I spoke too soon.

After each team punted, Indiana had the ball with four minutes remaining, trailing by 18 and needing a miracle from their backup QB as Nate Sudfeld came in to replace an injured Coffman. Sudfeld quickly led a 74-yard touchdown drive then was handed the ball right back after a successful onside kick. It took Indiana only 35 seconds before Stephen Houston got a hat trick on his TD catch from Sudfeld. Cody Latimer ran in the two-point conversion and all of a sudden the Hoosiers were lining up for another onside kick down by only three. The kick was pretty good as it rolled around for a few seconds giving Indiana a shot at it, but Philly Brown was there to recover and after two Braxton kneeldowns the Buckeyes escaped with a narrow victory.

Game Ball
I went back and forth deciding which of the two offensive standouts should get the GB, and I feel like Hyde should have at least one this season as he has been nothing short of remarkable, but what Braxton Miller has been doing on the field the past few weeks is otherworldly. Ever since I called him out for looking like can’t-tie, he has really stepped up his passing game. He went 13/24 for 211 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT against Indiana, and also should have had two more long touchdowns added to that total if not for the aforementioned Smith drops.

While his passing has improved, his rushing remains unmatched. He carried 23 times for 149 yards and another score on the ground on Saturday. Geno Smith is doing his thing down in Morgantown and Collin Klein is a serious running threat at QB himself for Kansas St, but Brax is really starting to generate some Heisman buzz, and rightfully so.
Game balls to date: Miller (3), Meyer, Hankins, Roby, Howard

Big Ten
With Nebraska and Penn St having bye weeks, there wasn’t a whole lot of big news in the conference last weekend. The best matchup saw Iowa rally to beat Michigan St in double overtime. Le’Veon Bell is really good and the MSU defense is one of the stiffest in the country, but it just doesn’t look like QB Andrew Maxwell has what it takes and this Spartan team is starting to look seriously overrated. Northwestern is the first Big Ten team to become Bowl eligible with their win over Minnesota, michigan cruised past a hapless Illinois squad, and Montee Ball passed fellow Badger Ron Dayne to set the Big Ten career touchdown mark in Wisconsin’s rout of Purdue.

With the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions both ineligible for the Big Ten Championship, it looks like Wisconsin could go under .500 in the conference and still be heading to Indianapolis. The Legends side could be a dog fight, as Iowa and michigan currently hold a one-game lead over Northwestern and Nebraska, with Michigan St quickly fading out of contention.

Quick Hits
- The injury bug reared its ugly head yet again as LB Storm Klein had to leave the Indiana game. With the linebacking corps increasingly decimated, FB Zach Boren came to the rescue, as his eight tackles led the team. Meyer is calling Boren’s switch to defense “temporarily permanent.”

- Speaking of injuries, DE Nathan Williams missed another game, this time staying at home with a concussion. He fully participated in practice on Monday so he should be 100% this week for Purdue. RB Jordan Hall and LB Etienne Sabino remain out.

- With this victory over Indiana, Ohio St bumped its all-time record to 272-0-1 when scoring 35 or more points. With all of the points that occur in college football, this record is astounding to me. They’ve never lost in a shootout? Ever? Crazy.

- The past six games the Buckeye defense has allowed 162 points. Compare that to 159 that the 2002 National Championship team gave up in their entire 13-game season. I know I already talked about OSU’s defensive woes, but I just like bringing up the ‘02 team and how awesome they were.

Up Next: vs. Purdue (3-3, 0-2), 12:00, ABC
Something has to give this week in Columbus, as the Buckeyes’ maligned defense will go against a Boilermaker offense that has been sputtering the past few weeks in blowout losses to michigan and Wisconsin. After averaging 463 yards of offense in non-conference games, Purdue was sitting at 3-1 and was a dark horse for the Big Ten title. Then they combined for 465 yards while getting beat 44-13 by the wolverines and 38-14 by the Badgers and find themselves back in a familiar place, the Big Ten basement.

Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve continue to split time at quarterback, with neither one showing enough to take the reigns. Akeem Shavers came into the season regarded as an All-Conference caliber running back, but has failed to crack even 75 yards in a game thus far, while seeing his carries plummet to 10 and 9 respectively in Big Ten play.

If anything is going to get this Ohio St defense going, it’s this Purdue team this week. I’d like to say that they will take advantage and put together a dominating performance, but after the last few weeks I just don’t have a lot of confidence. No matter what the defense does, I expect Braxton and Hyde to inflict the same amount of damage to this porous Boilermaker run defense as they did against Indiana and put up more than enough points to leave The Shoe with another win.
Prediction: Ohio St 45 Purdue 28


Thursday, October 11

NFL Picks: Week 6

Last Week:
Figgs: 5-9
Joe: 8-6
Nick: 6-8
Figgs' $ Picks: 1-4
Nick's $ Picks: 2-2, +1 Schrute Buck

Season to Date:
Joe: 38-36-3
Nick: 35-39-3
Figgs: 25-49-3
Figgs' $ Picks: 7-9*
Nick's $ Picks: 5-7, 0 Schrute Bucks

Thursday Night Football, 8:20
TITANS (+5.5) vs. Steelers
Figgs: steelers. Picking them on here is bad enough, I really don't want to bet on them, but if I wasn't biased this would be my favorite game on the board. CJ2K can't run on anyone and Matt Hasselbeck is 60 years old - this defense should have a field day. If these assholes have to win, I might as well at least make some money off it, right? ($)
Joe: steelers; Damn it, I didn't want to do this all year.  I was prepared to use the steelers struggling on the road as a reason to pick the Titans, but I couldn't do it.  The Titans are an awful football team.  Johnson can't find any room to run, and Locker, who has potential, is always hurt.  Plus, getting Mendenhall back has given the steelers the running game that they were previously lacking. 
Nick: Pittsburgh. (-6.5, 4 Schrute Bucks)

Sunday 1:00 kickoff
BROWNS (+2.5) vs. Bengals
Figgs: Browns. This team isn't great, but they're too good to be winless. Gotta get a win sooner or later, why not at home against a mediocre Tigers team.
Joe: Browns; We're a strong 0-5
Nick: Browns.

FALCONS (-9.5) vs. Raiders
Figgs: ATL. It feels so good to be back!
Joe: ATL; They are very strong at all skill positions; Best WR tandem in the game, Pro Bowl RB, and possible MVP at QB.  Their defense is solid enough.  Plus, the Raiders suck.
Nick: Falcons

DOLPHINS (-3.5) vs. Rams
Figgs: Rams. Just out of spite now for the Fish making me look bad this year. STL has been alright.
Joe: Rams; Both these teams have been pleasant surprises.  I like the Rams defense alot, and I will take them here simply because they are the team getting points, especially since it is more than a FG.
Nick: Dolphins

JETS (-3.5) vs. Colts
Figgs: Indy. Luck is the real deal. Sanchize, not so much. ($)
Joe: Jets; Not confident at all, but I think last week for the Colts was an expected inspired game dedicated to their coach.  A week later, on the road, I don't expect the same effort.  The Jets are not good, but I think they get it done at home.
Nick: Colts

EAGLES (-3.5) vs. Lions
Figgs: Lions. I absolutely loved Stafford coming into the season and drafted him high in two of my three fantasy leagues. He has not delivered yet, but I still feel like it's going to come.
Joe: Eagles; This is probably dumb, since they win all their games by less than 3 points, but I don't like Detroit at all this year, and if Vick ever stops turning the ball over, they are a pretty decent team.
Nick: Lions

BUCS (-4.5) vs. Chieves
Figgs: KC. Come all without, come all within!
Joe: Bucs; There is a reason Brady Quinn couldn't even be a starter for us. 
Nick: Chiefs

RAVENS (-3.5) vs. Cowboys
Figgs: ratbirds. I got the over on 2.5 picks that Homo throws.
Joe: Ravens; Dallas...on the road...against a Super Bowl contender...with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed waiting to murder Romo.  No thanks.
Nick: Ravens

(4:05 kickoffs)
SEAHAWKS (+4) vs. Patriots
Figgs: Pats. Tough call for me here. The Patriots are just a better team.
Joe: Patriots; I don't know how New England anyone...ever.
Nick: Pats

CARDINALS (-4.5) vs. Bills
Figgs: Cards. Maybe Arz wasn't totally for real, but you could be as fake as Pamela Anderson's yahbos and still beat the Jills.
Joe: Cards; What he said. ^
Nick: Bills

(4:25 kickoffs)
49ERS (-6.5) vs. Giants
Figgs: NYG. I really like the Niners, but this is just a point or two too high for me.
Joe: 49ers; Giants on the road are fantastic and this is a high spread.  But I just think San Fran is the most balanced team in football on both sides of the ball.
Nick: Giants

REDSKINS (-2) vs. Vikings
Figgs: Vikes. Minnesota is a good football team, and RGIII is banged up. ($)
Joe: Vikings; They are a good football team.  I don't know how many wins they have to get before they start getting some respect.
Nick: Vikings

Sunday Night Football
TEXANS (-3.5) vs. Packers
Figgs: Pack. Really excited to watch this game.
Joe: Packers; I was gonna go the other way, but watching Houston Monday Night, I think they are very tough, but they do have a few flaws.  Green Bay has to be better than 2-3...don't they?
Nick: Texans

Monday Night Football
CHARGERS (-1) vs. Broncos
Figgs: Denver. They need this win or SD is going to run away with this division. Just feels like a Bolt letdown game for me.
Joe: Bolts; I think both teams are decent...good enough to beat lesser opponents but not good enough to hang with the big boys.  8-8 might win this division for the 2nd year in a row.  That said, playing each other, give me the home team. 
Nick: Donks

Tuesday, October 9

Buckeyes turn shootout into blowout in front of record crowd

With just over two minutes gone in the second half, Ohio St and Nebraska had combined for 66 points, with the Buckeyes holding a slim four-point advantage. Then after a Carlos Hyde touchdown, Philly Brown made like Gwen Stefani in 2000 and left no doubt with a 76-yard punt return for a score. Rod Smith and Hyde would each add another touchdown before the Buckeyes left Ohio Stadiume with a 63-38 win over the Cornhuskers.

A Horseshoe-record crowd of 106,102 were in attendance to see the Urban Meyer Buckeye offense finally break loose against the Blackshirts - the 63 points given up being a record-high for a Bo Pelini-coached team.

Braxton Miller only had to throw 14 passes, as the offensive line played out-of-this-world, opening up holes for Miller and Hyde to run through all day. The two talented Buckeyes took full advantage of the stellar play by the hogmollies in front of them, as Brax broke his own school rushing record for a QB by busting loose for 186, and Carlos set career marks in carries (28), yards (140), and touchdowns (4).

The defense was still missing too many tackles, but continued to make big plays as they intercepted Taylor Martinez three times, including a pick-six from Bradley Roby when the Ohio St offense was sputtering early on.

Miller has looked spectacular at times this season, but I think we were all waiting for the Buckeye offense to put a complete game together and really break out, and this was it. The fact that this kid is still only a sophomore and still learning has to scare the living shit out of foes. "I'm learning every week," Miller said. "They're throwing new stuff at us every week. I'm just trying to get it all down pat." Mission accomplished this week, son.

Game Recap
Ohio St’s offense came out ultra-sluggish again in this one, which has to be the most worrisome thing about this game for me, as this is starting to become a common theme. The Bucks didn’t manage a single first down while only gaining 17 yards on 13 plays and punting on all four of their first quarter possessions. Thankfully, Bradley Roby, who vowed early in the week to get his first interception of the season, picked off Martinez and took it 41 yards to the barn for a 7-0 Ohio St lead. Rex Burkhead answered with a 73-yard run to set up Ameer Abdullah’s score to tie the game. Abdullah followed that up with a big return on Ben Buchanan’s next punt and finished the drive himself with his second TD of the quarter to give the Huskers a 14-7 lead after one.

As poorly as the Buckeye offense played in the first quarter, that’s how flawless they played in the second. They put up 242 yards in this frame, scoring touchdowns on all four drives. Before they could do that, Burkhead carried Nebraska down inside the 10 but a Ryan Shazier sack forced a Brett Maher field goal to give NU a 10-point lead.

Upon getting the ball for the first time in the 2nd quarter, Miller completely juked out Husker lineman Courtney Osborne in the backfield before streaking down the sideline for a 72-yard run. Unfortunately, Brax once again had to limp off the field after this run and was replaced by Kenny Guiton. Just as he did when he came in for #5 last week, Guiton simply handed the ball off to Carlos Hyde twice in a row, the second carry resulting in the first Ohio St offensive touchdown of the game.

With the lead down to three, Martinez tried to force one and ended up throwing the ball directly to Roby, who gladly accepted his second INT of the half. Miller came back in and took advantage of the short field, hitting TE Jeff Heuerman two plays later to put the Buckeyes back on top, 21-17. Nebraska continued the see-saw battle when Martinez hit his top target, Kenny Bell, for a 74-yard strike before running it in himself from 9 yards out on the next play. No play exemplified the poor tackling by OSU more than this one, as Taylor bounced off four different Buckeyes on his way to the end zone.

Next was Ohio St’s turn again, when Miller took them on a 10-play, 75-yard drive, capped off by Hyde’s 7-yard score. The big play on the drive came when Braxton connected with another tight end, Nick Vannett, for 32 yards. A Nebraska holding penalty on the kickoff pinned them back, and the defense finally held when the Buckeyes forced a three-and-out and got the ball back in great field position. On fourth-and-two from the Nebraska 31 with less than a minute remaining in the half, Meyer opted to go for it. Miller ran an option to the right side, knowing the whole time he was going to keep it and daring a Cornpeeler to stop him. They did not, and Braxton was off to the races for an easy 31-yard TD. Ohio St’s dominating quarter left them a 35-24 halftime lead.

Nebraska took the ball to start the second half and wasted no time, heading right down the field and getting a touchdown grab from TE Ben Cotton to bring the Buckeye advantage down to four. After rushing for over 100 yards in the first half, Rex Burkhead injured his left knee during this drive and did not return. Ohio St responded immediately, as Hyde brought home the hat trick with another 1-yard plunge. Storm Klein’s sack of Martinez forced another Husker three-and-out, and this time the explosive Philly Brown brought the return back 76 yards to paydirt for the largest lead of the game at 49-31.

Martinez was directing a solid drive on the ensuing possession, but Orhian Johnson’s interception near the goal line basically put the game away. In the 4th quarter, Rod Smith took one of his two carries in the contest 33 yards for a score. Martinez answered with a rushing TD of his own, but it was far too little, too late at this point. John Simon’s sack/forced fumble later in the quarter resulted in Hyde’s fourth score of the game, completing the scoresheet of this 63-38 Buckeye victory.

Game Ball
Hyde’s career night, the magnificent play of the O-line, and Roby’s big plays should not go unnoticed, but Braxton Miller was straight dirrty in this game. He only completed seven passes, but the game plan here obviously wasn’t to throw on these guys. Meyer wanted to utilize his team’s speed and showcase his spread offense, and Miller excelled at it. Brax rushed for 186 yards on only 16 carries, averaging a stupid 11.6 ypc. Plus, limited throwing or not, you do have to like his 1 TD/0 INT line. Miller and Martinez came into this game with the reputation of being explosive players with big-play tendency, and neither disappointed (Martinez finished with 250+ total yards and 3 touchdowns). The difference, as it usually is, was the turnover battle with Miller trumping Martinez, 3-0.
Game balls to date: Miller (2), Meyer, Hankins, Roby, Howard

Big Ten
Other than this OSU/Nebraska battle, the biggest game in the conference didn’t involve the usual suspects, but instead happened in Happy Valley when Penn St scored 22 unanswered in the 4th quarter to top previously unbeaten Northwestern. Matt McGloin has looked super sharp the past few weeks and if you haven’t watched WR Allen Robinson play this year, do yourself a favor and do so - this guy has NFL first-rounder written all over him. With Michigan St and Nebraska already in the books and Wisconsin looking very beatable, Ohio St’s trip to Beaver Stadium suddenly appears to be the toughest game left on the slate. (Yeah, I said it.)

The other three contests all saw the favorite topple a weaker team, although in Michigan St’s case it was much tougher than expected as they had to erase a 17-0 deficit to beat Indiana, 31-27. Wisconsin easily took care of business against Illinois and can’t-tie was setting records of his own in rushing for 235 yards while michigan destroyed Purdue.

Injury Update
I hate making this a weekly part of my recap, but the injury bug struck Ohio St yet again as LB Etienne Sabino broke a bone in his right leg and will miss a minimum of three weeks. The injury to the senior captain leaves the Buckeyes awfully thin at linebacker, a position that was lacking depth to begin with. Storm Klein and Ryan Shazier are the only two experienced players left in the middle, along with a slew of green freshman. Joshua Perry is slated to get the start with David Perkins, Jamal Marcus and Camren Williams also expected to contribute.

You can expect the Bucks to play a lot more Nickel defense in Sabino’s absence, a package that should get a boost this week with the return of S C.J. Barnett. Barnett dressed for the first time in three weeks against Nebraska but didn’t see the field. RB Jordan Hall remains doubtful, so expect another heavy workload for Carlos Hyde.

Up Next: @Indiana (2-3, 0-2), 8:00, Big Ten Network
Ohio St has tallied 17 straight W’s against the Hoosiers, having not dropped a game to them in 24 years. Even with starting QB Tre Robinson breaking his leg and being out for the season, Indiana continues to be a pass-happy offense. Cameron Coffman threw the ball 48 times against Michigan St last week and will get his third consecutive start in Robinson’s absence.

IU’s run defense is one of the worst in the nation, which doesn’t bode well for them facing an Ohio St team averaging 250 yards per game on the ground. I don’t expect Braxton to be running anywhere near the amount of times he has in the past two games as it most likely won’t be as necessary, so Carlos Hyde should approach 25 carries again with a little more Rod Smith than we’ve seen in recent weeks. As long as there’s no letdown after two straight big victories, this should be over by halftime.
Prediction: Ohio St 39 Indiana 14


Thursday, October 4

NFL Picks: Week 5

Last Week:
Figgs: 8-7
Joe: 8-7
Nick: 8-7
Figgs' $ Picks: 4-0!
Nick's $ Picks: 1-0

Season to Date:
Joe: 30-30-3
Nick: 29-31-3
Figgs: 20-40-3
Figgs' $ Picks: 6-5*
Nick's $ Picks: 3-5, -1 Schrute Buck

Thursday Night Football, 8:20
RAMS (+2.5) vs. Cardinals
Figgs: Cards. STL hasn't looked bad but this Arz D looks terrific. ($)
Joe: Rams
Nick: Rams

Sunday 1:00 kickoff
GIANTS (-9) vs. Browns
Figgs: NYG. I'll be the first to do it this year. Our games have been much more exciting this year but we're still not very good.
Joe: Browns; We seem to have a recent knack for knocking of defending Super Bowl champions.  We've beaten the Saints, Giants and steelers coming off Lombardi Trophy seasons.  I say we do it again this week. 
Nick: Browns. Wish I could've gotten the opening line of 10, but I'll take it. This feels like the classic "Browns lose close" game.

REDSKINS (+3) vs. Falcons
Figgs: ATL. Of course they don't cover on the week that I come back to them, but I feel like they did that on purpose to spite me for leaving them. Punishment accepted.
Joe: ATL; They seem to be rolling on all cylinders thus far in the season.  Even last week when they appeared to be beaten, they still were able to pull off a victory.  I like them to remain unbeaten after Sunday.
Nick: Falcons. Definitely a possible trap game, but this line should be higher than three. The Redskins don't have much in terms of defense, and the excitement of RG3 is now influencing the line, just as it does with Cam Newton. ($ --- 3 Schrute Bucks)

STEELERS (-3.5) vs. Eagles
Figgs: steelers. I really need to stop picking this guys.
Joe: Eagles; I don't really believe this pick.  pittsburgh is coming off a bye and Philly has won their 3 games by a combined 4 points.  They aren't that good.  However, I have made a pact with myself to pick against the steelers every week, and doing so has gotten me a win 2 out of 3 times so far.  Why not again this week?  Besides, I'm getting more than a FG, so it's not that much of a stretch. 
Nick: Eagles. The extra half point makes all the difference here. This could be a close one, and I'm banking on LeSean McCoy - the league's best running back -  getting loose once or twice.

COLTS (+7) vs. Packers
Figgs: GB. I like the Pack a lot here. Should be over by halftime, hopefully Indy doesn't backdoor cover. ($)
Joe: Packers; I think Green Bay should roll here.  I would pick them if they were giving 3 TDs, so I will gladly give just 1 TD.  Again, if I still bet games, I would lay a ton of dough on this one. 
Nick: Pack. I want to pick the Colts badly, but this just isn't enough points.

BENGALS (-3.5) vs. Dolphins
Figgs: Cinncy. I just realized this week that the chad henne era has been over for a long time so I really have no reason to keep hating on these guys. I guess I'll keep it going because they deserve to suffer for a couple more years for ever making that mistake to begin with. ($)
Joe: Bengals; Dolphins aren't as bad as I thought, but they still aren't good either.  In Miami, I wouldn't give more than a FG, but at home, I'll take the Bengals.  They seem solid enough, and AJ Green seems to get better every week.  Considering how good he already was, that's pretty scary (Thank God he's in our division). 
Nick: Bengals. Joe, it's fortunate for us that Andy Dalton is his quarterback. Dalton is good enough that they won't try to replace him, but not good enough to be transformative. The Bengals won't win the big one unless the rest of their team is superior. ($ -4.5 --- 3 Schrute Bucks)

CHEIFS (+6) vs. Ravens
Figgs: ratbirds. I wouldn't be surprised if KC kept this under six. Pretty much a coin flip game for me.
Joe: KC; This is one of my gut feeling games where there is no conceivable reason to take the dog, but for some reason I feel it.  Baltimore may be a Super Bowl favorite, and they should win this game, but I just feel like the Cheifs keep it close. 
Nick: Ravens. Kansas City is one of the worst teams in the league, and Baltimore will take care of business here. It's weird having to root for Baltimore constantly, as they represent the lesser of two evils. The Browns need to get better. ($ -4.5 --- 3 Schrute Bucks)

(4:25 kickoffs)

VIKINGS (-6) vs. Titans
Figgs: Titans. I like the Vikes to win close but wouldn't be at all shocked if the Titans took it outright.
Joe: Vikings; I bought them for the 1st 3 weeks, then foolishly bailed on them last week.  I don't like giving this many points with this team, but playing at home against a bad team, I can't talk myself out of taking them.
Nick: Titans. Classic "whatever side I pick, I'll pick it wrong" game, so give me the points.

PANTHERS (-3) vs. Seahawks
Figgs: Cats. Seattle's not the same on the road, Panthers need to get their shit together.
Joe: Panthers; I refuse to trust Seattle on the road until they prove they can win one.  Also, I may or may not like Cam Newton. 
Nick: Seahawks. Yeah, Seattle's on the road, but between these two teams, which one can do something well? I'd say that the Seahawks can play solid defense and run the ball. Why do we think that the Panthers can do anything well?

JAGUARS (+5.5) vs. Bears
Figgs: Bears. Cutler wasn't great last week, but the defense was. They will eat Gabbert alive. ($)
Joe: Bears; Chicago looked great on Monday Night last week, despite Kristen Cavalleri's boyfriend still showing he has the maturity of an 8 year old.  I like the Bears' D, their running game, and they now have solid wideouts.  I don't like much of anything about Jacksonville. 
Nick: Jags. Maybe I'm talking myself into this one, but the Jags can be a tough out at home, and I could see the Bears coming out flat after a huge win on Monday night.

PATRIOTS (-6.5) vs. Broncos
Figgs: Broncos. The renewal of the classing Brady-Manning rivalry. Since one of those guys went to a regular school and one is gay, I always go with Peyton.
Joe: Broncos; Pats looked like the Pats last week, scoring at will in the 2nd half.  But Buffalo's defense also gave up 48 pts to the pitiful Mark Sanchez this year, so that may not be the best game to judge New England on.  Denver looked great last week as well.  Basically, Manning vs. Brady:  I don't feel like giving either one of these QBs 6.5 points, so I'll take the Broncos as dogs here.
Nick: Patriots. So why do we think that the Broncos are good? They're going on the road, Peyton Manning can't throw deep, and the Pats just dropped 45 on this defense last January.

49ERS (-10) vs. Bills
Figgs: Niners. This could look a lot like last week's beatdown of the Jets.
Joe: 49ers; San Fran is possibly the best team in the NFL.  Buffalo is not good.  They may play them slightly closer than the Jets did, but probably not by much.  Niners.  Big.
Nick: Niners. I hate giving double-digits, but the Niners are smart enough to take the run away and dare Fitzy to throw deep (which he can't).

Sunday Night Football
SAINTS (-3.5) vs. Chargers
Figgs: Saints. Brees will break the record on the first drive, then not slow down.
Joe: Saints; I've been right about the Saints so far, but they will still win a fair amount of games.  This week is one of them.  I have no real feel for the Bolts yet.  3 wins against teams they should have beat (which they usually didnt do in the past) but a blowout loss vs. their only tough opponent.  Primetime in the dome with Brees going for the record, I like the Saints, possibly in blowout fashion.
Nick: Chargers. Another game I might be talking myself into, but the Chargers are 3-1 and have a solid offense. I know that San Diego's three victories are against lousy teams, but the Saints have yielded an average of 32.5 points per game...doesn't that make them closer to lousy team than a good one?

Monday Night Football
JETS (+8) vs. Texans
Figgs: Texans. Boy are the Jets a mess.
Joe: Texans; Again, Houston is giving a lot of points.  Again, I feel very comfortable giving those points.  No Revis or Holmes.  After last year, I don't think the Texans will feel sorry for any team that has key injuries.  I think ESPN will have to spend most of the game talking about Tebow, because Houston will put it out reach well before halftime.
Nick: Texans. As much as I want to take an eight-point home doggy on Monday night, the Texans might be the best team in the league and are winning games by an average margin of 17.5 points.

Other Bets
Nick: Parlay Ravens, Niners, Patriots to win ($4 Schrute Bucks)

Tuesday, October 2

Meyer’s gameplan halts Bell, Spartans in his Big Ten debut win

Ohio St went into East Lansing, michigan last Saturday with a specific plan in place - stack the box to stop Big Ten leading rusher Le’Veon Bell, control the clock, and let Braxton Miller make enough plays to get the win. This plan was carried out to perfection in the Buckeyes’ 17-16 victory over Michigan St, giving Urban Meyer his first win in his new conference.

Bell was a complete non-factor in this one, carrying the ball 17 times for 45 yards, failing to pick up a single first down, and recording a longest gain of just 8 yards. The Buckeyes were able to overcome a 3-0 turnover margin and two Braxton injuries by grinding it out on the ground and making the big play when they needed to, that coming on a 63-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith near the end of the third quarter to put Ohio St up for good.

Game Recap
I said last week that the strategy of limiting Miller’s hits by reducing his number of carries was going to go out the window in this game, and that was evident on the game’s fist play when Braxton took off for a 20-yard gain. He later completed a pass to Philly Brown on what would be his first of a dozen catches on the afternoon before running for another first down, but was hit on the sideline and shaken up on the play. Kenny Guiton was rushed in to the game, with the ball at the Spartan 14-yard line, but didn’t have to do much as Jordan Hall rushed it on the next three plays, the final one a 1-yard touchdown plunge to put the Buckeyes up early.

Knowing that Ohio St intended on keeping Le’Veon Bell in check, Michigan St QB Andrew Maxwell came out throwing, completing 4 of 6 passes on the eight-play drive and hitting Bell out of the backfield three times. The drive stalled at the OSU 17 and Dan Conroy hit his first FG attempt of the game to cut into the lead. The quick 10 points was no omen for things to come, as that would be all of the scoring for the rest of the half.

Miller was back under center for the next Buckeye possession but the Buckeye O was unable to move the ball as Ben Buchanan punted for what would be the first of four consecutive punts between the two teams. Braxton completed 16-yard plays, one each to Philly and Devin Smith on their first drive of the second quarter and had the Buckeyes in business, but was intercepted by Kurtis Drummond in the red zone.

Both teams continued to punt back and forth until Bradley Roby came up with the game’s first big play in quite some time when he blocked Mike Sadler’s fourth punt of the first half to give Ohio St the best field position of the game at the Spartan 35. This was short-lived, however, when Miller turned it over for the second time two plays later on a fumble. With new life, Michigan St put together their best drive since their opening one but Conroy missed a 42-yard attempt at the end of the half to keep the score at 7-3.

After the defenses dominated for 25 straight minutes to close the first half, the third quarter finally saw some action. The Ohio St D continued to suffocate Bell, but Maxwell hooked up with Bennie Fowler for a 35-yard gain to give Conroy his third shot of the day, this one being true from 50 yards to narrow the OSU advantage to one. Brax responded by alternating rushes with completions to Brown but when the drive stalled inside the 10 yard line, Drew Basil was forced to come on to match Conroy’s field goal.

With Ohio St on top 10-6 midway through the third quarter, the next two minutes provided the game’s two most exciting plays which ultimately decided the outcome. After a 17-yard completion and 15-yard Roby facemask penalty, Michigan St was set up at the Buckeye 29. Maxwell swung a pass out to Keith Mumphery, who broke four tackles before carrying a couple more OSU defenders on his back and into the end zone for the Spartans’ first lead of the game. Christian Bryant had the best shot at Mumphery early in the run but went too high and was basically back-body-dropped in an embarrassing attempt. For a guy that has led the team in tackles the past two seasons, he sure misses some big ones.

But the Michigan St lead did not last long, when a minute later Miller found his big-play receiver Devin Smith streaking down the sideline with his defender Johnny Adams several feet behind. Braxton threw a beautiful ball, hitting Smith right in stride before Adams made a diving attempt that Smith easily broke away from then cruised to the house to put Ohio St back on top, 17-13.

After Etienne Sabino’s sack on Maxwell forced another MSU punt to begin the fourth quarter, Miller had the Buckeyes on the move again before a scary play that had the entire city of Columbus holding their breath. On third-and-six in Spartan territory, Braxton had a good run to pick up the first and then some when he planted his right foot to seemingly make another move but the rest of his entire body kept moving forward. His knee bent backward and he just dropped the ball before going down in pain. Ohio St caught a break when the refs somehow called that he was down before he lost the ball. The play was overturned and possession given to Michigan St, but Kurtis Drummond, who picked up the loose ball, had plenty of room to run before the play was blown dead. Meanwhile, Miller limped to the bench as the Buckeye faithful nervously watched on.

Ohio St seemingly stopped the Spartans on 4th and 1 to get the ball back but Travis Howard, who was on the opposite side of the field of where the play went, was called for defensive holding to keep the drive alive. A Nathan Williams sack forced another long Conroy field goal, but he was successful in bringing the lead back to a single point.

Thankfully, Miller was good to go, re-entering when the OSU offense came back onto the field. He wasn’t able to direct the team to a first down, however, and Michigan St immediately got the ball back with 6 minutes left to play and only needing another FG to take the lead. The Buckeye defense, which came into the game ranked last in the Big Ten, was up to the challenge when they forced a quick punt as well.

Now with a second chance to run out the clock and leave that crappy state with a victory, Miller was not to be denied. His first down runs of 14 and 6 yards set the stage for a 3rd and 4 at midfield with 2:06 to go and Michigan St having just used its final time out. With everyone in the stadium, including the 11 Spartan defenders, expecting Miller to take off, Carlos Hyde got the carry and went up the middle for a gain of five. Three Braxton kneel downs closed the game for a thrilling 17-16 Buckeye victory.

Game Ball
As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, this game came down to a carefully executed, perfectly-designed gameplan. So the GB goes to the man with the plan - Urban Meyer. Meyer joins Carol Widdoes and Earl Bruce as only the third Buckeye coach to begin his career in Columbus with a perfect 5-0 mark. Things have been bumpy early on and are only going to get tougher for Urban (starting this weekend when Nebraska comes to town) but he can’t be too displeased with an undefeated start.
Game balls to date: Meyer, Hankins, Miller, Howard, Roby

Big Ten
The other big time game in the conference this weekend went down in Lincoln, where Taylor Martinez rallied Nebraska from a 17-point deficit to beat Wisconsin, 30-27. Montee Ball played through an injury and scored three touchdowns, but Martinez stole the show in leading the Huskers to four straight scoring drives in the second half.

Elsewhere, Penn St routed Illinois and suddenly looks like a formidable opponent, Mark Weisman continued to roll along in rushing for 177 yards to give Iowa the Floyd of Rosedale Bronze Pig Trophy while handing Minnesota their first loss of the season, and Northwestern set a school record with 704 yards of total offense while dismantling Indiana.

Ohio St will be in the conference’s biggest showdown again next week when they welcome Nebraska to The Shoe, while Northwestern will take their undefeated record to Happy Valley in a game that suddenly looks much more interesting than it did a few weeks ago.

Hall doubtful for Nebraska
Ohio St just can’t seem to get healthy, especially at running back. Jordan Hall left the Michigan St game after hurting his right knee, and it is now being reported that he has a partial tear of his PCL. "You just hate to see that because it's a kid who has worked his tail off, one of the hardest-working guys we had in the offseason," Meyer said. "We'll just evaluate that. I'd say doubtful, unless something happens."

Hall missed the first two games of the season after a freak accident over the summer, and was replaced in the lineup by Carlos Hyde. Hyde did a solid job, but was injured himself in the second game of the season. Hall returned just in time to spell the injured Hyde, and Michigan St was the first game where they were both dressed. Meyer was looking forward to giving both guys an opportunity, possibly even lining them both up in the backfield at the same time, but with Hall likely out again those plans will have to wait.

Up Next: vs. #21 Nebraska (4-0, 1-0), 8:00, ABC
The Huskers will make their first trip to Columbus since 1956 in this primetime Big Ten showdown. Both teams have a little extra incentive in this one, with Nebraska coach Bo Pelini coming back to The Horseshoe for the first time since graduating from The University in 1990, while the Buckeyes will be thinking revenge after allowing Nebraska to score the final 28 points of last year’s contest to overcome a 21-point deficit, the largest comeback in school history.

For the second week in a row, the focus of Ohio St’s defense will be the rushing attack, as the Huskers come in boasting three guys with at least 270 rushing yards and a 6.0 average per attempt. This will be different from Michigan St, however, with dual-threat QB Taylor Martinez being one of those three. The Buckeyes won’t be able to stack the box like they did against the Spartans and will have to lay off some of those blitz-happy coverages in fear of Martinez’s ability to run the option.

In years past, the goal was to always make Martinez throw the ball to beat you, and while that still may be the case somewhat, his improvement as a passer since last season has been astronomical. Taylor is completing nearly 70% of his passes this season while throwing 11 touchdowns compared to only one pick. Kenny Bell (22 yards per catch, 4 TDs) is Martinez’s #1 target.

Ohio St will be in another dogfight this week, and I think it will come down to which play-making quarterback will make the least mistakes. My money’s on Braxton getting over those three turnovers last week and the Ohio St defense forcing Martinez into some errors.
Prediction: Ohio St 23 Nebraska 21