Author Bio: Declan is a part-time blogger who writes when he's not studying for a future career in sports broadcasting. He prefers football as his favorite topic and follows the NCAA extensively. Outside of sports, Declan has been known to blog about such varied topics as finding car insurance online and some of the different health insurance options for college students.
NCAA Football- Are the Buckeyes Championship Material?
The weeks are quickly ticking by in the 2010 NCAA football season. As I write this post, week 12 is already underway after Thursday night's 63-7 drubbing of Georgia State by 11th-ranked Alabama. As is normally the case this time of year, analysts and sportswriters are arguing about the validity of the BCS standings and who should be playing for the national championship. Among all the possible candidates are a number of one-loss teams including the Ohio State Buckeyes. I suppose the one question on the mind of every Buckeyes fan is whether or not the 2010 football team is generally championship material. You could make the case that coach Jim Tressel's team is always a competitor, but up against powerhouses like Oregon and sentimental favorites TCU and Boise State, there remains some doubt as to how well the Buckeyes could perform.
Early Season Rankings
I did a quick Internet search just to refresh my memory regarding what all the experts were saying about Ohio State football this past summer. The reviews were mostly good, and Ohio state was expected to be in the hunt for the national championship throughout the 2010 campaign. In fact, a Sporting News article published in August had Ohio State ranked number two behind Alabama. In most of the other pre-season rankings I found, the Buckeyes were either first or second; none had them lower than third. All that said, we know that trying to determine the national championship through pre-season rankings is like trying to determine car insurance rates online. The numbers are all over the place depending on who you ask, and only the reality of the unfolding season will determine which teams will rise to the top. In the case of the Buckeyes, they probably didn't deserve the number two ranking as demonstrated by some of the football they've played this season. They haven't played terribly, don't get me wrong, but they haven't shown the dominating skill or crushing attitude that makes an NCAA champion.
Week 12 Rankings
At the time of this writing, ESPN's current BCS standings show Ohio State at number nine. That's a reasonable and well-deserved ranking in my opinion. What I do find surprising though, is the fact that the computer rankings peg the Buckeyes somewhere around number 13. That means it's the human polls from Harris and USA Today that pull Ohio State into the top 10. It's also curious to see that Ohio State ranks behind Nebraska and Wisconsin...but that's the nature of polling. Whether or not the Buckeyes can improve their position in the final few weeks of the season remains to be seen This week's matchup between Ohio State and Iowa, set for 3:30 on Saturday, should be a test of how much the Buckeyes really want to be champions. By the time this post appears, we will know who rose to the challenge. In its previous two games Iowa has proven to be offensively challenged, scoring a total of only 35 points. But they'll be at home on Saturday, and in their house they are scoring machine. In fact, they've averaged more than 30 points per game against conference opponents this year at home. With a Buckeye team that tends to have a hard time getting started in the early quarters, falling behind Iowa could be a recipe for disaster. If they're not careful, they may end up chasing Iowa through the fourth quarter like a college kid chasing his first credit card.
Possible Reasons for the Buckeyes' 2010 Struggles
As I just mentioned, the Buckeyes tend to be slow starters in the first two quarters. Take last week's game against Penn State; a game in which the Buckeyes were behind 14-3 in the first half. While they ended up scoring 35 unanswered points in the second half, such stellar comeback performances are not possible week after week in NCAA football. Especially among college's most elite teams, falling behind early often leads to a new number in the loss column. There certainly are other contributing factors that can hinder an Ohio State championship in January. An article written the day after the Buckeyes lost to the Wisconsin Badgers cited injuries on the defensive side of the ball as one of those factors. With injuries to safeties C.J. Barnett and Tyler Moeller, as well as linebacker Ross Homan, Ohio State lacks a good pass rush and interception threat. This might possibly be one of the reasons why the team tends to fall behind early. Coach Tressel probably gave his team a much needed tongue lashing during halftime against the Badgers, and while they made a valiant effort at a comeback win, they fell just short in the final minutes of the game. Perhaps it's just my strange way of thinking, but maybe an inspirational phone call by former Ohio state running back Maurice Clarett would've given that additional spark needed to get a Buckeyes' win. In case you didn't know, Clarett is attempting a comeback of his own with the UFL's Omaha Nighthawks.
Outlook for the Rest of the Season
Ohio State has only two games left to play. After traveling to Iowa on Saturday, the team finishes the regular season at home against Michigan. If they can get past Iowa they'll have a shot at the conference championship. With a win over Michigan, which shouldn't be a difficult task, Ohio State could potentially jump significantly in the BCS standings with a loss by Oregon, Auburn, TCU, Boise State, or LSU. But with the way the top five BCS teams are playing right now, I think the chances of my dad out living his term life insurance policy are significantly greater than those of Ohio State having a realistic shot at this year's NCAA football championship. One more thing and then I'll wrap this up. I hate to rain on the parade of Buckeyes fans, but one of the reasons I believe Ohio State could lose to Iowa rests in quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Despite the love fest that's been hoisted on Pryor by sportswriters and fans alike, he's inconsistent enough at the QB position to cause significant problems against an aggressive Iowa defense. Granted, Pryor did have an excellent game against Indiana with 334 yards and an 80% completion rating. But his statistics for the year are all over the map. Against Miami, even though it was a win, Pryor's completion percentage was just over 44%; he went 12/27 and 233 yards. While his average completion percentage has stayed slightly above 50% for the entire season, it swings enough in either direction to make me worry that inconsistent play could doom his offense. It's certainly true that it's not over until the fat lady sings. And if there's one thing we've learned during the course of the 2010 NCAA football season, it's that even the big boys can lose on any given week. Stranger things have happened, so it's possible for a week 12 meltdown among one or more of the current top five teams. Such a meltdown could see the Buckeyes jump several positions heading into week 13. And with a repeat performance that following week, it's still possible Ohio State could be ranked in the top two. Only time will tell, but we'll know for sure in about ten days. OSU will definitely play in a bowl this January; there's no question about it. As for Jim Tressel and the boys, they've done their best in 2010 and I'm sure they are already looking at 2011. If history repeats itself the Buckeyes will be a contender for the championship next year as well as many years to come.