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Football

All things pigskin.

1. Teams like to come up with a slogan for the season: All In (Cavaliers) ... What If? (Indians) ... Send in the Clowns (Browns). For this year's Buckeye team, the slogan should be A Win Is a Win Is a Win, because all this team needs to do is keep on winning no matter how narrow or ugly those victories might be. If the Buckeyes end up with a 13-0 record and a second-straight Big Ten championship, then they will be invited to the playoffs regardless of what anyone else does.

2. Okay, I'll say the un-sayable: Ezekiel Elliott is the best running back ever to play for Ohio State. Archie has the gaudy numbers and those two Heisman Trophies. Eddie posted the best single season in Buckeye history and has a Heisman of his own. MoC had a special combination of speed, power, balance, and vision, and led the 2002 team to a national championship. Robert Smith was so smooth and fluid and just plain fast. And then there's Hopalong and Beanie and El Guapo and Keith Byars and Tim Spencer.... But Elliott is simply the best.

3. And here are some of the reasons why Zeke is the best. Through 31 games (20 starts) Elliott already has 2,869 yards, which puts him in 12th place among the Buckeyes' career rushing leaders. Elliott needs only 900 yards to move past Eddie George and into second place, and with at least eight games remaining this season he should accomplish that feat.

Elliott is averaging 92.5 yards per game, which is 4th best in Buckeye history, but only 1.6 yards from second place (Jim Otis, 94.1 yards per game). Zeke's average per game is especially impressive when you consider that he was the third-string tailback (behind Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall) as a true freshman in 2013, and he averaged only 23.8 yards per game during that season (262 yards in 11 games). In his 20 starts, Zeke is averaging 130.35 yards per game, which would be the best ever at Ohio State (Archie Griffin averaged 121.5 yards per game in 46 games, all starts).

Elliott...
Ohio State - The Buckeyes (4-0; #1 AP; #1 CP) have played sloppy ball (10 turnovers) and relied on big plays (9 offensive TDs of 20+ yards; 3 defensive TDs) to score points. Their schedule has been mediocre at best (opponents' combined record is 7-9). But they are still the defending champions and until someone actually knocks them off they are still CONTENDERS.

Michigan State - The Spartans' (4-0; #2 AP; #2 CP) reputation is based on their seemingly big win over Oregon (31-28) at home in week two. That win has since been tainted by Utah, who destroyed Oregon (62-20) at Autzen Stadium. The rest of the Spartans' resume' consists of closer than expected wins over Western Michigan (37-24), Central Michigan (30-10), and Air Force (35-21). Michigan State's vaunted defense ranks 46th in scoring (20.8 ppg) and 77th in yards (395.8 ypg). Despite the lofty poll rankings, this MSU team has taken a step back from its highly successful seasons in 2013 (12-1 record; #3 AP; #3 CP) and 2014 (11-2 record; #5 AP; #5 CP). Sparty is a PRETENDER that will eventually be exposed, perhaps as early as October 17th when they take a trip to Ann Arbor.

Ole Miss - Throw out the blow out wins against Tennessee-Martin (76-3) and Fresno State (73-21) to open the season. In week three, the Rebels (4-0; #3 AP; #5 CP) went into Tuscaloosa and defeated the Crimson Tide (43-37), which is one of the biggest wins for any team so far this year. Granted, the victory over Alabama was somewhat fluky, and Ole Miss followed it up with an unimpressive showing against lowly Vanderbilt (27-16), but for now the Rebels are CONTENDERS.

Alabama, Georgia - These two SEC powerhouses square off this Saturday. The Crimson Tide (3-1; #13 AP; #13 CP) already have one loss and if they lose another they're done. If the Tide can hold...
The Buckeyes finished their non-conference schedule with a record of 4-0 and they stand as the number one team in the country. Western Michigan was the latest victim, falling 38-12 yesterday in The Horseshoe (or the Bronco Hoof, if you prefer). Here are some takeaways from yesterday's game:

1. Facing the 109th ranked run defense in FBS, the offensive staff did a better job of getting the ball to their tailbacks. Ezekiel Elliott had 16 carries for 124 yards and a touchdown and Curtis Samuel had 2 carries for 55 yards and a touchdown. Elliott had long runs of 15, 20, and 26 yards, while Samuel's runs went for 15 and 40 yards.

2. As noted in the pre-game report, Zeke broke off an 80-yard touchdown run on his first carry of the season. After that great start, he managed to gain only 251 yards on his next 60 carries (4.2 yards per carry) with a long run of just 13 yards. On his first run yesterday, Zeke broke out of his little slump by going for 26 yards. He also added a 20-yard run late in the third quarter.

3. Last season, Elliott rushed for 1,878 yards (125.2 per game; 6.88 per carry) and 18 touchdowns (1.20 per game). So far this season, Elliott now has 455 yards (113.8 per game; 5.91 per carry) and 5 TDs (1.25 per game). The big difference is in the yards per carry, which is down almost 1.0 yard this year compared to last year.

4. If Elliott were averaging 6.88 yards per carry this year instead of 5.91, he would have 530 yards rushing (+75 total yards) for an average of 132.5 yards per game (+18.7 yards per game).

5. With his 124 yards rushing against WMU, Elliott now has 2,595 career rushing yards. Yesterday he moved past Jim Otis (2,542 yards) and Cal Murray (2,576 yards) into 13th place on the list of Buckeye career rushing leaders. Next up on the list is Raymont Harris (2,649 yards).

6. With his 288 yards passing, Cardale Jones now has 1,485 career passing yards. Cardale moved into 23rd place on the list of Buckeye career passing...
I didn't watch this game live. I elected to go to a party where the game wasn't being shown. I drank copious amounts of the finest craft beer the midwest has to offer, then came home and watched the game on the DVR. I'm reacting to what took place today on an alternate timeline from nearly everybody else. Now, still half-drunk off Dark Lord and B.O.R.I.S. (yes, I'm a name dropper) I'm going to attempt to make sense of what we all saw today.

The Buckeyes did what they failed to do in either of the last two weeks and won comfortably against an inferior opponent. The scoreline perhaps didn't reflect most homers' wet dreams from last night, but it was an easy win where the Buckeyes mostly did what they wanted.

It was a comprehensive performance. They ran the ball efficiently. They passed the ball decently. Cardale Jones looked more confident and made wiser decisions than last week. The offense made explosive plays. The defense did too. Special teams contributed with a blocked kick. The Buckeyes controlled field position the entire game.

There are still things to work on. There were big plays left unfulfilled due to underthrown passes and wide receivers who didn't adjust and make plays quite like last year's guys did. The defense, while performing at an elite level for much of the season so far, could have done a better job stopping the inside run and limiting the length of WMU's drives.

All in all though, it was a good win that should have us coming away feeling like the Buckeyes are getting back on track...
After week two's results, Poobert was super excited about week three. He came up to the bedroom at 8:45 and got me out of bed so he could watch Gameday. He kept saying, "Come on, Josh. THEY'RE COMING TO OUR CITAY!"

I got up, got dressed, went downstairs, turned on the TV for him, and he promptly crawled into one of his beds and went to sleep. What a butthole!

He must have known what was coming though, because the noon games all sucked and made me wish I had taken a nap too. After that, the Buckeyes played like they were half-asleep and made me want to close my eyes for most of the time throughout. The late games all delivered though. Close contests, crazy plays, upsets and intrigue were taking place everywhere, and it lasted until nearly 2 AM when BYU's attempts at a third straight Hail Mary win came up short. I should have followed Poobert's lead - maybe then I wouldn't have been dragging ass all day Sunday.

Neither Poobert nor I did well with our picks last week. I did manage to beat him again - getting 18/32 correct versus his 16/32. It wasn't our best showing, but we didn't care. As fans of the kind of random craziness that only college football generates, Saturday was a fun night to be a fan. Who cares if our picks suffered for it...
It was a good week for Ohio State to have a stinker. USC went down to Stanford. Ole Miss beat Alabama. TCU found themselves in a dog fight with SMU but pulled away late. M*ch*g*n State thoroughly dominated their matchup with Air Force, even if the final score didn't reflect it. Teams that struggled or played like crap like the Buckeyes, Florida State and Clemson got reprieves... for now.

So if everybody was losing (or coming close to it,) who were the winners?...
To very loosely paraphrase William Shakespeare, Tresselball by any other name would smell just as bad as that mess yesterday.

1. Let's begin by addressing the 275-pound quarterback in the room. Cardale Jones first signed with Ohio State as part of the 2011 recruiting class; after a post-grad year at a prep school, he re-signed as part of the class of 2012. In reviewing both classes, I picked Cardale as the player least likely to succeed at Ohio State. With Cardale's Twitter indiscretions and the emergence of J.T. Barrett, it appeared that I would be right and Jones would be a career bench warmer. But Cardale proved his doubters wrong with his historic run through the 2014 playoffs. Or did he?

Cardale took over the Buckeye offense in the fourth quarter of the Michigan game after J.T. Barrett suffered a season-ending injury. With Cardale at the helm, running back Ezekiel Elliott began to put up some record-setting numbers:

OpponentRush AttsRush YdsRush AvgRush TDs30+ Yds
Michigan35016.67144
Wisconsin2022011.00260, 81
Alabama2023011.50254, 85
Oregon362466.83433
Totals797469.4496 runs
Wide receiver Devin Smith was the premier deep threat in college football last season, and he was able to bail out Cardale on several passes that we would have called "arm punts" if a certain Michigan quarterback had thrown them:

OpponentReceptionsRec YdsRec AvgRec TDs30+...
In a game that Buckeye fans will immediately do their best to forget, the Buckeyes managed to get past Northern Illinois in a low-scoring, mistake-filled, mostly unwatchable game.

Ohio State played poorly from the start, with their first possession being pretty much doomed by little mistakes before making a huge one, turning the ball over in their own end of the field. The Huskies scored with ease thanks to a short field, against a Buckeye defense that didn't seem ready to be on the field yet after the sudden change. The Silver Bullets would soon find their bearings, but the offense never did.

The errors on offense were many, and it's difficult to think of players and coaches on that side of the ball who might escape a share of the blame for the performance. Cardale Jones threw two bad interceptions and was completely ineffective before getting pulled in favor of JT Barrett in the second quarter. He would not see any more snaps. Barrett was only slightly less poor - he helped get the Buckeyes back in it by leading their only touchdown drive of day. He threw an interception of his own however, and by all rights should have been picked off on a couple other occasions. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for more than a hundred yards, but he lost a fumble and and was very inefficient. He failed to convert in short yardage a few times. Braxton Miller dropped the football in the backfield, made fantastic hesitation move on a play that went for no game, and was otherwise invisible. The offensive line played passively and made crippling errors that put an already ineffective attack behind the chains.

Ohio State was lucky that they were playing a team like Northern Illinois...
This week's edition begins with a little more background on our featured feline friend... Poobert is what I call him, and "Leo" is his actual name. He goes by many other names though. He can be mischievous, and tends to get himself in trouble fairly often. He eats things he isn't supposed to eat, he playfully (but painfully) bites and claws us when we try to pet him sometimes, barfs on everything, and meows constantly. My wife came up for a nickname for him that she uses in such situations...
As we acclimate ourselves to the new College Football Playoff era, we still have many questions about what the future holds.

Taking some cues from the recent past to predict the future, I took the BCS rankings from the final week of the regular seasons (post-conference championship game week) during the BCS era (1998-2013). I used the top four teams from those rankings to determine who would qualify for the College Football Playoffs in those years. For history’s sake, I used the conference that each of the team was affiliated with at that time, not where they are currently due to expansion.

The results were intriguing...