BALTIMORE – Fifth-ranked Ohio State came to the East Coast Saturday without their Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback, but still with a ton of talent and just as much hope to have a championship-type season.

Facing a tough-to-defend, triple-option that is the Naval Academy’s unique signature, Urban Meyer wanted to get out of town with …

Improvement on offense and defense as the game progressed. Check.

A solid performance from his first-time starter, redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett  as Braxton Miller’s replacement. Check.

And no significant injuries. Check.

Oh, and most importantly, a win. Check.

But none of it came easy or without a fight.

The Buckeyes trailed for much of the day, including 7-6 at the half and 14-13 late into the third quarter.

But the defense stiffened, holding Navy to only a field goal over the last 26:15 of the game – and the offense showed consistency and scored three touchdowns over the final 19 minutes on the way to a very deceiving 34-17 win in front of 57,579 fans – an estimated 40,000 of them wearing scarlet and gray – at M&T Bank Stadium.

“That’s the way I look at it – get a win and get the heck out of dodge,” Meyer said. “That’s the most important thing.”

Meyer’s revamped defense with new coordinator Chris Ash running the show had been working on the Middies’ triple option since the spring. But Navy ran outside a will through much of the game, coupled with an unstoppable counter play that led to 370 yards rushing and a great game of keep-away for much of the game.

It just didn’t translate to points for Navy.

“It seems like we have been working on (Navy’s offense) forever,” Meyer said. “I am glad we are done with. Now we just start from scratch.”

Because nobody else on the Buckeyes’ schedule runs anything similar to Navy. In fact, while Buckeye fans may be fretting over what they think is a problematic run defense, Ohio State could turn around and limit Virginia Tech to less than 80 yards rushing and the coaches wouldn’t be surprised one bit.

And they won’t be able to unveil Ash’s new pressure-filled, attacking defense until next week.

Navy is just that different.

On the other side of the ball, the Buckeyes’ new offense line struggled for the first two and a half quarters.

“I wanted to take some shots (downfield) but didn’t and it had nothing to do with J.T.,” Meyer said. “It had to do whether we could protect him.”

But as the game wore on, the offensive line meshed a bit and the Buckeyes churned out 154 yards rushing and 168 passing in the second half alone.

Barrett, although possessing little explosiveness in the run game as Miller does, was solid in his first start – with only a first-down interception from Navy’s 8-yard line as the lone huge blunder.

He finished 12-of-15 for 226 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed for 50 more on nine carries.

“He was good – he never got rattled,” Meyer said of his redshirt freshman. “He will get better. I am more worried about the guys in front of him.  We didn’t resemble an offensive line at Ohio State.”

Now the Midshipmen are in Ohio State’s rear-view mirror, exactly where Meyer waited for them to be so he can get down to business with the “normal” preparations.

“When I was at Notre Dame (as receivers coach), preparing for them was always the worst week of the year,” he said. “But I have so much respect for them and the tradition. I told my son to look up at all those white uniforms and respect the tradition.”

Now it’s on to Virginia Tech, next Saturday night in prime time at Ohio Stadium.

“It’s a whole different deal next week,” Meyer admitted. “We need to get better and play better to make a dent in the Big Ten this season. But the first one is over and we won it. That’s what matters today.”






More than 130 years of major college football have been played and at the end of each of those seasons, national champions were crowned -- either by poll or after a bowl game.

With the Rose, beginning in 1901, followed by the Orange and Sugar some 35 years later and then the Cotton, Fiesta, and even the Florida Citrus (Georgia Tech, 1990) and Holiday (BYU, 1984), bowls have hosted teams about to be crowned national champs.

In a little more than four months from now, the first-ever true playoff will change all of that.

Four teams, three games and one champion.

Times are a changin' in college football.

It’s been a long wait.

I am not one of the majority hailing this as a greatest thing since high-def TVs. Make no mistake, the playoff will be wildly popular, because, let’s face it – American loves a playoff in any sport -- but if it leads to expansion such as an eight-team or 16-team playoff in years to come, college football and college athletics in general will suffer in many ways yet to be determined.

As it is, 2014 is here, so we’ll save the second-guessing for later years.

I see Alabama, Florida State, Oklahoma and Oregon becoming the first four teams to make the inaugural playoff, with the Seminoles repeating as champions. That is, unless Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston suffers some sort of season-ending injury.

Otherwise, the Seminoles will romp through a relatively patsy schedule …  especially with the rival Florida Gators being down and out. Miami is average at best. Notre Dame comes to Tallahassee. Clemson will drop off a bit.

Other big items to expect as the season kicks off tonight in Columbia, S.C….


Jameis Winston, Florida State – He has to be ranked No. 1 after winning the bronzed stiff-armed last year, bidding to match Archie Griffin as the only two-timer. Can he succeed where Tim Tebow, Mark Ingram, Sam Bradford and Johnny Manziel failed?

Marcus Mariota, Oregon – Doesn’t it seem like he was been in Eugene for eight or nine years.

Brett Hundley, UCLA – This QB is a stud – can run it and throw it. He could lead the Bruins to a surprising playoff berth.

T.J. Yeldon, Alabama – With the Tide breaking in a new quarterback, expect this lightning-fast running back to roll up big numbers.

Todd Gurley, Georgia – If he can stay healthy and survive a brutal schedule, the Dawgs’ tailback may reach 1,500 yards.

Mike Davis, South Carolina -- Underrated as anyone in the country.

DECEMBER’s WINNER – Hundley. I believe he will roll up numbers that make voters take notice by October, while Winston won’t be as sharp as times.


Big Ten – Ohio State (even without Braxton Miller).

ACC – Florida State (it’s the Seminoles and everybody else in the basketball conference).

Big 12 – Oklahoma (Sooners rolling from Sugar Bowl win over Alabama while Texas will be rebuilding).

Pac-12 – Oregon (Could be the toughest conference this season with Stanford, UCLA and USC all formidable).

SEC – Alabama (Not a cinch to win it; Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina, LSU could contend).



Will Muschamp, Florida – Nobody’s backside is hotter than the Gators’ fourth-year coach. He may need to win nine games to save his job. Make no mistake, the gap between No. 1 and the rest of the pack is huge.

Mike London, Virginia – I expected him to be fired at the end of season, but his splendid recruiting continues to save him.

Charlie Weis, Kansas – Not sure the Jayhawks can win three games, and it’s long time for a change at this hoops school.

Tim Beckman, Illinois – Normally, you get three years to turn things around, but the Illini have shown no signs of improvement.

Ron Turner, Florida International – Not that this is a plum job by any means, but Turner was a curious hire to begin with.


GAMES OF THE WEEK: Georgia 33, Clemson 19 – The Tigers may be in for a fall this season, after last year’s Orange Bowl championship ending; Florida State 30, Oklahoma State 20 – Cowboys may hang tough into the fourth quarter against defending national champs.

UPSET OF THE WEEK: Western Michigan (+12.5) over Purdue.

BLOWOUT OF THE WEEK: Oklahoma 59, Louisiana Tech 10 – The Sooners open what could a march toward the inaugural playoff.

BEST BETS: Texas A&M (+10.5) at South Carolina; Western Kentucky (+7.5) vs. Bowling Green; Arkansas (+21.5) at Auburn; Rice (+24) at Notre Dame; Navy (+17) vs. Ohio State.



Last Updated (Thursday, 28 August 2014 03:08)



With the shocking and sad news that Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller likely is lost for the season, it’s now official: the Buckeyes’ quarterback’s legacy likely will be as one of the most talented ever to play in Ohio Stadium – and definitely the most injury-prone.

Granted, his right shoulder injury is an extension of the injury he sustained at the end of last season and warranted what was called then “minor” surgery. But since he injured it Monday in a non-contact drill, how minor could it have been?

Either he wasn’t healed or ready to return to practice, or there is a serious issue with the shoulder.

Even though he was spectacular when on the field, Miller just could not stay healthy for long stretches of time. He’s had leg injuries, a concussion (Purdue, 2012) and now this. Where’s Kenny Guiton when you need him? (For the record, in the Arena Football League).

If Miller truly is out for the season, I hope he has solid plans to redshirt and get healthy to play the entire 2015 season, rather than declaring himself eligible for next April’s NFL draft.

Since he played as a true freshman in the disastrous 2011 season and did not redshirt, he would automatically be granted a medical redshirt by the NCAA for next season. And let's face it, most NFL insiders consider him a fourth-round pick at best.

Whatever the case, the Buckeyes’ hopes of qualifying for the first college football playoff, and they were one of four heavy favorites along with Alabama, Florida State and Oregon, just took a huge hit.

Last Updated (Tuesday, 19 August 2014 17:17)



My top 10 as the college football season approaches….

1. Florida State (14-0 last season) – How can you not put the Seminoles at No. 1, exactly where they left off in January? It would be shocking to not see them in the inaugural four-team playoff. SCHEDULE: The two best teams on the schedule, Clemson and Notre Dame, are in Tallahassee. Rivals Miami and Florida shouldn’t be threats. Doesn’t appear to be a game that will end the Seminoles’ winning streak.

2. Oklahoma (11-2) – Bob Stoops is still searching for that elusive second national title, now 14 years from that first one. He may get it this year, riding obvious momentum from the 45-31 whipping handed to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl in which QB Trevor Knight was spectacular. SCHEDULE: La Tech, Tulsa and Tennessee at home will allow the Sooners to get off to a good start, and Texas (Oct. 11) will not be a threat this year. Baylor and rival Oklahoma State are both at Norman.

3. Ohio State (12-2) – The Buckeyes have to prove themselves to the skeptics all over again in the wake of season-ending losses to Michigan State (a missed block on fourth-and-two) and Clemson in the Orange Bowl (a fumbled punt return by Corey “Philly” Brown changed momentum when the Buckeyes had control of  the game). SCHEDULE: Not as easy as it appears, since Cincinnati will give the Buckeyes their best shot on Sept. 27 and there are trips to East Lansing and State College, Pa.

4. Alabama (11-2) – If Nick Saban gets quarterback production without turnovers, etc., in replacing three-year starter AJ McCarron, Alabama will be just fine. SCHEDULE: Florida Atlantic, Southern Miss and Western Carolina? Yes, it lines up nicely to get the Tide to the four-team playoff. They even have a week off before the Nov. 8 trip to LSU, by far their toughest game on the schedule.

5. Oregon (11-2) – Doesn’t it seem like Marcus Mariota has been the starter for eight or nine years now? SCHEDULE: The Ducks host Michigan State Sept. 6 (and will romp over the Spartans) but the huge game is the Oct. 11 trip to UCLA.

6. UCLA (10-3) -- The Bruins could be the sleeper team to make the playoff. QB Brett Hundley is the real deal and Jim Mora Jr. is one of college football’s brightest coaches. He promised to take LA back from USC, and he has done just that. SCHEDULE: See above, Oct. 11 is the big one, but the Bruins must also play at Arizona State, at Washington and home against Stanford. One of the toughest schedules in the country.

7. Baylor (11-2) – QB Bryce Petty is back to run Art Briles’ point-a-minute offense. Can the Bears finally put it all together and become a national player into November? SCHEDULE: September is a cakewalk with SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo. The biggest test will be at Oklahoma Nov. 8.

8. South Carolina (11-2) – I think the Gamecocks’ offense will be just fine with Connor Shaw gone and Dylan Thompson stepping in at QB. Question is, will the defense be consistent enough to help them win every game, now that DE Jadeveon Clowney is gone? SCHEDULE: Texas A&M and Georgia are at home in September. The three toughest road games – at Auburn, at Florida and at Clemson – may not be as tough as they appear on paper. And the Gamecocks own Clemson, having won five in a row in the rivalry.

9. Georgia (8-5) – Can the Bulldogs stay healthy? Although they were decimated with injuries in 2013, it helped develop depth for this season. And nine starters return on defense. SCHEDULE: Clemson and South Carolina to start has to amount to be the toughest September for any contender.

10. Auburn (12-2) – Everybody’s picking the Tigers to be in the thick of it again and I may have them ranked too low. But I don’t see them winning at Alabama and the timing of that loss (end of season) would keep them out of the playoff. SCHEDULE: Will beat Arkansas in the opener without QB Nick Marshall (suspended). At Kansas State Sept. 13 is a tough pre-SEC game for the Tigers.



Last Updated (Friday, 08 August 2014 14:36)



I’ve always placed Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops near the top of the respect ladder when it comes to rating FBS head coaches, but I have to question his decision to allow former Missouri receiver Dorial Green-Beckham to join the Sooners.

Green-Beckham had as many as four off-field incidents at Mizzou, including allegedly tossing a fellow student down a flight of stairs and two arrests relating to marijuana.

Stoops does have a great track record of running a strict program with limited off-the-field issues, and has rehabbed players’ broken images in the past. But this point precedes that – why give this player yet another chance when it appears he had wasted his second, third and fourth chances?

There should be serious ramifications for his actions, such as having to watch college football on TV for a full season before being eligible for the NFL draft, where his character issues would be poked and prodded by the league’s CIA-like investigators.

My hunch is this has something to do with Stoops’ grudge against the SEC.

I would doubt Green-Beckham, as talented as he is (17 touchdown receptions in two seasons), would be able to set foot anywhere near the Norman campus if Missouri still was a member of the Big 12. But since the Tigers bolted for the SEC, there is no love lost there.

Only Stoops knows if that is true.


But the move sure is curious.

Last Updated (Friday, 04 July 2014 09:30)

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