Call it a humbling experience for me, er, I mean, the Oregon Ducks. Despite being slight favorites and boasting a nifty offense with startling speed, Oregon succumbed to an Ohio State team I thought didn’t have a prayer.
I was dead wrong… and that fact made my season-long rant look pretty arrogant and, well, stupid.
Two things happened to the Ducks this New Year’s Day: 1.) Jim Tressel, 2.) Terrelle Pryor.
Let’s start with Tressel. Tressel is conservative, predictable and relatively boring. Today, he was none of the above. His defense wasn’t simply disciplined, it did some interesting things and the guy who looks like he should be in his fourth or fifth year in the NFL (Worthington, I think?) was freakin’ awesome. Ohio State’s staunch defense harassed not only the Oregon quarterback, but its receivers at the line of scrimmage.
The offense was anything but predictable. Tressel let Pryor loose — finally. Finally, Pryor wasn’t just in it to hand the ball off and serve as a decoy. Tressel’s offense today was centered around Pryor. And Pryor responded. He looked Rothlisberger-esque the way he shook off defenders. He looked like a beast running the ball, a master throwing the ball, and he had great chemistry with his receivers. Tressel took off the restraints, put some trust in his sophomore signal caller and, in doing so, unveiled a 2010 Heisman candidate.
Oregon was the team that looked predictable. The read-option that Jeremiah Masoli operated so well this year was pretty darn stale, especially when Masoli hardly ever took the ball himself. Ed Dickson disappeared in a scarlet and grey mass at the line of scrimmage.
The Big Ten looked great today — even in its Outback Bowl loss. (Hats off to Mike Kafka… Too bad Northwestern couldn’t pull that off, but with three chances at the end, it really should have.)
The Pac-10 went 2-4 in bowl games this season. USC looked damn good in its bowl (as usual.) There isn’t much shame in losing to BYU or Utah, and I think Stanford did a hell of a job with a backup quarterback. But Arizona and Oregon really, really disappointed.
So, being so impressed with Ohio State and Penn State — and Northwestern — I hereby promise not to needlessly rip the Big Ten for the entire offseason and for the 2010 season.
However, I will still rant about a couple things: All 11 teams need to play each other. The conference doesn’t need another team, it just needs for each team to play all 10 teams. (Doesn’t that seem obvious?) And a little more competition and few fewer MAC or I-AA targets would be nice on the preseason schedule, too. (I love that Penn State actually travels to Alabama in ’10, and that OSU hosts Miami — even if all four of its preseason games are at home.) And, ff Tressel ball-and-chains Pryor next season, I’m allowed to bitch about that, too — as should everyone Columbus!
But, aside from those points, I’m silenced. Good, innovative play does that.