Friday, December 13, 2002
Ohio State's staying the course
By Terry Bowden
Special to ABC Sports Online
Ohio State keeps finding a way to win tight games, including last week's 23-16 overtime win at Illinois, and many wonder when that will take its toll. But it is just their style to keep things tight.
The Buckeyes play great defense, but when they get to the red zone on offense they are looking for a field goal. They just figure if other teams cannot score then three points at a time are enough to win the game. And you can be sure no one was more surprised than OSU coach Jim Tressel when kicker Mike Nugent, who came in with a string of 21 straight field goals, missed twice in this game.
It is time for Ohio State to realize that with Maurice Clarett banged up, it is quarterback Craig Krenzel who will have to lead it to victory against Michigan. Maurice Hall and Lydell Ross can fill in adequately for Clarett, but the Buckeyes must give Krenzel a chance to make some plays against the Wolverines. He has shown the ability to make big plays that win games, so OSU needs to hit Michael Jenkins on a few deep balls.
But if there is one great thing about the Buckeyes it is that they won't go away. These guys have learned how to fight for 60 minutes in a tough game and that will serve them well at the end of the season.
Huskies roast the Ducks
It was supposed to be Oregon's running game that would be the difference against Washington. The Huskies have one of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-10 in Cody Pickett and he would get his points, but everyone has stopped the UW running game and the Ducks had a strong running attack of their own.
Well, Oregon let Washington run all over it in a game the Ducks had to have. Washington rushed for 163 yards and had 479 yards of total offense in a 42-14 win, and when the Ducks cannot turn it on against one of their hated rivals I do not think there is much chance for them to get going against Oregon State next week.
Washington, on the other hand, looks primed for the Apple Cup against Washington State. The Huskies have a chance to be the ultimate spoiler in the Pac-10 and the country because Wazzu has to be thinking there is a loss in the cards for Miami or Ohio State, meaning Jason Gesser will be tossing TD passes in the Fiesta Bowl.
Rick Neuheisel's team would like nothing better than to bring the Cougars back to earth.
Kliff is climbing
If Kliff Kingsbury was not on your Heisman list before Texas Tech's 42-38 upset of Texas, you better clear out a spot. he certainly climbed to the top of my list after a 473-yard, six-TD performance that featured not a single interception.
If you are going to look at performance and stats when talking about who has played best at QB this season, no one comes close to Kingsbury's 41 touchdown passes. If we see a repeat performance this week against Oklahoma and Tech becomes the surprise winner of the Big 12, Kliff had better learn to strike that Heisman pose.
The point is, the Heisman race is so wide open that the leader changes from week to week. What has not changed, though, is Texas not winning the Big 12 title.
McPherson is the man
In a game against a team that took its swagger away last year, Florida State was able to come back with a little revenge in a 40-14 romp over North Carolina.
With a ton of injuries along the offensive line and in the backfield, the 'Noles had to see if they could win through the air rather than playing it safe and not risking turnovers. Freshman quarterback Adrian McPherson had to be able to throw touchdowns and he came through big with four scoring passes, including three to Anquan Boldin. Chris Rix was even able to get in late and add a long TD pass.
As for a quarterback controversy at FSU, it is now apparent that McPherson is the guy the Seminoles are going to hang their hat on. Still, it was nice to see that Rix is ready and waiting for the time he might be called on again.
But it is the Florida State defense and its ability to limit big plays that has given the 'Noles a chance to win the ACC title and play in a BCS bowl game. They can assure themselves of that this week against NC State, but even though the Wolfpack has lost three straight it proved last year that it can beat FSU.
Terry Bowden is an analyst for ABC Sports and contributes a weekly column to ESPN.com.