Its football time-I know you're gladAs most regulars are aware, most of the time this weblog is devoted to entries of a political or religious significance. It is true, however, that I have a background as a sports commentator and those readers who are aware of this have sent me messages privately lately saying "Oatney, it is almost football season, when on earth are you going to talk about college football." Fair enough. This is not exclusively a sports blog, but I think a lot of you are saying "you know you have something to say about sports, especially now that it's football time."
Two questions that I'm getting from people who know my biases well are:
"Who do you think is going to win the SEC (by which many people really mean "how is Tennessee going to do")
"Is Ohio State really as good as what people are saying?"
I pull no punches and butter over nothing, so I'll start with the disappointing news first. Tennessee is not going to win an SEC Championship this year. I do not believe they'll even make it to Atlanta. A team that starts the year with so many members of its freshman class facing NCAA Clearinghouse questions or issues and two being dismissed from the team is already showing signs of a lack of coherence. These young men are distracted. Further, I'll just be straight with my readers even if it makes me unpopular for awhile-there is a great coach on the Vols' staff, and it isn't Philip Fulmer. David Cutcliffe is the glue that will hold the offense together, and he is helped by the fact that the rediculous platoon system at quarterback-a system that does not win championships but only causes offensive confusion-will finally come to an end. Because of Cutcliffe, we can be assured that the Vols will have a better year than last year's disaster. If the Vols do not win at least seven games, they will have a new head coach next season. It speaks volumes that the Vols are not in the Power 16 to start the season like they were last year and so many seasons in a row. Tennessee goes to the Peach Bowl.
SEC Champions: Auburn.
Now, is Ohio State really that good? This is by far the best Ohio State team I have seen since the 1996 team that beat Arizona State in the Rose Bowl. The truth of the matter is that the 2002 team was not nearly as good as the '96 team, yet they won a national title. "Oatney, that makes no sense," you say. No it doesn't, but that is really the reality and speaks to just how good a coach Jim Tressel really is.
They are that good but I am not ready to crown the Bucks national champions just yet. There are three games on the schedule that even the best teams would have serious trouble with. The first will be September 9th against Texas in Austin. Last year's contest in Columbus was right up there with Alabama-Tennessee on my "2005 Games of the Year" list, and this year, the Ohio State-Texas showdown could decide the National Championship. Both teams know this, so I expect a war-especially since the 'Horns are the defending champs and will not take kindly to a loss on their home turf. The second decider will be September 30th at Iowa. The Hawkeyes look as good this year as they did at the start of their 2002 Big Ten co-championship season, and in their minds, the prime time contest could send them to Pasadena. If Ohio State survives those two tests, they then must look to the third Saturday in November. I never predict whether Ohio State or Michigan is going to win a national title at the beginning of the year because the outcome of this game is simply unpredictable. Only the Iron Bowl, in my mind, can say that it is a rivalry based on pure, real, and total hatred like this game is. Ohio State-Michigan is many things-Christian is not one of them.
Ohio State (Big Ten Champions) goes to the Rose Bowl.