AROUND THE NATION
Never understood his decision in the first place, choosing Cardale Jones over J.T. Barrett as Ohio State’s starting QB for 2015. But Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer has, inexplicably, painted himself into a corner here in which he’s teetering on the edge of breaking some fragile egos. Thing is, he got caught up, like everyone else, in the hype surrounding Jones’ surprising performance in the team’s final three games and all the talk about the kid’s big arm and pro potential, and ignored one simple fact: for Ohio State, Barrett is the better QB. Period. He’s better than Braxton Miller was. He’s better than Jones is. The body of evidence, over the long haul and in small snippets, to that reality is anvil-to-the-head obvious. For your team’s sake, make the switch, Urb, and just be done with it.
For those still struggling with Michigan’s last-play meltdown against Michigan State, perhaps this may help: the Wolverines had no business being ahead 23-21 right then in the first place. The visiting Spartans outgained Michigan, 386-230. Heck, MSU should’ve been ahead 10 to 14 points by then already. The bigger fallouts from this one were individual: for Michigan punter Blake O’Neill, whose botched recovery of a bad snap and lame throw paved the way for the impossible, Michigan LB Joe Bolden, who wrongly was ejected for targeting the helmet of Connor Cook when he merely was pushed into the MSU QB by an MSU offensive lineman, and MSU hero Jalen Watts-Jackson, who incurred a season-ending hip injury during his game-winning fumble return for a touchdown.
Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi may be drawing some attention to his program with some well-placed and well-timed commentary aimed at nudging in-state No. 1 (among fans and media) Penn State, but, really, what about the job the former MSU assistant is doing with the Panthers? They’re 5-1 and ranked for the first time in five years at No. 25, and they’re doing this with RB James Conner, the best offensive player in the ACC, sidelined for the rest of the season due to knee surgery. Frankly, they could be 6-0, only unbeaten Iowa, now ranked No. 13, kicked a game-winning FG on the final play to seal a 27-24 decision in Week 3. Regardless, Pitt is the best ACC team this side of top-10 squads Clemson and Florida State – although fans of fellow Coast Division member Duke may debate such talk.
My other alma mater, Illinois, will break out its ode to Red Grange for the second year in a row on Homecoming, with the Illini set to wear the same “Gray Ghost” attire that nabbed them an upset victory over Minnesota when unveiled last October. They blew an early 14-0 advantage, but had the Galloping Ghost smile down from the heavens when LB T.J. Neal stripped the ball from Gophers RB David Cobb and DB V’Angelo Bentley scooped it up and ran it into the end zone to make it 28-24, Illini – a score the hosts’ D made hold up over the final 6:33. Frankly, the Illini have many sweet combos from which to choose, courtesy of a recent rebranding with Nike, all of them probably nicer-looking than the Gray Ghost getup. But it does have a certain charm to it, and history behind it.