The Thundering Herd, On Deck

The Buckeyes have completed fall camp and begin their season Thursday night against the Marshall Thundering Herd.

First games always make me nervous, and this game is no exception.  The other team hasn’t played, and you don’t have any film or tendencies to study.  In addition, in the past few years Ohio State has played their second or third game of the year against a marquee team — including Texas, USC, and, this year, Miami — and I always wonder whether the Buckeyes will look past their first opponent.  It seemed to happen last year against Navy, and we’ll just have to hope that it doesn’t happen against Marshall this year.  Buckeyes fans know that Marshall can come to Columbus and deliver a nailbiter; Marshall almost upset Ohio State back in 2004.

What do we know about Marshall?  Not a lot.  They hail from West Virginia and have a bison as a mascot.  They have a new coach.  They have three returning starters on their offensive line and an experienced quarterback who started 13 games last year and who has chemistry with a wide receiver who caught 60 passes last year.  Having experienced players is a real plus when you are playing in a tough environment like the Horseshoe.  Their leading rusher from last year turned pro early; two sophomores will have to pick up the slack.  On defense, Marshall returns some capable defensive lineman and linebackers who look like they can hit and put pressure on the quarterback.  However, the team seems to be thin in the secondary.

As for the Buckeyes, the big question will be whether the team will continue to progress in the same positive direction we saw in the Rose Bowl.  Offensively, Ohio State has an experienced offensive line and a cadre of very solid, multi-dimensional running backs.  Terrelle Pryor, now a junior, made significant strides as a passer last season after the disastrous Purdue game, and Buckeye fans will be hoping that the improvement continues.  The receiving corps has been depleted but returns some quality receivers.  Defensively, Ohio State lost some exceptional players from last year’s defensive line, but that unit looks to have great depth and a returning stud in Cameron Heyward.  The linebackers are experienced, rangy, and able to hit.  Ohio State’s question on defense will be the defensive backfield.

We’ll find out more about this season on Thursday night.  It will be one of those games where I will be holding my breath.

Katrina’s Five-Year Anniversary

It’s the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  The media usually cannot resist anniversaries, particularly when there is powerful film footage to show, and this one is no exception.  This CNN story on the anniversary is typical — a rehash of what happened, some hand-wringing about it, and plenty of retrospective blame being put on President Bush and the federal government, but curiously not much blame being apportioned to the State of Louisiana or the City of New Orleans itself.

I’m not sure what to make of such stories.  With Katrina, the federal government did not cover itself with glory in dealing with an enormous catastrophe, and neither did the state or city government.  People were marooned on the roofs of their homes, were not readily supplied with food and water, and could not be evacuated quickly from the hellish environs of the Superdome.  We learned that the federal government is a ponderous entity that does not move with lightning speed.  Was that unique to the Bush Administration?  Apparently not, because we recently saw a plodding, uncoordinated federal government make a similarly muddled response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.   Katrina also taught us that the Louisiana state government and the New Orleans city governments were corrupt, inept and seemingly hamstrung by politics.  Has anything changed in that regard?

If I had my way, every retrospective story on a disaster like Hurricane Katrina would focus not on what happened — we can safely leave that to historians — but on how things have changed to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.  No blame-shifting politicians or social scientists could be quoted.  Instead, facts would be the focus.  Have the levees been sufficiently strengthened?  Have cumbersome federal bureaucracies been streamlined to better deal with disasters?  Are evacuation plans reasonable and capable of being implemented?  If Katrina were to happen again today, would the results be any different?  If so, why?  Those are the tough questions that “retrospective” stories tend to leave unanswered.