On (To) Wisconsin

This week the Buckeyes travel to Madison, Wisconsin and Camp Randall Stadium to take on the Badgers in the biggest game of the season to date.  Freshly dubbed the no. 1 team in the country, the Buckeyes must find a way to beat a tough, physical team in a night game in one of the most raucous venues in the land.  ESPN’s Game Day will be there, and lots of experts will be watching the game to see whether Ohio State really is deserving of its new ranking.

How can Ohio State win the game?  Well, they need to figure out how to stop Wisconsin’s running attack.  The Badgers’ ground game is spearheaded by junior John Clay, a big, punishing runner who can bust through the line of scrimmage and run people over.  Clay is one of the premier running backs in the nation.  He averages 6 yards a carry, has scored 9 touchdowns, and leads a rushing game that is the 11th best in the country.  Stopping the run has been a strength for Ohio State this year, but Clay, James White, and Montee Ball are in a different league than the other backs the Buckeyes have faced this year.

This will be a game where the offense has to help the defense.  Turnovers could be killers, not just because they keep Ohio State from scoring but also because they will further energize a loud crowd and allow Clay and colleagues to keep pounding away at the Buckeye defense.  The problems with the Ohio State special teams this year also mean that the less reliance on the punting unit, the better.  Ohio State’s offense has to protect the ball while also putting some points on the board and keeping the defense off the field.  Wisconsin has a fine quarterback in senior Scott Tolzien, but I’d rather face a Wisconsin that is throwing the ball to try to catch up than a Wisconsin that is running the ball down Ohio State’s throat.  A lot will depend on Terrelle Pryor, his scrambling, and his ability to hit Ohio State receivers — and if Ohio State were to get a solid effort from its running backs that would be useful, too.

The intangibles in this game all favor Wisconsin.  They are playing at home and are looking to turn around a season that ran off the rails a bit when the Badgers lost unexpectedly to Michigan State.  Ohio State, in contrast, will be carrying the burden of a no. 1 ranking for the first time in a long time.  Add to that the challenge of playing at night in a huge stadium that will be packed with screaming fans, and you end up with a very big challenge for the Buckeyes.

Deconstructing The Blather

Recently we received the League of Women Voters Voter Information Bulletin for the Columbus area.  It provides biographical and party affiliation information, poses certain questions to the candidates, and prints their brief responses.  The Q&A stuff is the most interesting, at once both infuriating and perversely hilarious.

For example, one question to Ohio House and Senate candidates notes that Ohio faces a huge budget deficit in the next biennium — estimated to be as much as $8 billion — and asks “What specific revenue increases would you support and what cuts would you make to balance the budget?” (emphasis added)  In his response, Ohio Senate candidate Mark Pfeifer says he’s “not afraid to make government more efficient and accountable.”  (Well, that’s settled!)  But when he gets “specific,” all he mentions is fighting “Medicaid fraud,” encouraging “shared services among local governments,” promoting “wider use of performance audits,” and making use of “the sunset review process to elimination outdated or duplicative state boards.”  That carefully phrased answer sounds like somebody who is afraid to rattle any cages.  Does anyone honestly believe that the “waste, fraud, and abuse” that everyone cites as the way to balance the budget, but somehow never gets cut, is going to close an $8 billion budget gap — or that the other, minor concepts Pfeifer mentions are going to do the trick, either?

In response to that same question, Ohio Senate candidate Charleta Tavares delivers this masterpiece of political blather:   “I have not determined which increases would be most appropriate.  I will work with my colleagues to build a consensus on where to increase revenues and how best to make cuts.  The revenue increases and projected cuts would be based on what is fair, equitable, just and on previous cuts made to programs, services and/or sectors.  The guiding principle would be to ensure that services are focused on the needs of our residents; job growth potential; and cost/benefit analysis (analysis to include financial, health/welfare and jobs impacts).”  Could any answer to a simple question be more meaningless?

Given these kinds of obfuscatory answers — and they are not unique among the responses printed in the Voter Information Bulletin — is it any wonder that voters are fed up?  Democrat, Republican, or Independent, we are sick to death of candidates who try to sneak into office in a haze of obscure rhetoric, all the while knowing exactly what they hope to do but being too timid to say so.

Robert, Embarrassingly Behind Nevaeh And Alfie

Recently I happened to see a list of the most popular baby names in Ohio, and saw that Robert, once again, didn’t make the list.  Oh, you’ll still see Robert on the statewide representation of popular names on the linked webpage  — its located down there near Marietta on the map, along with Audrey and Kyle — but the the article points out that the truly popular choices are names like Nevaeh, Jayden, and Madison.

Apparently the criteria for name selection these days include not only names that have no discernible gender identification, but also names that are unpronounceable.  If you are a kid named Nevaeh — regardless of your gender — every teacher who calls the roll from kindergarten to 12th grade is going to butcher the pronunciation and, deep down, bear tremendous resentment that you didn’t have a familiar, pronounceable name like Bob.  (For record, I’ve learned that Nevaeh, which is “heaven” spelled backward, is a feminine name that is pronounced either ne-VAY-eh or ne-VAY.  I suspect the latter is probably the French pronunciation).

It turns out that Bob hasn’t been popular for decades.  In fact, every decade of my life has seen the name Robert decline in popularity, and recently the decline has been precipitous.   I flatter myself that there is no causal relationship between my role in the world and the plummeting popularity of my name.  But when I see that the top name list of 2009 has Alfie — Alfie! — coming in at number 4 and Robert nowhere to be found, I begin to wonder.  Seriously, Alfie?  It’s embarrassing!