The Buckeyes, At 9-0

I was very glad to see the Buckeyes beat Penn State tonight — and not just because the win left the Buckeyes undefeated and 9-0.

Ohio State controlled the line of scrimmage.  On offense, the Buckeyes ran the ball down the Nittany Lions’ throats.  Braxton Miller was brilliant, but I liked that Carlos Hyde ran very hard and got a lot of tough yards for the Buckeyes.  I also liked that the offense put the game away when Miller combined with Jake Stoneburner for a backbreaking 72-yard touchdown pass.  I liked the call and the killer instinct that we are seeing from Coach Urban Meyer, and I also liked that the play crushed the enthusiasm of the previously raucous Penn State “white-out” crowd.  Quieting the crowd in one of college football’s best atmospheres was very satisfying.

In my view, though, accolades must go to the defense.  The Silver Bullets were back, and dominated the Penn State offensive line.  Penn State could not run the ball, and the Buckeyes harassed Matt McGloin into the crucial turnover — the pick six that Ryan Shazier turned into a touchdown.  I thought the Buckeyes’ D controlled the Penn State offense, and that is what I like to see from the Ohio State defense:  tackles behind the line of scrimmage, hard hits, and quarterbacks forced to throw the ball out of bounds as they are running for their lives.

I never thought this team — which had a losing record last year — would make it to 9-0.  They may not be the best team in the country, but they play hard.  That they have reached 9-0 is a testament to the team’s toughness and — frankly — the Big Ten’s weakness.  Next week the Buckeyes play the Fighting Illini.  I’ll be there, and I’ll be hoping to see more of the hungry, hard-hitting team that I saw tonight, ready to take it to 10-0.

What If They Gave A Debate And Nobody Cared?

With all of the focus on the Buckeye State in the presidential election, we Ohioans can be excused for forgetting that we will be voting on many races on November 6.  For example, we’ll be deciding whether to retain incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown or elect Republican Josh Mandel instead.

Normally a Senate race is a big deal, but this year I’m not hearing anyone talk about the Brown-Mandel contest — and I work in an office where many people, from both parties, are very interested in politics.  The candidates have had three debates, but only one was broadcast on TV and I don’t know anyone who watched it.  I’m sure that all of the debates were fully covered in the daily newspapers, but Kish and I don’t subscribe to a daily newspaper any longer, and I haven’t seen any coverage of the debates when I’ve visited state news websites.  As a result, I assume that not much happened — no gaffes, no knee-buckling zingers, and probably not much of in the way of any kind of news.

I think that means lots of people will be voting on Election Day without much information.  If Ohioans know anything about the race, they know that Sherrod Brown backed the GM-Chrysler bailout.  Brown mentions that whenever he can; if he could walk around carrying a large flashing billboard advertising that fact, I think he would.  Mandel, on the other hand, is a relative newcomer to politics who presents himself as a fiscal conservative tax-cutter; if most Ohioans know anything about him, it is that he served in the military post-9/11.  The campaign ads haven’t done much to address the information deficit, either.

An electorate with ADD is going to be unpredictable, and therefore the polls — which indicate that Brown is ahead by anywhere from one to nine points — probably don’t mean much.  People will get into the voting booth and make a decision, and name and party affiliation will likely tell the tale.  Fortunately for the incumbent, Brown has always been a magical name in Ohio politics.  If Mandel is going to win, he’d better hope that Mitt Romney wins and has very long coattails.

Let The Foreign Observers Watch, And Learn

There’s been a bit of a tempest in a teapot recently about the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) sending monitors to watch this year’s presidential election.  The Attorney General in Texas has said that the OSCE monitors will face prosecution if they interfere with the election.  That hasn’t gone down well with the OSCE, which says that the U.S. has an obligation to allow monitors to observe the election.

Interestingly, the NAACP sent a letter to the head of the monitoring team urging the OSCE to place monitors in states — including Ohio — where the NAACP believes that voting ID laws and early voting restrictions have been adopted.  The letter urged that “monitors should be particularly vigilant about requests for, and acceptance of, identification of those seeking to vote, particularly if certain groups, such as racial minorities and young voters, are being targeted.”  The NAACP thinks that “election observation helps to improve our citizens’ trust and confidence in election results.”

Apparently the OSCE has been monitoring U.S. elections since 2002.  Who knew?  I’m sure that, like the NAACP, all Americans now feel a tremendous sense of comfort that foreign observers from well-established democratic bastions like Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are keeping an eye on those nefarious blue-haired ladies who staff our polling places.  Countries with such strong democratic traditions no doubt have a lot to teach the nation that is the oldest, and most successful, functioning democracy on Earth.

I don’t think we should threaten the OSCE observers with prosecution, of course, but let’s not kid ourselves:  representatives of other countries should be coming here to learn how free and fair elections are held, not to judge whether our processes stack up to whatever odd standards have been devised in the bureaucratic depths of an organization like the OSCE.  And, if the OSCE is one of those organizations that is largely funded by U.S. tax dollars, don’t expect us to pay for the useful education that the OSCE representatives will receive.

The Ineligible Bowl

This afternoon — at the weird starting time of 5:30 — the Ohio State Buckeyes play the Penn State Nittany Lions at Happy Valley.  Both of the traditional powers are undefeated in the Big Ten.

Normally the game would be a big deal nationally, but not this year.  Both teams are ineligible for the Big Ten championship game and bowl games.  Ohio State is on probation for one year due to NCAA violations.  For Penn State, post-season is off limits long term due to its awful institutional breakdowns in connection with the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

For the players, that just means that today’s game is a bigger deal than it would be otherwise.  If you’re Penn State, the best way to keep your program going during your prolonged period of ineligibility is to beat teams like Ohio State that will be competing with you out on the recruiting trail.  If you’re Ohio State, you just want to try to run the table and win every game and preserve bragging rights.  Neither team has the chance to end the season with a high note in a bowl game, so the regular season really counts.

How do these teams match up?  That’s hard to say, because it’s becoming increasingly clear that this year’s Big Ten, top to bottom, is as weak as it has been in a very long time.  Ohio State has won impressively and in squeakers.  In some games its defense has played well and the offense has struggled, and in others its offense has been unstoppable and its defense has been a cheesecloth curtain.  The Buckeyes have won, sure, but it doesn’t seem that any of the wins really say a lot about the quality of the team.  Penn State, on the other hand, began the season with two losses as its offense struggled, but since then it has found a way to score and its defense has been solid.

I think you have to give the edge to Penn State in this game if Braxton Miller is sidelined after being knocked out of last week’s game.  Happy Valley is an intimidating venue under any circumstances, but this year the fans will be particularly pumped for the game.  As well as replacement QB Kenny Guiton played in leading the Buckeyes to a miracle win against Purdue, Miller gives OSU a big play threat  it doesn’t have otherwise.  It’s hard to see Ohio State grinding out a lot of points against a stout Penn State defense.  Penn State’s offense is led by senior quarterback Matt McGloin, who has played well after a shaky start, throwing for 14 TDs and good yardage and avoiding turnovers.  To win, Ohio State will need to bottle up McGloin, force some turnovers, and take advantage of every scoring opportunity that is presented.