Quick, how do you make your life as an underdog a bit more difficult ahead of the 96th Rose Bowl? Why, you lose two or more players in the runup to the bowl as a result of academic shortcomings or the ever-nebulous "violation of team rules".
After word of Duron Carter and Rob Rose's classroom struggles leaked last week, the University issued a statement saying Carter would not be making the trip to Pasadena, but seemed to leave the door open for Rose's return to good graces by way of conspicuous absence in the Carter release. Rose apparently completed extra work to maintain his bowl eligibility and was set to see action against the Ducks, but word again leaked Sunday night indicating Rose likely won't be playing, after all. And the status of others is up in the air as well, including the mayor of Tressel's doghouse, Ray Small, and spring game workhorse Bo Delande.
Assuming the worst, and the Buckeyes take the field without Small and Rose (in addition to the guaranteed loss of Carter), the hit won't doom the team. Rose was part of the depth that made the defensive front so dangerous and had his moments, like the two sack performance he turned in against the Badgers and Carter and Small are third and fourth on the team in receiving yards, but we're not talking Ginn out on the first play of the game devastation here. Rose registered just one assisted tackle over the last seven games of the season and it's worth pointing out that Carter and Small are the third and fourth receivers on a team that's not particularly proficient passing the ball (that's being generous, I know -- the two account for about 15 yards per game each).
Need further calming nuggets? Take a look at the line, which hasn't really budged from where it opened despite the seven days of bad news in Columbus.
Now, Small and Carter were the team's top two punt return guys, so Dane and/or Posey could figure to be seeing action there on the 1st, while Flash and Saine would likely be the kick return tandem.
Where I think the losses will hurt a little is just from a depth standpoint. When the Buckeyes go to four and five receiver sets, there will be two or three guys in the game that spent the entire season running with the twos and the team's ability to put pressure on the Duck secondary will be limited, both from a passing and running perspective. Thomas and Washington, the two receivers that could benefit the most from Small and Carter's absence, are both constant transfer worries, so it will be interesting to see if they can step up and prove they should be receiving the playing time they think they're entitle to.
One more thing to think about: Will Bryant Browning go down as the top performer out of the '06 Tarblooder crop? I think the answer to that might already be yes.
December Really Not That Totally Awesome for Pete Carroll
As if an 8-4 regular season and a trip to the Emerald Bowl (hey, at least they'll get to travel for once) weren't enough, Pete Carroll is on pace to have the Worst December Ever. In the span of two weeks, Carroll was lobbed an infidelity bomb by outgoing Irish coach Charlie Weis and then picks up his Saturday Los Angeles Times to read about his star running back driving a Land Rover owned by a man that has a company called "USC Marketing".
Oh, but it's cool. The guy is really a Washington Husky fan and the full name of the company is "United States China Marketing". Really.
Oh yeah: The Big Ten has made it clear that they will consider all avenues in terms of the who and hows of expansion, and ESPN's Adam Rittenberg points out something that should be a given: with the compact geographical footprint of the conference, geography should not be a major priority when aligning the conferences... The key to getting the Ducks to Pasadena? Don't let Bellotti coach the team... The Wolverines' Donovan Warren is headed to the NFL and Brian Kelly is smiling somewhere in northern Indiana.