Eat it, Good King Wenceslas. First thing's first: Happy Holidays. Whether you're celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Chrismahanukwanzakah, Festivus, or nothing at all, best wishes to you and yours. Enjoy a non-denominational, underrated holiday classic by one of yours truly's favorite bands, The Pogues.
You and your high-top sneakers and your sailor tattoos, and your old '55 that you drove through the roof... For those of you who didn't catch it during yesterday's anarchy, Ohio State AD Gene Smith weighed in on just why the players committed these violations:
Smith said the players sold championship rings and other items to help their families during a rough economic time. While not condoning players' actions, Smith said they went into the decisions "with the right intent, to help their families."
This situation certainly refuels the debate about whether college players should be paid -- Ohio State safety Jermale Hines defended his teammates here and here -- but it's a tough argument for Smith to win. Pryor and his teammates get a lot of perks simply for being Ohio State football players, not the least of which is a free education. And they're certainly not the only people in Columbus dealing with a tough economy.
While a lot of folks are jumping on the tattoo thing, this situation was about money.
"The discount on tattoos is not as big as the other pieces," Smith said. "The cash was relative to family needs. The bigger violation is the cash."
As someone who has advocated for a system player pay in the past, and as someone who is presently a poor college student, I can empathize. But everyone reading this has probably also been a poor college student at some point, and they didn't get free meals, free room and board, and 24-hour tutor help in all of their courses. Times are hard, but no matter how hard the times are, violations are violations, and should not be excused, as Smith rightfully acknowledged. We are not a program that consistently thumbs it nose at the NCAA, no matter how haphazard, misguided and antiquated it may be in applying its rules. Hopefully, the appeal by the OSU AD knocks a couple games off of the suspensions, but I wouldn't count on it.
Hey, other things did happen yesterday. Except they didn't really, but people did write some more about the Sugar Bowl. The Dispatch covered the chaos in full, but also took the time to offer two Sugar Bowl previews. One seems more relevant than ever now:
The Buckeyes are loaded at running back for the foreseeable future in terms of numbers and potential. Call it a future conundrum for the coaches, senior linebacker Ross Homan said, but don't call it a problem.
Now there are murmurs that Herron might forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
Prior to yesterday's catastrophe, Herron leaving early for the NFL seemed like a reach. He doesn't have great size, has merely adequate speed, and hasn't shown a penchant for breaking tackles until the latter part of this season. Now, it seems like an inevitability if he gets a good recommendation from the NFL draft advisory board. It's not like he'll be leaving behind a bare cupboard: Jordan Hall and Jaamal Berry are the next big things at tailback, while Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith will each be vying for more than a back-up role in the Ohio State offense.
Meanwhile, in other Sugar Bowl previewing The Arkansas defense, and leader at linebacker Jerry Franklin, gets a fluff piece:
A year ago, the Razorbacks couldn't. They finished 89th of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in total defense. Heading into the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4 against Ohio State, this year's Razorbacks rank 33rd. They are giving up 61 fewer yards per game than in 2009.
In preseason practice, Franklin was shifted from middle linebacker to weak-side linebacker before being moved back. Once the season began, Franklin asserted himself as the defense's leader. "He has a great understanding of what we're trying to get done," defensive coordinator Willy Robinson told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "He's a very fluid football player, and he's quick to react." Franklin has 93 tackles this season, again the most on the team. He was named a second team all-SEC player.
Franklin isn't exactly Mr. Unblockable or anything, but he's enough of an impact player that the Buckeyes will need to make sure he's accounted for on every play in the Sugar Bowl. He, along with DE Jake Bequette, the team's leader in sacks, are vital to Arkansas' defensive gameplan.
Big Ten bowl season is upon us. And it's not looking good for a majority of the conference's teams. Four games against SEC teams, only one game in which the Big Ten team is favored (Arkansas-Ohio State until it got taken down), and of course, with the locations of each bowl game, each one is more or less a de facto road game for the Big Ten team. But hey, things looked ugly last year, and the Big Ten emerged with a winning record and two BCS bowl winners, and could replicate that feat again this year. Still, the raw numbers remain ugly:
The Big Ten's newest addition, Nebraska, gets an easy draw when it faces Washington, a team it shellacked 56-21 in Seattle last September. For everyone else, it's an uphill battle. But if Iowa aren't as bad as they looked in the latter half of the season, and if Michigan State surprises against Alabama, all the hand-wringing will be for naught.
Other news and notes. Penn State dodged a bullet when Steve Addazio was hired at Temple rather than longtime assistant Tom Bradley, forgoing a major staff overhaul for at least another season... Purdue DE and former Buckeye terrorizer Ryan Kerrigan is thankfully getting ready for the NFL draft... Iowa - still basically the team that went and won an Orange Bowl a year ago were it not for suspensions and injuries to key players - is trying to put the last few weeks of the season and post-season behind them... and there's still a chance RichRod could be let go in the offseason, but Michigan players need to focus on their bowl game against Mississippi State regardless.