Ohio State Will Be No. 1 - But Don't Expect It to Last

By Kyle Rowland on January 13, 2011 at 4:18p

Yes, these are exciting times in Columbus.

Barring a loss to Penn State on Saturday, Ohio State will assume the No. 1 ranking when the polls are released Monday. Since Thad Matta was hired to lead the basketball program, Ohio State's major sports (football and basketball) have seen almost unprecedented success.

At 17-0, the Buckeyes are off to their third-best start in school history. The No. 1 ranking and undefeated season are all fine and dandy.

Just keep in mind it isn't going to last.

There is nothing wrong with that, though. This is college basketball, not football. In reality, being the top-ranked team during the regular season doesn’t really matter all that much. Building a solid resume, boosting the RPI and winning a conference championship is all much more important. If the No. 1 ranking comes with it, so be it.

The Big Ten is loaded and, like always, winning on the road is a chore. Remaining on the Buckeyes’ schedule are games at Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Purdue and Penn State. You think they are winning all of those games? Sign me up for whatever you are taking.    

Don’t worry, Buckeye fans. Ohio State is well on its way to earning a high-seed in the NCAA Tournament. At this point, it’d be surprising if they were not a one-seed. This team has proven a tremendous amount about themselves in just 17 games.

There is no question they are better than last season’s squad that won 29 games and featured the national player of the year. Arguments can be made that they are better than the 2006-07 team that lost in the national championship game. The Buckeyes have already clobbered a then-Top 10 team on its home court (Florida) and handled Florida State in Tallahassee. That's the same place where Florida State beat No. 1 Duke last night. 

Thad Matta’s freshman class has distinguished itself as the best in the country. Jared Sullinger is a lock for Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Aaron Craft is the point guard the program has been looking for since Mike Conley, Jr. departed for the NBA four seasons ago. Deshaun Thomas has been a spark off the bench.

That being said, anything can and, most of the time, does happen in college hoops. It is the wackiest (in a good way) sport we have. Mid-majors thrive and actually have a realistic chance at winning the national title. San Diego State, led by former Michigan head coach Steve Fisher, is currently one of the four remaining undefeated teams and ranked sixth in the country.   

Not since the Bob Knight-led Indiana Hoosiers won the 1976 national title going 32-0 in the process has college basketball seen a team finish undefeated. UNLV, St. Joseph’s and Illinois have all flirted with the feat, but no one has been able to complete the dream.

Could the Buckeyes be the team that ends a 35-year trend? Yes. Is it probable? No.

Every team has that game where its weaknesses are exposed, they can’t handle the atmosphere on the road or a perfect storm engulfs them.

Jared Sullinger getting in foul trouble (which happened against Michigan), going cold from the three-point line, turnovers and defensive lapses are things that will probably happen when Ohio State loses.

The beauty of it all? Nothing will change when they drop a game. They will still be a prime contender to win a conference title, they’ll still be a Top 5 team and they’ll still have their sights set on Reliant Stadium and the Final Four.

Ohio State won’t go through the regular season undefeated. But why worry about that? Going 6-0 from the middle of March to the first week of April is all that matters in college basketball.


Comments Show All Comments

Alex's picture

As Thad says....I don't care about being #1 in the regular season....let me be #1 at the end of the first week in April

RoweTrain's picture

As I said in Buckshots earlier...not if Herbstreit had anything to say about it.  We'd end up at #5 if he had a ballot.

"Just bow up and go out and play." ~ D. Lee

"As it stands right now, I know I am the best athlete in college football." ~ B. Miller

Kyle Rowland's picture

Yeah, OSU was probably better than ninth. But a) that's what you get when you don't have a playoff. College football is no different than gymnastics. You have judges that give their opinions. b) Who cares? If OSU didn't win the national title, what does it matter if they end up fifth, six, seventh, etc. It doesn't matter. 

RoweTrain's picture

Then why even have an end of the year ballot?  Auburn wins the national championship, so they're obviously #1 and then have no other rankings, done.

"Just bow up and go out and play." ~ D. Lee

"As it stands right now, I know I am the best athlete in college football." ~ B. Miller

Kyle Rowland's picture

Fine by me. There's no real point to them anyway. 

tomcollins's picture

Top 5 seasons count for something.  It's a good metric to judge a team.

You also misunderstand gymnastics judging.  That is much less subjective than football polls. But even the football polls are not that terrible.  Sure, individual voters may differ in opinion, but there are very few bad overall results generated from it.

Tressel has 7 top 5 finishes.  That's absolutely incredible out of 10 seasons.  Getting a title and running hot one season is far less impressive than consistent success at a slightly lower level.  That's why top 5 matters.

btalbert25's picture

I have to agree with both sides really.  If you aren't one of the top 2 teams, playing the title game, then the bowl is more or less meaningless.  At the same time, I do think it's pretty incredible to have 7 top 5 finishes in 10 years.  However, I don't really think it is really any different than if they having 7 top 9's in 10 years either. 

BucksfanXC's picture

Leave it to us to turn a basketball post into a football discussion.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

BuckeyeSki's picture

Football will always be king at tOSU....undefeated season or not

Banned from BlackShoeDiaries since 2008. Crime: Slander/Defamation of Character Judgement: Guilty

RoweTrain's picture

Basketball Bucks...#1!

"Just bow up and go out and play." ~ D. Lee

"As it stands right now, I know I am the best athlete in college football." ~ B. Miller

Buckeye Black's picture

I have a feeling the title jinxed us for our upcoming game against the upset specialists.

Powers's picture

Will the basketball team last longer at #1 then the football team? 2 weeks isnt that daunting is it?

flipbuckeye's picture

Not that anyone cares, but Cam Newton declared for the draft.


How he's projected as a first-round draft pick is beyond me.

tomcollins's picture

QBs are in high demand, Luck isn't going pro.  He's got an accurate arm, is big enough to stand up to NFL hits, and is pretty damn fast.  Late 1st to early 2nd rounder for sure.


Edit:  it looks like most NFL projections have him in the first 15.  Dude is legit.  He'd fit in great at Tennessee.

Kurt's picture

Unless Tennessee is going to adopt some sort of spread-option offense (which they would've already done with VY), he's going to flame out.  He's undoubtedly worse at reading a defense than TP.

RC's picture

Did you really just say "he's got an accurate arm"?!  Have you ever seen him play?

AJ's picture

they ranked him higher than TP as a QB

"Without winners, there wouldn't even be civilization." -----------Woody Hayes

yrro's picture

Because he plays with confidence. TP's biggest problem right now, especially in big games, is that he is indecisive. He doesn't turn upturns and go. He holds the ball too long. That's probably the biggest reason, more than what offense they're in, that Newton has a heisman and TP doesn't.

Colin's picture

I'd disagree, he looked pretty decisive in the Sugar bowl, and in the Rose bowl. He doesn't want to be like Newton and run 50% of the time. And in Ohio State's offense they aren't doing all the short easy routes the whole time. It may not be a true pro system but Ohio State does a heck of a lot more developing Pryor's QB skills than just use his talent like Auburn. Auburn knew Cam wouldn't be there long so might as well take every advantage of him that they could.

tomcollins's picture

Yes, in more games than just the Nat'l Championship.  His arm is solid.

He's like Pryor, but good at football.

William's picture

You're kidding right? Pryor performed much better in his bowl game than Newton. How many picks did Pryor throw? None. The same can't be said for Newton. What about throwing the long ball? Newton overshot wide receivers on several occasions, whereas Pryor had a perfect pass to Posey on that bomb to end the second quarter. Pryor's first half performance was far and above better than anything Newton or Thomas put together.

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

They both excel in arm punts......

tomcollins's picture

Pryor played a much easier defense.  Look at how Newton did vs. Arkansas and compare.  Plus, look at the whole season.

But hey, look at one game, become NFL scout.

Buckeye Black's picture

All this means NOTHING.  Ohio State has the best chance to win when Pryor is at QB, shouldn't that suffice?

tomcollins's picture

Of course, he's a great QB, and I'm glad to have him at Ohio State.  If I were a pro scout, it wouldn't be close to who I would draft first, though.  Which is the only point brought up, some people were surprised Newton was a 1st rounder.  No one should be surprised at all.  He's legit.

btalbert25's picture

He's legit for the system he played in.  He's going to go mid first round and possibly for no other reason than putting asses in the seats where he ends up.  That's why Denver took Tebow.  I think Newton is a lot better than Tebow for what it's worth, but I don't think he's going to dominate the NFL.  He's going to have to actually stand in there and throw in the face of pressure.  Oregon roughed him up quite a bit in that game.  If Oregon's D can rattle him, imagine how it'll be the first time he faces the Giants and their QB cripplers.

Bux Fan in Toledo's picture

I would take Terrelle's first half in the Sugar Bowl over Cam's game performance in the NCG. When Pryor is allowed to play without worrying about running the clock and not turning the ball over (aka Tresselball), he is a very effective QB.

But, that is the program at OSU.

tomcollins's picture

I would take Tate Forcier's performance over Southwestern Michigan last year over Pryor against [Insert decent team].

But what QBs going this year would be better than Newton?  Gabbert.  Mallet doesn't look great, but maybe.  Locker?  LOL.

Any NFL scout that would consider taking Pryor over Newton should have his head examined.

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

I would take Tate Forcier's performance over Southwestern Michigan last year over Pryor against [Insert decent team].

Y'know......when you put it that way...........HELL NO!

Hopefully your point is you can't look at numbers because they can be misleading.  I like the eyeball test and while I'm no NFL scout I don't think either Pryor or Cam throw the ball very well.  Cam is the better straight ahead runner and recently I only see Pryor taking the angle to get out of bounds and out of harms way.  They both have character flaws but I do think Pryor, for the majority of passes, is the better at passing the ball.  He may not be the best at decision making. 

tomcollins's picture

Pryor 14/25 (56%) 221 yards, 2 TD

Newton: 20/34 (59%) 265 yards, 2 TD 1 INT

Fairly similar.  Except one team was playing a pretty good defense, and one was playing a very bad defense.  You just would take Pryor because he's $177500 cheaper.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Which defense was "pretty good" and which one was "very bad"? Playing out of the Pac 10, Oregon finished 34th in total defense (12th in scoring defense) and, playing out of the SEC, Arkansas finished 36th (47th in scoring defense).

Adjusting for SEC invincibility, wouldn't that make the two defenses fairly comparable?

I'd describe both defenses as "pretty good."     

tomcollins's picture


Total defense and scoring defense are absolutely horrible, horrible metrics.

 I was being a bit harsh on Arky's D, but they are a good amount worse than Oregon's.  Arky #19 FEI, Oregon #8.

I had Oregon at #15, Arkansas at #34 in my prediction rankings.

There's a big gap when you account for opponents strength and meaningful statistics.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Sort by Tom's "prediction rankings" and become a defensive guru . . .

I appreciate that you're already walking your previous comment back a few paces, but just to be clear: the idea that Ark's top 20 FEI defense = "very bad," while Oregon's top 10 FEI defense = only "pretty good" suggests either one of two possibilities: 1). that you have created new meanings for otherwise commonly used adjectives; 2). you have lost faith in the much acclaimed FEI rating system.

Anyway, I don't understand how pac 10 Oregon's defensive statistics would have been accumulated against demonstrably stronger opposition than that faced by SEC Arkansas.  To use another highly imperfect measuring stick: Sagarin had Oregon with the 10th hardest schedule and he had Ark with the 11th toughest.

Better yet is Run_Fido_Run's world renowned SOTP System (Seat-Of-The-Pants System), which ranked Oregon's defense as a little bit better than Arkansas = both defenses were "pretty good." 

tomcollins's picture

I only looked at my rankings, and admitted that calling #34 bad is a hyperbole.  FEI is more reflective of what has happened, and my rankings are more predictive.  At least that's the intention.  I didn't even look at FEI until the 2nd post.

Sagarin's "average" method for SoS is pretty lame as well.  He's smart enough to not even use it for his ELO_CHESS.  All it does is average the teams.  If you play the #1 team and the #2 team, then a bunch of #200 teams, you'll have the same SOS as a team that plays all #50 teams, even though the first one is considerably harder to go undefeated against.

The main point is one defense is pretty obviously better than the other.  Oregon's gets a bad rap in the ESPNStats because their offense would score in under 2 minutes giving defenses more possessions (and allowing themselves more possessions as well).

To put things more clearly: Oregon's D- very good.  Arky's - good to mediocre.  Eyeball as much as you want, but there are nearly a thousand games to watch, and I don't think anyone comes close to the number of hours needed to see them.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

That's a good point about Oregon's defense facing more plays (963 total) compared to Arkansas (862 total).

However, if we're going to use a finer, more detailed analysis, we'd also have to look at how the respective defenses responded to different situations.

For example, we might consider factors such as opponent's average starting field position. I don't have that available, but Oregon was tied for 7th in turnover margin, whereas Arkansas was 51st. Plus, Ark's KR defense was porous. Along those lines, Oregon was #1 in total offense playing in the patty cake Pac 10. When they score every time and then KO, that's usually going to be advantageous for their defense. Whereas Ark, playing in the rugged SEC, had a dynamic offense and yet finished only 17th in total offense, and probably more often put their defense in tough spots by going 3 and out, etc. Ark punted 54 times versus Oregon's 43.    

Don't get me wrong. I thought that Oregon's defense was underrated, but so was Ark's.

btalbert25's picture

Honestly, even though the score was low I'm not convinced that both defenses played great.  Both teams shot themselves in the foot on offense over and again.  Especially, Oregon.  Auburn was a couple of poorly throw deep balls away from taking on about 120 more yards of total offenses and 2 more TD's.  Granted, both teams had their moments on D, and I guess turnovers are credited to D's, but stupid mistakes and trying to get too "creative" on offense seemed to be more responsible for the low score than the defenses.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Plus, the NC games are often nervous, sluggish affairs offensively. I won my office bowl pool tiebreaker by picking a total (combined) score of 58 points when the other two guys who had tied me had scores in the upper 60s.

I saw lots of Oregon this year. You could make a fair argument that they had a flat "good" defense, but I still say "pretty good." And, yes, I'm taking into consideration that they ran a hurry up offense. Ohio State would have given that team all they could handle and then some.  

The_Lurker's picture

Whichever QB is more successful depends on which one adapts better to the NFL "throw it before they're open" style, rather than the collegiate "throw it after you see that they're open" style.

If Vince Young is any indicator, the odds are against both Newton and Pryor.

flipbuckeye's picture

When you put it that way, both of these guys have a ton of experience throwing to guys that aren't open.


AJ's picture

you win

"Without winners, there wouldn't even be civilization." -----------Woody Hayes