It's the day of the big game. Yes, the Ohio State women's basketball squad travels to Bloomington, Indiana, to battle the Hoosiers. Tipoff is 2 p.m. ET, which you can see on BTN2GO.
There's also another high-profile game that will play out today. I guess we can touch on that a little bit in this Sunday Skull Session. In fact, why not make this a Super Bowl-themed Sunday Skull Session?
"ANTLERS" AND FOOTBALL. MAKES SENSE. Like it or not, and most of you likely do not, but Ray Lewis is going to be the focal point of this game. This may be even before the talking point of two brothers, John and Jim, coaching against each other in a Super Bowl first.
Ray Lewis will retire after Sunday's game, capping a 17-year career that's been essentially brilliant. Historians of the game may label him as the best to ever play the omnipresent position of linebacker in NFL history. This is no small feat.
Neither is recovering from a torn tricep as quickly as Ray Lewis did. When he suffered the injury in the middle of October, it was just assumed his career was over. Instead, Lewis recovered in time to start the NFL Playoffs. Alas, there is an alleged culprit in Ray Lewis' recovery: deer antlers.
Per a Sports Illustrated cover story, the owner of a S.W.A.T.S. company, Mitch Ross, phone-taped a conversation with Ray Lewis, wherein Lewis was asking for the works. He was allegedly supplied deer antlers, which contain an IGF-1 compound that is considered a performance-enhancing drug by the NFL. Ray Lewis was quick to deny the reports.
The joke is ultimately on the NFL and its fans. If fans take seriously the use of performance-enhancing drugs, then there is no means to hold Lewis accountable if he had in fact used these substances. He retires after Sunday's game anyway. What is there to do other than watch the product on the field at the Superdome?
The only takeaway from this story might be a further snowballing of mistrust in sports between the fans and the product. Given the steroid scandal that rocked Major League Baseball, and continues to result in aftershocks to this day, and Lance Armstrong's recent confession (of sorts) to Oprah Winfrey, we might be building toward a new era of sports where fans automatically assume noncompliance with rules prohibiting performance-enhancing drugs. Athletes may be guilty until proven innocent.
However, if ticket sales don't budge, and ad revenue continues to accumulate, does it matter?
THE FUTURE IS NOW. I remember conversations in the dorm room at Ohio State when I was a student ten years ago. At the time, I was only beginning to pay attention to football for the first time in my life and couldn't really ascertain why core collegiate offensive concepts, like the option, weren't more prominent in the NFL. When I would innocently ask the question, the usual answer was that pro defenses were too fast for an option offense and that the quarterback wouldn't survive the season running it.
Lo and behold, zone read and inverted veer are now staples of the 49ers offense and Colin Kaepernick, ostrich-man nonparaleil at Nevada, is leading the 49ers into the Super Bowl.
That Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman are the offensive minds behind this transformation of the 49ers is noteworthy. This is not to diminish the intellect of either Harbaugh or Roman, but their credentials are rather "old school", if you will. Jim Harbaugh did some basic Option 101 stuff while playing at Michigan, but his pro career was marked by playing under Mike Ditka and Ted Marchibroda. Greg Roman, the offensive coordinator, was the guy behind Stanford's OL-heavy "jumbo" packages, but most of the option stuff was left to Oregon within the Pac-12.
Fast forward to Year 2 of both Harbaugh and Roman's tenure with the 49ers, and both are riding the wave of collegiate offenses in the NFL. As such, the success of the 49ers offense has made it more difficult for defenses to bring the more exotic blitzes against Kaepernick, who is not exactly a sitting duck waiting to be wrestled to the ground.
It doesn't mean that the Ravens can't throw the kitchen sink at him, nor that it couldn't rattle him. However, even the most vicious defense, like the Ravens' defense, has to be mindful of Kaepernick's ability to escape. Further, it leaves open more one-on-one opportunities for receiving targets like the very talented Vernon Davis, and Michael Crabtree.
As these type of offenses begin to proliferate, in earnest, in a copycat league, it should afford more opportunities for Ohio State quarterbacks to make a name for themselves in the league. A guy like Braxton Miller clearly has a long way to go, but he can get there. Further, the NFL would be more eager to have him, rather than feeling the need to shoehorn him into being Peyton Manning.
TED GINN JR PLAYING FOR DAD. This one caught me a bit off guard when news ran earlier this week. But, Ted Ginn Sr. does not appear to be in the best of shape at the moment.
Ginn Sr., known to the world of Buckeye fans as head coach of the greatest high school pipeline to Ohio State football we may have ever enjoyed, is suffering from a form of pancreatic cancer. Doctors discovered a benign tumor growing on Ginn Sr.'s pancreas, which was producing an excess of insulin as a result. This is a form of a cancer, albeit one for which Ginn Sr. is fortunately expected to fully recover.
The surgery to remove Ginn Sr.'s tumor resulted in a weight loss of 55 pounds and invited more complications. An excess of fluid had built up in his lungs, which required another surgery.
As it stands, Ginn Sr is doing better and is even in New Orleans to see two alumni of his Glenville program play in the Super Bowl. This includes his son, Ted Ginn Jr., and Donte Whitner. Expect to see him in the stands as the CBS production crew will likely find him.
This might be the first time Ohio State fans watching TV have seen Ted Ginn Sr. in attendance at a football game since that debacle in January 2007 for which Urban Meyer kind of owes us a few national championships if we are to forget the aforementioned debacle. Ginn Sr. was a regular in attendance at Ohio State football games, home and away, while Ted Ginn Jr. played for the Buckeyes.
Obviously, we all wish Ted Ginn Sr. an easy road to recovery and hope that he enjoys the special occasion of seeing his son play in the Super Bowl.
REMINDER. 49ers v. Ravens, 6:30 p.m. ET, CBS. All four Ohio State representatives in this game (Alex Boone, Ted Ginn Jr., Larry Grant, and Donte Whitner) play for the 49ers. There's your rooting interest.
MISCELLANY. "Kaepernicking"... Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore, and Patrick Willis are finding totally 100% creative things to see and do on Bourbon Street... Super Bowl media week tends to get caught on very stupid things... Speaking of which... Colin Kaepernick's back story, because Rick Reilly has a hot sprots (sic) take... It's importantly Kaepernick's life to live, Rick Reilly... Never forget... Ray Rice will always be a huge deal in his hometown... Ray Lewis didn't see nothing, from this classic SNL clip... He will have some shiny cleats, though.