|Buckeyes are head cases after another lopsided loss in BCS title game|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 08 January 2008 10:56|
That may be the conundrum for Ohio State's Jim Tressel as he tries to rebuild his Buckeyes' tattered psyches heading into the 2008 season.
The Buckeyes lost most of their stars from a top-ranked team that had been battered 41-14 by Florida in last year's BCS championship. Still, Tressel reconfigured the personnel and the Buckeyes flicked aside a soft schedule to return to the biggest game of them all.
It was a remarkable achievement.
However, Monday night's devastating 38-24 loss to LSU may require a longer recovery period.
Following the loss, wide receiver Brian Hartline hinted at that when he said: ``Personally, I feel it was a great season for us. First off, to have the opportunity - whether we deserved it or not - to come back to the national championship game is always an honor. You know, we don't vote for us.''
That phrase ``whether we deserved it or not'' shows the Buckeyes have just about hit rock bottom in terms of confidence.
It goes without saying, the national perspective today is the Buckeyes did not belong in the game and they obviously aren't competitive with the top teams in the land, or at least the ones from the Southeastern Conference. They sank from No.1 to No. 5 in the final Associated Press rankings.
So, while Tressel works at filling out his two-deep roster this spring, he might also want to wheel out a couch so he can analyze his players' damaged self-worth.
Because, until he can get their heads back in the game, it may not matter how much talent they put on the field.
Yes, there will be plenty of talent, even if several players migrate early to the NFL.
Here's a harrowing thought for all those Buckeyes detractors out there: This team has good enough players to make it back to a third consecutive title game.
That might be even more daunting to Ohio State fans, who have had their hopes trashed each of the last two seasons. Maybe they're getting tired of the big hype and the little payoff.
``I'm not too worried about what other people's perceptions are,'' quarterback Todd Boeckman said in the quiet locker room. ``We have to go out there and play our game. We didn't make the plays when we had to and that's disappointing to us. We just have to look forward to next year and hopefully bounce back.''
There were only two senior starters on offense (fullback Dionte Johnson, tackle Kirk Barton), and one on defense (linebacker Larry Grant) against LSU. All three are replaceable.
The Buckeyes may take a bigger than expected hit from early departures.
An educated guess is that three stalwarts on defense - All-American linebacker James Laurinaitis, cornerback Malcolm Jenkins and Big Ten defender of the year Vernon Gholston - will put their names in the NFL hopper.
Ohio State could also lose others such as offensive lineman Alex Boone, receivers Hartline and/or Brian Robiskie, linebacker Marcus Freeman or even punter A.J. Trapasso.
No matter. Tailback Chris ``Beanie'' Wells, who broke Archie Griffin's Ohio State sophomore rushing record with 1,609 yards in 2007, is back. That's a good start.
So is Boeckman, shaky in the title game but solid during the season, almost all the line and kicker Ryan Pretorius. On defense, the front wall (including promising end Cameron Heyward), is back, as will be the secondary.
One advantage the Buckeyes had in 2007 - an extremely weak schedule - might not be there in 2008.
They still play some patsies, opening with Youngstown State and Ohio, and later playing Troy and several Big Ten teams that are down. The road schedule, though, includes tests at Wisconsin, Michigan State and Illinois, with the headline-grabber coming on Sept. 13 when Ohio State travels to mighty Southern Cal.
``If we can get a win there, we're going to turn some heads,'' safety Kurt Coleman said. ``People probably aren't going to give us a shot out there, but we have a great team coming back.''
The game with the Trojans will be an early check on how well Tressel has done at playing shrink.
``We'll figure out how we're going to use this to help us down the road,'' Tressel said after the LSU loss.
Good luck with that. The players are obviously hurting.
``It's disappointing for our fans. I wish I could put them all in one room and apologize to them,'' Hartline said. ``I think they know how we feel. We tried to play hard for them.''
That should give Tressel some idea of what he's up against.