Asmussen's Top 25: Buckeyes No. 1

Asmussen's Top 25: Buckeyes No. 1

It’s early July, which means the nice folks at the Associated Press will soon be pounding on my door asking for my preseason Top 25.

In the words of the late, great actor Ronald Reagan: There you go again.

A quick refresher course on BVH (Bob’s Voting History). A year ago, one very adventurous/foolish AP voter decided Michigan deserved the top spot on his ballot. Oops.

Problem was, the Wolverines were opening the season against defending national champion Alabama. Nothing riles up Crimson Tide fans more than saying their team is going to lose. And picking them behind Michigan was the same as saying they were going down.

What started as a simple exercise in voting became a bit of a national college football controversy, courtesy of your’s truly.

It got so bad that ESPN’s Joe Tessitore took me to task on air during one of the 5,000 shows on college football. Joe didn’t buy my “It’s my vote, my choice” line at all. I’m surprised he didn’t blame me for Bobby Petrino’s indiscretions/Saints Bountygate.

And the catcalls were just getting started. Radio announcers in Alabama, Florida, Ohio, etc., all wondered what the heck is this guy up to? But there was no hidden agenda. Brady Hoke was not paying me a retainer. Denard Robinson was not a friend of the family.

Which leads us to today’s “questionable decision.” Yes, I’m going with another Big Ten team at the top of my ballot.

Northwestern? Love Pat Fitzgerald, but not this time.

Wisconsin? They’re going to miss Bret Bielema too much.

Michigan? Fool me once ...

The choice — I’m sorry, coach Urban Meyer — is Ohio State.

Why No. 1? Let’s start with the quarterback. Braxton Miller has the look of a national champion. He runs, he throws, he bounces back from nasty hits, he leads. This guy’s going to win a title.

As much as we question his sincerity, Meyer is the real deal. You don’t win at the high level he’s won at without knowing what you’re doing.

Then there’s the schedule, which looks as if it was designed by an SEC coach (please play somebody).

The only nonconference challenge is against Cal, and the Bears are not exactly coming in with Steve Bartkowski at quarterback. The others are Buffalo, San Diego State, and Florida A&M — Murderer’s Row it is not.

Inside the conference, it looks like Jim Delany’s folks have treated the Buckeyes right: Wisconsin and Penn State at home, no Nebraska or Michigan State on the schedule. The one obvious challenge is the late-season game against Michigan.

But somehow, Meyer will have his 11-0 team ready for that one.

1. Ohio State
They move up if ... the NFL realizes it’s time to add a 33rd team and looks to central Ohio as the perfect place.
They move down if ... anything happens to Miller. No player is more important to his team’s success.

2. Alabama
The Crimson Tide is the Yankees of college football. Outside of the state, everybody roots against them. Unless Nick Saban goes on a walkabout, that isn’t going to change. Important safety tip for the folks at ESPN and ABC: don’t let Brent Musberger anywhere near the girlfriends of the Crimson Tide players. Trust us on this.
They move up if ... they avoid a letdown that is long overdue.
They move down if ... Musberger slips past team security and into the area where they hide friends and family of the players.

3. South Carolina
Have you seen Jadeveon Clowney play? Bet none of the kids in the neighborhood made fun of his name. He is the best defensive Heisman candidate since Hugh Green (ask your parents).
They move up if ... they find a quarterback who doesn’t drive Steve Spurrier nuts. That has been a problem in the past.
They move down if ... an early loss angers Spurrier so much he puts the backup punter behind center.
4. Georgia
One of these days Mark Richt is going to get even with all of those who said his days were numbered in Athens. This is the year if quarterback Aaron Murray has anything to say about it.
They move up if ... all those running backs Richt has piled up combine for 3,000 yards.
They move down if ... the disappointment of the SEC title game, a near-miss against Alabama, haunts Murray throughout the season.

5. Oregon
The run of SEC teams ends with the troubled Ducks, who move forward without Chip Kelly. He left just in time to avoid the NCAA jury. Good luck, Chipper, better hope the NFL works out. Oregon is better off without all the drama.
They move up if ... they rally around the new staff to prove it wasn’t just Kelly. De’Anthony Thomas is a legitimate Heisman candidate, despite the goofy uniforms. The offense will score points in bunches, but the defense is a questions.
They move down if ... it really was all Kelly’s doing. Mark Helfrich has a real challenge at a place where expectations have almost become unreasonable.

6. Stanford
David Shaw gets it. Graduates his players and wins a bunch of games. Now he is recruiting at a high level, too. Look out Pac-12.
They move up if ... they forget that academic stalwarts aren’t supposed to be this good.
They move down if ... the new Apple store in Palo Alto distracts all the brainiacs on the team.
7. Louisville
The Sugar Bowl champs have a high standard to live up to on campus (thanks, Pitino). Teddy Bridgewater has it covered.
They move up if ... a couple of the basketball players give lessons on winning the really big one.
They move down if ... they are so annoyed by the Papa John’s guy they get sick during a pregame meal at Pizza Hut.

8. Clemson
Hard to get fired up about a team coached by a guy named Dabo. Need to make an exception because of the talent level on both lines.
They move up if ... the dynamic duo of Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins combine for 15 touchdown catches and Bret Venable’s defense takes advantage of returning experience (10 starters back).
They move down if ... the opener against Georgia goes horribly wrong, setting up a fragile team for failure the rest of the way. The finale at South Carolina could make or break the year.

9. LSU
Wouldn’t feel right without the Tigers and bombastic coach Les Miles somewhere in the Top 10. Not sure why.
They move up if ... the kids are ready to play after the roster took a nasty hit in the NFL draft.
They move down if ... freshmen play like freshmen. The SEC is no place to learn college football.

10. Florida
Wonder if Urban Meyer takes wistful drives past The Swamp during family vacations?
They move up if ... they get production from the running game, taking pressure off an un-Tebowlike passing game.
They move down if ... the Sugar Bowl meltdown was an indication of life with Will Muschamp in control. Somewhere, Ron Zook is waiting for a call and willing to help out.

11. Texas A&M
Johnny Manziel will have a lot better chance of repeating as Heisman winner if he keeps his Twitter account inactive. Teammates won’t block for guys with big heads.
They move up if ... the superstar quarterback gets some help from the running backs and receivers. Kevin Sumlin has more than quarterbacks on the roster.
They move down if ... Manziel adds 20 pounds on the banquet circuit, showing it really was a bad idea to give the award to a freshman.

12. Boise State
Our biggest beef with the Broncos: The inability to pick a league. But Chris Petersen is as good as it gets.
They move up if ... Joe Southwick continues the upward trend. Boise State needs a slinger at quarterback and Southwick has a chance to be on par with past greats.
They move down if ... two losses last season is a sign of trouble, one the hotshot coach can’t fix.

13. Oklahoma State
If Mike Gundy was so willing to let Wes Lunt leave, he must be loaded at quarterback.
They move up if ... Clint Chelf has the folks in Stillwater saying “Wes Who?” Gundy hopes whoever plays quarterback puts up numbers like he did during his glory days.
They move down if ... it turns out quarterback play was the least of their problems during a disappointing 2012 season.

14. Florida State
The world was a better place when Bobby Bowden was running the show in Tallahassee. No offense to Jimbo Fisher.
They move up if ... quarterback Jameis Winston is the real deal.
They move down if ... a schedule that includes Pitt and Nevada early on proves trickier than it looks on paper.

15. Michigan
While we aren’t about to pick the Wolverines No. 1 again, Brady Hoke and friends deserve some serious consideration to contend for the Big Ten title.
They move up if ... Devin Gardner earns a cool nickname while looking like a better-throwing Denard “Shoelaces” Robinson.
They move down if ... Gardner struggles with Al Borges’ offense. It has happened to Borges at other schools.

16. Northwestern
Wonder why Pat Fitzgerald is still coaching in Evanston? Better question: Why would he leave? Fans love him and he is getting paid pretty well. Stay and enjoy life, Coach.
They move up if ... they learn to close out games. Last-second losses last season cost the Wildcats a BCS berth.
They move down if ... quarterbacks Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian aren’t able to consistently hit their talented receivers.

17. Arizona State
The Sun Devils were too much for Illinois to handle in 2012. They are better in Todd Graham’s rare second season.
They move up if ... they survive a front-loaded schedule that features consecutive games against Wisconsin, Stanford, Southern Cal and Notre Dame.
They move down if ... quarterback Taylor Kelly struggles with an inexperienced set of receivers.

18. Washington
Want to check out the Huskies? They are coming to Soldier Field in September. They are not playing the Bears.
They move up if ... the skill positions are able to make up for deficiencies on the lines. Quarterback Troy Williams is one of the best in the Pac-12.
They move down if ... the Solder Field experience is too much to handle and they lose to the Illini. Don’t snicker, it could happen.

19. Texas
There is no way the Longhorns can be ordinary for long. Perhaps Tonja Buford-Bailey can teach the running backs and receivers to hurdle tacklers.
They move up if ... David Ash reminds us of the Colt McCoy era. Ash has big-time talent but needs to show it more often.
They move down if ... Ash plays more like Vince Young, the broke/out-of-football version, not the national champ version.

20. Oklahoma
Speaking of teams that need a serious image facelift. Bob Stoops is a much better coach than he is being given credit for.
They move up if ... Blake Bell excels outside the red zone. Bell is now the every-down quarterback and needs to improve his overall game.
They move down if ... opponents figure out how to expose weak areas on defense. That’s a surprise, given that we’re talking about Stoops’ field of expertise.

21. Notre Dame
The Irish would have been a lot higher on the list if not for the dismissal of quarterback Everett Golson.
They move up if ... the jolt of confidence from a national title bid isn’t wiped out by all the off-the-field controversies (Manti Te’o, Golson).
They move down if ... Tommy Rees performs like the guy who lost the job to Golson. Not exactly a confidence builder during the offseason.

22. TCU
There was a time in college football history when people felt sorry for the Horned Frogs. Hard to believe.
They move up if ... Casey Pachall moves past his problems (on and off the field) and is able to provide the leadership that Gary Patterson’s offense desperately needs.
They move down if ... there’s any kind of relapse for Pachall, who sat out the bulk of last season because of substance-abuse issues.

23. Kansas State
Find us a better story than the successful return to coaching by Bill Snyder. He is so much more than a grump. He is a great coach. Maybe one of the best of all time. Seriously.
They move up if ... Snyder finds a new version of Collin Klein. The Heisman finalist was as tough as they come and key to the Wildcats’ successful season last year.
They move down if ... the Snyder magic starts to wear off. Today’s player is much less likely to listen to a demanding coach, even one who’s got proven success.

24. Wisconsin
Beyond the Cheddar Curtain, we are about to find out if the Badgers can win big without Bret Bielema in charge. Got a hunch that the answer is yes. Gary Andersen is a Barry Alvarez-type coach and will fit in perfectly in Madison.
They move up if ... the returning stars on the team, especially linebacker Chris Borland and running back James White, take their games up a notch. The Badgers were awesome in the Big Ten title game, but not as good in the Rose Bowl.
They move down if ... Andersen isn’t able to find an answer at quarterback. Typically, it’s the position that holds Wisconsin back. When they’re good under center, they’re a threat for the BCS.

25. Nebraska
Tapes of the Big Ten title game have all been destroyed. Bo Pelini is happy about that.
They move up if ... Taylor Martinez improves his throwing, taking the pressure off the running backs and lending a hand to an offensive line that hasn’t been up to Nebraska’s standards. (No, boss, Martinez is not in his 12th year at Nebraska. It just seems that way.)
They move down if ... the defense continues its slide toward the bottom of the Big Ten. Look at their losses last year and you’ll notice the culprit in every game was the Blackshirts. Somewhere, Trev Alberts is hiding his head in shame.

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JimOATSfan wrote on July 07, 2013 at 7:07 pm

Hey Bob great to have you back, up and running again.

"In the words of the late, great actor Ronald Reagan: There you go again".  You left out "using that 'L' word".  In your case 'lousy pick', in Ronnie's case 'liberal' and at the Ronald Reagan National Airport it should stand for 'luggage'!

I think it doesn't matter who is picked #1 in preseason. It's where you are in the final polls that count anyway.

By the way, didn't Aaron Rodgers come from Cal? He's more of a qb threat to quote than SB.

Mend-on Bob & cheers for you!

PS: I quit smoking on 7/7/77 after using them to get thru the all-nighters in architecture. Worked brilliantly by envisioning I had been putting a cloud of smoke into my body. I decided it wasn't good enough and dulled me out too much.

IlliniMike05 wrote on July 08, 2013 at 9:07 am

Bob, nice try on minimizing how badly you were rightly clowned on by acting like it was some obscure show lost in the wilderness of cable TV, but the show was "College Football Live." Not only the flagship college football show for ESPN, but on all of television. Except for the gameday shows, it's kind of the only one, really. If you stick with this prediction, you'll probably get clowned on again by them, and I look forward to it. Awesome rationale: "Well, I think the coach and the quarterback are good!"

I know it's your cute little fun gimmick to make ridiculous predictions, but this has to stop. Consider this an intervention. Ohio State had the statistical profile of a 9-3 team last year (seriously, the Big Ten team in recent years with the most comparable statistical profile might be the '07 Illinois team), and that was in a bad conference with no pressure, seeing as how they weren't eligible to compete for a conference or national title; they'll have to improve somewhat signifcantly just to go 10-2 this year, let alone go 12-0 again, barring an astonishing repeat of ridiculously good luck.

Half of their wins were by a touchdown or less last year, including:

-A 3-point win, allowing 49 POINTS, to a 4-8 Indiana team

-A miraculous, blown-coverage 72-yard TD pass to beat a 3-9 Cal team by 7, at home

-A home overtime win against 6-7 Purdue

-A 1-point win against 7-6 Michigan State

With just average luck, they're 9-3, 10-2 at absolute best. They were on the right end of historically good luck, and that's highly unlikely to repeat. 

They didn't beat a single team in the final USA Today poll. They only outscored their opponents by 14 points a game. Alabama, against much better competition, outscored their opponents by 28 a game. (Which reminds me: you know why SEC teams aren't compelled to play a loaded noncon schedule? Because half of their conference schedule is against Top 10 teams, and even the bottom-feeders aren't pushovers these days; you think they're winning every national title for going on a decade because of weak nonconference schedules? Ask your 2012 preseason No. 1 how they feel about what happens when the SEC big boys play someone supposedly good out of conference).

Bob, if you want a mulligan on this, we'll let you have one.