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Perception vs. Reality

In every situation there is perception and reality. Two things which go hand in hand. Of course, reality is what you perceive it to be. I may not remember much from my book learnin’ days of college, but I do remember that. Want an example of what I’m talking about? OK, here’s a good one. Perception: Led Zeppelin is the greatest band in rock history. Reality: Um…no. It’s nearly impossible to not have The Beatles at the top of that list. But, some do cling to their version of reality to the point where they’re almost delusional. This happens often in college football, and there is one really good case in the Big Ten. Believe it or not it isn’t Michigan fans. Oh sure, as I said in my last blog, their coaches, players and recruits will talk, and some of their fans never shut up. But, from what I’ve seen, the majority of Wolverine fans realize their beloved team is not on the same level as the Buckeyes, and no amount of their chirping is going to change that.

The reality-challenged Big Ten fans I’m talking about are the blue and white faithful of Penn State. When the top recruit in Pennsylvania, receiver Julian Fleming, decided to take his talents to the Great State of Ohio and play for the Buckeyes, Nittany Lion fans were incredulous. “How could he not choose Penn State!!,” they wailed, “Does he not know the greatness that sits just 90 miles from him!!” It got better. Offensive line recruit Grant Toutant recently flipped his commitment from the Nittany Lions to the Buckeyes. That set off a real firestorm on social media. One of their delusional fans said, “…this kid is obviously not Penn State worthy.” Wait….what? It got me to thinking just what reality Nittany Lion fans live in. Here's a look at the perception they have of themselves and the Buckeyes, and what we all know to be the truth.

Perception: Since beginning to compete in the Big Ten in 1993, Penn State has had every bit as much success as Ohio State, and is THE program in the conference. This is something Nittany Lion fans believe with all of their heart and soul. They won’t hear of anything different. They firmly believe their favorite team is the class of the Big Ten.

Reality: Much like the Led Zeppelin vs. The Beatles debate, it ain’t even close between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions. Since Penn State joined the conference the Buckeyes hold an 18-8 edge in the series. Let me repeat that: an 18-8 ADVANTAGE. Yes, there have been some very close, hard-fought games, but the Buckeyes have won the majority of them because they are the better program. You can make the argument that Penn State has given the Buckeyes all they want in close games, and they could have gone either way. But, they mostly went the way of Ohio State, and that should tell you something. Teams that win a lot of close games do so because they have better talent, coaching, and find ways to win. The Buckeyes have done that against the Nittany Lions often.

Want more reality? The Buckeyes have won thirteen Big Ten championships since 1993. Penn State just four. Ohio State has won half of the Big Ten football championships since Penn State joined the conference. HALF. Michigan and Wisconsin both have more than the Nittany Lions. Michigan State and Northwestern have nearly as many (three each). Let’s take this one step further. The Buckeyes have won two national championships; Penn State none. Now, I’ll be perfectly honest and say the Nittany Lions deserved at least a share of a national title in 1994 when they were undefeated. That’s back when champions were still determined by the polls, and the people voting treated Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne like a deity. Beyond that 1994 season the Lions haven’t really threatened to win a national championship since. Besides the two the Buckeyes have won, they were on the verge of winning two others (lost back-to-back BCS championship games), and you can make a VERY strong argument that they should have been voted national champs after beating top-rated and undefeated Arizona State in the 1997 Rose Bowl.

Here's more reality. The Buckeyes have won fourteen bowl games since Penn State joined the conference. The Nittany Lions have won twelve. Pretty close, right? On the surface it appears to be, but take a closer look. Of their twelve bowl wins since 1993, only four of those have come in the Rose, Orange, Sugar, and Fiesta Bowls, which are considered pretty much the gold standard for bowl games. Eleven of Ohio State’s fourteen bowl wins have come in one of those four gold standard games, and that does not include the national championship game win over Oregon. Again, we’ll take it one step further. Two of Penn State’s four wins in those gold standard bowl games came in the first three seasons they were in the Big Ten. So, out of the last 23 seasons they’ve won in those games just twice.

Oh yes, there’s even more. Since Penn State joined the conference the Buckeyes have had 164 players selected in the NFL Draft to 99 for the Nittany Lions. Over one-fourth of Buckeyes drafted have been taken in the first round (43). Penn State has had just 17 first round picks. The Buckeyes have had 26 consensus All-Americans; Penn State 15.

Pretty clear-cut isn’t it? Well, it is to anyone who spends their life rooted in reality. But, we all know Penn State fans live in their own blue and white world, and will still be baffled anytime their beloved team loses a recruiting battle with the Buckeyes. After losing a very close game to Ohio State for the second year in a row last fall, Penn State coach James Franklin said the Nittany Lions are a great program, but the Buckeyes are an elite one. At first glance it sounds like a baffle them with bullshit type statement to placate his program’s fans after a tough loss. However, when you really think about it, he’s right. Penn State is a great program, but they are not on the same level as the Buckeyes. And no amount of delusional thinking by their fans is going to change that.

If He Does, He Does

From almost the moment Urban Meyer announced his retirement from coaching the Buckeyes, the speculation on if and where he would coach again began. The school mentioned immediately was USC. Trojan faithful are not happy with current head coach Clay Helton, and they saw the way Meyer’s Buckeyes dismantled their surfer boys in the Cotton Bowl the previous season. Former USC Heisman winner Reggie Bush was very vocal about wanting Meyer to lead his alma mater back to their glory days. He’s since backed off of his comments, but it is clear folks associated with USC are not happy, and view Meyer as a significant upgrade.

Earlier this week former OSU assistant Zach Smith (yeah, THAT Zach Smith) said on his podcast he believes Meyer will be coaching at USC. He said he knows a ton of people in the Dublin area, which is where Meyer lives, and claims someone from the postal service told him Meyer has been receiving mail from USC. Smith, like a lot of others, claim Meyer’s wife, Shelley, loves the west coast. He firmly believes Meyer will be coaching at USC sooner rather than later.

My opinion on all of this? If Urban Meyer coaches again, then he coaches again. If he does, he does. I have no idea why Ohio State fans are fretting over something like this. The Buckeyes have an outstanding young coach in Ryan Day, who looks like he can continue what Meyer started. OSU fans need to stop worrying about something they can’t control. Why should we care if he goes to USC? It isn’t like the Buckeyes would have to play him year after year.

Meyer has said he is not ruling out getting back into coaching at some point, but I don’t see it happening as soon as others are claiming. That arachnoid cyst that caused him problems last year is still there. As we have seen, Meyer knows one way to coach. He’s a very intense competitor, who is incapable of taking a more laid-back approach. His health is the biggest reason why I don’t think he’ll be coaching anytime soon. Another thing to keep in mind is this: Meyer’s grandson does not live in Los Angeles; he’s in Columbus. Meyer enjoys being a grandpa. I just don’t see him coaching again in the very near future.

BOOM! Time

Ryan Day got a much needed commitment to his defensive recruiting class for 2020 when Pickerington Central 6’3”, 250 pound Ty Hamilton said he’s joining the Buckeyes. He’s the brother of current Ohio State defensive lineman Davon Hamilton. Although listed as a defensive end, he is capable of moving inside to tackle. Don’t let his three-star ranking fool you; the Buckeyes have had plenty of success with guys who aren’t rated all that high. Because of his weight, he’ll be a likely candidate to redshirt his first season.

As mentioned earlier, offensive tackle Grant Toutant flipped his commitment from Penn State to the Buckeyes. The 6’7”, 320 pound Michigan native is the number 25 offensive tackle in the country. You read that right. Not only did he flip his commitment from Penn State, he’s also from Michigan. Love that. The Buckeyes now have five offensive linemen committed for the 2020 recruiting class; two of them (Paris Johnson, Jr. and Luke Wypler) are the top rated players nationally at their positions. Replenishing the offensive line depth was a priority in the 2019 class, and is so again for 2020. OSU hopes to add one more lineman to this class.

Just before publishing this edition, La Hambra, California cornerback Clark Phillips III announced his decision to join the Buckeyes. He's a top-50 player nationally, and fourth ranked cornerback. He'll be on campus this weekend for his official visit.

That’s So Bert

I’ve come up with an idea for a new sitcom. It will be based on former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema and his antics. In each episode, after Bert pulled one of his usual slimy stunts, the other characters would laugh and say, “That’s so Bert.” If you’ve followed college football at all you know Bert is kind of, well……he’s pretty much a scumbag. When he was at Wisconsin, he got cranky with Urban Meyer when the Ohio State legend first arrived because Urbz would not stop recruiting players who were already committed to other Big Ten schools. The conference’s coaches had this ridiculous gentleman’s agreement to not continue to pursue a kid after he had pledged to another conference school. Bert cried foul, acted quite incredulous, and eventually left the Badgers for Arkansas where he promptly led them to mediocrity. That’s so Bert. The latest scumbag story to come out about him is one that is almost too much to be believed. It’s one that you’d think would only happen on a TV show.

When Bielema was in the process of ruining the Razorbacks, he and Meyer were going head to head for the services of K.J. Hill, who is from Arkansas. The Buckeyes don’t recruit many kids from Arkansas, so you know they really saw something in him. Hill had originally committed to Arkansas, but decided to reopen his recruiting. He was supposed to visit the Buckeyes about a month before signing day when a member of the Ohio State coaching staff got a call from Bielema, who said Hill was cancelling his visit. You won’t be surprised to learn the Buckeye coaches immediately called the Hill family. They were furious. K.J. went on his visit to Columbus, and eventually committed to the Buckeyes. Bert’s antics cost the Razorbacks a prized in-state recruit. That’s so Bert.

Laila, You’ve Got Me On My Knees

The St. Louis Blues winning their first-ever Stanley Cup is a great story. What happened after the Blues’ Game 7 win over the Boston Bruins is an even greater story. With the deciding game being in Boston, the Blues organ-I-zation (when talking about hockey, organization becomes organ-I-zation) decided to fly in super fan Laila Anderson. The eleven-year old is battling HLH, a disease that greatly affects the immune system. The players called her a warrior, and drew inspiration from her throughout the season. When Blues’ left wing Pat Maroon, a St. Louis native, saw her in the crowd during the celebration he shouted to her, “We did it, princess!” But, the best part of this story came when Laila was brought onto the ice. Her favorite player, Colton Parayko, took the Cup, and got down on his knees to allow her to have some time with the greatest trophy in sports. Her reaction was priceless. She held it with Parayko, kissed it twice, and had pictures taken of the two of them with it. This is easily the best sports story of the year. Take a minute to watch the video; it’s well worth it.

I don’t know how things are in your part of the Great State of Ohio, but we’ve had so much rain and humidity in my part I felt like I was living in a rain forest for most of the week. At least it isn’t snowing. Enjoy the weekend!

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