Rushing The Field: That Was Supposed To Be Competitive, Right?

Honest question: is 35-3 a bad enough beating for Ohio State that we can no longer consider them candidates for the BCS championship game? After watching USC’s offensive pick apart the secondary and the Trojans’ front seven on defense get after Todd Boeckman early and often, it seems that Jim Tressel’s ethic and mentality in Columbus may need just as much of a change as Lloyd Carr’s did in Michigan. That wound up with Carr leaving and Rich Rodriguez replacing him, but I am not suggesting such a drastic step.  What it may require is Tressel stretching out his recruiting area — because he can get every athlete in the Midwest and many in the Atlantic part of Big 10 territory that he likes, but he isn’t attracting players that can be difference makers in out-of-conference games.  I don’t think Beanie Wells would have made a lick of difference, either, and you know what? I don’t like the Buckeyes much when they have to play Penn State are their spread offense later this year, either.

They may not be able to get by Wisconsin, who grind out wins. For every play that Fresno State made against the Badgers in the San Joaquin Valley, the Badgers had answers and their defense was able to keep Tom Brandstater in check.

The dirty little secret about USC? They have the easiest path to the MNC game because the Pac-10, usually good for 2nd in conference strength behind the SEC these days, is in a down cycle. USC was one of only two Pac-10 teams that won an out-of-conference game convincingly, and I would rather not count Oregon State-Hawai’i as any sort of meaningful OOC game. Oregon lost another QB and snuck by Purdue in OT, to be fair.

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Above The Rim: Going Jack Bauer On Your Ass

Lakers 130, Suns 124 – Kobe and Shaq, back playing against each other again. Bryant just went balls out late, notching 41 to go with Pau Gasol’s 29 in the Laker win, which was close down to the last minute or so. Shaq played 29 minutes, more than expected, and put in a respectable 15 points and 9 boards. The real test will be how his game continues to flow in the Suns’ offense, while I dream of what it will look like when Andrew Bynum comes back.

Warriors 119, Celtics 117 – Boston is once again reminded why it rules the Eastern Conference, losing the first two games of its Western Conference road swing. Baron Davis nails the game winner with three-tenths left. Monta Ellis pumped in 26, and Andris Biedrins matched KG’s 17 and 15 boards with 21 and 13 boards of his own. Ray Allen got wicked with six threes and 32 points total.

Hornets 104, Mavs 93 – Not exactly an auspicious return to the Mavs franchise for J-Kidd: 9 points, 5 dimes, 6 turnovers (in his first career NBA game, he had a triple double, a harbinger of things to come.) Chris Paul was one steal away from a triple double (31 points, 11 assists, nine steals); does anyone know if there was ever a triple-double with 10 or more steals as part of the stat line?

76ers 124, Knicks 84 – As if there were no more depths for Isiah Thomas to plumb. Philly had scored 100 after three quarters.

Miami 96, Duke 95 – The Blue Devils can’t come back from 20 down after not hitting threes for way too long. Miami gets its first win over Duke since 1962.

Memphis 94, Tulane 71 – Chris Douglas-Roberts scores 29 to keep Memphis undefeated and get John Calipari his 400th win.

Tennessee 89, Auburn 70 – The Vols are led by Ramar Smith’s 19, headed towards a weekend showdown for #1 with the aforementioned Memphis team.

Nebraska 74, Kansas State 68 – The Cornhuskers hold Michael Beasley scoreless for the first nine minutes and shoot 52% to pull off the upset. Beasley still manages to tie Carmelo Anthony’s single-season double-double record.

Photo: AP/Ross D. Franklin