For any number of reasons, 2016 was seemingly tough on the human race. People were mad online 24/7. Tumult was everywhere. Numerous real celebrities bit the dust, many of whom had varying degrees of impact on a great number of people. And, of course, Ohio State was humiliated by Clemson in the College Football Playoff. Admittedly, the author looks back on 2016 and owns not-great-Bob thoughts about the past 365 days.
But, 2017 is here. Allow me to make the case for sanity.
Before reaching for hate, remember that we all inhabit this planet together. We need each other. We need to open doors for one another and to come home to smiling faces. We need warmth to triumph over cruelty.
Now, having said all that, I’ll probably still ring in the new year by watching The Godfather tonight.
Cheers, y’all. Let’s rank stuff.
1. (Maybe) Browns fans
After Deshaun Watson’s third straight monster showing (316 total yards, 3 TDs) in a College Football Playoff game — last season, Watson racked up 332 total yards and 2 TDs vs. Oklahoma, and 478 yards and 4 TDs vs. Alabama — the Browns surely can’t pass up Watson with the (presumed) No. 1 overall pick, can they?
Matt did a great job out of outlining the positives from Ohio State’s 2016 season here, but I harbor many of the same sentiments. The most inexperienced team in the nation overachieved by tallying two incredible road victories, beating the best Michigan team since Bush Jr.’s first term, and overcoming some clear recruiting misfires on the offensive line and wide receiver. The sting of last night will linger for awhile, but 2016 was a triumph for the Buckeyes.
3. The returnees
Offensive guard Billy Price and defensive end Sam Hubbard are both on record saying they are returning to Columbus, with the former on the Elflein Plan and moving to center.
The Buckeyes are going to lose more studs (Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker, etc.) to the NFL draft than the public (and perhaps even the program) anticipated entering the season, but bringing back Price and Hubbard will add a nice veteran touch to what will be a still-young outfit in 2017.
4. Deshaun Watson, troll
DeShaun Watson just put the LeBron James silencer on Brutus #FiestaBowl #OSUvsCLEM pic.twitter.com/ue5yqDPftA— Erik Richards (@ErikRichardsUSA) January 1, 2017
I can appreciate a well-played heel move as much as anyone. Nicely done, sir.
5. The defense
Yours truly is as big of a numbers guy as anyone, but in this case, the fact that Clemson racked up 31 points and 470 yards of offense fails to illustrate the solid job the Silver Bullets did on Saturday night.
On seven first half drives, but the Buckeyes defense did its job, keeping the Tigers’ vaunted offense to 17 points and notching a pair of interceptions. Ohio State’s D also limited Clemson to 49 yards and three points on its first three possessions post-intermission.
Before running out of gas late in the game thanks to a non-existent offense, the Buckeyes defense mostly bottled up Clemson’s run game and kept Watson from going completely crazy — which is all any reasonable Ohio State fan could have asked of a unit going up against an offense with the potential first pick in the NFL draft and future skill position pros everywhere.
As Larry Bird once told this writer, “Sometimes, shit just doesn’t work out.”
6. Jadar Johnson, keepin’ it real
Johnson, a Clemson safety, didn’t exactly dog J.T. Barrett with his comments on Ohio State’s quarterback earlier in the week...but he didn’t exactly not dog Barrett, either.
Which is fine. And great.
Johnson told us what he thought. And deep down, Reasonable Ohio State fan knew Johnson was right about his Barrett-is-a-good-college-QB-but point of view. If Barrett and the Buckeyes used Johnson’s words as bulletin board material, more power to them.
But Johnson backed up whatever intentions he may have had with his words, as his defense blanked the Buckeyes and limited them to under four yards per carry and under four yards per pass.
7. J.T. Barrett and that bad taste in your mouth
I’m in the camp that believes Ohio State can win a national championship with Barrett as its quarterback, but he’s going to have to help himself more, while also receiving more assistance from his supporting cast — players and coaches included.
Barrett’s raw numbers were awful last night: 19-of-33 for 127 yards and two interceptions plus minus-2 rushing yards on 11 carries. He’s a better player than that.
Over two years ago, I sat high up in Spartan Stadium and watched Barrett, then a freshman, toss the rock around the yard and carve up a good Michigan State pass defense. Barrett finished with 300 yards passing, but it could’ve easily been 450 yards. He was that good. I’m not naive enough to think that Barrett hasn’t regressed, and that in 2014 he was was aided by throwing to Devin Smith, Michael Thomas, and Jalin Marshall, and that he had the supreme privilege of handing off to Ezekiel Elliott, who might be the best running back on the planet.
But with better/new coaching, improved options at receiver, and an actual commitment to offensive balance against good teams, I’m convinced 2014 Barrett (or at least, say 75 percent of that guy) is waiting to be unfrozen out of carbonite.