“For the first time since 2004, the Ohio State football team didn't spend Christmas at home, as the early date of the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29 forced an arrival in Dallas to start practice on Dec. 23.”
Since 2004, when the Buckeyes beat Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl, 33-7, Ohio State has played in a January or New Year’s Six bowl every year, except for the 2012 season when they were undefeated, yet on a Tattoogate-related postseason ban.
That’s one heck of a run for the Scarlet and Gray. However, with the New Year’s Six being forced to skip Dec. 31 because of the NFL’s Week 17 this year, the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes and No. 8 USC Trojans will kick off the most anticipated bowls of the season on Dec. 29 in the Cotton Bowl Classic.
As Lesmerises noted in his article, OSU got to Dallas on Dec. 23 to begin on-site bowl practices, meaning that they spent the Christmas holiday in the DFW area, instead of at home with their families. This is a fate that befalls dozens of teams every year, including some that have to actually play on Dec. 25, so this is by no means strictly an Ohio State problem, but it is something to consider when thinking about the “cost” of amateur athletics.
NBA players have been lamenting playing on Christmas Day for years, and LeBron James did so again this year, with players retweeting his comments and adding the fact that they weren’t being paid to be away from their families on the holiday.
Now, granted, NCAA rules allow the players to receive not-insignificantly sized gifts for bowl participation, but that would happen whether they missed Christmas or not, and it is nothing when compared to the $9,946/game minimum that an NBA rookie receives.
Head coach Urban Meyer has spoken about the impact that too many road, night games have on players. This discussion generally relates to academic and rehabilitation impact, but it is not completely dissimilar from forcing players to be away from their families on the holidays.
While there is no chance that bowl games will take a week off from Dec. 24-Dec. 30 so that players won’t have to miss Christmas for games or practices, it could potentially be another crack in the dam of college football amateurism as the tides continue to turn towards finding a more equitable compensation model for collegiate athletes.
“For the first time in nearly a month, Ohio State ran into problems it couldn’t overcome when it faced No. 5 North Carolina on Dec. 23 in New Orleans... But when Bates-Diop picked up two fouls in the first 4:41, it forced Holtmann to adjust.”
This will not be a newsflash to anyone who watched the game last Saturday, but as Jardy broke down the different lineup combinations that Buckeye head coach Chris Holtmann used against the North Carolina Tar Heels, he found that without Keita Bates-Diop, the Ohio State basketball team isn’t able to compete with a top-five team. Shocker, I know.
Jardy painstakingly broke down the lineups used, especially in the first half, with KBD on the bench in foul trouble. He notes that a number of less-than-optimal combinations were thrown out onto the floor for one of, if not the, first time all season with the team’s leader in points (18.7/g), rebounds (121), and steals (16) out of the game.
As I mentioned in the game recap, with the limited and inexperienced roster that Holtmann is working with in his first year in Columbus, the Buckeyes cannot have their veteran leaders, Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate, get into foul trouble and expect to compete against the upper-echelon of opponents.
Tate is averaging about 3.14 fouls per game, and freshman big man Kaleb Wesson is at 3.46, and both players have fouled out three times. The Buckeyes have already been walking a fine line when it comes to the younger Wesson’s playing time. He’s averaging less than 22 minutes per game, and whether that is due to foul trouble or conditioning, the team’s only true big will need to be on the court if the Bucks are going to compete in the Big Ten.
Bates-Diop and Tate do an admirable job rebounding for two undersized wings, but with Micah Potter being nearly invisible thus far this season, the more that Kaleb Wesson is able to stay on the floor, the more he alleviates the pressure on Tate and KBD to bang down low, limiting their chances of picking up unnecessary fouls.
With a bench thin on quality scholarship contributors, the only way for the Buckeyes to surprise in the B1G this year is if the team’s most reliable players are... you know... reliable.
“This is really it for J.T. Barrett, so let’s make a deal right now. Instead of one more in an endless string of columns debating the Ohio State senior’s legacy before another big game, I promise not to frame just one outing as context for his entire career.”
I think that it is safe to say that J.T. Barrett will end up being one of those players that is far more revered and appreciated after he is done playing than while he is actually active. With a bit of hindsight, I genuinely hope that Barrett is remembered as one of the best quarterbacks in Ohio State history.
For all of the accolades and records that pepper his resume, I think that you would be hard pressed to find any sizable portion of the Buckeye fandom that would put Barrett at, or near, the top of that list today. They would probably begrudgingly concede that his statistical output is unparalleled, but would cite Les Horvath’s historic importance, Art Schlichter’s passing prowess, or Troy Smith’s all-around athleticism as reasons to slot them ahead of #16, which is fine; I get it.
Coming off of his injury-shortened freshman campaign, expectations were sky-high for Barrett and the reigning national champions. But, Meyer chose to ride Cardale Jones’ momentum into the 2015 season, only to eventually change course, and then for the next two+ seasons it felt like Barrett was chasing the ghost of what fans thought might have been.
However, even if Barrett never delivered the national title that 12 Gauge did, he has been the constant throughout one of the most dominant periods in Ohio State football history, and he deserves to be celebrated and remembered as such. Besides, if nothing else, he beat TTUN four times as a starting QB and has five pairs of gold pants. That’s reason enough to enshrine him in Ohio State lore.
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