Team preview: Ohio State

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(All information as of June 20, 2007)


Sure, Ohio State started last season ranked No. 1 in all the major polls. Yes, the Buckeyes won their first 12 games, often by large margins, including two dramatic wins over teams ranked No. 2 at the time: at Texas in September and a classic over Michigan in November.

Quarterback Troy Smith threw 30 touchdown passes, a school record. He won the Heisman Trophy in December, the school's seventh.
If only the Buckeyes' season had ended then, all would be hunky-dory in Buckeye Nation.

But alas, there was that pesky final task called the BCS national title game. And when OSU laid a 41-14 egg at the foot of Florida, suddenly, fans were upset.
How could this happen? How could a team that looked so good turn so bad?

Coach Jim Tressel is not one to issue public mea culpas -- or in this case, autopsy reports. And he hasn't had to do it very often, with just 14 losses in six years with the Buckeyes.
Last season, Tressel reached 60 wins at OSU faster than any coach in school history, including some guy named Woody. He has built up a pretty sizable buffer of goodwill around town, particularly because of his 5-1 mark against Michigan.

But as the days went by after the Jan. 8 Debacle in the Desert and the talk-show callers failed to relent, Tressel eventually was forced to offer an explanation.
In a nutshell, he said that sometime while the team was in Arizona preparing for the title game, it lost focus. He's not sure why. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany probably said it best when he opined that had Ohio State been the underdog, the Buckeyes would have won.

In other words, the Gators made good use of motivational tactics while OSU might have gone a bit soft.