First, my apologies to any Rockets fans who were anticipating a preview for last week's game against New Hampshire. I'd like to make a joke about the game didn't need previewing because it's result was inevitable, but A) New Hampshire had a pretty strong program in years past (they really didn't look it last week), B) this is a Rockets team that lost to FIU in last year's Pizza Bowl, and C) you could then make the same joke about this week's game against Ohio State. In the two times these two teams have met, the Buckeyes have outscored Toledo 87-0. You read that right, the Rockets have not managed a single point against the Scarlet and Gray. Not even an accidental holding-in-the-end-zone safety like they got against Arizona last year.
So why will all eyes be on the Horseshoe this Saturday? Because the Rockets are up, the Buckeyes are down (allegedly), and Toledo has a nasty habit of catching the big boys on their bad days.Rockets fans have to feel like the offseason hubbub on the banks of the Olentangy had to have been leading up to this moment: The Buckeyes are dealing with a new head coach and a decimated roster, while Toledo's team has gelled so well, they're preseason picks to win the whole damn thang. If the Rockets are gonna finally get it done against OSU, it's this Saturday, right? Even our Editor and Chief, Matt Sussman, has gone on record with the Rockets finally wrestling away a W.
What Looks Right: Against what was supposed to be a pretty tough FCS team in New Hampshire, the Rockets offense rolled up 582 yards (6th in the nation), the meaty o-line didn't cough up any sacks, and the defense came away with 5 turnovers, which is tied for second in the NCAA (North Carolina St. had 7 against Liberty, but coughed up a pair as well to bring their margin back to 5). Austin Dantin and Terrance Owens slipped in and out from behind center with no problems, and Bernard Reedy looks to be the perfect buddy for Eric Page. And I'd be remiss if I didn't give Ryan Casano a Virtual Bear Hug for actually kicking the ball through the uprights.
What Looks Wrong: The defense may have gotten the turnovers, but they didn't stop the ball as much as I'd like them to. The defense gave up 332 yards (50th in the nation), and there were certain stops they didn't make that made my skin crawl. Early 2nd quarter, 3rd and 15, and the Wildcats get 14 through the air? Nico Stereti's 81 yard TD run in the 4th? I know at that point it was all academic, but those are the plays that the Buckeyes are going to key in on. Speaking of...
What The Other Guys Did: They didn't miss a step. Sure, they were playing Akron, but Joe Bauserman had no issues directing that offense, hitting TE Jake Stoneburner for more than a few. Braxton Miller looked hot as well. Plus, the defense managed to hold the Zips to 90 yards. 90. That's tops in the country.
What The Other Guys Are Saying: I talked to Luke Fickell, and asked him what's the one thing he saw on this Rockets team that he wasn't expecting:
Up front, offensive-line wise or defensive-line wise, is something that I would imagine they have as good as anybody in their league, or even in our league. When you're watching the film, it's something that really stands out. Their toughness on both sides of the football is something you've got to be aware of.
That'll certainly work in the Rockets favor. Lest we forget how mismatched those lines looked in 2009. And while this wasn't something that they explicitly said, the fact that the 3 suspended players from last week (busted taking gifts from a charity) are back this week shows me that they're at least a little scurred. UPDATE: Twitter's currently blowing up, the NCAA will not reinstate those players after all. BONUS!
What I'm Saying: I really don't want to be Negative Nancy here. Hell, I picked the Rockets to beat Michigan in 2008, so if anybody is the eternal optimist, it's me. Sussman the Falcon is picking them to win, so it's my duty as a Toledo Alumnus to pick the Midnight Blue and Gold, right? I do think the Rockets will finally manage to score against the Bucks, and I do think it'll be closer than the 18 1/2 spread Vegas is giving.
I really, really, really hope I'm wrong on this, but I think it's Buckeyes by 2 touchdowns. Prove me wrong. Go Rockets.