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Area sports and a false sense of optimism

Coming out of hiding long enough to make predictions

September 15, 2008


Each year for the past four years I've been bold. Not so much in a sense of how I have predicted games or seasons to go, but in the manner in which I thought they would play out.

Ohio State, Cleveland and Pittsburgh fans alike have threatened me, mostly in anonymous e-mails, occasionally at a local sporting event or at the local pub.

Other area photographers have told me to stand at a distance from them while shooting local sporting events as to avoid the line of fire. Don't worry everyone, I'll still wear my fedora as soon as it gets cold, so I'm easy to spot.

This year, I've bit my tongue. Mostly because I didn't feel like incurring anyone's wrath with what I thought, but partly because I thought the starts for the seasons of all three teams were so obvious, that my opinion would be like predicting the outcome of Ohio State vs. Youngstown State.

No one really expects YSU to win in that situation, and this year I didn't really find too many Ohio State fans that had grown wild with anticipation for another run at the BCS championship.

Perhaps they're defeated. Two consecutive blowout losses in BCS title games will do that. I've gotten the sense that many Ohio State fans have in a lot of ways stopped getting their hopes up.

There's nothing that quite shatters a fan's dreams or calms their hatred for said sports writer more than watching their team get systematically dismantled over and over.

That's certainly how it felt going into Saturday's Buckeyes-Trojans' contest, and why I skipped the formalities of running another column stating what readers have already come to expect from me -that Ohio State and The Big Ten would again be embarrassed by a better team from a better conference.

And it happened again.

So it's three games in for the Buckeyes, two for the Browns and Steelers, and I can't resist.

First off, with utmost respect, Jim Tressel will never win another national title at the helm of Ohio State running the offense the way he does -with or without Beanie Wells.

He should start quarterback Terelle Pryor as soon as possible and completely open up the playbook.

Playing run it between the tackles will win you the Big Ten. And for what it's worth, it'll beat Michigan, too. To his credit, he wins most of the time, and it's got him one of the most lucrative contracts in college football. But it will not win you a game against a team the likes of USC.

Tressel can't keep relying on his defense to solely win him big contests. Ohio State has great athletes on that side of the ball, but the Buckeyes are lulled into a false sense of optimism when they track down opposing offenses that don't have any speed. Don't get me wrong, the Buckeyes are the best team in their conference, and they have the fastest defense in the Big Ten by far. They just don't have the offensive prowess to take down a PAC-10 or SEC powerhouse. They should in a year or so with Pryor, but if they are to win it all again under Tressel, they've got to take a step toward being more creative at scoring points. Punts are important Jim, but not as important as your offense getting in the end zone.

Getting back to a false sense of optimism, how didn't anyone else see that the Browns did so little to improve a defense ranked in the lower ranks of the league in 2007?

Last year, Cleveland went 10-6, but it wasn't without the benefit of a schedule that completely played into its favor as the year progressed. Derek Anderson was asked to take the reins and fire away, which he did quite well to a variety of targets.

Teams have caught on to the plan.

Anderson has looked awful in two games even with targets like Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards as well as the return of Jamal Lewis.

The thin defense was shredded by Tony Romo and the Cowboys and fell flat when it mattered again to the Steelers.

The Browns absolutely get no break this season when it comes to the schedule with perhaps the exception of the Bengals twice.

They play two Monday night games, one at home against the Giants and another at Philadelphia. They play Indy, Washington, Buffalo, Tennessee, Jacksonville and Denver. You can't look at a single game on the schedule and say it's a definite win.

I didn't make a preseason prediction for Cleveland this year, since the last two times I did that, there was the aforementioned threats, gun fire, etc.

I thought in the preseason, the Browns would do well to go 9-7. After their 0-2 start, unless Brady Quinn engineers some sort of miraculous turnaround, I think they'll do well to go 7-9.

They've still got weapons - certainly on offense, and should be scoring way more than the 16 points they have through two contests.

If the team can take care of the weaker part of its schedule - which is basically the next two games -they might be able to get the confidence back they seem to have started the year devoid of and make a run at the postseason.

Back to the whole false sense of optimism theme - the Pittsburgh Steelers are 2-0, but can anyone really say how good they're going to be with wins over Houston and Cleveland? They play Philadelphia next week which should be a better gauge as to where they stand.

But for now, take it easy Pittsburgh fans. I'd be excited, too if I were you considering Tom Brady is done for the year and the Colts don't exactly look stellar. It's a golden opportunity, and the Steelers may prove to be the team to beat in the AFC. But it is week 2. Let's see how things play out when Pittsburgh actually plays someone besides Cleveland before we go talking about another Super Bowl.

E-mail B.J. Lisko @



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