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College Football Spotlight

The Big Picture

September 14, 2003|Elliott Teaford

It's always something with these Ohio State Buckeyes, who keep winning games but continue to bear little resemblance to a national championship-caliber team.

This certainly seemed to be the week the Buckeyes reached the breaking point. Or, at the very least, the week in which the off-field distractions would catch up with them.

First, Coach Jim Tressel had to step in front of the klieg lights when running back Maurice Clarett was charged with lying to police about the alleged theft of cash, clothes and stereo equipment from a car Clarett had borrowed from a local dealership.

Then Tressel had to defend his program against charges that Clarett's mere presence had sullied the Buckeyes' national title after it was revealed the sophomore would be suspended for the rest of the season for receiving thousands of dollars in illegal benefits from a man described as "a father figure" from his hometown of Warren, Ohio.

Finally, Tressel had to guide the third-ranked Buckeyes against a quality opponent in No. 24 North Carolina State. The Buckeyes needed a goal-line stand on fourth down from just outside the one-yard line to defeat the Wolfpack, 44-38, in triple overtime. Then again, the Wolfpack played into Ohio State's hands on their final possession with some questionable play-calling that set up the fateful fourth-and-goal.

Not to worry, Buckeye Nation. The rest of the Big Ten, except for No. 5 Michigan (a 38-0 winner Saturday over a mediocre Notre Dame team), is a mess.

So circle Nov. 22 on the calendar. That's when Ohio State and Michigan play in the only Big Ten game that means anything.

-- Elliott Teaford

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