Peterson and Clarett comparisons
Ok. Let’s get this straight. Comparing Maurice Clarett and any other
freshman tailback in the last twenty years outside of Hershel Walker from
Georgia is a load of bunk. This is not because Clarett was from Ohio State and
this Web site covers Ohio State. That notion could not be farther from the
The main reason why Clarett was twice the back as Adrian Peterson during
their freshman seasons is because Clarett was a complete back. For those touting
the superiority of Peterson, exhibit number one should be to force them to watch
the Texas Tech game, where Clarett made his first start as a true freshman.
There they are – the Buckeyes – lined up on a goal line situation, and what
is this freshman doing? Is he trying to remember his assignments? Is he
thinking, “I hope I don’t mess up!” Is he thinking, “Now which way does
this play go?” Nope. Clarett was standing there counting all the players to
make sure that the offense has enough men on the field.
Clarett was a better blocker and receiver than Peterson at this point in
their respective careers. While Peterson was being brought along slowly because
he could not yet pick up blitzes or run inside effectively the first half of the
season, Clarett blocked better than a fullback, knew the entire offense, and
made his living grinding out carries in the middle of the line in his very
first game. Oklahoma took Peterson out of the game when they wanted to score
a touchdown against Texas since he was struggling to get to the end zone.
Clarett, meanwhile, was money once you put him inside the 10-yard line. He
simply found a way to score the touchdown. When his quarterback was in trouble,
it was Clarett who was available to catch the football, move the chains, and
save the day for the offense, in contrast to Peterson – who is great at
running the ball but is not known as a threat without the ball in his hands.
The second reason is that Peterson is in a much more balanced offense. Unlike
Clarett, he does not have a green offensive line with a first year starter at
quarterback – he has a Heisman winning quarterback with three seniors and five
returning starters up front. Unlike Clarett, teams are not able to simply key on
Peterson running the football, but must instead seek to stop Jason White and his
bevy of talented receivers first and hope Peterson does not get loose to
win the game. Unlike Clarett, Peterson has not had to carry the offense and be
banged up to where he is physically less effective.
And as for the Heisman talk? Just as Clarett was not deserving in 2002,
neither is Peterson in 2004. The best player in the nation is Reggie Bush of USC.
He dominates wherever he is lined up and has single-handedly won multiple games
for the Trojans.
Having said all of that, please understand one other item…
In the long run, Peterson is a better back than Clarett and will be deserving
of legitimate Heisman consideration. He is not better this year, but barring an
injury, his sophomore season should be phenomenal. He is exactly what his high
school coach described to me over the phone two years ago: “Eddie George with
more speed.” He is a phenomenal talent with an incredible future ahead of him.
Even better, perhaps, is his attitude. Instead of allowing the attention and
accolades to get to him, Peterson has maintained a humble attitude and puts his
For all the talk of the improved Buckeye offense…
The real tests are still to come.
The Ohio State rushing attack has improved, yes, but it is still not
consistently gaining enough yardage to win football games on its own. Head coach
Jim Tressel might have pulled down the football a bit after staking a 14-0 lead
against a Penn State team that has struggled mightily this season, but even so…
The Buckeyes continued to implode (see the Pittman or Smith fumbles) when given
chances to put the game away.
The Buckeye offense hit rock bottom when they had to face Wisconsin, Iowa,
and NC State over a four game period. Those are some solid defenses. The
defensive lines of those three opponents – Wisconsin and NC State in
particular – are just brutal. They have made mincemeat of quarterbacks all
season and knocked several out of football games. Undoubtedly, this contributed
to the loss of Justin Zwick to injury. By way of contrast, Penn State and
Indiana are less than the brightest lights on the other side of the football. In
fact, Indiana is woeful defensively and Penn State could not consistently
pressure a quarterback if you gave them a running head start.
The offense is making progress. That much is clear. However, fans should
believe it when Jim Tressel and other coaches say this unit has a long way to
Wisconsin and the Rankings.
It is getting old.
Seemingly every time the Big Ten fields a team that is not as sexy looking as
perhaps the SEC, ACC, Big 12, or even Pac Ten (with the same or perhaps even
better record) the Big Ten squad is ranked lower.
Pollsters use a variety of reasons and excuses to explain this dynamic, but
the only thing consistent about the reasons given is their inconsistency. When
Ohio State lost late to Michigan State in 1998 with a team some still consider
to be the most talented unit in the conference that decade, the Buckeyes were
dumped from title consideration. The rationale offered was that John Cooper’s
squad lost late and championship teams show in November. Yet when Oklahoma lost
in the Big 12 Championship game by the largest margin ever by a No. 1 ranked
team in 2003, pollsters said it was simply the case of an off night. Huh? The
Sooners promptly made fools of these same pollsters by proving it was no fluke
when LSU slapped them around for three quarters in the Sugar Bowl. When USC or
OU or Miami struggle and allow high numbers of points defensively only to eke
out a win with a late touchdown, then the offense is lauded for being “good
enough to outscore opponents.” Meanwhile, so far the Badgers of Wisconsin in
2004, the Buckeyes in 2002 and the Wolverines in 1997 didn’t need to have a
great offense to overcome defensive weaknesses.
The bottom line is that there truly is a poll bias. It is one that is
pervasive, and it is getting pretty ridiculous. So what if a team’s style is
not quite as pretty as what the general media would like? So what if a team does
not score 40 points a game?
The question is not how pretty they look but rather – how good are they?
Whether or not Wisconsin loses this week, the fact of the matter is that
Wisconsin has dominated their opponents. They have no losses. To rank them below
California is a joke.
If Wisconsin wins out and is somehow passed over in the rankings by a team
with one loss? Look out. It will hit the fan in a big way. The Big Ten should be
getting sick of it by now considering Michigan was forced to split its title in
1997, Ohio State was robbed of a chance to compete for a title in 1998 (and
1996), and the Nittany Lions were locked out of title contention in 1994 despite
playing a tougher schedule than Nebraska…
This, like the pantheon of ugly faces Lloyd Carr makes at referees, is
apparently becoming a yearly tradition in the Big Ten.
Since taking over in 1997, Mason’s record in the first three games of the
season compared to Big Ten play (and bowls when eligible) is:
Big Ten and Bowls
Mason fattens up the Gophers on a diet of cupcake teams so soft that even a
toothless offense or defense can swallow them whole. This invariably raises
hopes that Minnesota could be returning to the powerful teams of yesteryear.
Ever heard of fool’s gold?
The reality is the same as that of West Virginia playing well in the Big
East; they are not such a bad team, but their competition is simply atrocious.
When Minnesota finally has to play a couple of opponents with more talent than a
high school junior varsity squad, they fold.
Against the two teams considered the most powerful in the conference, Ohio
State and Michigan, Minnesota has just one win in Mason’s tenure. That win
came against the Buckeyes in 2000 – the same year their head coach was fired
for essentially losing control of the team as it suffered a meltdown.
In other words, it might not behoove fans of other schools to wish they had
an offense or a defense or running backs or even a coach like the Gophers until
waiting to see what happens in October and November instead of just August and
Overlooked by the majority of fans is that this small state plays some
serious football. Despite a population that is smaller than the combined
metropolitan area of Cincinnati and Columbus, they field three Division I-A
football teams that in any given year might appear in the top 25.
Right now, Southern Mississippi has a 13-game winning streak in Conference
USA. Maybe some would say this is not such a tough task, but I highly doubt they
would like to see their favorite team be forced to play Louisville this year.
Last year, Ole Miss finished 10-3 with a bowl victory against a very good
Oklahoma State program. Though down at the moment, Mississippi State played in
the SEC title game not that long ago and recently succeeded in upsetting a
highly talented Florida Gators squad – costing Ron Zook his job.
There is talent to spare in Mississippi given the population size of this
If you don’t believe it – just ask a few NFL players what they think of
that Jerry Rice dude at wideout or that Brett Favre cat at quarterback.