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Colin: Cardale taking that long coverage sack right before the half was again shades of Kent Graham. He is obviously talented, but how to do you feel he is progressing as a QB and a team leader?
Baver: I like Cardale, and as long as he is under center, I am pulling for him. But he’s not progressing well, and leadership probably isn’t his strongest trait. That said, you can’t dump all of OSU’s offensive woes on him. The game-day coaching isn’t doing Cardale any favors and the wrong routes that the WR’s continue to run have made Cardale look worse. The coaches shrunk the playbook for Cardale during last year’s so-called trilogy, and the results were, of course, better than fine. The opponents weren’t prepared for Cardale nine months ago, but they are now, while the playbook remains scaled back. The limited playbook is designed to protect Cardale and to reduce mistakes. If OSU minimizes mistakes, there is no one on the schedule that can beat them until late November. Unfortunately though, the Buckeye offense is still making mistakes at an alarming rate (117th in the nation out of 127 teams in turnovers committed), with 13 TO’s in 5 games.
Colin: With the loss of Corey Smith, the WR receiving core takes another hit. Overall, what grade would you give the WR's, and are they the weakest position group on the team?
Baver: Grading by Ohio State’s standards, I’d probably say a “D.” I mentioned the wrong routes above; it’s frustrating beyond belief, with Curtis Samuel being the biggest offender. I guess what saves them from an “F” is the mounting injuries, as you mentioned. Smith and Noah Brown are gone for the year, and injuries seem to have derailed the careers of James Clark and Johnny Dixon. Weakest position group? I think the WR group is neck and neck with (can’t believe I am saying this) the QB position right now.
Colin: Who exactly is calling the plays at this point?
Baver: It’s my understanding that co-OC Tim Beck took over the primary play-calling duties from Ed Warriner after the Northern Illinois game. Warriner is on the sidelines during games, while Beck is calling the plays from upstairs.
Colin: If the playoff were today and you could choose the four teams, who do you think are the best four right now regardless of current ranking?
Baver: Alabama, Baylor, TCU and I really don’t know. I had Ole Miss in there a week ago, and was surprised Florida ransacked them last Saturday. I think Alabama is clearly the best team in the country right now, despite having a loss, and after that Baylor and TCU are neck and neck. After those three, there are probably 8 or so teams bunched up, with Ohio State being one of those teams.
Colin: Give us an update on your picks to date and games and lines you will be watching this week.
Baver: 9-5-1 against the spread on the year, a good start. As bad as Maryland is, I think you take the 33 pts against the Bucks. I see a 42-13 type of score. I’ll say take the Illini catching 11 at Iowa. Iowa is definitely an improved team and may win the B10 West, but I see a letdown after their big win in Madison. Tempted to say take Sparty with their spread down to 14 right now at Rutgers, but with Michigan State having Michigan on deck, I’d say stay away from that game. Instead, take Georgia in a bounce-back game, giving 3 at Tennessee. Must win game for Georgia and they are better than they played against Bama.