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Sports Today: What Battle of Ohio blowout means for Bengals, Browns

Published: Monday, October 02, 2017 @ 9:42 AM

Mike Hartsock and Jay Morrison replay a 31-7 Cincy win in Cleveland.

After another Battle of Ohio beatdown, the Cincinnati Bengals have hopes and the Cleveland Browns have none. 

Finally the 2017 pro football season has arrived in the Buckeye State. 

While the Bengals try to figure out how to catch the Steelers, Browns fans can start putting together their draft boards. 

Everything is how it should be. 

RELATED: Bengals crush Browns in Cleveland

I wrote Friday I was nervous about how certain it seemed the Bengals would win in Cleveland, andI think I predicted on our weekly Facebook Live (check those out on Thursdays) a two-touchdown Cincinnati win. 

The Bengals did some good things. The Browns are worse than I realized. That added up to 31-7

After a rocky beginning, Cincinnati’s offense found some holes in Cleveland’s weird defensive scheme and it was off to the races. 

Despite getting no help from the running game, Andy Dalton picked apart the Browns, posting an outrageous 146 QB rating. 

Seeing seven targets apiece for A.J. Green and Tyler Kroft tells me the quarterback did a good job of looking for his best player and taking what the defense was giving him, which is all you can ask for much of the time. 

It looked like the Browns were determined not to let the Bengals run the ball, so we’ll worry about that aspect of things later. 

Let’s accentuate the positives today. 

Despite having no running game, the Bengals were good on third down (6 for 11), contained everything the Cleveland offense wanted to do until garbage time and got great work from special teams. 

Vontaze Burfict came back and even managed to become a sympathetic figure for a minute thanks to a ridiculous roughing the passer flag thrown on him. 

Maybe next time Marvin Lewis suggests he gets a bad rap, more people will listen… 

As for the Browns, all I can say is, “Wow.” 

I still like the potential of DeShone Kizer. I’m wondering if they are too bad to give him a chance to develop, though. 

I agree with the line of thinking he doesn’t have the confidence to be an NFL quarterback if it gets destroyed by this terrible early experience, but…. what if that is wrong? 

Anyway, it’s not my concern. 

It might not be Hue Jackson’s next year either if you’re buying some of the stuff being written about the team. 

CBS Sports reported Sunday morning there is a rift between the coach, who has actually done good things in the league, and the front office, which is comprised largely of people who have not. 

As believable as this story is given the near-constant state of turmoil the Browns have been in since they were bought by Jimmy Haslam, I generally advise taking this type of report with a grain of salt because you never know who could be fueling it and what sort of agenda they might have. 

Jackson took what was seen as a veiled shot at the front office last week when asked if his team can compete, and Adam Jones voiced similar feelings about a Browns roster that since the draft had been viewed as being on the upswing. 

Jackson was an awesome presence in Cincinnati, so I winced when he went north because I knew that would either mean the Browns would become good or he would fail.

On the bright side, I strongly suspect he has enough credibility built up to find another job quickly — maybe back in the Queen City? 

There’s a long way to go before the final story is written for either Ohio franchise this season. 

It’s nice to have some familiar narratives back in place now, though, isn’t it? 

Meanwhile, about that playoff chase? 

One win doesn’t cure all the Bengals’ ills but, it’s sure better than the alternative. 

They are two games back of the Steelers, who may not be as good as people expected and reportedly have had to deal with some locker room issues after their botched attempt at avoiding controversy during the national anthem last weekend. 

(The same caveat as above applied to this story about the Steelers.)... 

Ohio State moved up to No. 10 in the Associated Press poll, which doesn’t matter but some people care about anyway. 

I thought the 56-0 shellacking of Rutgers was good for the receviers’ confidence, something that could pay off down the line... 

Miami University went to Notre Dame and endured a blowout...

The Reds finished the season with a win over the Cubs, and Joey Votto played for the 162nd time this year. 

We’ll take a closer look at the 2017 baseball season in Cincinnati and look ahead to 2018 this week... 

Finally, the NBA is starting to get cranked up, and the Indiana Pacers are doing something smart to court southwest Ohio fans.  

UCLA’s epic comeback win over Texas A&M ranked as ESPN’s No. 1 game of the year

Published: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 1:20 PM

In many  ways, it was a season to forget for UCLA. Yes, the Bruins finished 6-6 to score an invitation to the Cactus Bowl, but the season will largely be remembered for the firing of former coach Jim Mora, and of the historically bad run defense, which yielded more than 300 yards a game to its opponents.

And while optimism is bright for the Chip Kelly Era, there was one epic high that may potentially trump people’s view of the Bruins 2017 season.

On September 3, during their regular season opener, the Bruins completed the second-largest comeback in FBS history to beat Texas A&M 45-44. That game was ranked No. 1 on the best games of the year by ESPN’s Jake Trotter.

Trailing 44-10 with a little less than 3 minutes remaining in the third quarter, quarterback Josh  Rosen helped illustrate a legendary comeback. He threw for a career-high 491 yards and threw 4 TD passes in the fourth quarter alone. His “fake-spike” toss to Jordan Lasley with 45 seconds to go sealed the  victory.

No matter what you remember about the 2017 season, which is more than likely the last for Rosen, what he did in the Rose Bowl that Sunday night in September will live on in the annals of Bruins lore forever. It was truly a magical night, and an incredible game.

ESPN includes 2 USC contests on list of 2017 season’s top college football games

Published: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 1:10 PM

It’s been a memorable season for USC in many ways. The Trojans won their first Pac-12 title since 2008, which was also the last time they got to 11 victories, and now they’re set to play in a New Year’s Six bowl game for the second year in a row when they face Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29.

And the individual games themselves also produced some big moments, such as the victory over Stanford to win the Pac-12 title earlier this month.

Two other games were big enough to make ESPN’s list of the 20 best games of the 2017 season: the Sept. 16 win overtime win against Texas ranked 10 th while USC’s loss at Washington State on Sept. 29 was ninth.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold was singled out in both games, for leading USC down the field for the game-tying field goal against Texas to force OT as well as the strip sack of Darnold that prevented a comeback against WSU.

Marcus Crowley found perfect fit at Miami for his developing skill set

Published: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 1:05 PM

Verlon Dorminey never had to worry about giving the reins of Trinity Christian Academy’s offense to Marcus Crowley this fall. After waiting a few seasons as a rotational athlete, Crowley was ready to take over as the featured back in Jacksonville and Dorminey was anticipating a breakout year.

For a running back without much of a national profile, Crowley was well established and, most importantly, he had a clear role for the next level. Even before Crowley had the size expected of a true power back, the tailback’s toughness running between the tackles was a defining characteristic. When he arrived at camps almost 30 pounds heavier than his listed weight, Crowley made himself coveted.

“That’s what Miami’s looking for. They were looking for a kid that’s a little bit bigger back,” said Dorminey, Crowley’s high school coach. “Marcus — by the time he graduates — will probably 200-205 pounds, once he gets to that level and we put a few more pounds on him.”

For the past two seasons, Crowley would describe himself as a bruiser. During the past season, though, the halfback transformed from a tough, thin runner into the sort of burly back the Hurricanes will need to fill out their Class of 2019. Until the past few weeks, Crowley was listed as a 6-foot, 165-pound running back. Now he’s up to 195 pounds and his growth helped him piece together a breakout season in Jacksonville.

While Crowley is unranked in the 247Sports composite rankings, the back is due for a significant bump this offseason and had interest from a number of other Power 5 programs. He already had offers from North Carolina State, Georgia, Penn State and UCLA when Miami finally extended its offer during the summer. Last Wednesday, Crowley committed to the Hurricanes.

This past fall, Crowley ran for 1,210 yards and 12 touchdowns on 197 carries, and added another 4 catches for 38 yards. The only obvious flaw in his play was the 4 fumbles he lost this year during the Conquerors’ run to the region finals in Class 5A.

“Just his progress, his maturity,” Dorminey said. “He played a lot as a ninth grader, played a ton as a 10th grader, but this year he was that feature back and just the maturity of how he developed over the season.”

And as Miami began to take notice of Crowley, the junior felt his interest in the Hurricanes solidify. He made his way to Miami Gardens early in the season to watch the Hurricanes beat Toledo, then returned to Hard Rock Stadium for Miami’s win against then-No. 3 Notre Dame in November.

The Hurricanes’ defense includes a pair of Trinity Christian alumni, defensive lineman Kendrick Norton and defensive back Derrick Smith, and they were able to tell Crowley about what it was like to play for Miami. Seeing the Hurricanes in person, particularly for the game against the Fighting Irish, solidified Miami as Crowley’s favorite.

“The atmosphere of the games. It’s a whole different atmosphere than a different college game,” Crowley said. “The fans are crazy and Miami’s bringing the swag back.”

Crowley previously viewed the Hurricanes like a lot of kids around his age do. The idea of Miami was always tantalizing and he can remember small pieces of its latter glory days from when he was really young. Even though they had struggled for the better part of a decade before this season, the Hurricanes were always on Crowley’s radar because of what they could become.

Crowley finally picked up an offer from Miami during its Paradise Camp in July and special teams coordinator Todd Hartley, the Hurricanes’ area recruiter for Jacksonville, started to keep in touch. The descriptions Hartley gave excited Crowley.

“I’ve been interested in Miami …, since I was a kid,” Crowley said. “When Coach Hartley was talking to me it sounded nice and then I wanted to get up there, and when I got up there it was everything he said. It was nice. It felt like home.”

While Crowley is the first running back committed in the class, he’ll most likely wind up being the No. 2 running back for 2019. The Hurricanes appear to be the early front runners for 4-star athletes Kenny McIntosh and Mark Richards, both of whom play running back in high school, and are also in the mix for 5-star running back Noah Cain and 4-star running back Daniel Carter.

Crowley’s powerful running style would be an ideal complement to any of these backs.

“He’s that typical 6-foot, 200-pound back in high school that is going to be tough to deal with and then once he gets to college I’m sure they’ll make him even bigger,” Dorminey said. “I think a lot of that is what they need.”

Ohio State football: What’s driving Buckeyes’ success on the recruiting trail?

Published: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 1:04 PM

All week long, our Land of 10 reporters following the Buckeyes will address pressing questions on the minds of the Ohio State fan base with our new daily feature. To ask Austin Ward a question, follow along on Twitter and suggest a topic right here. Check back Monday through Friday as we dive into the Ohio State Question of the Day. Go here to see all of our previous answers.

Just in case there was anybody concerned that Ohio State’s recruiting success was slowing down, Urban Meyer and his staff emphatically erased those doubts with a Tuesday tandem of elite targets offering commitments. And just like that, the Buckeyes on Tuesday solidified their chances of finishing with the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class with the early signing period set to open next week.

So, why has Ohio State been so successful putting together this group? I’m not sure there’s just one way to explain it, which I suppose is a big part of the answer.

The success in the NFL of Ohio State products such as Marshon Lattimore is part of the recruiting pitch. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Any top-shelf recruit with plans to head to the NFL has to notice the pipeline the Buckeyes provide to the next level, and it’s an even easier sell when players such as Michael Thomas or Marshon Lattimore turn into stars almost immediately when they get to the next level. It’s no secret Ohio State makes that a part of the pitch, and while Alabama and Michigan can both do the same in some respects, right now the hottest brand in that department is the one with Meyer’s signature on it.

Of course, there are way more factors that go into this process, and at the moment Ohio State has everything trending in the right direction to put together what is shaping up to a special group. It has had relatively stable continuity with the position coaches, which helps to build early relationships and clear expectations of the situation a player will be in once he arrives on campus. The Real Life Wednesdays program has been a major hit with players and families alike, and after a few years it has grown and become more appealing. And, obviously, the Buckeyes are winning a lot of games, competing for championships every year ― and drawing some of the biggest crowds in the nation both in person at the Horseshoe and on television.

Right now, it has to be hard to say no to the Buckeyes. And that’s one surefire way to build a class that is in line to finish No. 1 in the country.

Read more answers to questions about the Ohio State Buckeyes here