It would be easy to say Ohio State is better than what we saw on Saturday night in Miami. Dismissal of the 24-6 loss as an aberration would make us all sleep better at night.
The truth is there have been few with the courage to say this outright: the Buckeyes are going to struggle.
I am still struck by a conversation I had with another media member before the season about how Ohio State was going to fare on the football field. He told me he saw four losses on the schedule, and if he looked hard enough he could see six.
Crazy as it sounded then and still a little even now, the reality of where Ohio State football is and where people want it to be is vastly different.
The game’s lopsided result has spawned plenty of questions, and until the Buckeyes take to the field against Colorado, there will be few, if any, clear answers.
From the greatest football minds to the most arrogant arm chair coaches, the quick fix for what ails this football team seems to be elusive at this point.
A team with so many questions and so few answers would be bound to struggle. Here is a short list I have compiled, and my best attempt at answering them.
Who should be quarterback?
I devoted almost 1,000 words last week as to why Braxton Miller should be the starting quarterback, and even after seeing his lowlights from the game, Miller should still be the full time starter.
Joe Bauserman is a nice guy, and he is probably a solid quarterback in the right offense. Unfortunately for the fifth year senior, Ohio State’s offense is not it.
Miami loaded the box up and time and time again brought pressure, and Bauserman panicked.
Admittedly Miller didn’t look great throwing the football, but neither did Terrelle Pryor his first year as starter.
The offensive staff constructed an offensive game plan that highlighted Pryor’s skill set that season and coupled it with Beanie Wells.
Pryor may have been a better runner, but Miller should be able to hold his own. Jim Bollman may be wise to reference his notes from a few years ago to find out what kind of packages they put in to help Pryor and use the same to help Miller.
A steady diet of Jordan Hall for a few games and Boom Herron, when he becomes eligible, for the rest of the season will be a more manageable game plan for Braxton to handle.
How do you get the offense in sync?
I did not see all of the Miami game. Frankly, I didn’t need to see it. I had an eerie feeling all week.
After watching the Buckeyes’ offense struggle the week prior against Toledo, it was immediately clear that Ohio State would struggle with Miami, whose defense is presumably better.
Step one is to settle on a quarterback, and we all know who I think that should be (see above).
Step two is establishing an offensive philosophy. Jim Tressel’s play calling seemed to have a purpose. Tress was criticized for being a conservative play caller, and he never got enough credit for being a very good strategist. His play calling seemed to have a philosophy or theme. He knew what plays the offense ran well and which ones would be affective.
Bollman (who is presumably calling plays for the first time in his career or at the very least in a long time) doesn’t seem to have that same methodical mindset. He seems to have a smattering of plays at his disposal and calls them with no real rhyme or reason.
Step three is establishing a running game. Jordan Hall ran well enough to be the de facto tailback until Boom Herron returns. There needs to be a trust factor established with Hall, and he needs to see 20-25 carries a game. I have never seen Ohio State throw the football as much as they have on first and second down this season as they have this year. Those need to go to Jordan Hall.
The final step is simplifying the passing game for Braxton Miller. There are some passing plays he runs very well and some that he does not. There is nothing run with going with 10 passing plays that he runs well and slowly adding more as the season goes on. Also with a young receiver core, presumably the simpler offensive game plan would help them as well.
How can you speed up a learning curve?
The Buckeyes (in my best Denny Green impression) are who we thought they were, a very talented but very young football team trying to learn how to play at the next level.
If I gave you the scenario about any other team before the season started and asked for a record prediction, most of you would have said anywhere from 8-4 to 4-8.
“Yeah but this is Ohio State. We don’t rebuild, we reload.”
We were all guilty of saying or thinking this, including myself. To demonstrate how guilty I was, I said 10-2 for a record prediction for this season.
By no means am I saying Ohio State stinks but this is reality.
The only thing that will speed up the learning curve is repetition. I would suggest the team take the same approach that I suggested they take with Braxton Miller. Lean heavily on the veterans and put the kids in situations where they would be able to succeed.
Is the scandal taking its toll?
This is one of those questions that no one can answer truthfully, unless you are on the inside.
For all the positive talk and innuendo, you would have to be made of stone to not be affected by what has transpired these past few months.
One area it has taken its toll is leadership, but I am not sure that graduation hasn’t had as much of an impact as the scandal. Sure the team misses Herron, Posey, Adams, etc. However, they miss Heyward, Rolle, and Chekwa as much.
Does Fickell have what it takes?
There was a decent amount of criticism leveled at Luke Fickell for looking like a deer in headlights during the latter moments of the game against the Canes.
Perhaps the young head coach was beginning to realize that sometimes all the positive messages, inspirational catchphrases, and buzzwords can’t solve all the problems.
Compounding the problem is a first time head coach making the mistakes he should’ve been afforded to make in the MAC or Conference USA in primetime.
There is a cross road that every coach comes to. Fickell seems to be there.
I am curious as to how tentative Fickell is from rocking the boat, especially on the offensive side of the football.
At any rate, I believe he is capable of the job. I, like Jason Winrow said yesterday, feel that throwing Fickell under the bus in three games really is unfair and premature. The Buckeyes could still have a successful season, but it is going to take Fickell asserting himself.
There is always a pressing want to win from Buckeye Nation, but Fickell has to make his mark.
So where do you go from here?
That might be the million dollar question that needs to be answered.
There are currently two games left before the remaining four of the “Tat Five” can rejoin the Buckeyes on the field.
Certainly both games in front of them are winnable. In fact, I could argue why Michigan State is a better matchup (Notre Dame anyone) for Ohio State than what Miami was.
Regardless of all of what has transpired since the beating sustained in South Beach, Ohio State has to move forward.
The best part of college football is no matter how bad you were beat, there is always next week. The Buckeyes need to win these next two home games and get back on solid footing.