Fans are a fickle bunch. No pun intended, but there really is no way to tell from week to week what exactly the mood of Buckeye Nation. We are a moody bunch to say the least. I, for one, am normally an optimist. Five seasons inside the bubble that is the Ohio State football program tends to give you a realistic view on life. In the words of a great coach “You can’t ever get too high, and you can’t ever get too low.” The message is one to try and live your life by, but there may be no better week to remember this quote. With that, let’s get to a little Scarlet and Gray Q&A.
Should we be worried after Ohio State’s 34-20 victory over Indiana?
The weekly therapy session that we go through as Buckeye fans is always interesting. I would be lying if I didn’t do the same thing. That certainly didn’t look like a 1-7 Indiana team that played in the ‘Shoe on Saturday. But it is hard to forget that it still was a team that has only beat South Carolina State this season. With all that being said, Tre Roberson is going to be someone special in the B1G over the next few seasons. He reminds me of Antwaan Randle El, and we all can remember how good he was under center for the Hoosiers.
The biggest concern continues to be the play of the Buckeye secondary. It just seemed like they were out of position a lot the past few weeks. I am sure Jim Heacock, Taver Johnson, and Paul Haynes have been working overtime to try and figure out what it is that is ailing this unit of pass defenders. It speaks volumes that a guy who is a redshirt freshman has developed into the team’s best cover corner. Bradley Roby has had the honor of guarding some pretty good B1G receivers over the last few weeks. When you consider the gauntlet of AJ Jenkins, Nick Toon, and Kofi Hughes, it is pretty clear that Roby has established himself as the best corner on this team.
The other thing to remember is the youth on this team. Luke Fickell talked all week about how they were doing their best to guard against any kind of letdown. The problem is that is a task easier said than done when it comes to an immature football team. Even as close as this game was it still never had the tenuous feel that games against Nebraska, Wisconsin or even Toledo had this season. Finding what motivates you is something that is a learned trait that can only be taught through experience. Maybe that lesson was learned last weekend.
Should Carlos Hyde now be the backup to Boom Herron?
In a word, yes.
Just comparing the two contenders for the number two running back in Hyde and Jordan Hall, Hyde has by far the superior stats at this point. In games where Hyde has carried the football more than 10 times, he has run for no fewer than 54 yards and has also averaged nearly four yards a carry. Comparing Hall, he had rushed for no fewer than 42 yards, Hall’s yards per carry average has been pretty bad the latter half of the season.
Then factoring in the size of the two (Hyde is roughly four inches taller and 40 pounds heavier), it is clear that Carlos Hyde is the second string tailback. One thing that seems to escape the Buckeye coaching staff is that Hall is not a B1G tailback. I think we learned this lesson a few seasons ago with Brandon Saine. Saine is and was a bigger back at Ohio State than Hall is, and I think it is pretty clear that while there is plenty of talent there but just not in the “I” formation.
Hall should fall into the athlete category. Things like special teams and slot receiver are the better options for the junior running back. There just seems to be a disconnect still between perception and reality of what Hall is as a football player. Hyde should be the second option at running back regardless of when Hall returns.
When will Braxton Miller become proficient at quarterback?
This issue seems to play right into the schizophrenic Buckeye fan’s hands. It is hard to balk at a guy who runs for over 100 yards last weekend and sets the school record for longest run for a quarterback. It still is hard not to look at the stats though: 5-11 for 55 yards and an interception. These are poor numbers, and we all seem to be clamoring for a sign that Miller can turn into a good quarterback and not just the second coming of Denard Robinson.
My hope is that Jim Bollman and the rest of the offensive coaches were taking notes on Sunday while watching film. What Indiana has done with Tre Roberson and the Hoosier offense is nothing short of amazing. This is a good offensive unit. Sure, there are some of the same issues that plague any young signal caller. Roberson’s pass that was intercepted by Travis Howard made that clear.
But the balance that was evident in the Indiana offense was refreshing to see. They seemed to have the linebackers and safeties guessing all afternoon what exactly Roberson was going to do. When the Buckeyes sat back in zone coverage, Roberson ran the ball. When the Buckeyes pressed the line of scrimmage, the Hoosiers had a quick slant or screen pass ready to catch the defense napping. There was a gridiron chess match that was routinely won by Indiana last weekend.
The game plan Ohio State had seems to focus on the run, and one could argue at this point in the season that it is too late to screw around with complex packages. Regardless, the Buckeye offense needs to mix some different variables in. Trust Braxton, and he can reward you. All anyone has to do is see what happened against the Badgers a few weeks ago to see what the freshman is capable of.
How treacherous is the trip to West Lafayette this weekend?
When I saw this game on the 2011 schedule, I was worried. After the spring and summer that transpired, this game scares me a lot. Let’s face it. The last trip to Ross-Ade Stadium didn’t go well at all, and the Boilermakers always play Ohio State tough at home. The combined score between Ohio State and Purdue is 68-63 in the last four meetings at Purdue. Let’s not forget that even the 2002 National Championship team was a Holy Buckeye away from not making the trip to Tempe to take on Miami.
Danny Hope was the engineer of the 2009 upset, and I wonder whether or not he has some more tricks up his sleeve for the Buckeyes this weekend. The Boilermakers are 4-1 at home this season, and this game just seems like the kind of test a young team usually fails.
So what can the Buckeyes do to avoid this pitfall on the schedule? Solve the problem that plagued them last Saturday. Many coaches have said, “November is for contenders.” This squad needs to realize they are contenders right now. The Buckeyes are a mere two games behind a weak Penn State team (who is weakened even more now by plenty of other off the field issues), and they need to play inspired the rest of this season. Anything less means Ohio State will not represent the Leaders Division in the inaugural B1G Championship game.
Let’s hope the hard lessons of last week mean the Buckeyes don’t stumble this week.