52-49, the final score on Saturday night in Bloomington, left a lot of people outraged. The game should never have ended that close or ever been that close to begin with. However, due to a set of circumstances that left a lot of people scratching their heads, it happened and we have to move on from it. Let’s start now and officially put Indiana to rest.
Dark Day 3?
Was Saturday night going to end up being labeled “Dark Day 3″? Almost. While there is a ton of finger pointing to go around (officiating being one that deserves a review from some board of something, somewhere) the majority of fingers are pointing firmly at Luke Fickell and his Silver Bullet defense that was shredded for 481yards of total offense by the Hoosiers.
To his credit, Fickell has taken the criticism and spoken openly about the problem. The fact that he is admitting there is a problem is a huge step in the right direction to correcting the mess we watched on Saturday night. But how bad was it schematically that we should level all the blame on Fickell? Luke can’t make any tackles, he can’t take better pursuit angles, he can’t get guys off blockers and he certainly can’t use his shoulders to tackle instead of reaching for ankles or thighs. I’ve made this argument before and after watching what unfolded this past weekend it has to be repeated: Luke seems to have guys in the right spots, they just don’t make the play.
There is this myth going around that Ohio State is playing too much zone defense and therefore allowing these spread offenses to have free run and thus putting poor fundamental tackling players in positions to have to make plays they are not capable of making. It all sounds good except for one thing: They’re not running Luke Fickell’s (or Ohio State through time, in general for that matter) standard 4-3, they’re running Urban Meyer’s variations of it. Those variations appear to demand a type of player on defense that Ohio State, for the most part and certainly excluding the defensive line, does not have on campus yet. It’s what started getting the SEC ball rolling in the early 2000’s: defensive ends that can run like linebackers, linebackers that run like safeties and safeties that run like corners but hit like linebackers.
I’d also like clarification on what exactly the coverage calls are. I know we won’t get it from the staff and we shouldn’t, but if it’s true that they are (I’m not explaining this, so you may want to skip to the next bold headline) in a cover 4 base, then it’s the “one on one” matchups everyone is clamoring for that is actually the problem. My point is: This is Urban Meyer’s defense. It’s going to take time for Luke Fickell to learn to call it and recruiting the players to be on the field to execute it.
For my money, the real reason for concern is that they didn’t step on Indiana’s throats defensively when they had them down. Remember, they were given an 18 point lead and clearly went lax and gave IU the opportunity to get back in the game. This cannot happen against bad teams (see Indiana or even California) let alone some of the better teams on the schedule still remaining (see Wisconsin and Michigan). Against Nebraska, the hammer fell. They were up big and the defense attacked like sharks with blood in the water. What made the lead at Indiana so different? Oh, that’s right, it’s only Indiana. That line of thinking left the Buckeyes fortunate to escape.
Got Your Back
Another week has passed and there’s yet another outstanding performance from Carlos Hyde. I think he’s proven his worth to the offense and made it a near impossibility to replace him even when Jordan Hall comes back from injury.
Rod Smith continues to be impressive as well. And I love his power on kick returns. Three returns for 85 yards is a 28.3 yard average. You’ll take that every time if you can get it especially considering that most returned kicks don’t come out of the endzone. As the Big Ten Network commentators accurately replayed and showed, Smith has a great one-step-and-burst motion that we see in highly successful backs. Let’s see a lot more of Rod Smith.
So where does this leave the previously mentioned Jordan Hall? When he returns it only makes the offense that much more of a potent weapon. How does he fit and get his touches? I’d expect to see Hall featured in the short passing game. I’d also expect to see him helping out Corey Brown with the bubble screens and option sweeps.
Hall, Hyde and Smith behind Miller: Is it a stretch to see a 400 yard game on the ground?
Undefeated? Why Not?
After the Homecoming win against Nebraska the local and even the national media began discussing Ohio State’s potential to run the table and finish 12-0. Regardless of the Big Ten having a down season, with what this team endured last season to finish this year unbeaten would be nothing short of remarkable. But, can it happen? I say it can. Let’s go game by game with the remaining schedule and look at how and why.
Purdue: Word from Urban Meyer is that he is personally taking a more hands on approach with the defense. From what we have seen from Urban Meyer and know about his past, what do you think the odds are that they have anything close to a repeat performance defensively from Indiana to this week against Purdue? Look for a solid defensive effort, improved tackling and an offensive onslaught that lead to a big win. Forget what you heard about Purdue having an offense that gives Ohio State problems. Not this week after what these players will have to endure from the staff after the Indiana near embarrassment.
At Penn State: If you’re traveling to this game make sure and bring riot gear. I tweeted about it earlier in the week; Happy Valley will be a war zone as drunken PSU students prepare for their “Super Bowl” and a chance to show the world that Nittany Lion football hasn’t and won’t fall off. PSU home night games are easily the best kept secret in the NCAA with their absolutely repulsive behavior. Anyone who was there in 2005 for the first “White Out” can tell you stories of buses being shaken, elderly women having students scream, literally, directly into their faces about dying, students challenging said elderly women’s husband’s to then fight. You’ll hear about everything from beer cans to pop bottles and everything in between being thrown at Ohio State fans, even urine and blood balloons thrown at The Best Damn Band In The Land… And all of this was before they found out that their messiah was a fraud and the school was sanctioned with a four year bowl ban and copious amounts of scholarships lost. Beaver Stadium and the parking lots surrounding it will be a complete mess and nowhere anyone wearing scarlet and grey will want to be. Luckily inside the stadium, and more accurately on the field, things will be a mess but a mess for the Lions and their football program. PSU’s offense plays right to the strengths of Ohio State’s defense (namely it doesn’t run a spread) and their defense has nowhere near the athletes needed to stop the Buckeye attack. Throw in the team rallying together and focusing while in a hostile environment and, fingers crossed, things could get ugly on the scoreboard.
Illinois: Has anyone seen anything from Illinois to make you think they can come into Ohio Stadium and pull off a win? The team will be reminded of the Indiana debacle for another week to keep focus.
This leads Ohio State, in my estimation, heading into the bye week at 10-0 with their two biggest games still on the schedule. A week to heel bumps and bruises is just what will be needed to finish strong.
At Wisconsin: A week ago I’d have said the Buckeyes win this in a laugher. After seeing Wisconsin in some ways right their ship recently, notably coming alive at Purdue last weekend, mix in the performance of the scarlet and grey in Bloomington, I’d have to now say this looks like it could be anybody’s ballgame. When games are tough to call, most times they come down to a big play or the guy wearing the headset on the sideline. In both cases, I like Ohio State to be the team to prevail. Braxton Miller is always a spin or stutter step from a huge play and it doesn’t take rocket science to realize Urban Meyer can outcoach Burt (yes, I know its Brett, but I call him Burt ever since he went off on an interviewer for making the mistake) Bielema any day of the week. Even in the worst case scenario, advantage: Buckeyes.
Michigan: Call me what you want, say I’m stupid, I don’t care. I expect nothing short of a 17-21 point win over TTUN on November 24th. This isn’t just about winning The Game and beating your rival, this is about payback. This is about righting a wrong. This is about sending seniors who won’t finish with a bowl game out on the right note. This is that bowl game. This is about restoring order and pride. This is about welcoming Brady Hoke to “Ohio” and making sure he’s aware that while he was gone from Michigan all those years a few things have changed. This is about taking Denard Robinson’s porridge bowl and shoving it down his throat.
If they come into The Game 11-0, they’ll finish 12-0.
Can they stop being so slow at times in the backfield? These plays where Braxton holds the ball and kind of shuffles sideways attached to Carlos Hyde and then decides whether to pull out the ball and run or hand it to Hyde work well against some defenses, mostly slow ones. But even Indiana was too fast for that type of attack. When you’re crushing people up front, get the ball into the hands of the guy you want to tote it and send him sprinting up field. They were absolutely gashing Indiana’s defense with quick hit runs both outside and inside. Stick with what is working.
We had a Jake Stoneburner sighting this weekend! While four catches for 41 yards isn’t a huge night, it was still nice to see Stoneburner involved. I still feel like he can be our most dangerous weapon in the passing game with his speed and ability to stretch the middle of the field with linebackers on him in coverage.
Nathan Williams will be back in the lineup against Purdue this week.
Zack Boren is listed as a co-starter this week… at middle linebacker. Word came down last Friday night that the senior fullback might see some significant time against the Hoosiers at linebacker. Not only did he play linebacker, he played it well and led the team in tackles with 8.
It’s a noon kickoff at The Shoe on Saturday and that typically means a sleepy crowd. It needs to be raucous and loud. Ohio Stadium needs to be a home field advantage against all opponents, not just ones they play at night or that have popular names and high rankings.
Wrap It Up
Don’t get too hung up on the defensive woes at Indiana. Remember: It’s a brand new scheme for players as well as the coaches. Don’t be so quick to want to lynch a guy like Luke Fickell who has bled for this university and its fans. Luke is the guy who played the ‘97 Rose Bowl with a torn pectoral muscle. He’ll figure it out and so will the guys on the field, especially once some of the guys on the field are replaced with guys more suited to run the system Meyer wants to use. Until next week, Go Bucks!
Metallica Track of the Week
Some feel like the Buckeyes snuck out of Bloomington with a win. So, for our track of the week what is more fitting than a song called Escape? We go back to the Orion Music and More festival, night one, June 23rd 2012 in Atlantic City, New Jersey for the world premier (yes, first time EVER this song was played before a live audience) of the song that was never meant to be played live, Ride The Lightning’s Escape!