The National Championship has been awarded. Recruits are making commitments. Excitement for the 2013 Buckeye football season is already full throttle. Let’s rumble!
Notre Lame and the championship debacle
Let me be the first to say it, I was wrong, just completely and utterly wrong. I thought that the Irish would have learned from the mistakes of the 06 Buckeyes and some of the other programs to challenge the SEC in the years since. I was wrong. They had to learn for themselves, stubborn to the end.
So to you, the great people of Buckeye Nation, I am sorry. I allowed my disdain and overall loathing for the Southeastern Conference to put my faith in one of the most heinous college football villains of all time, the Fighting Irish. This is a mistake I shall not repeat. Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me.
Heading into the game, the Irish brought one of the country’s best defensive units, at least statistically. They were led by Manti Te’o, a player that I still feel deserved to win the Heisman Trophy, but more on that later. While Te’o was their heart and soul, their defensive line was their backbone. Against Alabama, that backbone was broken in half.
For me, the most telling sign of a team in way over their head is the look on their faces and their body language early on when adversity hits them in the mouth. When Alabama took a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter, the Irish defense came onto the field with their hands on their hips, huffing and puffing with bewildered looks of confusion on their faces indicating thoughts of “what have we gotten ourselves into” and “I was in no way prepared for this.”
Welcome to the world of big time college football, Notre Dame. You’ve been gone for so long that you forgot how the big boys play it. I’ll take nothing away from your undefeated regular season since we certainly know the difficulty of navigating any schedule perfectly. But what exactly did you think was waiting for you in Miami, some combination of USC’s offensive line, Stanford’s take no risk quarterback with Le’Veon Bell bulldozing behind them? Was your line of thinking “Come on, how tough can they really be?” because by attacking the nation’s number one cornerback Dee Milliner on your first offensive possession (twice!) gave me the distinct feeling you had absolutely no idea what type of animal you were stepping into the cage with. Surely Notre Dame would learn from others mistakes and, if anything, maybe over prepare for Alabama and have to break down the myth, remind their players of the old “they put their pants on one leg at a time” speech, wouldn’t they?
It’s really kind of sad. I thought Brian Kelly was an offensive innovator, yet here’s a guy who early in the game decides to attack Alabama’s strength (it’s defense and specifically it’s best cornerback) with his weakness, Golson throwing from the pocket. Not to mention that they threw jump balls on the plays. Do you have any idea how low the completion percentage is on fades and jump balls? It’s impossible to come up with an actual number, but I’m guessing somewhere in the low 30 percentile range. Brian, it was real simple: Speed up the tempo, run your quarterback from the shot gun, be a little creative on your routes.
There is plenty of blame in South Bend for what went wrong and it starts in Tuscaloosa with the Crimson Tide. Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon were impossible to tackle, McCarron was on his game, the o-line was road grating. I get all that. But to look so unprepared, so out of shape and to try and use Brady Hoke’s genius idea of making your running quarterback (Alabama’s biggest weakness) a pocket passer is unacceptable. Hoke got the Wolverines smashed to the tune of 41-14 in Dallas for their season opener with the Tide. Brian Kelly was one point worse.
Manti Te’o was abused. He missed tackles and was blocked by Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack all night long. In his defense, a 3-4 defensive line is supposed to eat up space and keep blockers off the linebackers. The complete destruction of the Notre Dame front line sent 320lb offensive lineman that will be first round picks in the NFL draft unabated to Te’o from their second series of the game throughout the duration. Since we’re being honest tonight, I actually felt a little bad for Te’o. Here’s a kid who’s done everything right in his career, been the model scholar athlete and (as we now have found out) miraculously led his team to an unbeaten season and a shot at all the glory only to have his head bashed in repeatedly by a relentless Bama front five mostly at the cause of and receiving no relief from the guys who are supposed to protect him.
I thought when I watched our Buckeyes get beat by Florida that that was as bad of a championship beating as I’d ever see short of Oklahoma’s embarrassment by USC. Despite the final score, at least the Buckeyes kept the game within reach into the third quarter and kept you wondering if maybe they’d snap out of it and right the ship. Monday night’s debacle was an embarrassment from start to finish. At no point past the coin toss was there any doubt that Alabama was going to and eventually did run over and through Notre Dame.
The Bowls and the SEC
Prior to Monday night’s championship drubbing, I felt pretty good about the stigma of the SEC finally beginning to break down. Even the worldwide leader’s pregame show had the likes of Mike Bellotti, The Bachelor Jesse Palmer and “Twilight” Pollack suggesting that everyone else in the country was beginning to catch up.
We could look to Northwestern beating Mississippi State and Clemson knocking off LSU as barometers. We watched Nebraska blow a halftime lead then almost rescue themselves in the end only to drop a tight Capital One Bowl game with Georgia, a team that nearly beat Alabama in the SEC championship. Jaws dropped and eyeballs popped when Louisville dismantled the Florida Gators in the SEC’s prize possession, the Sugar Bowl. If they had any clue how to tackle, Michigan would have knocked off South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.
All signs were pointing to what some (ahem, me) have been saying since early October: The very top of the SEC is still the very top of the SEC, but from the third spot down to the bottom things are beginning to balance out nationally. The outcome of these bowl games would show that the SEC strength of schedule argument has holes in it and people were finally noticing. Would the top of the league no longer be able to avoid scheduling real nonconference opponents since the argument for why they refuse to do so was being exposed as a fallacy in front of their faces?
Then Oklahoma and Notre Dame came to the party. As expected, Texas A&M spanked Bob Stoops boys from Norman and then the Irish soiled their sheets in Miami against the Crimson Tide. While it doesn’t mean we’re going all the way back to square one with the “SEC dominance” argument, we didn’t take the chunk out of it that could have been if these two had shown up and at the very least played competitive games deep into the fourth quarter.
And for the record, I hammered Notre Dame a few paragraphs up. So to be fair: Bob Stoops, what’s your story bro? Texas A&M is a team that you spanked last year in Norman and had a pretty high rate of success against in your career. Because they’ve become affiliated with the SEC, you suddenly lose your touch? Get it together, Bob!
Two more for the real “Linebacker U”
As we discussed last week, the linebacker position at Ohio State for 2013 is going to need some help. Well reinforcements have arrived as Buckeye Nation proudly welcomes Trey Johnson and Mike Mitchell as the newest members of the family!
Trey Johnson is from Lawrenceville, Georgia. Rivals lists him at 6’ – 1”and 222lbs. He is ranked as the number 7 overall linebacker in the country and number 4 overall prospect in the state of Georgia. He committed last Friday night on national television as part of the Under Armor High School All-American game.
Mike Mitchell hales from Plano, Texas and is listed at 6’ – 4” and 216lbs. He is freakishly fast for a high school player with his size; Mitchell was clocked in the 40 at 4.39 seconds. He comes to Ohio State as the number 3 ranked linebacker overall in the country and the number 3 prospect overall in the state of Texas. Mitchell committed on Saturday also on national television but at the US Army All-American game.
Head coach Urban Meyer received great news along with the rest of Buckeye Nation when the Columbus Dispatch’s Tim May reported that Bradley Roby had contacted him and said he will indeed be returning the school for the 2013 and not entering the NFL draft. Aside from Jonathan Hankins, Roby was clearly the next closest “NFL ready” player on the Buckeyes roster. Most draftniks were speculating Roby would be picked somewhere between the 5th and 10thcornerback on the board, meaning Roby could have been as high as a late first round pick or as low as an early third round pick. I’m here to say, and I’m sure I speak for all of you, welcome back #1!
Urban Meyer did a great job on the pre and postgame shows for the four letter network’s coverage of the National Championship game on Monday night. You really got the sense that he was fighting the urge to politely say “We should be here.” I love his passion and can listen to him talk about football for days. We are lucky to only be scratching the surface of what Urban Meyer is going to bring to this program.
The basketball Buckeyes were walloped at Illinois last Saturday. They rebounded by winning a clutch road game at Purdue last night. Archrival TTUN comes to town on Sunday to see the Buckeyes at the Schottenstein Center. I don’t like to try and dissect x’s and o’s for basketball or dive into strategy. Basketball is the one sport I think I enjoy watching because I have no experience in it at any level (short of my driveway) and I can pretty much always be surprised by what happens. It’s the same way with hockey. That said, if Thad Matta doesn’t find some reliable scoring in his lineup we are looking at long dreary winter in Columbus. TTUN brings some serious explosion and looks like a Final Four contender.
How many days till spring practice starts?
Wrap it up
Thanks for checking in this week! I hope all of your 2013 resolutions haven’t been thrown by the side quite yet! Until next week, Go Bucks!
Metallica track of the week
I said ten years ago when it came out that in ten years people will back at St. Anger and say “You know, it really isn’t that bad…” As 2013 marks the ten year anniversary for the album (an album I love BTW) let’s make our MTOTW a cut from St. Anger. Here’s the video for Some Kind Of Monster!