Let’s sit back and admire “The Perfect Ten.” No, we can’t use the name “Bo” in this conjuring as there are too many non-sexy pejorative connotations there. And even if we decide that this 2012 Ohio State football team is not “perfect,” I have already decided that it is “perfect enough.” And why would Buckeye Nation make “ideal” the enemy of “a really good time,” anyway?
As Coach Tressel said just two days before the Illinois game: “I think Illinois has got every bit of talent that we do, but if we execute we will be OK and find a way to win the game...”. Oh, that was Urban Meyer saying that? What – is he channeling JT or maybe his inner Lou Holtz? We heard all the caveats and warnings: The Frightening Illini have won seven of the last 11 games played at Ohio Stadium and blah blah blah. Historically, none of these players on either team were part of that anecdotal history and none of these Illini coaches were part of that; and probably the only OSU coach there was Fickell, so how much muscle memory do those kinds of “stats for dummies” really have?
Look, Illinois is not very good. And they won’t be for a while. They are “Minnesota bad” in the sense that records and statistics aside – however mournful – they are even worse than that. This game yesterday turned out to be the first of our two bye weeks and even Urban, with his OCD perfection mentality, seemed to grok all that. To get your mind around the Illini Problem, well, they had lost their last five in a row before they even got here, in this fashion:
Louisiana Tech 52-24
Penn St 35-7
In their previous two road games, they were outscored 76-14. Make that now 128-36.
Going into the Ohio State mash-up yesterday, the Illini were last in the conference in total offense, scoring offense, total defense and scoring defense. Did we miss anything in that capsule review? Wait! There’s less: 117th in the nation (only 120 teams) in punt returns, 115th in kickoff returns and 117th in sacks allowed. But they are 99th in turnover margin. One theory is that maybe Coach Beckman is spending too much time focusing on that one area! It’s an ancient series as Ohio State and Illinois met for the 99th time since the series was kicked off in 1902. But let’s get recent and let’s get real. In the last four games, Illinois scored just 38 points and gave up hundreds. I picked a 28-point spread and it was 30 so the game ran about according to script, right?
So, enough already with the statistical pyrotechnics, sooner or later we have to talk about the, uh, game.
Urban studied this Ohio State season and noted that all the day games started at noon and we have been really slow starters so he cleverly moved the time back to 3:30. Didn’t work. Well, neither did the scoreboards right before the game, which was likely an omen. Slow starting, we said? Ohio State – for the year - is losing the first quarter cumulatively by five points. That’s for an undefeated team, fans. We moved that to a mere -4 as we eked out a “win” in Q1 despite Christian Bryant aiding and abetting the Illini with another of his inimitable penalty sprees.
Then? Then that was it. Back to your regularly scheduled movie of Braxton Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with a 24-0 Q2. Brax makes offensive coordinator Tom Herman look like a Mensa member (oh, he really is?) as Miller went into one of his vintage “Matrix” zones, moving at his own warp speed while the mere humans grasped and gawked.
Q3 saw us back in Q1 torpor. Nothing much really happened as we traded seemingly meaningless scores. Jake Stoneburner broke up two passes to himself which did nothing other than ding Braxton’s game stats. And even Brax got frustrated when he couldn’t pad those stats with a throwing TD so he lackadaisically ran one in – just because he could. Rod Smith kept his career rep intact by laying another one on the carpet and our pattern of creating needless and largely invisible penalties gave Illinois an excuse-me touchdown.
They got another one of those in Q4 when Kenny G got out of tune and handed them six. But for pure entertainment value, Downtown Philly Brown’s run after the catch was worth the price of admission and Bri’onte Dunn’s tough running should get us all excited (all but Rod Smith, that is). And that was that. The Buckeyes are now 10-0 to start a season for the 10th time in school history and third time in seven years.
As to my nonchalant posturing? I kid, I kid. And I look for interesting points to cover because Ohio State was totally dominating in yesterday’s affair – as they should have been; 32 first downs to 15 for Illinois; 570 total yards to 170 for the Illini. We also lead in penalties, turnovers and time of possession. But BraX was the X-factor. Last year, he completed just one of four passes against these guys. This year, he generated another “quiet” 300 yards of total offense in about three quarters.
How good of a season is Braxton Miller having? He will finish this year – barring injuries – with the second most rushing yards by a quarterback in Big Ten history. And passing under the radar, he already has 1,753 passing yards with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions for the season with two games to go. He looked terrific throwing the ball yesterday and as he learns to read defenses, he will only get better.
Some final weird and barely related thoughts:
1) Ten years ago last week, during the magical 2002 national championship season, we were also undefeated and ranked #6 in the nation. Can you smell what we’re cooking here?
2) Did you see Brady Hoke’s little brown jugs a-jiggling as his reclaimed wide-out replaced Denard against a truly hapless and inept Minnesota team? Whoever said that the Minnies were any good, anyway? Michigan skipped both Penn State and Wisconsin on their schedule and went more than two full games without scoring a touchdown. And they could end up about 8-5 depending upon how the football bounces from here out.
3) If the Big Ten footballers really want to get competitive (with, say, the SEC as an example) they need to quit hiring MAC and MAC-like coaches and open the purse strings. Jerry Kill and Tim Beckman and Danny Hope and maybe even Kevin Wilson are in way over their heads. You can’t cheap out if you want to get serious about competing.
4) OK, I’ve been saying since July that we would go 12-0, right? Well. Let’s get super-presumptuous and say – how do we stretch that to 16-0? I would schedule, let’s see: Buffalo, San Diego State, Cal and Florida A&M (!) to open the 2013 season with. Oh, we did?
But as I so often do here in the Bucket, we are getting ahead of ourselves. We are a Perfect Ten today and have a week off to smell the roses (no, not those roses…) and enjoy just being a Buckeye. A great time for that, indeed. This team is getting better by the game and we have the two biggest games of the year coming up.
It may not be perfect but it is on this Sunday, it sure feels perfect enough…
* * * *
Long After the Game
Illinois game analysis by Duane Long
The most complete game of the season for the Buckeyes. I don't want to hear about how bad Illinois is. This team has found a way to not look good against teams it should blow out.
This week Ohio State found a way to do exactly what it was supposed to do, beat up a team it was supposed to beat up. We saw the defense be better for the third straight week.
Again, I don't want to hear about the level of competition. We are seeing the defense evolve. Improvement in linebacker play is noticeable. The better play at linebacker coincides with the switch of Zach Boren from fullback to linebacker. I don't want to say that is all there is to it. I think Urban Meyer is the main competitor to Nick Saban as the best coach in the college game and we are seeing it. This team is getting better.
I don't know if we have seen Braxton Miller throw the ball better than he did in this game. It is especially interesting in the fact that Miller is coming off his worst game throwing the ball in memory. He was strong in his throws and accurate. A couple of plays back-to-back on the second to last possession of the first half show the impact a pass/run quarterback can have on the game.
On the first, Miller scrambled left and had plenty of green in front of him but he dumped the ball to Nick Vannett or Jeff Heuerman, I can't remember which, who took the pass for a twelve yard gain. The very next play Miller went back to pass again, didn't find a receiver but carried the ball inside the five. A quarterback as mobile as Miller but who is a pass first quarterback puts so much pressure on the defense. These two plays back to back show that with Miller being effective throwing the ball the defense is at this offense’s mercy.
O’ Captain, My Captain …
Illinois game review by former Ohio State captain Jerry Rudzinski
We can’t put a stake in the ground for the XYZ Bowl but we can put a stake in the ground as the dominant school when looking at the two major sports. It is too bad they can’t make a ranking that combines the gridiron and the hardwood. The basketball team looked unpolished to Buckeye standards but quite frightening to national standards in its exhibition game against Walsh. Our basketball team will be great...again. The football team? If out-pressure is a word, we out-pressured #10 on the list. When I watch that OSU offense, in the plainest English I can muster, I would summarize it by saying “they put pressure on you for 60 minutes.”
Tim Beckman is living the John Cooper-ism in Champagne. Coach Cooper would beat into our heads, “You are not going to win many games if you can’t run the ball and stop the run.” I saw a quarterback Saturday that made people miss, a running back that jammed it in there for 137, and an offensive line that was once again superior. I also saw play-calling, tight ends, and spirals that kept the Illinois defense honest, and penalized the Illinois defense when they weren’t honest. OSU ran for 330 yards. Illinois ran for 74.
Ryan Shazier continues to play the linebacker position better and better. He went from struggling to get off key blocks to being one of our best at it. He uses his hat and hands to shed good blocks. Once he gets to the ball carrier, I haven’t seen a linebacker at OSU get guys to the ground that well since AJ Hawk was here. Ryan’s hands are unusually strong. This defense boasts a mean streak from 54, 43, and 2. Our penalties from a few of those guys were costly, and you can’t cross the line, but boy do you need some guys that take it right up to that line if you want to be great.
The fans had a blast thumping the Illini, and the seniors had fun in Saturday’s final regular season game in the Shoe. Let’s hope they have as much fun in that stadium on November 24th. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Spanning the College Football Globe: The Facts and the Pub
The Big Ten and National Scene review by Dan Rubin, Bucknuts Publisher
As always, some local chatter as an appetizer.
Ok, maybe Braxton Miller won’t win the Heisman this season, largely for reasons outside his control. But ask yourself this question: Who would you trade him for? If you could swap Brax for any other college football player, would you?
No, you wouldn’t.
So doesn’t that make him the best/most valuable player in the country? Just sayin.’
Ok, the conference and elsewhere …
*Oh, Sparty. Wow. A season of discontent added arguably its most painful chapter with Saturday’s fourth-quarter meltdown against the visiting Huskers. Michigan State has proven to be the one team that has solved the Denard Robinson riddle. But they are still searching for clues when it comes to Taylor Martinez.
*Kudos to Penn State for its rebound performance against host Purdue. Then again, it was Purdue, which clearly circles the Ohio State game on its calendar each season then forgets about showing up for any other opponent. The BoiledOvers trailed the visiting Nittany Lions, 34-3, after three quarters. At least plenty of fans beat the traffic.
*Man, Iowa stinks. The Hawkeyes are no longer plucky bunch of overachievers. Now they are just untalented and hard to watch. Indiana, on the other hand, is exciting win or lose. And they actually win games every now and then these days.
*Uh, Michigan brain trust, a quick question: Did you forget Devin Gardner was on the roster last week when you inserted freshman Russell “What Color Are We” Bellomy as quarterback whilst Gardner – yes, a former high school quarterback phenom – hung with the receivers? Perhaps it is because Hoke doesn’t wear a headset and his staff can’t get in touch with him during games? Garnder was in there for a pasting of Minnesota and while he’s not Shoelaces, he’s a threat.
And now, our national review …
*Let’s not get too judgmental of ‘Bama and its close call at LSU. You’d be hard-pressed to create a more difficult scenario than playing on the road in Baton Rouge, at night, against a team widely believed to have at least top five talent nationally. That was a quality win for the Fighting Sabans and let’s give credit where it’s due: AJ McCarron is really good college quarterback. You could tell ‘Bama expected to win that game throughout and the quarterback’s poise was a big reason.
*I am having a hard time digesting these successful Pac-10 and Big 12 types. Oregon is impressive offensively and has some real studs in Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas. I also see where Colin Klein and Kansas State routinely work the scoreboard so it looks like a Fourth of July display.
But what happens when they get punched square in the mouth? Couldn’t the defense of ‘Bama or LSU neutralize that track-meet approach? Heck, Notre Dame’s defense might even be able to corral those wide-open attacks. Right? Right?
*And speaking of the Irish … as we have discussed previously, college football’s karma waves are calibrated through South Bend again. Who knew the Pittsburgh kicker’s real name is O’Shaugnessy McMissakick? No offense to Boston College and Wake Forest but is USC’s offense the only thing standing between Notre Dame and BCS chaos? All eggs in the Lane Kiffin basket. Verrrry reassuring.
**So here is what I think the top 10 SHOULD BE now: 1. Alabama; 2. Oregon; 3. Kansas State; 4. Notre Dame; 5. Ohio State; 6. Georgia; 7. Florida; 8. LSU; 9. South Carolina; 10. Florida State
Bottom of the Bucket
Mr. B scrapes up some final thoughts…
Using Excessive Farce … You know how silly the BCS has been for years but just as silly is the made-for-TV exhibition game known as the Big Ten Championship Game. When it was originally announced, to protracted yawns, all anyone saw WERE the problems (you could face the same team two weeks in a row, they had to screw up the “divisions” in order to make that one game meaningful, etc.). This was even before two of the three quality programs in the one division lost both its “leaders” and it’s “legends” and de facto defaulted to Wisconsin.
Or did they?
After an inspired win against uninspiring Iowa (Indiana’s first conference home win in three years!), here’s how Indiana could qualify for the Rose Bowl but not be able to go without the technocrats intervening. Unbelievably, they control their own destiny in this farce (yes, Indiana) and that’s not even the weird part. If the Hoosiers beat Wisconsin next week but then lose at Penn State and Purdue (all possible), they would win “our” division if Wisconsin lost to the Buckeyes and Penn State (also very possible). Indiana then could actually go on to win the Big Ten “championship” then with a 6-7 record but not be bowl eligible to go to the Rose Bowl or another BCS game. Yes sir, a good body of work there, bureaucrats…
The phrase, "a quarterback with a linebacker's mentality”…is typically a cliché to describe a hard-nosed signal caller. At Maryland, though, it's now become a factual description as they just keep losing. But how do you lose quarterbacks? Let me count the ways. First, you let your starter, Danny O’Brien transfer to Wisconsin (where he is now the starter by default). The Terps subsequently lost all four of their eligible scholarship quarterbacks to season-ending injuries. C.J. Brown suffered an ACL injury in the pre-season, true freshman Perry Hills lasted seven games before tearing his ACL, then Devin Burns, had a season-ending foot injury in his relief of Hills, and - finally - true freshman Caleb Rowe tore his ACL last week while going 23-42 in his first start. That forced head coach Randy Edsall to insert little-used freshman linebacker Shawn Petty under center. "I don't know if something like this has ever happened to a team at that position," said Edsall, earlier in the week. Well, no, it hasn’t Randy.
So, Saturday, Petty – a 6-foot-1, 230-pound left-hander - ran for 24 yards on 17 carries and completed 9-of-18 passes for 115 yards. He also fumbled twice and threw an interception and led Maryland to a 33-13 home loss against Georgia Tech. The Terps have now lost three straight to drop to 4-5 and travel to Clemson, then play Florida State at home and then finish at North Carolina -- all in consecutive weeks.
Imagine if the Bucks were dipping into our “six deep’; but, then again, let’s not
A Few Bullets at the Bottom
Quick hits, cheap shots and fill-in (the blanks)
*** If as Steve Spurrier stated … that Alabama could beat some NFL teams, how many NFL teams could LSU beat if they didn’t have Les Myles coaching them?
(Have you ever seen a coach, at any level, more often snatch defeats from the jaws of victory?)
The OY’s have it…Offensive POY (Player of the Year) in the B-10? If it isn’t Brax then I will look for an SEC-type payoff involved (maybe Cam Newton?). And COY (Coach of Year?) Same thing goes for Urban
(We don’t want to start a Tressel-like snub as JT never won the dang thing despite winning the conference 7-8 times in ten years…)
We’re not much at football…but the B-10 can play some hoops, now. According to Sagarin, we are the #1 b-ball conference while being either the #4 or #5 football conference. Within easy drive time from Columbus (3-4 hours) are the top five teams in the Coaches Poll: Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Louisville and Kentucky.
(Further real life evidence? From the great manipulator, John Calipari: “The coaches voted us in the top 5? They all need to be drug tested. The Big Ten is loaded, I'm glad we don't have to play nine games against teams from that conference.”)