WHY IS THE OFFENSE SO OFFENSIVE? There are only two possible explanations for being so dreadfully awful on one side of the football, and it's either lack of talent or woeful coaching. The SEC plays football on a level so foreign to Big Ten fans that it's sometimes hard to comprehend how superior the conference is to everyone else. Would SEC schools like to have Braxton Miller? Mike Brewster? Jeff Heuerman? Jaamal Berry? J.B. Shugarts? Andrew Norwell? Carlos Hyde? Jake Stoneburner? Others on the offense? The answer to all of the above is YES. So let's eliminate the "not enough talent" excuse. The NFL draft proves that out year after year anyway.
What about the men in charge of putting together the mess that transpired last Saturday, and earlier against Miami? Will Alabama, Florida or Auburn soon come calling for the likes of Jim Bollman and Nick Siciliano? Please. In fairness to Doc Tressel, he has fixed the special team issues and deserves props for that. Stan Drayton is a career runningbacks coach that was hired to coach wide receivers, and what that statement tells you is that he was hired to aid out of state recruiting, not teach young wide receivers the nuances of the position. And with Ohio State's national reputation lower than Lindsey Lohan's, that doesn't seem like much of a help right now.
The facts are that Ohio State was barely serviceable on offense in the past decade under Jim Tressel, and now it's painfully obvious that Tressel-ball will not slide by without Tressel. Trading Tressel for Mike Vrabel and Darrell Hazell for Drayton obviously did nothing to help the Buckeye offense from a coaching perspective, other than teaching good players how to not gain first downs or score touchdowns. Luke Fickell was put in a position to fail by the Ohio State brain-trust, a laughable term, and having to give the entire offense to Bollman is the closest thing to coaching suicide as there is in the business. Tressel had to rescue the offensive line a few years ago when that group was under-performing by spending his practice time with that group. There will be no such life-preserver thrown Bollman's way this time.
1- Keep Braxton Miller at quarterback. Use Joe Bauserman in a relief role when/if needed. Miller isn't near ready to operate a drop-back passing attack, and Bauserman never will be. What can compensate for that problem? Easy. Go back to being Ohio State. Do what Tressel did when Pryor was a sophomore and not grasping the passing game. Go back to power-running the football, with rollouts, draws, screens and reverses mixed in. Get Miller on the edge with a simple pass/run option, and not make him read the entire field from the pocket.
2- The tailbacks are darn good football players, so make then the focal point of the offense, emphasizing the strengths of each. I have no clue on the health of Jaamal Berry, but if he is healthy he needs to play. Berry is the only back capable of going 80-yards on one play, and with an offense that simply cannot drive the football 80 yards in 10 plays, the home run is needed. Jordan Hall is an excellent player and needs the football, but he's absolutely not a 20-carry tailback. Again, screens, draws, swing passes, slot receiver, punt returns, kick returns, even split out at wide receiver or going in motion as a decoy, because he HAS to be accounted for. Playing power football DOES NOT mean run first and second down, then throw from the pocket against the blitz on third and 15. I'm not sure Ohio State knows there are other options. Alert them.
3- The offensive line is a very good group, but they got rolled last Saturday. They made Jerrel Worthy a lot of money, and he owes them a Thank You card. Yes, these guys were put in bad spots by the staff and the play-calling was sophomoric at best, but you still need to execute. They got whipped. It doesn't happen often, but they got beat up. With Mike Adams coming back they need to get the best five players on the field. That will probably be Brewster, Shugarts, Adams, Andrew Norwell and either Jack Mewhort or Corey Linsley. Marcus Hall drops to the number-seven spot after the past three weeks. Not sure how they were coached to handle a stunting, blitzing, defensive group, but there were no adjustments made and they failed continually. The same thing happened last year at Illinois, but Terrelle Pryor saved them with his street-ball talent. He's not coming back through the door, so they'd better get that fixed. Bo Pellini is coming next.
4- Most staffs would look to throw to experienced tight ends with inexperience at both the wide receiver and quarterback positions. That would probably be a better option than sending wide receivers deep against man-to-man coverage, in the face of an all-out blitz. Time after time after time after time. Repeating failed behavior is the definition of what again? Rolling Braxton Miller away from pressure? Sticking with a few successful draw plays? Hitting Stoneburner, Heuerman or Reid Fragel with safe, short passes would seem like the ticket for a struggling offense, but it hasn't been part of the game plan to date.
THE CASE FOR DEFENSE: This group has played tough, inspired football all year long, but the risk of them being out on the field too long and the group being worn down by their efforts going for naught is a worry. On this side of the ball the coaching is excellent, and adjustments are constantly made, putting players in positions to succeed. When Orhian Johnson struggled early, Christian Bryant was inserted into the lineup. The loss of Nathan Williams pushed Adam Bellamy and Johnny Simon outside. This week, look for more playing time for Dominic Clarke, as Travis Howard has struggled since returning from suspension. Jim Heacock has the ability and the intelligence to be able to adjust both his talent and his schemes to limit the opposition's output. Tyler Moeller has picked up his game as has Garrett Goebel recently, and Simon has been playing at a high level all year. The linebackers were good against Michigan State, with Andrew Sweat, Storm Klein and Etienne Sabino flowing to the football and limiting the Spartan rushing attack. Bradley Roby is on his way to stardom. They are being asked to be out on the field for far too many plays to date, and the offense needs to find a way to eliminate so many three-and-outs, or this group will break.
CAN OSU BEAT NEBRASKA? Monday morning that answer is probably NO, they cannot. Ohio State needs to get better this week in practice, and teams can get better in a week. Offensively, they might not need to score 30 points, which is good because they might not get that in a month, but they need to move the chains, win the time of possession, and maximize their scoring chances. The defense should be able to contain Nebraska, and force Taylor Martinez to beat them throwing the football. But the offense has to show up and help. If not, Bo Pellini is a lot better coach than Mark Dantonio, who did all he could to keep Ohio State in the game and he succeeded. Give Pellini the opportunity, and it will be 40-7, not 10-7. Ohio State needs to embrace the underdog role, play with confidence and aggressiveness, and keep the game close and win it late by wearing out the Huskers. An early deficit to Nebraska and the score will end up exactly what Bo Pellini wants it to be.