It's been awhile – August, I think – since anything new from yours truly has shown up on the Web site or in the Magazine. Based on a lot of the email I have received during what we're going to refer to as The Hiatus, several of you:
a) Actually look forward to reading this column, which kind of scares me.
b) Think I am an idiot and really want to hurt me, which sort of scares me.
c) Think the Ohio State coaching staff and three quarters of the team are absolutely terrible, which definitely scares me.
d) Are from Nigeria and want to entrust me with tens of thousands of dollars, which scares me, but check your email because I sent you my bank account number and haven't heard from you yet.
I would like to apologize to the (a) fans, and say that The Hiatus has some good excuses. I just became a father for the first time, and this temporarily put a crimp in a lot of my extracurriculars. On top of that, several of my spineless friends have been getting married in the past few weeks – yes, during the season, by God – and that has cost me a few Saturdays, including the one coming up this weekend. I'm lazy, which means putting a column gets in the way of my doing nothing or playing with the baby. So know that it was nothing personal, but also know that The Hiatus is over, and now we can get on with ripping apart the defending champs:
The running game: What the hell is going on?
A good running back makes a bad offensive line look better, and vice versa. Unfortunately, Ohio State's run blocking is as bad as its running plays are deceptive. The dumbest coaches on the worst teams the Bucks play have figured out that Ohio State runs out of obvious formations, and they sell out for the run. On top of that, Lydell Ross doesn't tolerate contact well and neither does Maurice Hall. Add to that an inconsistent passing attack and you've got the worst offensive team in Division I football. I think at last check, OSU was 109th in offense. Seriously, most rabid fans cannot name 108 Division I teams without help. OSU currently has a better offense than only Wheelchair State and Gordonstein U, which only has 53 players on scholarship and they're all legless.
The fix: Stop giving the ball to Maurice Hall, who has no running back instincts to go with the inability to break tackles. Block better. Freshen up the running schemes. Recruit a big back. Basically, wait until next year, because if it isn't working at all after six games, it won't be working well after 12. The running game will continue to be on hiatus for the rest of the season (not to be confused with The Hiatus, for which I already apologized).
The passing game: What the hell is going on?
If you can't run the ball, you had better be able to throw it (Texas Tech). But Ohio State doesn't have much of a passing offense either, despite having Craig Krenzel, Michael Jenkins, Drew Carter, Chris Gamble, Roy Hall, Santonio Holmes, Bam Childress, Ben Hartsock, Ryan Hamby, and Louis Irizarry. Those guys are all at least pretty good. So, again, what the hell is going on? Not a good scheme – the Ohio State passing playbook is predicated on the assumption that the running game is working competently (pause for laughter, crying). I can't say that any of the coaches expected the running game to be as disastrous as it is, so this would involve sewing several new plays and formations into the playbook, midseason. Could this be seen as too drastic by a conservative approach offensive coaching staff? Well, obviously. The fix: Not sure, but I know it doesn't involve handing the ball off to Maurice Hall.
The defense: Is it that good?
It is very good, but can be beaten by any team with two legitimate wide receivers on a solid passblocking team…or in a monsoon. The recipe to beating the Ohio State defense is not constantly running weakside power sweeps (Iowa) or sitting in the pocket for minutes trying to read the defense (Washington, Northwestern). It's spreading the field and taking chunks of yardage at a time (North Carolina State) or having bigger, fatter guys that can help you get at least four yards a carry (Wisconsin). The "fix": Keep them off the field for at least half the game and try to give them a bigger lead so that they can substitute more liberally and not get completely get worn out. This would involve more consistency on offense and not handing the ball off to, well, anybody. Oh, and stop committing felonious assaults on opposing quarterbacks' tracheas.
Nugent and Sander: What the hell is wrong with these guys?
They don't score touchdowns or run the ball that well between the tackles. Otherwise, absolutely nothing.
The off-the-field stuff and the media haters: What the hell is wrong with these guys?
If you don't like it and want to get rid of hearing about every tiny and large thing wrong with Ohio State football, you can do one of two things: Stop reading/listening/watching anything that discusses college football, or wish for 6-5 seasons, because when you're 6-5, nobody else really cares about or notices your problems.
Indiana is terrible. Will the offense finally wake up this weekend?
No. The offense seems to have one objective on each drive: Get in position to punt and win the possession battle. This obviously means very little scoring. The defense and special teams will have plenty of chances though. OSU 24, Indiana 6.
Already missing blowouts and undefeated seasons at firstname.lastname@example.org