Thoughts on the rushing attack against Indiana…
Quite a few have commented on how great Lydell Ross ran the football against Indiana. The cause for this is fairly simply in my estimation. For the first time all season, the Ohio State offensive line and fullbacks decided to come out and be more physical than the defense lining up on the other side of the field. They took it to Indiana and caused the Hoosiers to wish they had never come to play the game. Alex Stepanovich buried his man so completely on one play that the referee called him for holding, when in reality, it was just a pancake block of massive proportions.
As a direct result, instead of getting the handoff with multiple defensive linemen and linebackers in his face, Ross looked up and discovered he had time to make a cut and flow to the open spaces. Even better, with the offensive line actually getting a push, the amount of space Ross had increased to 4 and 5 yards between himself and the nearest would be tackler. This meant more time to find the developing holes.
Coach Tressel commented, "I thought we got movement, and you know, I can remember Earle Bruce saying it a million times if he said it once, if you get the good running back's feet to the line of scrimmage, that good running back is going to make something happen. What our defense does a good job of is disrupting the line of scrimmage, and it's hard sometimes for good backs. What has happened to us some is that we've had some disruption at the line of scrimmage. I thought our offensive line did a great job of taking care of the line of scrimmage. Now, it was a younger group, not nearly as talented a group as the one we're going to face this weekend, so we're going to have to raise a notch, but our guys believe they can do that. You have to take care of the line of scrimmage in the run and the protection in the pass. It doesn't matter who you have handling the ball."
If there are any harboring doubts that the line's play was a major contributing factor, take out a tape of the game and watch it. Notice on downs where Ross made nice gains, there was little penetration, and he had time to use his vision. On downs where Ross looks pedestrian, note that either the offensive line or the fullback allowed penetration into the backfield.
While not perfect, the offensive line should take a bow for their effort. If they will continue to block in this manner with the same spirit of taking it to the opponent's defense, then I look for Ohio State to lose at most one more game this year.
If on the other hand the offensive line is less than dedicated in their execution and physicality, then the Buckeyes could lose as many as 4 more football games in 2003. This team will go as far as the offensive line and fullbacks decide it will.
Watching Drew Carter go out with an injury made me physically ill. Literally. I just hurt for him much like I did Willis McGahee in the Fiesta Bowl. Drew was on his way to millions of dollars after this season was over. He had the measurables, and in recent weeks had elevated his game to the point that he was on the cusp of national attention.
I personally wish him nothing but the best in his effort to recover from whatever injury he has suffered.
Aside from the purely personal feelings for Drew or any other young man (Buckeye or not) who is injured, Ohio State fans might not yet fully realize the tremendous loss his absence from the lineup creates. Drew was the gunner on punt blocking formations. This meant that other teams had to account for him and seek to stop him first because of his tremendous burst off of the edge. That translated into more attention for him and less on other players, like Roy Hall, who blocked a punt against Iowa coming right up the middle for a touchdown. Carter was also the deep threat that this offense has lacked up to the past few weeks. His speed stretched defenses vertically and the more attention they would have been forced to give him, the less likely the OSU running game would have faced eight-man fronts. Finally, Carter was performing admirably as a blocker. He threw multiple blocks downfield this season that set up Buckeye first downs. It was in fact he and Ryan Hamby who sprung Scott McMullen for a first down on his key third down naked bootleg scramble against Bowling Green.
Drew Carter is going to be difficult, if not nearly impossible, to replace.
Offensive line Part II…
Not only did the rushing attack look better for Ohio State, but the time the line provided for Krenzel to find receivers was unreal. Don't look for the quarterbacks to have as much time this week as they did last week, but if they do, then Penn State might as well head to the locker room early.
On one play against Indiana, Craig Krenzel was given literally eight seconds to throw the football.
Once again, the Irish snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Boston College. Given the media drool that was deposited all over South Bend this past off-season, the Golden Domers have to be chagrined at the performance of their program.
Meanwhile, most die-hard Big Ten fans are enjoying this immensely. Since the Irish snubbed the conference, they have stunk so badly that even a skunk would give them a wide berth.
They might improve to a certain point in 2004, but they are at least three
years from contending for any sort of title, and that is based on the assumption
that Ty Willingham sticks around instead of jumping to the NFL.
Ignore the polls.
First, there is nothing that can be done about them. No amount of whining, complaining, and ranting will change them.
Second, understand that the fact that OSU is ranked in the bottom half of the top 10 is nobody's fault but their own. Had the Buckeyes taken care of business up in Wisconsin, then they would be sitting pretty at third in the nation right now. Instead, they have a loss and have left matters up to the pollsters to decide who they think is the sexiest team to pick as #3 in the place of OSU.
If Ohio State wins out this season, they will finish no worse than fourth in the rankings. Mark it down. If they find an offense and become more of a complete team, they might even finish as high as second.
It is more up to Ohio State than it is the pollsters.
This is what happens to teams when coaching staffs and players and those around the program lose perspective.
If you make a game your "Super-Duper Super Bowl National Championship" in early October, then - win or lose - you put yourself at a huge disadvantage the rest of the way.
Several teams have done this against Ohio State over the past two seasons, and they have all suffered as a result. Alvarez and those around the program should never have allowed this attitude to be cultivated. Winning one game is not worth losing two and putting yourself out of the Big Ten race before November.
Were I a coach (and athletic director), there is no way on God's green earth that I would ever allow my school to shoot off fireworks after an upset win in the second Big Ten game of the season. I would have told them, "Put those up, my team has not won anything yet. We should win this game. It is at our house and Ohio State is playing with one arm behind their back with injuries and missing players."
Instead, the players received the message, and the message was, "win this game and our season is complete." The results are obvious. Two games and two losses.
What might have been a championship season has instead become a blown
opportunity for Wisconsin.
Pack your bags Mack Brown
Sure, Texas beat the tar out of yet another patsy. Sure, Mack Brown has brought that program back to a level it has not enjoyed since Royal stopped pacing the sidelines. Sure, Texas is winning 10 games a year.
However, Mack Brown is toast in Austin. It is simply a matter of time. In the last four seasons, he is 0-2 against Arkansas (with one beating administered in the Cotton Bowl and the other in Austin) and 0-4 against Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry. Those two hated rivals have outscored the Longhorns by a collective 242-88.
To put this in Buckeye terms, imagine John Cooper's loss to Penn State was against Michigan in 1994. Then, imagine Cooper lost another game to Michigan by 50 points in 1998 (after losing three in a row from 1995-1997).
In order to save his job, Brown must not only win out this season, but he must also defeat Oklahoma next season in Dallas.
My money is on Brown being finished at Texas sooner rather than later. The
Austin alums could care less if the media is not thrilled with the idea. After
all, this is the same program that fired Fred Akers, who won two Southwest
Conference championships and 73% of his games. They will simply look for the
first excuse to get rid of him and then boot his rear to the door.
The Big East, 2004 Edition…
Just how bad will this conference be?
This is not a slam, it is a serious question.
They can forget about an automatic BCS berth once the contract is renegotiated, and any coach who has half a brain and a job opportunity in the ACC, Big 12, Pac Ten, or Big 10 should break their legs trying to get out before the ship sinks.
Their best team for next year, Pitt, recently lost to Notre Dame. You know, the 2-5 Notre Dame team that resembles Temple.
My top 10
If I was king of the polls and could rank teams as I saw fit, here is my top 10 for the week.
1. Oklahoma. This team is surprisingly mortal at times. Do not be shocked if they get upset. Having said that, they are clearly the most balanced program in the country this season.
2. Miami. The Hurricanes keep dodging losses in part because they play in a poor excuse for a conference. Still, that they have continued to win is a testament to their abilities.
3. LSU. Their defense is nearly as proficient as that of Ohio State, and their offense is a whole lot better at this point in the season. Add to that dimension their coach, Nick Saban, a man who will at some point either win a national title or be a head coach in the NFL.
4. USC. This team is much like LSU except their offense is even better while their defense is just a tad worse. The same comment made for Saban can be made regarding Pete Carroll.
5. Ohio State. If the Buckeyes can get their offense on track, they are in a position to make a move in the polls with wins down the stretch. In my book, they could jump all the way to #2 if they look like a complete team and Miami loses.
6. Georgia. This is a fine football team, but it does not have the defense of any team above it other than Miami. They have a nice offense, but defense always has and always will win championships. Also, they are nicked up. That means they are not as strong now as they were back in early September.
7. Florida State. The Seminoles, like Miami, benefit from playing a weaker schedule than teams in the Big 12, Big 10, and SEC. As a result, the ‘Noles look better than they really are.
8. Washington State. See Georgia.
9. Michigan. If the Wolverines will play as well as they did last weekend the rest of the way, only Ohio State will challenge them.
10. Bowling Green. This team is no joke. They are smallish defensively
but are well coached. They to slow down opponents just enough to keep them in
any football game.