It's official…these are the times that try men's souls…
So here's what I was just thinking. Remember back to those halcyon days (three weeks ago) when we were fifth-ranked and wondering which BCS Bowl we would be attending? And then remember back to those sobering times (two weeks ago) when Northwestern thrashed us and revealed all those weaknesses, and we started making jokes about "El Paso on New Year's Eve" and "The Motor City Bowl in Detroit"? But we didn't really believe that, right?
Well, here we are after sobering up again. And again. And it dawns on most everybody that we need to win three more games to reach any bowl. And to be able to have that extra four weeks of practice that this young team so desperately needs. Three wins, you say? How hard can that be? Let's assume - just for the sake of argument - that we somehow scrape by Indiana on Saturday. And let's assume that we won't be favored either on the road against Purdue or at home against Michigan (good odds on that, right now…). Then, we will have to beat both Penn State and Michigan State just to get into a bowl. Penn State has held good offenses to low scores. And we don't have a good offense. Michigan State just beat the crap out of a pretty good Minnesota team. And we are not pretty good right now.
So pick your poison. We not only aren't in the top half of the Big Ten, this team would be lucky (by the way they are currently "performing") to be in the top half of the MAC. And don't be giving away your neighbor's New Year's Eve party invites, just yet…
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The Bollman experiment results are in…And the answer is somewhere between "whew" and "yechhh". Think about it. We have had four years of Coach Bollman's guiding influence for our offensive line. We have watched a steady stream of O-line graduates go on to play in the NFL. And we have watched four years of our line play sucking on ice. Bad, I say. Really really bad. Bad like guys getting blown up, pushed into the backfield, running into each other, no-holes-no-push. Bad like that. And look at other programs during this experimental regime. Michigan (ouch), for example. They start a true freshman QB and a true freshman RB, lost two guys from last year's O-line and they don't miss a beat. They even recruit guys from Ohio that we didn't want just to rub it in our faces! And look at Wisconsin. And look at Minnesota. Do they have better talent? No. Do they have a better O-line program? You bet! Hey - even the Iowa line seemed to be in disarray and then they come back and play brilliantly against us. And don't forget - Coach Bollman is our Offensive Coordinator. Don't get me started there… Enough already.
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The Snyder results are in, too…This is as plain as a tax-and-spend campaign promise. The fall-off from Dantonio's defensive team to Snyder's is precipitous. This defense is just awful right now (well, at least in comparison). And are we getting better as the season goes on. NO. Are we getting better after the halftime "adjustments"? NO. Are we tackling and covering better? NO. Sure, we were spoiled by the great defenses of the past. But are you telling me that our linebackers are inferior, or that a D-line with four potential NFL players can't hold their own, or that the great defensive backs from last year suddenly lost their skills? No, no and no. What we have here is the Peter Principle married to Murphy's Law. It ain't gonna change until changes are made. Offer Cincinnati a couple of our future recruits and trade to get Dantonio back. See what Fred Pagac is up to. Give Jon Tenuta a call. Calls need to be made. And it starts with admitting that we have a problem with this defensive program…
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Can't tell your programs without the players…The losses we are watching are "program losses". That is, the staff didn't get this particular group of guys up for this particular season. Let's look at a smattering of the evidence. Zwick wasn't ready and it shows. Yet, half the schools in the B-10 are starting first year QB's. And they're all performing at levels higher than Zwick. Our running game? Iowa was playing fifth and sixth string RB's behind a patchwork line and their backs looked like Adrian Peterson or Reggie Bush versus our more veteran group of backs (Hall and Ross have been here for a combined eight years!). The defense? We get no pressure on the quarterback, we can't stop basic running plays that we know are coming and we can't defend the pass. Can it be any worse than that? Oh, yeah - our vaunted special teams. Coverage is so-so and the return teams are average. Only Nugent is special on our "special teams" and we can't get close enough (and this with a guy who can kick from 60 yards!) to use him.
These losses are program losses. You had to love Coach Tressel's tenacity in the face of adversity over the past two years. Now, you have to hope that his tenacity doesn't morph into stubbornness. And that we aren't relying upon yesterday's "reputation" or the school's "tradition" to turn this puppy around. You either make things happen, watch things happen, or wonder what happened…
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And the courage to change…We all admire Coach Tressel's determination, in addition to his loyalty. Sometimes that loyalty thesis gets tested, however, as he insists on rewarding seniors with PT. But how 'bout the coaching staff? By that, I mean, how is his loyalty to the coaches that stand with him side-by-side? Pretty much the same as the players, I would say. The first defection from the Tressel staff was a "senior" member who left on his own volition two years ago. Last season, Mark Dantonio left to become a head coach and Tim Spencer left to go back to the NFL. Bill Conley seemed to leave as his own call but there might have been a touch of animus there. My point to this recitation? Doesn't seem that anyone was fired or that Coach T said, "You aren't getting the job done - let's try someone else." So, for those of you who look at certain coaches (see above rants), I wouldn't look for any changes any time soon unless that coach is ready to leave. Incidentally, Those Who Know seem to indicate that both Coach Hazell and Coach Peterson were great hires. Maybe there could be just one or two more…
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The "D" stands for depth, re-visited…Before the season began, we were cackling about our linebackers and the 'backers that backed them up. Carpenter, Hawk, Schlegel and D'Andrea all seemed fated for NFL careers. And we regaled you with effusive comments on our linebacker depth. Curt Lukens was a star in the making, Marcus Freeman was even better. Thomas Matthews, well…we had to find a place for him. And John Kerr might dislocate either of the aforementioned "Mike" stars.
Now we are six games into the season and how does it look? Hawk and Carpenter have certainly done their part (have there ever been two better outside linebackers at OSU at the same time?), but they rarely leave the field, so we have yet to see much of Freeman or Matthews at those positions. Lukens is already down with season-ending surgery and D'Andrea went down early for the second season in a row. Depth? Who would play the middle now if Schlegel got hurt? Could be Kerr, but he's been suspended and not living up to the "legendary" billing. Yet. And that's football for you. There's no such thing as too much quality depth. We need a couple more linebackers in this year's recruiting class for that precise reason…
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Sutton Impact…(And for a change of pace, here). A week ago Saturday, the NCAA Division III's top running back, Tony Sutton (from Akron Hoban) ran for 286 yards and six touchdowns as the College of Wooster demolished Kenyon. He was inspired by his younger brother Tyrell's performance against Ursuline the previous day. Tyrell - who is now the odds-on favorite to win the Mr. Ohio Football award, ran for a mind-boggling 505 yards and eight touchdowns. 800 yards and 14 touchdowns for the brothers in 24 hours. For an OSU back, that's 24 months…BTW, the reason that Tyrell is firmly in the driver's seat for Mr. Ohio can be partially attributed to the Sports Illustrated curse. Listed prominently in their last issue's "Faces in the Crowd" was super kid, Javon Ringer from Dayton Chaminade, who was averaging nearly 280 yards per game. That weekend, he went down in the third quarter to what appears to be a season-ending knee injury. A classy (and intelligent?) act for OSU might be for Tressel to offer him anyway! Sutton is headed to Northwestern…
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Stats, useless stats, and Bucknuts…One of our dozens of faithful readers posted an interesting array of facts on the Bucknuts message board. IBABUCK stated that when OSU outgains opponents by more than 50 yards, our record is 18-0. When opponents outgain OSU by more than 50 yards, we are 5-6. And when OSU is within 50 yards of the opposition (plus or minus), we are still a glittering 11-3. So there are two objectives here. HEY DEFENSE: quit giving up the cheap and extra yards. HEY OFFENSE: help out a little bit here. As one wit stated, following the IBABUCK post, "And we are 35-0 in the Tressel era when we outscore the opposition"…
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Times that try men's souls (verse two)…I am lucky that I get to vent here. It's cathartic. It's therapeutic. And if I go way off the deep end, I have Kirk or Steve Helwagen to pull me back in. Most of the rest of the frustrated Buckeye nation doesn't have that luxury. And I realize that.
Well, I am done complaining. I am back to looking at how to fix this mess and move forward. I love Coach T but I am not blind to the failings of the current program.
And looking at the program (and Coach T) with glass-is-half-full optimism, I would point out that his record at YSU could be indicative of what we could have/should have expected. Hey - he was a world-beater there. Don't get me wrong. But he had re-building years that could not be disguised as re-loading years. At Youngstown, a young Jim Tressel started at 2-9 but made the playoffs (8-4) in just his second year! He then regressed to 4-7 before running off a string of enviable seasons in which he made the playoffs six straight years and won three national championships. Three years later, he was 6-5. Two years after that, he was at Ohio State and 7-5.
But two years ago? That's right. The best season we will ever have here at Ohio State.
So cut the man a break. He's earned it. You can't negotiate physics. And cut the program a break. They deserve it. It is the program we are sworn to love. Better or worse. Good times and bad times. It doesn't have to be blind devotion but it should be devotion.
And Lord, grant me patience. But hurry.
I feel better now. How 'bout we move on and start praying for three more
If you care to address Mr. Bucknuts on any of the above - or, really, anything else - send your e-mail to MrBucknuts@yahoo.com.