The Buckeyes went into the locker room and came out with a big scarlet "S" on their uniform. What did that scarlet "S" stand for on Saturday at high noon in Ohio Stadium?
That "S" could stand for the "Spread" offense that Ohio State unveiled last season. The experiment has resulted in a productive and highly efficient offense that is downright frightening to anyone that has to face the Buckeyes.
As the RedHawks found out Saturday, the "spread" allows a team like Ohio State to take advantage of its superior athletic talents. It forces the defense to cover down all the eligible receivers and, at the same time, keep a free safety back to help out in pass defense.
The result is the opportunity to open up the running game for the offense since the safeties can't give immediate run support. For the Buckeyes, Saturday meant a 100-yard rushing game for Antonio Pittman. Pittman was the last tailback to have a 100-yard rushing game and that was against Indiana last year.
The "Spread" also makes a defense hesitant to double wide receivers. Four different Buckeye receivers had five receptions against Miami. This is a double-edged sword for the defense, it can't give enough run support and it can't double receivers. The result: Superior athletic talent wins out.
Maybe that "S" stands for "Speed." The speed of the relentless "Silver Bullet" defense Jim Heacock unleashed Saturday. Defensive backs and linebackers firing of the edge and blitzing up the middle kept Miami quarterback Josh Betts off rhythm with no place to go and no place to hide.
You had Silver Bullets flying around like the Lone Ranger chasing the bank robbers. A defense that had been challenged by their coaches and themselves to be more productive than in 2004 met that challenge and played with aggression and confidence. A defense led by "a legend in his own time, " linebacker A.J. Hawk tallied up five quarterback sacks, 44 yards for a loss and an almost uncountable number of quarterback hurries. All of these factors made a normally potent Miami offense look completely inept.
Maybe that "S" stands for "Solid." A "Solid" team win. The offensive line not only opened holes for the five different running backs, but also gave Justin Zwick and Todd Boeckman enough time to start a campfire before they had to throw. The sure-handed receiving corps executed like 7-on-7 practice and the Buckeye backs ran to daylight; and there was plenty of it on Saturday.
As "Solid" as the offense was, the defense was every bit as steadfast. The secondary was practically faultless. They broke up passes, made good open field tackles and provided a score. A tenacious front seven made the Red Hawk running game non-existent and made a normally confident quarterback clamor in his cleats.
One of the biggest questions going into the 2005 season revolved around special teams. Could Josh Huston, A.J. Trapasso, and Drew Norman come close to the consistency and big play making of Mike Nugent, Kyle Turano and Kyle Andrews? The jury is out, but for the first game, you guessed it, "Solid."
You know what? Maybe that "S" does stand for "Super," a "Super" team. There is still a long way to go with tough home games and even tougher road trips in the second half of the season. This mature football team has the leadership necessary to take it one-game-at-a-time, so leave it to the rest of us to be visionaries. But don't be surprised if that potentially "Super" team ends up making their last stand against evil (maybe the Trojans) on the grassy plains of Pasadena.
Let's BBQ Bevo
I can see Willie Nelson standing on the runway at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. As the Texas Longhorns board their team plane for Columbus, Willie's singing his No. 1 hit, "On the Road Again."
Willie promises he'll be there to great them on their return trip to Austin. Willie, a life-long Texas fan, follows his beloved Longhorns like all good Texans.
Mack Brown has had hopes of winning a national title for Texas since he was hired as head coach in December 1997. That might seem like a reasonable goal for the head coach of a tradition oriented school with a history of outstanding football.
The trouble is the word outstanding hasn't really identified Texas Longhorns of late. Good, yes. Outstanding, no. Even though Mack Brown has won 78 percent of his games as head coach, he has yet to win even a Big 12 title. As a matter of fact, he has only won his division twice. One of those division wins was a co-title.
It is true, however, that they are in the tough South Division which is made up of recently better programs than in the Big 12 North. Teams like Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State have been stronger than teams in the North Division like Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas State. During the 2004 football season the won-lost comparison between the two Big 12 divisions speaks for itself; the South teams were 48-24 while the North teams were 33-36.
Granted, there is a ton of talent on the Texas team. The talent is good enough to beat anyone in the country on a given Saturday, but they just haven't produced.
Mack Brown has done a great job of recruiting while at Texas. He has continually beat arch-rival Texas A&M for the top in-state talent. Even though Oklahoma and even LSU have made some inroads into Texas, Mack still controls the majority of Texas high school talent. Much like Ohio State, the majority of his players are from their home state.
Even though Mack Brown has captured the good home state talent, he hasn't captured enough Big 12 titles. Texas Longhorn fans set high expectations for their team and coaches (sound familiar), their patience is growing thin. As the overwhelming favorite to win the league, Texas fans will not tolerate another loss to Oklahoma and they expect to win this Saturday in Columbus. If for some reason, Mack were to lose to both Ohio State and Oklahoma in this 2005 season, Mack may be fed to Bevo (the Texas mascot) on the 50 yard line of the Cotton Bowl. The words are true "The Eyes of Texas are Upon You," Mack!
Vince Young is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, and maybe the best running quarterback. Against Michigan, he rushed for 192 yards and led the Longhorns to a 38-37 hard earned victory in the Rose Bowl. The athletic ability of Young and Troy Smith may make this Saturday's encounter more like an Olympic track meet instead of a football game. It may boil down to which of the two is the best passer in key situations. The jury is out on both in terms of passing production. All other factors even (which I don't think is the case); the play of the quarterbacks will be the key.
I do think the Buckeyes have too many weapons and have won more key games than Texas in the past few years. The tenacious Buckeye defense and the big play potential of the offense should be enough to show those Longhorn fan that Ohio is the real football state.
But before we BBQ Bevo, the Buckeyes must be sound in the kicking game. It may take a last minute field goal or a safe punt before the feast can truly begin.
You know, I can see Willie Nelson there to greet his Longhorns when they land in Austin. But this time he'll be singing his other No. 1 hit, "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain."
EDITOR'S NOTE -- Former OSU assistant coach Bill Conley is back for his second season as a football analyst for Bucknuts.com. His next Chat session on the Bucknuts.com site will be at 3 p.m. Mon., Sept. 12. You can also check out his weekly Sunday morning radio show on WTVN-AM (610) from 9 a.m. to noon.