In any other year, "the Buckeyes are undefeated in mid-October" would mean that they must have beaten a couple of Ohio schools, one decent non-conference opponent, and their Big Ten opener - but this year, this special year of the twelve - and for OSU, thirteen - game season, this means that they beat a couple of Ohio schools, two decent non-conference opponents, and their Big Ten opener. In fact, they've won their first two Big Ten games, beating two of the worst teams in the conference. Six games, six wins, and seven left to play including (yikes!) Homecoming, which Ohio State hasn't won since the last time they started a season 6-0, and (yikes!) Senior Day, which Ohio State hasn't won since the Maurice Clarett starting the ninth grade. Yes, those were both the same year.
Even after six games it's hard to have a solid grasp on this team - there have only been two road games (against two bad teams) and there are six conference games left. However, there are a few glaringly obvious strengths of this team that we can say are definitely true:
1) The strength of this team's offense is running the
2) The strength of this team's defense is stopping the run.
3) The strength of this team's special teams is kicking field goals.
4) Teams struggle to move the ball once inside the OSU 20.
At the same time, there are some apparent weaknesses that have shown themselves in each game:
5) The weakness of this team's offense is the passing
6) The weakness of this team's defense is defending the pass.
7) The weakness of this team's special teams is kick coverage.
8) Teams have moved the ball with relative ease between the twenties.
In all - if you listed these eight facets of football and you were forced to choose only four of them as strengths, leaving the rest as weaknesses - this is how you'd do it. That's a bizarre situation to be put in, but for the sake proving my damn point, just take it and deal. Obviously you want to be strong in all eight. It rarely happens - and when it finally does, all those guys graduate or go to the NFL. But, as is the tradition, I digress…
There aren't a lot of wholesale changes that need to be made defensively - the coverage schemes have confused quarterbacks and kept points off the board. It would help if one of our cover corners didn't need to give his man a 15-yard cushion off the line of scrimmage, but hopefully that will figure itself out sooner than later. Offensively, yes it would be nice see some more throws to the running backs, tight ends, shorter patterns - you know, those easy completions that give quarterbacks confidence and take some pressure off of shutting down the relentless OSU power running game, but hopefully that will figure itself out too. It's all about hope and positive vibes this year. Grace periods and forgiveness are very last year, and anger, violence and self-mutilation went out with the last regime change. It's a good (and relatively healthy) time to be a fan.
Some lightning quick evaluations of our skill players and units after six games:
QB: Krenzel makes better decisions than his predecessor. He scrambles better than his predecessor. He fumbles snaps less often than his predecessor. He's more accurate than his predecessor. When he's playing poorly, he even sucks better than his predecessor. There is a lot of improvement to be had, but still an upgrade over last year, the year before and the year before that. At least it didn't take three full seasons of sucking to get to this point.
RB: When Clarett's head catches up with his natural ability and ambition, he'll be the leader of this team. Right now he runs with the command and confidence it took Jonathan Wells three and a half seasons to find. It would be nice to see JaJa Riley and Maurice Hall play more this year, since it's extremely unlikely one or both of these guys, talented as they are, will stick around not carrying the ball as they both have. It would at least be nice to see JaJa get the chance. If Mo Hall could be dangerous on his special teams touches, he'll get more chances on the offense - but he hasn't yet. The devastating fullback isolation blocks were at Ohio State before Jamar Martin, and - how about that - they're still here.
TE: In this offense, known as SOL (skinny offensive line). They aren't considered part of the passing game. Disappointing. You know the offense is vanilla when a TE reception is practically considered a trick play.
WR: The "deepest corps of receivers" Ohio State has had in quite awhile hasn't been able to catch the jump balls or the deep balls like they're supposed to. The stat geek favorite Yards After Catch has also been extremely lacking. This is a function of the passing scheme. Most of the balls that are caught by our receivers are caught flat-footed, at the end of a passing route - not in stride.
OL: Much better than (almost anyone) expected, even with several injuries. Didn't some moron Bucknuts columnist say that would happen?
DL: Best in years. A lot better with Tim Anderson; still good and deep enough without him to control the line of scrimmage.
LB: Fast and smart. Difference-makers. When Robert Reynolds is the weak link among the starters, you're in pretty good shape. Cie Grant is my favorite Buckeye. Go get'em, Willie.
DB: Soft coverage. Abused for yardage but not points. A certain nationally hyped strong safety is still far better in run support than in pass coverage. The last time I can remember pass defense that was this bend-but-don't-breakish was 1993.
K: Booming kicks out of the end zone. Makes all field goals, big and small. You can't be serious. From colossal failure to strength of the team: Mike Nugent for President.
P: Nothing less than expected, including amazing tackles on blown punt coverage.
ST: Hey freshmen - tackle someone. Shortly after their guy catches the ball, preferably.
Coaching: The mantra here is the team improves with every game. That improvement wasn't so visible until the last third of the season. Well, this year they haven't improved so dramatically from game one to game six, again. Last year the toughest run with the middle of the season with the blown leads, blown games and inconsistent play. This season features all of those same teams. Let's see what happens.
Waiting impatiently to see what happens at email@example.com