The Facts Man: Taking A Trip To The DBA

While Ohio State prepares to put the USC loss behind them against Troy, some members of the Buckeye Nation are having a little harder time keeping the faith when it comes to their favorite college football team.

A disconsolate Ohio State is walking, head down, when he sees a building with a huge glass window. He peeks in the window and sees people who look just like him, so he goes inside and knocks on the door.

"Come in," he's told.

"Where am I?" he asks.

"This is the weekly meeting of Disillusioned Buckeyes Anonymous," is the reply. "We're here to let people voice their opinions and concerns. We serve as a catharsis for the times when the Buckeyes let us down."

"Then I'm definitely in the right place," he says.

"What is your reason for joining us today?"

"Well, after the latest flop by the Buckeyes on a national stage, I'm really beginning to rethink a lot of things. I've always thought Jim Tressel was a master recruiter and motivator and sideline coach, but now I'm not so sure. When he led the Buckeyes to the national championship in 2002 I thought 'we finally have our guy.' But it really seems to me that he and his staff have been resting on those laurels and been reluctant to change."

"I understand perfectly," the man is told. "You said this was a fairly recent development. What exactly pushed you -- pardon my wording -- over the edge?"

There was a long pause as the gentleman sought the words.

"I think it's the fact that Ohio State has been touting itself as an elite program, but when push comes to shove it falls apart against the best competition. I sat up for awhile after the USC game and tried to remember when the last really big time performance was against a really good team, and the best I could do was against Texas in 2006. That was an excellent team the Buckeyes beat that day. It was a great game plan, there was excitement and people really felt the Buckeyes were back on top again. But since then, there really hasn't been much to hang your hat on in terms of big time performances."

With only slight pauses between sentences, the man continued.

"I'm really most concerned with the lack of progress made by the offensive line. I see the program bringing in guys who are four and five star recruits, yet they get overpowered any time they play someone good -- and sometimes when they play someone not so good. They're slow, they don't finish their blocks and they just don't seem to have enough nastiness to them. I don't know if all of that is the players or the coach, but I do know that it's been some time since the Buckeyes really had a line that could be counted on. I also know that there was supposed to be some kind of overhaul to the strength and conditioning program, but guys seem to be tired way too early, and they aren't fast enough to get downfield, either. It's not just the line. The receivers are not playmakers, and the coaches insist on calling safe, short patterns that aren't going to scare anyone. I saw USC go downfield quite a bit and put the ball into the hands of their playmakers. I was left to wonder if Ohio State has any playmakers. Whatever it is, I have not seen all of these wondrous gains by the team in terms of strength and conditioning."

"That's a legimate concern, sir. Is there anything else."

"Well, yes, and I feel kind of silly about this one because I really like the kid. I like Todd Boeckman and really want to believe he's the guy to lead this team. He's been a great ambassador for the program, he's been around for six years, he hasn't gotten into any kind of trouble. But he just doesn't seem to have it. Whenever Ohio State plays against a good defense he makes at least two or three plays every game that leave you scratching your head. You'd think that at this point he'd understand about not making mistakes, but they keep happening. Maybe I've been spoiled because I watched Krenzel and Troy lead the team to great things. Whenever Ohio State needed a play they were able to make it. I wonder if the coaching staff might start thinking about using this Pryor kid a little more. The team seemed to have a bit more spark when he was in the game, almost like it played harder."

Realizing he had covered just about the entire offense, the man sat down, took a deep breath and tried to collect his thoughts. Those around him were wide-eyed in amazement, for they too had been having these same feelings of doubt about their beloved team. They just didn't know how -- or were afraid -- to put it into words. It seemed as if they were able to live vicariously through this gentleman, and they implored him to continue, to get every last thing that was bothering him out into the open.

"Sorry if I'm going on too long, but this stuff is really important to me. I'm guessing by you all being here that it's important to you too."

Every head nodded in agreement, and the man composed himself before turning his attention to the other side of the ball.

"I keep hearing all this talk about how great the Ohio State defense is, and the numbers say maybe that's true. But when was the last time it made a really game changing play, when it really mattered? Maybe against Miami in the national championship game? Everyone says that Jenkins and Laurinaitis and Freeman are these hugely talented players, and they seem to be. But none of them made any wow plays against USC. I saw USC make a few, and I wonder why can't that be the Buckeyes? And again I'm left to wonder if maybe the players aren't being put into position to capitalize on their abilities. It's almost like the staff is afraid to have them make a mistake because it will cost them the game. I like the defensive coordinator ... I've met him a few times and think he's a really nice guy. But I don't know that he understands adjustments. Against Florida and LSU and this game the Buckeyes continued to allow the other team to make big plays. That's not the mark of a great defense."

It pained the man to talk like this, because the Buckeyes meant everything to him. He had grown up with them, and supported them through good times and bad times. This feeling he had was odd, unlike anything he had ever felt. His mind told him that Ohio State was about as good as it got -- two straight appearances in championship games, domination of archrival Michigan and the Big Ten in general, great recruiting classes. What was there to be upset about? Maybe what he saw with his eyes.

He saw a team that played with little passion, made next to no adjustments and failed to impress on the biggest stages. That's not the Ohio State he knew and loved. The Buckeyes he remembered played with spirit and didn't let even the biggest challenge keep them from giving constant effort. Sure, there were some failures, but they were usually followed by soul-searching and redemption, not by more of the same old thing.

The hour was getting late, and people were beginning to stream out of the meeting. So the man made one final plea, promising not to keep them too much longer.

"I guess I just need to start tempering my expectations. I need to tell myself that the Buckeyes are still very good, and can win the Big Ten by hardly even trying. But to save myself from disappointment I just won't get too anxious when they get into a BCS game against a legitimate team because it's been proven for the last few years that this staff is content with the status quo, not with getting better. Until they change the way things are done ... both with personnel moves and the decisions they make on game day ... there will always be some disappointments. I'm not asking for unbeaten seasons every year. I'm just asking to see the best possible effort, with players who are allowed to do their best. If they still lose, so be it. Just don't let it happen because you were afraid of change or because you think your way is the only way that works."

The man turned, waved goodbye to his new found friends and slowly slunk out the door.

He was only slightly comforted by the fact that there was still quite a bit of football to be played, and yet he was strangely anxious how it would play out. Would the Buckeyes become toughened by this latest embarrassment? Would the coaches for once hold themselves accountable? He would find out the answer very soon.

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