Has Recent Dominance by Ohio State Turned Rivalry With Michigan Into a Farce? (Yahoo Contributor Network)
COMMENTARY | On November 30, the Ohio State Buckeyes will look to finish an undefeated regular season by defeating the Michigan Wolverines, their biggest rival. Going by recent history, you can pretty much chalk up an OSU victory right now.
COMMENTARY | It’s probably best not to throw rocks in glass houses. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what folks who think that the Florida State Seminoles are more worthy of a shot at the national title than the Ohio State Buckeyes are doing.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The scene unfolded like something out of a recurring nightmare. The classroom was Ohio Stadium. The first day of school was a season opener and a debut as a starter.
And the assignment that showed up on Taylor Decker’s desk was a final exam, shutting down a surefire first-round draft pick.
“Obviously,” the Ohio State right tackle said, “the first game I didn’t start as I had wanted.”
That might be expected considering Decker’s inexperience was being matched up with one of the most dangerous defenders in the nation in Buffalo’s Khalil Mack, and there was certainly some carnage as the sophomore was thrown into graduate-level work right away on the offensive line.
But rather than relive that rough outing and allow that disappointment to impact a bright future, Decker instead went right back to work for the No. 4 Buckeyes, making sure there wouldn’t be another one like it as he established himself as the final piece of a puzzle with four senior starters up front. It certainly helped that Decker had already been welcomed into that group by the veterans and had the full support of the coaching staff after distancing himself in what had been a close race for playing time in spring practice, because contributing to an outing in which Mack made 2.5 sacks and also turned an interception into a 45-yard touchdown could easily have shaken his confidence after just one game.
“That’s the third-ranked linebacker in the country on all the scouting boards,” offensive line coach Ed Warinner said. “And if you assess the game, it wasn’t 20 bad plays in the game, it was three. But three bad plays for a cornerback or three bad plays for a tackle, everybody knows about it. They don’t know about the other 65 that were pretty decent.
“I didn’t have any doubt that at some point he would turn the corner, and he did the next game and played very solid in the second game of the season. It’s continued to just get better and better. … …
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Halftime is working just fine as an adjustment period. Sooner would be even better for Urban Meyer.
The Ohio State coach has watched an almost identical scene play out over the last two games with his defense, which has been gashed on the ground, struggled in pass coverage and been pushed around in falling behind at intermission in consecutive outings. And while there hasn’t been all that much to complain about after the No. 4 Buckeyes have had a chance to regroup and possibly rearrange a few things in the locker room, Meyer clearly wouldn’t mind if those tweaks could be made before the game is halfway over.
+ EnlargeChuck Rydlewski/Icon SMILinebacker Ryan Shazier leads a unit that is ranked 15th nationally in total defense.“I do feel at times when people give us something new, we will sit back and react and get it figured out,” Meyer said. “And it’s the intelligent way of doing it or you might give up fast points. “But I’d much rather take a more aggressive approach when something bad is happening. Let’s go try to disrupt. And we’ve had that conversation.”
Without the ability to rewrite the script at intermission, the Buckeyes might be having those discussions after a loss instead, so the outcomes can make it hard to criticize the recent approach too much.
But they have at least appeared to be flirting with disaster defensively after falling behind against both Northwestern and Iowa, teams that found relatively easy success in the early stages of those games thanks in part to some offensive wrinkles that were installed during bye weeks to catch the Buckeyes off guard.
Like those two previous opponents, Penn State also has had an extra week to prepare for Ohio State, and it may well be borrowing some of the concepts in the play-action passing attack or from the three tight end set that have worked in the opening quarters over the last couple of weeks. But the Nittany Lions almost certainly will need more than that up their sleeves, because the Buckeyes have proven they can come up with a counter to new looks once they’re given a bit of time, allowing a total of just 17 points after halftime in the comeback wins that kept their record perfect.
“I think the thing we have to understand both as players and coaches is that it doesn’t always go how you draw it up,” defensive line coach Mike Vrabel said. “You go out and work on something all week and you prepare. And I think as a player you go out there and it’s not always roses. It’s not always you dominating somebody.
“Certainly we don’t want to play like that, but there’s times during the course of a season or game where it’s not going well and you have to find the will to go win a football game.”
The Buckeyes have done that 19 times in a row now, and the defense has played a critical role in building that streak and keeping it alive with solid play down the stretch.
Despite some of the first-half woes, Ohio State still ranks No. …
Following the release of the first BCS standings of the 2013 season, what some of us have been assuming for the past few weeks became a reality—the now No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes need some chaos and some help from a team from the Legends Division. Only, unlike most people assume, that help from the Legends Division is best coming from Nebraska and not Michigan. So, breathe easy OSU fans, you don’t need to hope Michigan does good the rest of the year (and I know some of you wouldn’t dream of doing that ever to begin with). Yes, Michigan is ranked No. 22 and Nebraska No. 24 in the first BCS standings, but this is a marathon and not a sprint. The Huskers have more to offer the Buckeyes as the season progresses and here’s why: A one-loss Huskers team squaring off against an undefeated Buckeyes team in the Big Ten Championship (the only way these two teams could meet) would be a better BCS scenario for OSU than the alternative with Michigan. Think about it, what help would it be to Ohio State’s chances of a berth in the National Championship game if it ends up with back-to-back wins over Michigan to finish the regular season and the Big Ten Championship? That would leave the Wolverines with three losses, likely free-falling in (or right out of) the BCS standings right when OSU could need a boost the most. Currently, OSU suffers from a huge deficit in the BCS formula to No. 3 Oregon. Since the Ducks have three games left against…
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Veteran experience and plenty of athleticism were supposed to provide peace of mind. Ohio State seemingly had no reason to worry about its secondary in training camp. It was going to lean on a couple senior safeties to provide stability, count on talented cornerbacks to lock down in coverage and then dip into a reserve of skilled newcomers to feature packages designed to overcome youth and uncertainty in a rebuilt front seven.
+ EnlargeChuck Rydlewski/Icon SMIBradley Roby and Ohio State will be working on improving their pass defense during the bye week.But somewhere along the way in the first half of the season, those roles have been reversed for the Buckeyes. Urban Meyer’s defense had had a few more holes in it than Ohio State’s coach surely anticipated, which has made patching them up an unexpected priority for his bye week. “It’s rather obvious,” Meyer said. “We’re really good against the run. We held a very good rushing team in Wisconsin well below its average. We kind of kept Northwestern in check, also a very good running team with some complicated schemes.
“But the pass defense is very alarming right now.”
That certainly wasn’t the script the Buckeyes were expecting to work off this season with Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett returning to anchor the defense in the back at safety, Bradley Roby spurning the NFL for another season to bolster his stock at cornerback, and a handful of guys pushing new starter Doran Grant for the final spot in the lineup.
Bryant’s fractured ankle suffered late in the win over Wisconsin two weeks has certainly thrown a wrench in those plans, but even with the respected captain and often overlooked contributor on the field, the secondary wasn’t quite living up to the lofty standard it had set for itself heading into the season.
The Buckeyes were victimized for a handful of big plays on the road against California, with communication issues leaving targets wide open. Committed to stopping the run against the Badgers, Ohio State did exactly that — but couldn’t contain receiver Jared Abbrederis as he racked up 207 yards through the air. And with a similar game plan last week at Northwestern, the Buckeyes were again largely successful in the trenches only to have that work undone by 343 passing yards.
Of course, Ohio State remains unbeaten, is alive and well in the hunt for a national title and is still ranked No. …
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The cupboard is fully stocked, and Ohio State could put together a recipe with as many ingredients as it wants and shoot for something exotic. But when it comes time to actually prepare the meal that gets the job done, simplicity and proven success has a way of looking more appealing. And the Buckeyes are in no hurry to mess with what works.
+ EnlargeAP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastCarlos Hyde has picked up right where he left off from last season.Sprinkling in some Jordan Hall when he’s healthy might provide the potential for danger on the perimeter in the option game and he can be a threat as a receiver out of the backfield. A pinch of Dontre Wilson’s explosive speed can go a long way in a hurry, and his bright future certainly makes Ohio State want to start getting him involved. But the meat and potatoes for the Buckeyes remain the same as they were a year ago, and there hasn’t been any reason for them to try anything different when Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller are both on hand to shoulder the load for the rushing game. And as hungry as No. 4 Ohio State is for a national title, it’s becoming increasingly clear that feeding those two as much as it possibly can remains the most fulfilling option heading into the second half of the season.
“Hyde is the horse right now, and I think he’s a great player,” Urban Meyer said after his 18th consecutive victory as the Buckeyes’ coach on Saturday night. “It shows you how much I trust the kid to be able to do that. It was kind of him and Braxton Miller just trying to run that clock out.”
The Buckeyes are obviously using the terrific running tandem to do more than kill off games down the stretch, and their workload in the 40-30 victory over Northwestern on Saturday made quite clear how integral the partnership between the bruising tailback and the versatile quarterback still is despite the extra talent around them this season.
Hyde was given the ball 26 times on the ground against the Wildcats, getting a steady diet of power rushes on the interior on the way to 168 yards and three touchdowns in a performance that gradually wore down a defense that tired of trying to bring down the 235-pound bruiser. Miller complemented that with 17 rushing attempts of his own, perhaps failing to deliver the kind of game-breaking runs he’s known for, but providing 4 yards per carry anyway to keep the chains moving and the defense from keying on Hyde.
Excluding a rush for punter Cameron Johnston on a botched fake, that combination accounted for every carry but four for the Buckeyes a week after Miller and Hyde combined for all but three carries in a victory over Wisconsin. So while the offense has shown clear signs of improvement in the passing game, spreading around touches to receivers and tight ends a bit more often since Hyde’s suspension ended and Miller’s knee sprain healed, the basic formula on the ground remains almost identical to the one that produced an undefeated record last year.
And with it working just the same way against consecutive ranked opponents over the last two weeks, there doesn’t appear to be any reason to make things more complicated. “Coach Meyer told me at halftime that we were going to start riding me,” Hyde said. …
In the early part of the 2013 season, Ohio State had to endure a change at quarterback. But all the while the Buckeyes kept on winning. After preseason Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller went down in Week 2, senior Kenny Guiton filled in and the OSU offense didn’t miss a beat. When Miller returned in Week 5 for the Buckeyes’ first challenge of the season, they kept on rolling and took down Wisconsin, 31-24. While Guiton’s successful play in place of Miller sparked a bit of a quarterback controversy in Columbus, it shouldn’t have—not just because Miller is the clear leader of the team, but because whom Ohio State has lining up under center doesn’t really matter all that much. OSU can clearly win with Guiton or Miller at the helm. With two proven players at the point, the key to Ohio State’s Big Ten and BCS title run will rest on its running game and defense. The Buckeyes can run the ball about as well as any team in the country and have averaged 287.2 rushing yards per game, which ranks them 12th nationally. And they have done all of this without their preseason starter at running back, Carlos Hyde. After serving a suspension to start the year, Hyde returned for OSU’s last two games and recorded 22 carries. In his short time back on the field, Hyde quickly became one of six OSU rushers to net more than 100 yards on the ground this season. In Hyde’s stead, senior Jordan Hall has led the way with 427 yards and is tied for second in the nation…
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The players walked out of a tunnel on the other side of the country and marveled at the crowd. Life on the road isn’t so bad when a program remembers to pack a bunch of fans to tag along.
+ EnlargeThearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesOhio State already got a taste of its traveling support earlier this year at Cal.Ohio State has never lacked for support from one of the largest fan bases in the nation, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive or meaningful when the team takes the field far away from the Horseshoe and still finds about half of the stadium wearing scarlet and gray, as it did last month at California. And while unbeaten, 16th-ranked Northwestern should be much less welcoming on Saturday night for one of its biggest home games in the modern era, the Buckeyes still figure to have plenty of support from their not-so-secret weapon in a prime time showdown. “Especially on the road, we understand that people are going to be fired up, it’s going to be a hostile environment,” defensive tackle Michael Bennett said. “I think to a certain point we kind of like that. Obviously we like playing in front of our fans, but I mean, playing against Cal, we had half the stadium. Ohio State travels very well with their fans, and we love that.
“Even last year, I don’t think there was a single game where guys had a hard time … really getting up for the game. In a way, I think we almost have more energy for away games because we understand people are trying to beat us, and they feel like that’s their opportunity.”
The Wildcats have a huge chance to make a statement about where they stand in the Big Ten picture, and potentially the national showcase could put them in the hunt for something even bigger if they can end Ohio State’s 17-game winning streak and overcome a history of struggling at home against the conference powerhouse.
Aside from their traditional success in a series they lead 59-14-1 overall against the Wildcats, the Buckeyes have also turned in some of their best performances under second-year coach Urban Meyer away from home, including the explosive offensive performance last month at Cal with backup quarterback Kenny Guiton leading a 52-point outburst.
The Buckeyes closed ranks before an early-season trip to Michigan State last year, and the pregame meetings before a physically taxing 17-16 win were later pointed to as the turning point for a team that wouldn’t drop a game all year. They’d later go on to cruise as a visitor at Penn State, survived a late rally in front of a largely pro-Ohio State crowd at Indiana and capped their road slate with a gritty overtime win over Wisconsin.
And while that doesn’t mean the Buckeyes are willing to walk away from their decided home-field advantage on a weekly basis, their fans have had a way of making them feel comfortable no matter where they play.
“It kind of felt like a home game,” wide receiver Philly Brown said. “We went out to the stadium at Cal and Buckeye Nation represented like no other.”
The players could certainly use the company again this weekend at a venue that has rarely been unkind to the Buckeyes.
The Fifth Quarter: Week 5 Rewind Posted by John Taylor on September 29, 2013, 3:17 AM EDT Getty ImagesAs is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional. WINNERS Scheduling buzzsaw complete One of the major storylines of the weekend heading into the Top-10 matchup between LSU and Georgia was current Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray and former Bulldogs/current Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger. While neither disappointed, it was another defining team moment for the squad from Athens that’s had a season’s worth in the first month of the football year. The huge 44-41 win over LSU was UGA’s second win over a team ranked No. 6 in the country this season, the first coming three weeks ago against SEC East rival South Carolina. Their lone loss? A season-opening three-point defeat on the road at the hands of Clemson, which was No. 8 at the time but has climbed to No. 3. Thanks in large part to the play of Murray — four touchdown passes on the day, including the game-winner with under two minutes left — the Bulldogs still control their own destiny; win out through early December, and UGA will head to Pasadena to play in the last-ever BCS championship game. Of course, their opponents in Saturday’s game can say the same thing, as can Alabama. Still, from the heartbreak in the opener to an absolute meatgrinder two of the last three games, Mark Richt has to be beyond ecstatic with the position his football team finds itself in. Braxton back, boon for Buckeyes After Kenny Guiton lit up opposing defenses for 10 touchdowns in two starts, many were calling for the senior to start even after Braxton Miller was healthy enough to return from a knee injury. Urban Meyer wouldn’t hear of it, and Miller showed why. In his first action since the first quarter of a Week 2 win over San Diego State, Miller accounted for 281 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-24 win over Wisconsin. The win was the Buckeyes’ nation’s best 17th straight, and its first over a ranked team since beating Michigan to end the 2012 regular season. Whether it was enough to impress voters, though, remains to be seen. OSU’s first four wins of the season came against three FBS teams that had won a combined two games entering Week 5 as well an FCS program. The fact that OSU couldn’t put away the Badgers after holding a 31-14 lead in the fourth quarter could give those with the power pause. Regardless, OSU will have another chance to impress next week as they travel to Evanston to face No. 19 Northwestern. The Camdy Man can If the Broyles Award for the nation’s top assistant coach were given out today, LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron would likely be an easy choice for most voters. On the bayou, the former head coach who failed miserably at stops in Indiana and with the Miami Dolphins is like water finding its level. …