COLUMBUS, Ohio — The phone call came in, the next challenge was confirmed and Urban Meyer was ready to move on. The Ohio State coach praised the bowl destination, talked up the opponent he’s already preparing for and mentioned on several occasions how his driven team will quickly adapt its goals now that there’s only one thing left to accomplish this season.
But as Meyer rattled everything off the No. 7 Buckeyes have to look forward to against No. 12 Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl on Jan. 3, even on a teleconference it was clear he was still carrying with him at least one wound from the loss that abruptly ended “The Chase” and ripped a likely crack at the national championship away from his team.
“Excuse me,” a hoarse Meyer said Sunday night. “I lost my voice yesterday a little bit.”
The Buckeyes had no shortage of reasons to scream as Michigan State picked apart their secondary, largely shut down the spread offense and snatched a trip to the Rose Bowl from them in the Big Ten title game. And that loss is likely to haunt Ohio State well after Meyer has any need for lozenges.
SportsNation: BCS bowl winners? Florida State and Auburn will play for the title. Who wins it? And the other BCS games? Vote! » Rank the teams! » But in place of one spot in the BCS, the Buckeyes quickly earned a bid to another when the Orange Bowl called to help brighten up Meyer’s afternoon. They may not have a shot at Florida State, but another ACC powerhouse filled the void to give the Buckeyes a chance to make a statement victory after having their schedule picked apart all season long.
The school-record 24-game winning streak is gone as well, but then there’s a springboard to maybe start a new run down in south Florida.
And while it’s understandable and perhaps acceptable for Ohio State to be feeling a little down and disappointed for a day or two, that can’t last long if it’s going to do anything with the opportunity that took the place of the one the Buckeyes really wanted.
“I actually opened a forum a little bit after the game, opened the floor for anybody, and it was interesting to have a couple players, a couple coaches say a few words,” Meyer said. “It was just about finishing this thing the right way. …
December, 8, 2013 Dec 8 10:00 AM ET COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lessons and developments from No. 2 Ohio State’s 34-24 upset loss to No. 10 Michigan State in the Big Ten title game on Saturday night in Indianapolis. The Spartans had the better plan: The Ohio State defense has had some rough patches at times, largely early in games, but more often than not it was able to adjust and tighten the screws when it counted. The offense had been starting to look pretty one-dimensional down the stretch, but the Buckeyes didn’t seem to mind that, because they were so effective rushing the ball. But against the stout, assignment-sound Spartans, neither side of the ball for Ohio State was able to do what it had made look routine during another perfect run through the regular season. Injuries took a toll on the defense, and Braxton Miller at one point dragged the Buckeyes back into the lead, but in the end, Michigan State simply had the better game plan and more successful counters in earning the conference crown.
Miller needs to return: His physical skills are among the best in the country, and at some point his multipurpose skills are going to make him an appealing option for an NFL team looking for a quarterback. But if Miller was thinking about making the jump after his junior season, his rough passing performance with no weather impacting his accuracy might nudge him back for another year with the Buckeyes. His receivers didn’t do him many favors, with a handful of costly drops, and the Spartans didn’t make it easy with all the pressure they put on him, but going 8-for-21 for 101 yards and a touchdown on the biggest stage of the season isn’t likely to do much for Miller’s draft stock.
The season isn’t over: The Buckeyes are still an appealing option for any organizer of a BCS game, and the Orange Bowl is likely going to snap them up in a hurry. That would give Ohio State one more chance at a marquee victory heading into Urban Meyer’s third season, and a chance to start a new winning streak after its streak of 24 consecutive wins since he took over the program ended Saturday. It’s clear the Buckeyes still need to add some depth in recruiting, particularly at linebacker, and Meyer wasn’t hired just to compete for a championship in his second year. All things considered, the Buckeyes still have plenty to feel good about thus far in his tenure, and a win in a BCS game still could add to it.
December, 1, 2013 Dec 1 9:00 AM ET COLUMBUS, Ohio — A closer look at the standouts in No. 3 Ohio State’s thrilling, 42-41 victory over Michigan on Saturday afternoon at the Big House to wrap up a perfect regular season. RB Carlos Hyde: The senior has been on an absolute tear throughout the Big Ten season, but he might have saved his most impressive outing for the rival Wolverines. Hyde relentlessly banged away between the tackles from start to finish as he averaged more than 8 yards an attempt on the way to 226 yards, continuing to build his case as one of the nation’s top rushers. Even after one misstep with a crucial late fumble, Hyde bounced back for the go-ahead score with just more than two minutes left to cap another wildly productive performance.
+ EnlargeGregory Shamus/Getty ImagesOhio State redshirt freshman Tyvis Powell makes one of his six tackles Saturday, bringing down Michigan’s Jeremy Gallon.DB Tyvis Powell: No matter what else the redshirt freshman does in his career, the play he made with The Game, a perfect record and BCS championship hopes hanging in the balance could be the lasting memory of his time with the Buckeyes when it’s all over. Powell was one of the few players in Urban Meyer’s first recruiting class who didn’t play in 2012, but he clearly learned in practice and was a valuable part of the defense even before he stepped in front of a pass on a two-point conversion attempt in the final seconds. That interception, a previous fumble recovery and six tackles won’t soon be forgotten by Ohio State fans. QB Braxton Miller: His accuracy as a passer was again a bit scattered, but with Miller so staggeringly efficient as a rusher along with Hyde, that hardly made any difference to an offense that seemingly could only stop itself with penalties or a turnover. The junior quarterback might have been written off as a Heisman Trophy candidate too early, with his 153 rushing yards, 133 passing yards and five total touchdowns giving him yet another impressive entry on his resume and keeping the Buckeyes unbeaten. Miller might need to throw more against a stouter defense next week, but Michigan State will have to find an answer for his shifty moves and blinding acceleration as a rusher first. Covers Ohio State and the Big Ten.Joined ESPN in 2012.Attended the University of Wyoming.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Pick a sample size, change the pool of voters, it hardly makes a difference to an approval rating that might as well be a unanimous endorsement. Limit it to teammates, and the votes poured in to make Kenny Guiton a captain at Ohio State.
+ EnlargeAP Photo/Jay LaPreteKenny Guiton is loved by the fans and respected by his teammates. Not bad for a backup QB.Expand it to one of the largest stadiums in college football, and the fans that pack the Horseshoe have made their feelings well known by chanting the senior’s name. Even across the country, a brief stint in the spotlight in September earned him recognition as the national player of the week and turned him into a household name.
That near universal admiration is rare enough for anybody, let alone a backup quarterback.
But Ohio State’s has become a cult hero. And as he takes in the appreciation for what he’s accomplished for the last time on Saturday at Ohio Stadium, he will do so knowing just how easily he could have missed out on it entirely.
The accidental Buckeye
Tom Herman wasn’t the only recruiter who had taken an interest in the quarterback from Houston, but he was in the same boat as the rest of the small handful of coaches seeking Guiton’s services back in 2008.
Then an assistant at Rice, Herman saw the multipurpose potential Guiton brought to the position. There was an accurate, but not overpowering, arm capable of leading a passing attack. Mobility, but perhaps not game-changing acceleration, which could extend plays and pose a threat as a rusher.
But Guiton wasn’t the kind of recruit worth waiting around forever for, and ultimately Rice had to move on and take another quarterback.
“Kenny had kind of put off his decision, kept waiting and waiting,” Herman said. “At that time we felt like we had to fish or cut bait.
“I think that’s why it didn’t work out for a lot of different places that he originally had offers to.”
At the top of Guiton’s list was Kansas.
When he called the Jayhawks, they had already filled their need for a passer.
Guiton placed a call to his next choice in the Big 12.
“I called Iowa State, and they were like, ‘We just had a commit two or three days ago,’” Guiton said. “I just waited too long.
“After a while, there was nothing on the table.”
There was still Prairie View A&M, and after dragging his feet, that option was looking pretty appealing.
Then Ohio State swooped in unexpectedly after it was spurned by its top targets and scrambling to fill the late void in its 2009 recruiting class, offering a nice landing spot in the Big Ten. But what it didn’t necessarily provide was a place where much was expected of him. Even Rice thought it might have a bit of a project on its hands with Guiton, and the Buckeyes were in reasonably good shape at the position in the first place.
“I’d be lying to you if I told you we thought at Rice this was possible,” said Herman, now the quarterbacks coach at Ohio State. …
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A strong leg is only a start. Cameron Johnston’s ability to launch the football down the field or place it in a precise location is invaluable, and Ohio State’s late recruiting strike to even find him in Australia has been critical given the pressing need it had at punter.
But getting off a booming punt is merely the beginning of a successful play on special teams for the Buckeyes. And while Johnston, a freshman, has earned the attention he has received as a Ray Guy Award semifinalist, it’s the collective work of the coverage unit around him which has made Ohio State so dangerous in the third phase as it executes its plan every week to win the battle for field position.
+ EnlargeThearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesReceiver Devin Smith is also a big part of the Buckeyes’ punt coverage team.”That is much more a function of Devin Smith,” special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs said. “It’s the way they run down the field and cover and eliminate returns and kill the ball inside the 5-yard line and all that stuff. Not that Cam hasn’t had a good year, he has — Cam has had a great year. “But that punt team, that group of guys and the way they cover and the way they get down the field to eliminate the opportunity for the other team to return the ball is special. We are all the beneficiaries of that.”
The Buckeyes, like any other team, would obviously prefer never to call on that unit in the first place. And for the most part, their high-powered offense has lightened the load for Johnston and the guys flying down the field since the Buckeyes have only punted 26 times.
But when Ohio State does get stopped and has to flip the field position around, its been among the most effective teams in the country at maximizing the yardage Johnston provides with his right foot. Through nine games, Johnston has averaged 40.9 yards per attempt, and thanks to Smith and his buddies, the Buckeyes are netting an even 40 yards on those punts while allowing a grand total of 3 return yards.
“When you watch Devin Smith, I’m telling you, put the clips of the film on,” Coombs said. “You’re talking about your starting wide receiver getting down the field to cover a punt and keeping the other guy trapped, making him fair catch again and again and again.
Johnston has been no slouch either, and he’s certainly holding up his end of the bargain by generating enough hang-time to let Smith and the gunners beat double teams on the perimeter or by putting backspin on his kicks to allow them to down the ball in the red zone.
Few teams in the country have been better in those two areas than the Buckeyes, who have forced 15 fair catches and pinned opponents inside the 10-yard line on 27 percent of their punts
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The names are well known to anybody walking around the hallways at Ohio State, and even though he hasn’t coaching them, they roll right off the tongue of Urban Meyer. A.J. Hawk.
Bobby Carpenter and Brian Rolle.
+ EnlargeSandra Dukes/USA TODAY SportsUrban Meyer is looking for more production and depth from his linebackers. Meyer could keep going as he makes his point about the tradition and high standards the Buckeyes set for their linebackers. And while the Ohio State coach has one sure-fire addition to that list currently anchoring his defense in Ryan Shazier, the fact that he doesn’t have more than that on hand right now continues to put the unit in his crosshairs — no matter how solidly it might have played lately. “The linebacker position is still my biggest concern on our team,” Meyer said. “The depth is a major concern.
“When you think of the great linebackers the program has had — arguably the last decade as good as a linebackers as anywhere in the country played at Ohio State.”
The Buckeyes do have an individual candidate who could make a claim as the best linebacker in the country with Shazier contributing in almost every way imaginable thanks to his incredible combination of instincts and athleticism. And collectively, the first-team unit with Shazier, Joshua Perry and middle linebacker Curtis Grant has helped Ohio State get back among the nation’s elite defenses, ranking in the top 10 in total defense, scoring defense and rushing yardage allowed.
But there’s precious little depth behind that group of starters. And with no margin for error, even relatively minor injuries like the finger surgery Perry had during the bye week or the ankle and back issues that have slowed Grant, could lead to major concerns for a team in the thick of the BCS title chase. Both of them are expected to play on Saturday at Illinois, but even when they’ve been completely healthy, Meyer has continued to train his focus on getting more out of that position to take the defense to another level — one it’s historically used to reaching.
And while there’s nothing the Buckeyes can do during the season to add more bodies to the roster, that emphasis on development at the position has clearly yielded some results as Perry has chipped in 33 tackles in his first season as a starter and Grant has finally begun living up to his recruiting hype as a full-time player.
“I think it’s definitely motivation,” Perry said. “I know what we do in our meetings rooms and how we react to that, and we take that as a challenge for us. I think we’ve been playing a lot better these last few weeks, but it’s never good enough. …
COLUMBUS, Ohio — At least once it was somewhere in the ocean.
Other times it was on an oil platform in Kuwait.
Regardless of the location, it was usually in the middle of the night when Craig Cataline would grab a spare moment, find a place to settle in and get a glimpse of his beloved Ohio State football team playing back home while he was half a world away serving in the Navy.
The question gets asked a lot by Southeastern Conference fans and it goes something like this: ”How would (highly ranked team) do in the SEC?” Often it’s not even a question, it’s an assertion, such as: ”(Highly ranked team not from the SEC) would be lucky to finish .500 if it played in the SEC.”
The toughest two-week stretch on the schedule is in the rearview mirror, and Ohio State remains unbeaten. A rocky nonconference slate made the opening month of the season something of an adventure for Michigan, but the Wolverines survived without a blemish on their record as well.
Both programs point toward arguably the most heated rivalry in the country as the most important matchup all season regardless of rankings or what’s at stake in the Big Ten or nationally, and that won’t change in late November. But so far, everything appears to be lining up for what could be an epic confrontation with far-reaching implications aside from just bragging rights. And if the Buckeyes and Wolverines stay on track heading into the second half of the season, there might even be an encore to The Game one week later in Indianapolis in the Big Ten championship game.
Game: Ohio State-Michigan
What’s at stake: Michigan hasn’t done much to put itself in the national title conversation just yet with some unimpressive victories over Akron and Connecticut, but if the Wolverines keep that record unblemished, they ultimately would have to be in the discussion. Ohio State is already a prominent part of the championship picture now that it has knocked off Wisconsin and Northwestern to push its winning streak to 18 games overall, and the Buckeyes have long circled the trip to Ann Arbor, Mich., as one of the biggest hurdles in “The Chase” for a trophy.
But just in terms of the feud between the rivals, Urban Meyer got a leg up on Brady Hoke by winning the first head-to-head matchup between the coaches last year at the Horseshoe. And in the battle for public perception and in the recruiting wars, no victory means more than one against “Ohio” or “That Team Up North.”
Roadblocks/derailment opportunities: The Wolverines have made life difficult for themselves with costly turnovers, and they spent their first bye week making sure they weren’t tripping over their own feet heading into conference play. Quarterback Devin Gardner showed marked improvement as Michigan opened up Big Ten action with an easy victory over Minnesota, operating the offense with the type of efficiency that was expected during training camp and appearing to right the offensive ship. The Wolverines will have to keep playing with that sharpness during a brutal three-game stretch that starts after its second second bye week, visiting Michigan State on Nov. 2, hosting Nebraska and then going back on the road to take on Northwestern. Ohio State, though, is mostly playing against itself and Meyer’s high standards until it faces Michigan. With a favorable Big Ten draw that didn’t include Nebraska or Michigan State this season, the Buckeyes will be heavy favorites in each of their next five games, particularly now that the offense is starting to look more like Meyer envisions thanks to the return of Braxton Miller from injury and Carlos Hyde from suspension. A visit from Indiana’s high-powered offense Nov. 23, a week before The Game, might be the toughest remaining test.
How it unfolds: With the spread offense clicking, the front seven developing ahead of schedule and a couple of bye weeks to potentially tweak the retooled secondary following Christian Bryant’s injury, everything appears to be in place for Ohio State to hold up its end of the deal to set up a memorable meeting in Michigan
Austin Ward talks about One Good Thing from the Big Ten over the weekend, focusing on the offensive line play in wins for Iowa and Ohio State.