He’s a Speedy Teflon Wizard.

(With apologies to The Who)

Ever since I was a young boy
I’ve watched the Buckeye Ball
From Byars down to Ed-die
I must have watched them all
But I’ve never seen anyone like him
Run right through them all
That big headed number 15


Failures of Courage, Revisited

With today’s announcement that Penn State will get its vacated wins back, it’s worth taking a trip down memory lane to re-read MotSaG’s opinion piece on the scandal:

Failures of Courage

May we all remember what the real tragedy was.

Why You Should Want OSU to Miss the Playoffs

I admit – the idea is seductive. It would be fantastic to see Urban Meyer team hoist the first CFP championship trophy, then say a few poignant words before handing it over to the redshirt freshman QB that got him there. Imagine the scarlet and gray confetti still floating about the stadium, the cameras, Carmen Ohio playing softly in the background. It would be the most rewarding end for a fan base that has been forced into spending the past few years on the defensive.

But as heretical as it may seem, if you are a College Football fan, and not just an OSU fan, you should want OSU to miss the playoffs this year. Actually, the same goes if you are a fan of any other Big10 or Big 12 team. Actually actually, the same goes if you are a fan of anything but the SEC.

That there is a disgusting amount of SEC bias present in the media, there is no doubt. While it’s fashionable to be on the anti-SEC bandwagon nowadays, savvy CFB fans have been documenting SEC bias going all the way back to 2004, when Auburn was shut out of their shot at the title, and the powers-that-be initiated the most comprehensive marketing campaign in sports history. One that led to the Frankenstein-monster we have today, where ESPN is at the mercy of its own irrationality, terrorizing the peaceful world of CFB fans for the sake of its own impulsive short-term satisfaction.

CFB fans should unite into a new goal: hope for an outcome to the 2014 season that destroys and squashes the blatant and deliberate attempts to influence CFB for one network’s monetary gain. Even Shane Falco knew to “shoot the hostage,” before dodging bullets on a surfboard in his time-travel phone booth (or something like that).

To “shoot the hostage,” the media must be forced to acknowledge the hard truth about the SEC: that it’s a conference with one or two elite teams, a handful of good ones, and a bunch of weak ones. (In other words, no different than any other Power 5 conference.)

Therefore, the best scenario going forward is for the SEC to send two representatives to the College Football Playoffs (CFP). Why? Consider the delicious chaos:

  1. Including two SEC teams would, more than any other action, force a massive nationwide discussion on the role the media’s interests play in amateur sports. Simply, the media empire most responsible would be forced ever more so on the defensive, which is good, because its position can’t be rationally defended. The two selected would likely be SEC West teams, and the Mays and Fowlers of the world would have to defend the idiotic notion that a team that didn’t even win its own division should be allowed to play for national title, in lieu of the superior teams that won their divisions and conferences, “because reasons.”
  2. Both SEC representatives would likely lose. One for sure. Shoot, depending on seeding, one may even eliminate the other. Based on a fair assessment of the teams (as of early November), it’s not likely that any of the potential SEC representatives could best an Oregon, or TCU, or Florida State this year. Result: SEC would fare poorly in the CFP.
  3. Sending two teams to the CFP would result in the more average SEC teams sliding up into the former bowl slots, where they would be overmatched by a lot of elite teams. Teams like OSU, TCU, Michigan State, Nebraska, Arizona State or Oregon, etc., would likely feast on the remaining members of the SEC who didn’t get selected. Shoot… even Michigan might win a December 20th bowl against an SEC bottom-feeder in Hoke’s last game. Result: SEC would fare more poorly in bowl games than they usually do.

To sum up: imagine a scenario where OSU finishes an excellent season with a high-profile bowl trophy, perhaps against an overmatched SEC opponent in the Citrus Bowl. One where the SEC does poorly in both the CFP and in the rest of the bowls. One where the B1G and perhaps the Pac 12 does well. One that starts with ESPN having to defend their conference’s superiority, and ends with egg all over Chris Fowler’s face.

This would not only validate the critics’ points of view, but humiliate and embarrass those caught with ulterior motives. It would also raise the possibility that next year’s rankings might start out a little more realistic than in years past… and in FY15, that improved objectivity would further benefit teams like Ohio State that are positioning themselves for a real championship run.

Orange Bowl Preview – OSU vs Clemson

Tajh Boyd’s college football career comes full circle this Friday, when the stellar QB will lead Clemson against Ohio State in the Orange Bowl.

A little over four years ago, Boyd committed to Clemson, a decision that shocked Jim Tressel and the Buckeye coaches. Boyd had always been transparent about his Buckeye plans. He had grown up rooting for Tressel and the Buckeyes, and OSU was first on his list. The high school phenom even chose to wear a #10 jersey to honor his favorite football player, Ohio State QB Troy Smith.

In 2009, Boyd saw Tressel’s committment to Pryor and realized that he’d have a tough time competing for the starting position. At the eleventh hour, a new opportunity arose at Clemson, and Boyd took advantage.

He hasn’t looked back since. Boyd has spent the past four years tearing through his ACC competition like tissue paper, setting 58 team records. He also holds conference records for touchdowns (127!) and passing efficiency.

OSU fans are more than content with Braxton Miller. But it is interesting to realize that, had Boyd chose Ohio State, he likely would have inherited the starting job after Pryor’s suspension and the failed Bauserman experiment. Boyd had even established a solid rapport with future WR Philly Brown, having thrown a TD pass to him in the Army game.

And yet, as impressive as Boyd’s college career has been, it is fair to note a few caveats: He is frustratingly inconsistent. CFB fans have turned “Clemsoning” into a verb – one week, he appears formidable; the next, he’s completely befuddled and throwing panicked interceptions directly into the arms of defenders. This is the main reason for Boyd being left out of most national QB conversations and award lists. And you more cynical detractors might note the fact that his stats are padded against the weaker ACC teams that Boyd has spent a career playing against.

But enough background – let’s get to the analysis.

When OSU has the ball
One-sentence summary:

Run El Guapo often, run him hard, and complete short passes.

OSU fans are still smarting from the coaches’ puzzling decision to not properly utilize Carlos Hyde in the fourth quarter of the B1G title game. For this analysis, we’re going to assume that they saw the tape and realized that was the stupidest gameplan that ever stupided.

(If they haven’t, then hopefully they’re reading this post and realize it now. Stupid. You don’t score 24 unanswered points and come from behind to take the lead in the fourth quarter, and then deliberately decide “hey, you know what? We took the lead with Hyde; maybe we should stop using him from now on.” Stupid.)

Sorry, digressed there. Back to Clemson…

Clemson’s rush defense is rather pathetic (52nd), and this includes the fact that they only faced teams with rather pathetic rush offenses. Only Georgia Tech’s gimmicky offense is decent numbers-wise, and they easily ran for 5.5 ypc against Clemson. On paper at least, Clemson’s defense should not present much of a challenge to OSU’s two-headed rushing attack.

The biggest defensive threat comes from the Tiger DE Vic Beasley, a Hendricks finalist for the nation’s top defensive end. The OSU offensive line will have to keep him at bay if they expect to have any success with a run-first gameplan.

The Tigers tend to favor man coverage when facing spread teams. If OSU establishes the run, Clemson will likely bring a strong safety into the box to guard against it. From there it’s up to Miller. Late in the season, for some reason, he abandoned the middle routes that had been so successful for a combination of deep passes and screens. Deep passes work well to keep a secondary honest, but they are such low-percentage plays that they are not worth it against a team like Clemson. The risks outweigh the costs – it’s more important to keep the clock running and keep plugging away for manageable second & third downs.

If Miller can manage a solid rushing attack and midrange passing game, the drives will be long, points will come easy, and most importantly, the clock will keep running, keeping Clemson’s offense off the field. This is important because:

When Clemson has the ball
One-sentence summary:

The OSU defense made the trip to Miami, as well.

Bryant is out. Spence is out. Roby is out. Grant is injured and may see limited time. Cue sad trombone.

In an act of desperation, Fickell is revamping the lineup and starting Vonn Bell, hoping for a spark. But any benefit that Bell may bring will be negated by the crushing loss of Noah Spence. If ever there was a game where having your leading pass rusher was critical, it was against the best quarterback your team has seen in years.

There may be a silver lining. Unlike the Buckeyes, Clemson’s gameplan ought to be rather one-dimensional. They aren’t likely to have much success running against OSU’s front seven, even considering the loss of Spence. As easy as Boyd should theoretically have it, one-dimensional teams can often be exploited. Should Boyd have one of his off-days, as he has tended to do against decent competition, Clemson’s offense could suffer.

Predictions are based upon experience gained during similar circumstances. But we’re on completely uncharted territory, here. We’ve never seen how a Meyer-led OSU team reacts to a big loss. While Meyer is 4-0 in BCS games, the ability of this OSU team to give him a 5-0 BCS record is in question.

The closest we can come to empirical comparisons (and this is a huuuuge stretch) is this: Both OSU and South Carolina beat Wisconsin in very similar games (although Wisco had an injured QB when playing SC). This may suggest that OSU and South Carolina are at least as good as one another; and SC had no problem whatsoever dispatching Clemson just a few weeks ago. Yes, transitive analyses are terrible, but if you’re looking for optimism… well… there it is.

On paper, it seems like one of two scenarios is likely:

  • Clemson’s offense makes a few mistakes and shoots itself in the foot, leading to a dominating victory by the Buckeyes. OSU, 56-24.
  • The teams engage in a shootout for the ages, and it comes down to one team’s final possession as the fourth quarter expires. Clemson, 63-59.

What say you?

Data Against Common Opponents – OSU vs MSU

We haven’t done one of these in a couple of years… We’re resurrecting the format in honor of the B1G Title Game.

The info here complements our earlier By The Numbers post, but is limited to the two teams’ performances against common opponents. It’s not necessarily a perfect way to compare the teams, but it offers a more apples-to-apples comparison between the good and bad guys.

Tables 1 and 2 detail the performance of each team’s scoring offense and scoring defense, respectively, against the numbers the opponents typically give up.

PF = Points For; PA = Points Against, DEV = Deviation from opponent’s average

Table 1: Scoring Offense

  Opp PA Avg OSU PF (Dev) MSU PF (Dev)
NW 27.1 40 (+12.9) 30 (+2.9)
IA 18.8 34 (+15.2) 26 (+7.2)
PUR 38.0 56 (+18.0) 14 (-24)
ILL 35.4 60 (+24.6) 42 (+6.6)
IN 38.8 42 (+3.2) 42 (+3.2)
MI 26.5 42 (+15.5) 29 (+2.5)
AVG 30.8 45.7 (+14.9) 30.5 (-0.3)

Not a lot of surprise, here; Ohio State routinely scores significantly more points against these opponents than is typical for said opponents. (Over two TDs more per game, actually.)

MSU’s average is pretty close to the opponents’ average, indicating that the Spartan’s offense is competent, but not necessarily strong. It might be a sign that the MSU offense tends to play to the level of the defense it is facing.

Table 2: Scoring Defense

  Opp PF Avg OSU PA (Dev) MSU PA (Dev)
NW 26.2 30 (+3.8) 6 (-20.2)
IA 27.3 24 (-3.3) 14 (-13.3)
PUR 14.9 0 (-14.9) 0 (-14.9)
ILL 29.7 35 (+5.3) 3 (-26.7)
IN 38.4 14 (-24.4) 28 (-10.4)
MI 33.8 41 (+7.2) 6 (-27.8)
AVG 28.3 24 (-4.4) 9.5 (-18.8)

Again, surprise-surprise, MSU’s defense clearly outclasses OSU’s defense against these opponents. But what’s more interesting is how inconsistent the Buckeyes look. From game to game against these teams, OSU’s defense vacillates. Not terribly, mind you – even at their worst (against TTUN), they still only gave up one more TD than the opponent would have typically scored – but from game to game, it was hard to say which Bucks defense would show up.

What does it mean?
Against these opponents, Ohio State’s offense was unstoppable and its defense was intermittently solid. Michigan State’s offense was competent, while its defense was dominant. Yeah, yeah, I know, we knew all that.

But let’s assume for argument’s sake that the teams meet “halfway” when they play against each other this weekend. That is to say, both OSU and MSU give and take a little, each team’s average performance being counteracted by the other’s to an equal extent. (For example, imagine a situation where Team A usually gets 100 points, Team B usually allows zero, and if all things were equal, we think Team A would score 50.)

Ohio State is averaging 48.2 ppg this season to the Spartans’ 29.4. Defensively, the Buckeyes are giving up 20.3 ppg to Michigan State’s 11.8.

Based on their performance against these common opponents, if the teams “met halfway,” each team would score about 4 points below their average. This implies that OSU has the advantage – this hypothetical game would end with OSU scoring in the low 40s and MSU scoring in the mid-to-upper 20s. My spidey sense says OSU 40-28.

Of course, this is all hypothetical, and you can never predict all the intangible factors that usually affect the outcome of a game. Someone is going to make a mistake, get a turnover, get a favorable call (or no-call) by the officials, etc. As the old saying goes, that’s why they play the game.

But another intangible aspect of Saturday’s matchup is the fact that none of Michigan State’s opponents were built like OSU, with a solid offensive line and rushing game.

In fact, the best offense that MSU has seen belongs to Indiana. The Spartans did not play Wisconsin or Penn State. They lost to a decent, but not elite, Notre Dame offense. They gave up 28 points – on long, punishing drives – to a Husker team that did not have a starting QB and had turned the ball over 5 times. It’s entirely possible that the Spartans’ defensive numbers are not indicative of their actual strength. And even if it is, the numbers still tend to favor the Buckeyes – providing both teams play like they typically do on average.



Robiskie catches TD against UM 2006



OSU rides 441 yards rushing to get to 22 straight

OSU lowered the boom on Illinois 60-35 as Carlos Hyde beastballed his way for 246 yards and 4 TDs.

Miller added another 184 yards of his own on the ground, but struggled in the passing game in the gusty Champaign winds. Also struggling was the OSU defense, giving up almost 300 passing yards to Nate “Grandpa” Scheelhaase. (Is it just me, or hasn’t he been playing since about 1990?)

The Buckeyes started and finished at full throttle – a point that will likely go unnoticed by the talking heads. After going up by four touchdowns, the team lost focus and allowed the Illini to chip away at the lead. The game didn’t officially become in-hand until a 9-point swing in the 3rd quarter when OSU converted a safety and a subsequent TD back-to-back.

As much as fans may wish all OSU games could be as easy as the past few; a game like this is a good thing. The defense clearly was suffering from a bit of hubris after its domination of the B1G bottom feeders these past few weeks. Getting punched in the mouth, and being forced to respond, is good for this team as it continues to prepare to play real teams in the months ahead.

But the story of this game should be about Carlos “El Guapo” Hyde. Benched for the first part of the game (rumors indicated he missed a class this week), he still managed 246 yards in just over two-and-a-half quarters of football. He’s now about 50 yards shy of a 1000 for the season, a stat that of course should be considered in the context of him not playing the first three games against OSU’s weakest opponents. Had Guapo not been suspended earlier this season, there’s a very good chance he’d be at least a 1500 yard back this year.

Next week, Hyde should easily eclipse the 1000 mark, and perhaps exceed Keith Byars’ and Eddie George’s TD records. Most appropriately, he will likely do so during his last home game at the Shoe.

Stay tuned to MotSaG… Chip will have a more in-depth analysis of the game to be posted tomorrow.

MotSaG Look at the Quarterbacks

Typically, the Buckeyes have made do with the NFL model of quarterback management: have one prize horse who gets the most attention, followed by a competent backup or two for those rainy day scenarios. The approach looks good on paper, and works in the NFL because the pool of potential superstar QBs from which the NFL draws is rather shallow.

College football has generally had the inverse problem. Predicated on seniority, there’s always a good chance that the prize horse (Zwick, Boeckman, Bauserman) will not have an athletic advantage over his backup (Smith, Pryor, Miller). High school stars may fizzle out, while average players blossom into excellent leaders.

Having a full stable of high-potential quarterbacks is a rarity for any college football team, let alone Ohio State. And yet, this is the luxurious position OSU is in for the 2013 season.

Key Losses:
None of note. (Unless you count Braxton’s Fauxhawk.)

Last Year’s Performance:
In 2012, OSU was ranked 117th nationally in passing attempts (good enough for Dead. Last. in the B1G). Braxton Miller’s 48.7% accuracy on 3rd-downs was lowest among B1G quarterbacks.

In addition, Meyer told the Toledo Blade that he deliberately held the Buckeye offense to a scaled-back playbook in 2012. Therefore, Braxton had to run a conservative attack, passing for just over 2000 yards with 15 TDs and 6 INTs.

And yet, Braxton Miller was Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, and the OSU offense overwhelmed opponents with 37.2 points per game on average. Doesn’t that seem odd?

Those who watched Braxton blossom last year know why. OSU went 12-0 and had the 21st ranked offense in FBS because he added another 1300 yards and 13 TDs on the ground.

Expectations for 2013:
The last time expectations were this high for quarterback performance was in 1998, when Joe “the Iceman” Germaine returned for his last year along with OSU greats David Boston and Dee Miller. That team led the nation in most offensive categories all season long – and had it not been for an unfortunately timed fumble against the Spartans, that OSU team would likely have been the first national champion of the BCS era.

Whether it’s a fair expectation or not, college football fans and pundits alike expect nothing less from OSU in 2013. The rushing ability that Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton bring to the table has obviously remained unchanged. The big difference this season is that the OSU QB will be surrounded with experienced weapons – healthy running backs, slot receivers, veteran wide receivers (that aren’t under suspension!), great tight ends, and Scary Talented Unknown Freshmen.

Scary Talented Freshman
(Example of Scary Talented Unknown Freshman)

The question remains: Will Miller’s 58.3% completion percentage be good enough to leverage all those weapons? If you ask the experts… yes, affirmative, absolutely, positively, aye, YES. What experts, you ask? How about the one who’s worked with Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, and Johnny Manziel?

“Braxton has one of the biggest arms in college football,” Whitfield said. “I know people see his speed and his playmaking ability. But I am talking about, he’s got rare, rare arm talent.”

This is completely consistent with the assessment made by other observers:

Urban Meyer told the Columbus Dispatch:

“I love Braxton Miller. Him and Tom Herman have something really special going right now. You can see it on the field. You can see his maturity.

Combined with that athletic talent is a brand new offense that will be unveiled in a couple of weeks. Meyer has indicated that he plans to abandon last year’s training wheels and institute a true spread attack. The scaled-back playbook has been shredded. In regards to a recent practice session using the new offensive approach, Meyer said:

“We completed more balls in a third-down scrimmage scenario in a 10-minute, 16-play deal than maybe we did all of last year. And a lot of that had to do with [Miller]. He’s better, he’s more comfortable, he understands things, he’s more patient.”

The implication is, of course, that Braxton will not be running as much this season. This is an important point to note for those who will be comparing his stats from 2012 – if your baseline includes his performance as the team’s primary rusher, you’re going to be disappointed. Meyer wants RBs and H-backs rushing whenever possible. It’s entirely possible that Braxton has a more successful season than last, yet ends up responsible for fewer touchdowns overall.

QB Depth:
Backing up Miller, of course is “Smooth Jazz” Guiton, who has always had the ability to back up Miller on an athletic level. However, as a senior, Guiton possesses the maturity and expertise in the program most needed to step in at a moment’s notice with as little of an effect on the offense as possible.

QBs battling for the #3 spot are Cardale Jones and JT Barrett. Technically, the #3 spot belongs to Jones – he had it last year – but he made a large mistake last year that didn’t endear him to the coaching staff.

Barrett, on the other hand, is a high school phenom who is impressing coaches with his leadership. He enrolled at Ohio State early, and as a young unknown, happened to be in the room when Dontre Wilson and James Clark came on their official visits. The story has become OSU coaches’ lore, but it goes like this: When Wilson and Clark came by, he interrupted the coaches – again, he had only been in the program a few weeks at that point and interrupted them – and gave the recruits a lecture straight out of a Hollywood movie. Tom Herman:

“He goes on for 5 or 10 minutes on why he chose this place over others and he’s going on about winning multiple championships, what an Ohio State degree can do for you, and playing for this coach and school… For me to witness that, it got me choked up a little bit, because you can’t teach that.”

With the fact that Guiton will be leaving this season, along the extreme likelihood that Braxton will as well, Meyer has one season to get either Jones or Barrett ready for prime time in 2014. Time will tell.

But 2013 will be the Braxton show. If Miller can stay healthy, and if he has progressed as much as the coaches and pundits have indicated, there should be no question that he won’t repeat or surpass the bar of success he set for himself last year.