Google Plus Interruption

Quick programming note…

Google has (temporarily, we hope) suspended our G+ account due to “violations of the Google Plus names policy.” When we set MotSaG up, we used our standard Google account that has been in place since 2006.

Until Google rolls out their G+ business pages, this is technically a violation (since “first name: MEN; last name: OFTHESCARLETANDGRAY” is not a proper name). Go figure.

We’ll be trying to work this out and will keep you posted on progress. In the meantime you can always catch us on Facebook if you prefer.

Stay tuned for future updates.

Ohio State vs Wisconsin Preview

The Essentials
What: Ohio State vs. Wisconsin
Where: Daaaaaaaaa Shoe
When: 8:00 PM, Oct. 29th, 2011
The Line: Wisconsin -7.5
Television: ESPN
Weather: Upper 30s to low 40s, 20% chance of rain

OSU and Wisconsin have brewed themselves a strong rivalry in recent years. Of the past ten matchups between Wisconsin and Ohio State, half have ended in upsets. The other half have contributed to the outcome of the Big10 championship race, in one form or another. This includes last year’s game, when the top-ranked Buckeyes suffered a special teams meltdown that gave 18th-ranked Wisconsin the victory.

The Buckeyes have been very clear: This date has been circled on their calendar for an entire year. Wisconsin. Payback. Night game. Script Ohio under the lights. Homecoming. Old school Big10 pro-style power. Nike Pro Combat uniforms.

Adventures in Optimism
Fans of both teams well know that, in recent years, schedule and ranking are meaningless. Overconfidence in this game invites psychological pain. Concerned about Wisconsin ranking in the top six nationally in both offense and defense? Well, OSU was ranked there last year and it didn’t give them an advantage.

Of course, the comparisons to past years can only go so far. Ohio State is under new management, and predicting what a Fickell-led, full-of-freshmen team is capable of when we only have Tressel senior-led teams against which to compare is tenuous at best.

But, for a moment, let’s allow ourselves some room for optimism. Bollman aside, Ohio State’s offense may very well be better than we all think. Until the injury to Miller caused a team-wide meltdown, they were moving the ball at will against Nebraska.

The rushing performance against Illinois has not gotten the attention it deserves. Sportswriters, bloggers, and armchair quarterbacks have focused on the poor passing game and ignored the more impressive issue: that Ohio State ran where it wanted, when it wanted, against a solid Big 10 defense, that knew what was coming and had put ten – TEN – defenders in the box in a futile attempt to stop it. Excluding the sacks (which were passing downs), OSU only had two negative plays rushing the ball all afternoon.

I don’t care if OSU was rushing against JoeBob’s Tire and Lube University – it’s almost impossible to run against a box stacked with ten defenders. And yet OSU did it for the entire afternoon… with no magic, no trickery.

OSU is 19-1 when Boom Herron gets 55 yards. Do you think Boom will get 55 yards this week? I’m betting he can.

The bye week came at the perfect time. Coaches have been reporting that OSU will unveil a new short-passing game to better complement Miller’s strengths. Against Illinois, Bollman called 12 passing plays; that number is expected to rise significantly.

For all of Wisco’s success over recent years, it should be noted that Bret Bielema’s success in “big” games is really poor. He’s 1-5 against top 10 teams (the lone win courtesy of OSU’s special teams meltdown last year), and more often than not tends to cave when the stakes are high.

Have I mentioned that the Badgers’ special teams belong in special class? Wisco is ranked 98th in field goal accuracy and 118th in covering punt returns.

Adventures in Reality
If ever a beatdown looked better on paper, this is it. The stars aligned for Wisconsin this year. They have a team full of veteran leaders and star skill players, who get to play the (statistically) worst offensive OSU team in history for what should be a cakewalk to the B1G East title (no I’m not using that other term).

By this point it’s a broken record: OSU’s defense is good enough to keep the team within reach of any game this year. The poor offensive coaching, combined with a team full of first-year starters and #3 backups, is maddeningly unpredictable and what will determine a close OSU win or a humiliating blowout.

Jump for joy if:

  • OSU’s special teams and/or defense score
  • Miller completes double-digit passes
  • Two OSU RBs get 100+ yards

Doom is nigh if:

  • Wisconsin gets up big early
  • OSU’s offense is pulling three-and-outs in the second half, leaving the defense on the field for Wisconsin to wear down

I think I’d rather predict an upset and be wrong than predict a Wisco annihilation and be right. Therefore, based on matchup potential and rivalry issues only, I’m going for the upset: OSU 27-24.

JB’s Greatest Hits

Yakety Sax + Marcia Brady getting hit in the nose = Joe Bauserman in a nutshell.

H/T to the Buckeye Blog.

Dominick Clarke Suspended

It’s the October 14th edition of “OSU Suspension Friday!!”

Via BuckeyeExtra:

Backup cornerback Dominic Clarke won’t accompany Ohio State when it plays at Illinois after being charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly shooting a BB gun from the overhang of a dormitory restaurant on Sunday night.

“It’s in the university’s hands,” coach Luke Fickell said. “There’s not a whole lot we can talk about with it. It’s our decision — my decision — that we won’t have him on the trip with us.”

At this point the team is starting to resemble a clown car of endless suspensions…

Did the NCAA suspend Tresselball too?

An Open Letter to Luke Fickell and Jim Bollman


I do not envy you for the situation you inherited this year. Even veteran, elite coaches must sympathize at the terrible hand you have been dealt. Still, however, one wonders why, with the challenging situation in which you have found yourselves, you would choose to sabotage your chances of putting the team in a position to succeed.

In particular, I am referring to the use of Joe Bauserman as quarterback. While his on-field struggles are well-known to anyone that has seen OSU play, one stat in particular stands out: In his career, Bauserman has a 37.5% completion rate against teams from BCS conferences.

I will say this again — Bauserman completes less than 38% of his passes against BCS AQ teams.

I could ask all sorts of questions about the wisdom of using this “quarterback,” especially the mind-numbing decision to use him to replace Miller at Nebraska. Instead, I will ask only two questions, and neither is about Bauserman:

  • What is it about Kenny Guiton and/or Taylor Graham that makes them so incompetent that they are not being given a chance to play this season? (Followup: Why are they at Ohio State if they are so incompetent?)
  • If incompetence is not the issue, and there is another ‘hidden’ concern (such as team discipline), then shouldn’t that be explained to Buckeye Nation so that your own coaching skills aren’t called into question? (Followup: Should they be allowed to transfer?)


What Really Happened Against MSU

I hesitated before cranking out the recap this week. I wanted to avoid the cookie-cutter analysis of “offense bad.”

You cannot understand why the OSU offense had such a hard time until you understand what is going on under the hood. To that end, a Fickell statement in the postgame press conference tells you all you need to know:

“I think maybe he [Braxton Miller] didn’t see the field real well… So we thought our best option was to go with a guy [Bauserman] that probably could… throw the football a little bit better in some of the formations or spreads that we needed to get into.”

I don’t quote that as proof that OSU has a troublesome quarterback problem. That’s too obvious. But read between the lines: “…in some of the formations or spreads that we needed to get into.”

In plain English, this means that the coaching staff decided to make adjustments, and that Braxton had little or no experience with the formations they would be using. Hence, Bauserman was sent in – not to “ignite a spark” or any other intangible fluff you may have heard, but only because Baus had practice experience running certain formations.

In hindsight, this is painfully obvious. Miller has been given a very limited playbook. What else could we expect? I’m certain Braxton is learning new formations and plays every week, but so far, he’s only got a pamphelet’s worth of OSU offense down.

Dantonio had film on Braxton and knew precisely what the young QB’s limitations were. He knew Miller had been given only a handful of plays (we’ll say 10 to be generous), and that none of them included constraint play checkoffs (quick tosses to the open slot receiver, bubble screens, counters, etc.). He gambled and brought a series of twists and stunts that left OSU’s offensive line shorthanded and Braxton without the experience to dump off to the slot. MSU brought an extra blitzer on 30 of OSU’s 60+ snaps.

Again, everyone screaming “more screens! more draws!! more formations!!” needs to understand a couple of things… these are not yet components of our peach-fuzzed young QB’s repertoire.

HOWEVER, they are components of Joe Bauserman’s experience — at least his academic one, anyway. Where he lacks in accuracy and athleticism, he at least makes up for in the experience of being in the program for over five years and knowing the entire playbook.

Therefore, the coaching staff had Bauserman enter the game at the beginning of the 4th quarter. And then the following happened:

Bauserman entered the game on OSU’s 10th drive. The offense sputtered for a couple of drives but improved rapidly. Almost immediately, Bauserman began involving the RBs and constraint tosses to the slot and TEs. He completed only a few of them — this is Bauserman, after all — but the new scheme was enough to get MSU to stop sending in an unblocked blitzer every other down. As we all know, it culminated with the TD score with 10 seconds left.

Now I am not saying that Bauserman is a better QB than Miller, nor suggesting he earn his starting position back. I am showing this to prove two things:

  • The coaching adjustments worked
  • The coaching adjustments came too late

And that’s why this loss should be chalked up as a coaching failure. While the issues with experience and talent depth are obvious, they are justified and explainable: Miller’s only been playing OSU football for a month now, OSU is missing talent and depth at WR, many starters are suspended… etc., etc. Yes, the execution needs to improve, obviously.

What isn’t justified and explainable is the lack of offensive coaching professionalism that is being shown time and time again.

It is clear that, for MSU at least, the loss was primarily due to a failure to make adjustments earlier. Had Bauserman started the second half, instead of the 4th quarter, perhaps OSU might have eked out a victory.

Or perhaps, had Bollman or Siciliano actually prepared Miller with some misdirection or constraint plays for the game, they wouldn’t have needed to switch to Bauserman and the entire situation would have been rendered irrelevant.

In short: the coaches didn’t prepare well, and they didn’t adjust in time.

Just say NO to Walrusball.

Attention MSU fans…

Don’t gloat too much, because if we want your coach in four months, we’ll take him. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

Consider him on loan to you while we figure out what to do with Fickell and Meyer.

Buckeye fans, stay tuned. The game recap will be posted soon – expect plenty of anti-Bollman sentiment.

Spartans Preview

The Essentials
What: Ohio State vs. Michigan St
Where: The Horseshoe
When: 3:30 PM, Oct. 1, 2011
The Line: Ohio State -3
Television: ABC
Weather: Upper 40s, cloudy, windy (20mph sustained with gusts of 32mph), chance of showers

Dantonio returns home. This time, however, he will not be facing his mentor across the sidelines, but will be facing his mentee. The roles have been reversed. Fickell’s foundations as a defensive mind were set at Dantonio’s chalkboard, and the two remain close acquaintances to this day.

The Bad News
With due respect to Al Golden, this will be Fickell’s first true coaching test. Dantonio has established a reputation as one of the more saavy coaches in the B1G, taking calculated risks at times and playing conservative at others. Also, he’s been able to extract more productivity out of his players than their talent level would seem to allow.

The Spartans lead the nation in total defense (172.3 ypg) and pass defense (101 ypg) and have an offense with veteran skill players that has looked dangerous at times. They are led by fifth-year senior quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is way better than OSU’s fifth-year senior quarterback, who we affectionately call “B-Deck Bauserman.”

The Spartans have destroyed the cupcakes on their schedule, beating Youngstown State, Florida Atlantic and Central Michigan by a combined score of 117-13. They lost their only game to a decent opponent when Notre Dame easily brushed them aside 31-13.

The question is: which MSU team will show up on Saturday? The one that rushed for 197 yards against Central Michigan; or the one that only managed 29 yards against Notre Dame?

The Good News
While Michigan State won a share of the B1G championship last season, it wasn’t without drama. They needed a fake field goal in OT to beat ND, and needed miracle 4th quarter comebacks to beat Purdue and Northwestern. Remove those three breaks, and MSU would be viewed as a ‘fair-to-middlin’ team at best.

Dantonio hasn’t done that well on the road, either, going 10-10 overall (and 1-6 against ranked opponents).

At the Big Ten preseason media day, Dantonio said, “Every time we’ve lost a game, when I talk about lost it decisively, which has not been very often, it’s because we’ve not won the game up front.” With that in mind, OSU seems to hold a decisive advantage in the trenches against MSU. The Buckeyes will likely continue to rely on the power-I/spread hybrid being developed for Braxton Miller.

The best benefit of this approach is that OSU’s best and most reliable player, Zach Boren, will continue to see significant time. With OSU’s larger and more athletic offensive line, and “I’m Zach Effin Boren’s” continued ownage of all things linebacker, the advantage in the trenches and rushing game seems to favor OSU.

Boren leading Braxton… woe unto any defender who sees this approaching.
Image via The-Ozone.

Will this strategy allow Braxton some play-action magic to convert some 3rd downs via the pass? Time will tell.

The Unknown
Ultimately, because neither team is particularly dominant this year against good competition, the game will likely hinge on whichever team capitalizes on the other’s mistakes. In that vein, MSU has had special teams difficulties this season. The Spartans gave up an 89 yard kickoff return against ND. They’ve also had major problems with penalties, committing 27 penalties (to OSU’s 16). Jordan Hall has been getting closer to the end zone each week… will this be the week he punches a kickoff or punt return in?

OSU will be without Jaamal Berry, a potent weapon on offense and special teams. However, if there’s one position OSU could suffer a loss of depth in and it have negligible impact, it would be at RB. Expect no drop off in rushing with Hall, Hyde, and Miller in the backfield.

Finally, the weather may play an unforeseen role. The conditions are expected to be windy and gusty, which could affect the kicking game in particular. Michigan State edges OSU out slightly in FG percentage on the year (but only slightly).

What to think
Doom is nigh if…

  • OSU is forced into repeated 3rd-and-longs
  • The game becomes a FG-fest
  • Fickell gets his glass-eyed Adam Sandler face going

Rapture is around the corner if…

  • Hall gets a special teams score
  • The defense gets a defensive score
  • Any OSU RB goes over 100 yards


Ohio State 24 (with 1 TD via defense or special teams)
Michigan State 17

Time’s up; let’s change

The failures are obvious. They are increasing. They are consistent, they are maddening. And they are inexcusable.

As our cohorts over at the BBC point out, the key sentiment in Carmen Ohio refers to “time and change will surely show,” and argue that we need more time to allow change to take effect. An excellent metaphor for their point, but with due respect, I argue the exact opposite. We’ve had enough time.

The coach must go. He can no longer hide behind the convenient excuse of a program in turmoil. His failures go back much further than Jim Tressel’s resignation, in fact his failures were present throughout the Tressel era at Ohio State.

What, you thought I was referring to Luke Fickell? Of course not. It would be a terrible overreaction to hold Fickell responsible based on eight days of offensive failure. On this, the BBC and the thousands of Buckeye fans blogging and tweeting the same thing are exactly correct.

Not the problem.

No, I’m referring to the coach at the root of the problem: Jim Bollman.

Buckeye bloggers and writers like myself have been critical of Bollman for the past decade. But because Tressel was the type to keep details of his management style “close to the vest,” we were unable to criticize Bollman with reasonable credibility. Our criticisms were mitigated by the fact that we trusted Tressel, and he obviously trusted Bollman, and he was winning all those conference championships… so we’ll yield the floor to the one that clearly knows better.

Yet we should have seen this collapse coming. Ohio State’s offensive line problems were maddeningly inexplicable through the mid-late 2000s. Despite several classes of high-star recruits, OSU consistently failed to develop the squad with the same level of success as the defensive line players, or linebackers, or WR corps, or any other squad on the team. (Somewhere out there Boone is still whiffing on easy blocks.) The responsibility for the high-profile losses of the era (LSU, USC, Florida) were largely placed at the feet of the underachieving O-line.

In fact, it was the consistent underachieving O-line that was the primary driver for Tressel’s pursuit and use of mobile QBs like Pryor, Guiton, and Miller. With a better O-line, Pryor would have likely redshirted as Boeckman cerebraled (yes, I totally used the word ‘cerebraled’) his way to another title shot a’ la’ Krenzel.

The problem.

The day after the 2008 beatdown by USC, I ran into Dimitrious Stanley, former OSU WR currently serving as an analyst for a Columbus TV station. I asked him what he thought of the shame of the offensive gameplan and whether or not it would ever improve. Stanley said that the weaknesses were well known to everyone on the inside, but that Tressel had also made it clear that he would never dismiss Bollman, regardless of performance, and that the two would work as a tandem for as long as Tressel had a job.

Loyalty was Tressel’s most dominating personal attribute, for better or for worse.

But that horse has been beaten, shot, buried, dug up, and beaten again. What does that mean for 2011 and beyond?

Put simply, for a decade it’s been quite impossible for us to pinpoint where Bollman started and where Tressel ended. But whatever mystery remained on the issue has been exposed and clarified for us in Tressel’s absence.

What has become clear to us now is that Tressel’s strengths were largely able to overcome Bollman’s weaknesses.

The two old friends, frankly, were a good team – a single good offensive coordinator in a two-coach body. Now that Tweedledum’s gone, we’re left with one-half of an offensive team coach in Tweedledee.

(An aside: while this post concentrates on the offensive coordinator, similar concerns should be raised about QB coach Nick Siciliano, whose weaknesses were apparently also hidden by a hands-on Tressel.)

Former video technician for the film room, now the QB coach. Also a problem.

But all we need is “time” for the changes to work, right? After all, Tressel also inherited a program in shambles, and turned it around into a national title contender in two years. Right? Wrong.

The comparison between Fickell’s and Tressel’s situations stops when you consider that Tressel installed a new coaching staff. Tressel was not saddled with underachieving Cooper leftovers.

Also, he was able to give himself the best opportunity to succeed by putting together a staff that complemented his strengths and mitigated his weaknesses. He was a coach who spent his career on the offensive side of the ball. He coached quarterbacks like Mike Tomzcak, and running backs like Keith Byers. After being named head coach at OSU, he recognized that he needed help running a BCS defense — and thus the legacy of Dantonio and his successor Haecock were established.

Luke Fickell is not in that situation at all. In that sense, Fickell is the anti-Tressel. He’s spent his playing and coaching career on defense, and enters a situation with a world-class defensive staff already in place. Fickell and Vrabel are the new Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Fickell needs to recognize that, just like Tressel needed defensive minds in 2000, he needs offensive ones in 2011.

And Bollman is not an offensive mind. If you still disagree with my assessment of the impact of his weaknesses, consider this:

One hallmark of any decent OC or DC is the manner to which they are pursued by other schools. We can mentally tick off the numerous Tressel assistants that have been pursued by other schools and hired as head coaches: Dantonio, Treadwell, Hazell, and of course Fickell. But nobody’s come calling for Bollman. And when OSU needed a head coach, he was immediately ruled out in favor of Fickell. Sure, I will concede that his closeness to Tressel may have been a factor, but I’m also certain that the powers-that-be were nervous about whether he could pull it off.

Potential offensive coaches would be clamoring for the opportunity to work with a team with the prestige of Ohio State, not to mention one as stacked with talented players and recruits as OSU seems to be. Fickell would have his pick. Consider Muschamp’s first hire. Regardless of what you thought of Weis as a head coach, Muschamp’s action in hiring him exemplifies one of the most important duties of a modern-day head coach: surrounding himself with the talent he needs to succeed.

I believe that it’s clear that Bollman, along with many others in the offensive staff, will not be around next year. But if it were up to me, I’d have them gone by this weekend.

It’s “time” for “change to surely show” how weak thy OC is, Ohio.