Week Fourteen Recap
What went right?
Just like last year, Michigan's defense had no answer for Carlos Hyde. He had an even better outing in The Game this time; rushing for an Ohio State record 226 yards vs Michigan.
What went wrong?
As has been the case against teams that spread the field, Ohio State struggled to stop the Michigan passing game. They made an average Devin Gardner look like Troy Smith. They let an offense that has been awful for the second half of the season put up 601 yards.
The Bottom Line
A win is a win, and Ohio State should play for the national title if they take care of business against Michigan State next week in the Big Ten Championship game. But, for a minute, let's talk about the Michigan game. Am I concerned with our pass coverage? Absolutely. The media, however, need to recognize that this game is unlike any other game in sports. If you didn't think Michigan would play their best game of the year on Saturday, then you obviously haven't paid much attention to the greatest rivalry in sports over the years. The '69, '95 and '96 Buckeyes were supposed to steamroll Michigan and all lost. The 2004 Wolverines were supposed to come into Columbus and whip the four loss Buckeyes, only for Troy Smith to lead the Buckeyes to a blow out win. When it's Rivalry Week, you throw the records out the window. Also, Michigan threw the entire house at Ohio State, running plays that they hadn't ran all year. They added new wrinkles and they challenged Ohio State's weaknesses. I can't stand Michigan, but I gained a lot of respect for Coach Hoke this week and I realize that he at least gets it. Before everybody gets on this idiotic assumption that Auburn somehow should jump Ohio State, you need to realize that they have a fourteen point loss to an over rated three loss LSU team. They also needed a miracle to beat a terrible Georgia team. I won't take anything away from their win over Alabama, because that would discredit my theory on Michigan. I will say, however, that Auburn had their rival at home, and made the necessary plays to win. Ohio State had to travel to The Big House and made the plays that they had to to ultimately win the game. There is no way that Auburn or Mizzou should jump Ohio State unless the Buckeyes lose. With a month to prepare, I think Ohio State can play with and beat any team in America. Hopefully they handle their business in Indy and get to prove that.
Quarterback Rating: B+
Braxton's two touchdown passes were beautiful. He ran the ball extremely well, again. He missed quite a few throws early, that could have let Ohio State get into a rhythm and get Michigan out of the game early, avoiding the suspenseful ending. He also threw an interception. Yes, I am hard on #5, but only because he has got to take care of the football for Ohio State to get to #1. A lot of that lies with the quarterback. Krenzel took care of the football and got us a championship. Troy Smith took care of the football and we got blown out. Ditto with Todd Boeckman. It's hard enough to win a championship when you do take care of the football, let alone when you don't. Miller hasn't thrown many picks this year, but if you add in his fumbles it seems like he turns the ball over every game. I expect him to bounce back and play great in Indianapolis against the Spartans.
Running Back Rating: A
Carlos Hyde should get 30 carries a game. Period. He has been a beast. If they are fortunate enough to get past Michigan State, the Buckeyes will run all over either Florida State or Auburn. The question would be whether the Buckeye defense could keep up. That's debatable. What isn't debatable is that Ohio State would run the ball all over both of them with Hyde in the backfield. His fumble was at a horrible time, but in this age of wimpy football where people want the whistle blown as soon as the back gets stood up, Hyde kept his legs churning and was steamrolling the Wolverines. I have nothing but love for #34.
Receivers Rating: A
For the third consecutive game, Ohio State had so much success running that the passing game was largely absent. When needed, though, the Buckeyes made plays. Philly Brown's reverse and Devin Smith and Jeff Heuerman's touchdown grabs were all huge plays in the game. Chris Fields also hauled in a diving first down grab. Patience, fellas, your time will come.
Offensive Line Rating: A+
When he did drop back to pass, Braxton Miller was protected. When the Buckeyes ran the ball? Wow! The front five paved the way for the offense to rack up almost 400 yards on the ground, in The Game! Well done! They continued to run between center and right guard even with Elflein in there after Marcus Hall got ejected.
Defensive Line Rating: C+
The defensive line had its most success when their were four down lineman applying pressure to Gardner. They rolled up sacks and hit him often. When they played contain, however, it got ugly. Their youth gets exposed by more complex offenses and Michigan threw everything at them that they could.
Linebacker Rating: C-
There are times when it appears that Ryan Shazier is the only linebacker in the unit that is truly ready for the big stage. We expected this, though. This is also an inexperienced unit and that once again showed this week. Shazier was even seemingly MIA for most of the game, putting together the quietest 14 tackle game that I can recall.
Secondary Rating: D
Here is the thing. I don't know if it's the scheme or the players not making plays, but this was supposed to be the strength of the defense. They have largely underachieved all year. I know they lost stud safety Christian Bryant with a broken ankle. There is no doubt that this defense would be much better with #2 out there. The young guys playing however aren't one star recruits either. Pittsburgh Brown was seemingly late to a lot of plays against Michigan. All American Bradley Roby didn't play great either. The tackling was atrocious and whether you can cover or not, you can control how well you tackle. I am not going to be one of those Buckeye fans that blames coaches. Coach Fickell and Coombs are not the ones out there lining up. They coach the players to do their jobs. I would imagine the defensive schemes would have Urban's blessing. Coaches have to coach, players have to play, and when you miss your assignment you have to tackle. The only thing that keeps this rating from being an F is youngster Tyvis Powell's huge interception against the Wolverine two point conversion. If he doesn't make that play, we aren't talking about a chance for the national title game.
Hit of the Day: The Fight
Every year, you can count on the skirmish. Usually it happens in pregame. I don't have a problem with Dontre Wilson defending himself, he is a freshman and his manhood was being challenged by a swarm of Wolverines. Welcome to The Game. I really don't have a problem with big ol' Marcus Hall coming in and protecting his undersized back either. As a fan, I love seeing Hall giving that crowd the bird, too. As a senior and a leader on that team, though, Hall has to compose himself better. Was it crappy that a whopping one Wolverine got tossed after initiating and instigating the entire thing? Absolutely. Throwing up the double bird, however, will probably force the Big Ten's hand and I expect they will suspend him for the Big Ten Championship game as well. Do I like it? No. Do I think that being kicked out of The Game when you are a senior for protecting a teammate is a very harsh punishment? Yes, I do. We live in an ultra politically correct world, though, where non football people make policies and the middle finger on live TV is a bad thing for politically correctness. If football people ran football then we wouldn't have the NFL and NCAA becoming a sport for wimps. Instead, though, we have people in charge that are concerned with marketing. Marketing means money. Therefore, like NASCAR, they are changing the games for the worse and taking the physicality out of football. They have to keep the "fantasy" football folks appeased, many of which who don't know the difference between the read option and a dive play. This is the greatest rivalry in all of sports. A fight broke out. People got ejected. The "F" word was used. Fingers flew high in the sky. If you don't think that stuff exists in football then you shouldn't watch football. It is not a game of patty cake.
1. Florida State - Even though they have not played a good team this year, they've blown out everyone pretty much and should be #1.
2. Ohio State - I believe bowl season will prove to us that the Big Ten's second level teams are better than the media gives them credit for. I believe Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin will win bowl games. Ohio State hasn't lost in two years, and until they do, they've earned this spot.
3. Northern Illinois - Why not? They haven't been beaten, and every other team with a loss has serious flaws.
4. Missouri - They lost to a two loss SEC team that isn't very good.
5. Auburn - They lost to a three loss SEC team that isn't very good.
6. Alabama - They have a solid defense, but their outings against a terrible Texas A&M and a good Auburn team are not coincidence.
7. Michigan State - Yes, they lost to Notre Dame. It's a rivalry game, though. I try not to punish teams for losing close games against rivals.
8. Oklahoma State - They appear to be the class of the Big XII, but that trip to Morgantown really sucks.
9. UCF - They are a top ten team. I don't care what the "experts" think . They have lost one game, barely, to an SEC team. By media standards, shouldn't they be up there with Auburn? Their loss was to a better team than Auburn's.
10. Baylor - Their offense is great and could get them into an at large bid.
11. Stanford - Yawn.
12. Arizona State - I expect the Sun Devils to be in Pasadena on New Year's Day.
13. South Carolina - See #11.
14. Clemson - Remember when they were unbeatable?
15. Oregon - See #14.
16. Louisville - Maybe I am selling Louisville short. I think UCF is very good and that's the only team they've lost to.
17. Oklahoma - The Sooners await bowl selection.
18. Duke - There are a lot of SEC fans rooting for the Blue Devils and Spartans this week.
19. LSU - If this were a typical LSU defense we might be talking about a top ten team.
20. UCLA - Anytime USC loses, I smile. Not that I like the Bruins either.
21. Cincinnati - The Bearcats are likely on the outside looking in for the BCS automatic berth, but it is still possible if they beat Louisville and UCF loses to SMU.
22. Fresno State - They finally lost.
23. Wisconsin - The Badgers had been playing themselves into the Rose Bowl discussion, yet they got to much into the hype I suspect and blew it against Penn State. Hello, Outback Bowl...
24. Texas - Mack Brown should get some credit for turning in a respectable season after they were left for dead.
25. Iowa - Don't sleep on the Hawkeyes. Their defense is solid.
Big Ten Rankings
1. Ohio State - With one to go, their is an awful lot on the line this week. W 42-41
2. Michigan State - Sparty should be headed to the Rose Bowl one way or the other. W 14-3
3. Wisconsin - The Badgers picked a bad time to overlook an opponent. L 31-24
4. Iowa - The Hawkeyes are going to be a tough out in a bowl game. W 38-17
5. Minnesota - I think the Gophers will surprise someone in a bowl game too. L 14-3
6. Penn State - Coach O'Brien has done an outstanding job. The NCAA should lift their sanctions next year and let PSU back into the bowl picture.
7. Nebraska - Coach Pelini needs a bowl win to quiet some of his detractors. L 38-17
8. Michigan - The Wolverines finally played to their potential. Can they sustain it in a bowl like the Alamo? L 42-41
9. Indiana - The Hoosiers underachieved in my opinion this year. I expected them to be in the top half of the conference. W 56-36
10. Northwestern - I also expected the Wildcats to be in the BCS discussion, not a one win team in conference play. Once they got injuries, it all fell apart. They are well coached and I expect them to be back in the top half next year. W 37-34
11. Illinois - Will Coach Beckman be back? L 37-34
12. Purdue - A rough first year for Coach Hazell in West Lafayette, now that it's behind them they just have to focus on getting better. L 56-36