Big Ten Championship Game Recap
What went right?
As it has all year long, the Buckeye running game was unstoppable. Unfortunately, for them, they realized it too late in the game and for some reason abandoned it later.
What went wrong?
Pretty much everything else. Early in the game, the Buckeyes committed stupid penalties. Their defensive backs continued their trend of being a step late to the ball. There were many, many missed tackles. The receivers didn't capitalize on their opportunities by dropping the football. The offensive play calling was very odd. The better team lost, but that is why these games are not played on paper.
The Bottom Line
I would like to take this moment to lecture Buckeye Nation. For starters, a large portion of you are pathetic. Did this loss hurt? Absolutely. In fact, it still does and it will for a long time; but we are still going to the Orange Bowl. We will be only the second school (Oklahoma) that has ever played in all four BCS bowl games in this last year of the BCS. If we beat Clemson, we will become the only school to win all four of the BCS bowl games. That is very impressive and something that Buckeye Nation should be proud of.
We didn't lose this game because of talent. We got out-coached, out-schemed, and out-executed. That is it. There are a lot of morons that are calling for Luke Fickell to be fired. Maybe he is the right guy for the job, maybe he isn't. I see a lot of people, however, that are calling for his head simply because the defense hasn't performed well this year. Coaches coach and players play. I'm no defensive guru, but Chris Spielman is. He said on the radio yesterday that the defensive calls were right and that they weren't executed properly. Poor technique and poor angles can only be so much of the coordinator's fault.
Speaking of coaching, this loss may have been what Buckeye Nation deserved. Let me elaborate on that by saying that the long time, true fans of the Buckeyes are in real pain. There is a percentage of the fan base, however, that are purely dumb. Mostly, younger fans that have only experienced the dominance of Ohio State over the past decade are acting like babies after our first loss in 25 tries. They don't remember the heartbreak occurrences in the 90's. They don't remember Michigan State ruining our chance for a national championship in 1998. Nor do they remember 1993, 1995, 1996, and 1997 against That Team. All they remember is the Golden Years of the Tressel Era. Those same fans were the ones who went all out Judas on Coach Tressel in 2010. They took it for granted. These are the same fans that refer to That Team Up North as "Bitchigan" and believed that we would stomp Michigan State. These are not bright football minds.
For years, Buckeye fans bitched and moaned about the Tressel Ball philosophy, that it was too vanilla and they were salivating at the thought of us hauling in Urban Meyer, who had kicked our ass in the National Championship in 2006. This isn't meant to be a jab at coach Meyer either, as I think he is one of the top two or three coaches in college football and I do think he will lead us to national championships. There reached a point in Tressel's tenure, though, that Big Ten titles just simply weren't enough. To be truly great, we would need a coach like Meyer who would put lots of points on the board. Guess what? Jim Tressel just won another Big Ten Championship this year.
Led by disciples of Tress, Michigan State just showed Ohio State what it was like to play against Ohio State for the past decade. Spartans coach Mark Dantonio was Tressel's defensive coordinator when we won our last national championship in 2002. The identifying factor of Tressel's teams were that they had excellent defenses. What is more ironic, however, is that Jim Bollman is Sparty's offensive coordinator. The same Jim Bollman that Ohio State "fans" complained about for years about the Buckeye's vanilla offense. Yes, Jim Bollman, and you know what? It worked. An offense that uses its running game to set up the pass and takes care of the football and controls the clock just won the Big Ten title. Imagine that. Did Michigan State do anything spectacular against the Buckeyes? Nope. Did they do just enough? Yes, and now they are headed to Pasadena instead of Ohio State.
Comparing Coach Meyer to Coach Tressel is not fair. They represent two different eras of Buckeye football. What coach Tressel did during his tenure in Columbus, though, is likely to never be replicated. We went to nine BCS bowls in his eleven seasons and the "fans" turned on him and Terrelle Pryor; a coach who had tried to do the right thing, like many of us would do with our own children, and a 20 year old kid that was flawed but took Ohio State to many more proud moments than painful ones. Remember the Rose Bowl?
I still believe that we will win big with Urban Meyer. Too many Ohio State fans just assumed that by hiring him as a coach that the national championships would just come without actually appreciating the work that the 2002, 2006, and 2007 teams went through to get there. Whether we've been playing good competition or not is irrelevant. It doesn't matter who you play. To get to the national championship game is tough. To get there three times in six years is even harder. That many in Buckeye Nation assumed we would waltz there shows that there is a portion of this fan base that doesn't truly understand the game. It makes the rest of us look bad.
Should we have beaten Michigan State? Obviously. Unlike baseball and basketball, however, football isn't played in a series format and you only get one opportunity. There is so much that goes into a football game and the Buckeyes picked the wrong time and the wrong team to forget their identity. That, my friends, is sports. Could we have hung with Florida State? I believe so. I still believe that in a one game match up where Urban Meyer has had a month to prepare that we could play with anybody. I also still think that we could beat Auburn or Missouri or even Alabama. That doesn't matter now, what matters is can we beat Clemson? Yes, we can.
There are real problems with this defense, but our running game could have and would have kept us in all of those hypothetical games from above. Had we utilized it properly it would have beaten Michigan State. One of my all time favorite Buckeyes, Craig Krenzel, was on the radio yesterday talking about the lack of balance on offense and how that was a problem. I completely disagree. Would it be nice to be more balanced? Yes, but nobody has been able to stop us from running the ball. To be honest, our talented receivers are not consistent either. While Devin Smith can tell the media that the play calling is frustrating and that he wants the football, his focus should be on team first and then when the ball comes to him he should try this thing called catching it. That's how you get balance, when you can depend on your guys in crucial situations. Philly Brown, Devin Smith, and Evan Spencer (our top three receivers) all had drops against Michigan State that would have either extended drives or gave the Buckeyes a touchdown. Balance? Auburn threw the ball like 9 times against Mizzou and is now playing for a national title in our place. Balance is needed when you are an average offense. When you run the ball like Ohio State has been able to do this year, thirty carries for Carlos Hyde needs to be built into the game plan. Throw in ten carries for Braxton Miller and 15 to 20 passes if the receivers earn it. If not, I'm fine with feeding the rock twenty more times between Jordan Hall, Rod Smith, and Ezekiel Elliott. This game was not lost because of a lack of balance. It was lost because Ohio State forgot what got them to that game and it was #34. I mean, sending Hyde out as a receiver? Wide screen passes to a 230 pound running back without a running start? We lost because we over-thought how to beat Sparty. Coach Meyer can call #5 the best player on his team all he wants and he is probably right, but this team didn't go undefeated because of Braxton Miller. It went undefeated because of the production of the offensive line and #34. I think in hindsight the Buckeyes would have given Hyde the ball on the 4th down play that cost the Buckeyes the game, if not the play prior.
Nevertheless, we are going to the Orange Bowl and Buckeye Nation should be proud of that. It was another great season in Columbus and the future looks bright. Those who thought that the championships would come easy may still be a year or more away from that. Meyer's players are only freshman and sophomores, another thing that many folks seem to forget. Patience, folks. We have the right guy to lead us into the future and when we get there it will be that much sweeter. For now, though, we will have to settle for the sour taste of oranges.