October 16, 2004

Buckeye Humiliation

The fan forums at Bucknuts.com are buzzing tonight after Ohio State's third straight loss, this one a 33-7 butt-kicking by Iowa. In recent weeks, in my Buckeye-induced funk, I have tried to rationalize the bad OSU football being played by noting that the team had a record 14 players drafted into the NFL from last year's team. Who could simply "reload" from that? But that's not it. Programs like Ohio State always reload, and we have. It's partly inexperience, but it's mostly coaching. We're getting outcoached week after week.

If we ended the season with three losses, and they were to Michigan, Purdue and Wisconsin, teams with comparable talent, I suppose I could buck up and say wait till next year. I could swallow hard and accept that we play a deadly boring brand of offense..no, a Stone Age brand of offense...but we win consistently. (Actually, that hasn't really been good enough for me. This past January, after the Buckeyes won the Fiesta Bowl to finish 10-2 and in the Top 5 in the country, I wrote that Offensive Coordinator and Offensive Line coach "Jim Bollman must go".) Nothing has changed, except the winning part. The offensive scheme is pathetic. To say that the play-calling lacks creativity is to say that Johnny Damon needs a little trim.

Instead of Bollman going, Defensive Coordinator Mark Dantonio went...to Cincinnati as Head Coach, and the ever continuity-minded Tressel promoted from within instead of hiring an experienced hand at running a first-rate Division I defense. It took company-man and new Defensive Coordinator Mark Snyder five games to realize that you can blitz a defensive back as a way to get pressure on the opposing quarterback. He inherited a young, but very deep and talented defense, and proceeded to let the 1-3 Northwestern Wildcats run up over 500 yards on it, mostly by not trusting the talent that he has to play man-to-man coverage, and to pressure the QB.

There are dozens of other excuses that could be rattled off to explain away losing a couple of games this year, from an untested quarterback, to the loss of the defensive coordinator, to the large NFL exodus. The offensive line is not up to traditional OSU standards, and there are no Heisman candidates at running back to be sure. But the team still has superior talent to every team they have played so far this year, and yet they are 3-3. By now, the teams we have beaten have proven themselves pretty ordinary (Marshall, N.C. State) if not downright lousy (Cincinnati) and two of our three losses are to Big Ten also-rans Iowa and (gag!) Northwestern. We haven't even played our toughest games yet, and it's hard to imagine that anybody left on the schedule now thinks that they have no chance to beat us. Worse yet, the team is playing like they don't have the expectation to win.

Earlier tonight, I posted to one of the fan forums under a discussion thread titled "Are We That Bad?". Here's the (somewhat repetitive) text of that post:

Is it fair to say that Iowa's talent isn't four touchdowns better than OSU's?

Then it's coaching. Period.

We have played six games this year and have been outcoached in all but one. (N.C. State) (Cincinnati doesn't count...they gave up 49 points to freakin' Army for God's sake!)

Snyder and Bollman are both pathetic. Let's see, we keep putting offensive linemen into the NFL (Stepanovich and Olivea are both starting as rookies, for example and yet they underachieved as college players, individually and collectively.) Bollman has two jobs for this team...Offensive Line coach and Offensive Coordinator. Both spots scream out for the incumbent to be replaced. How much longer will it take for Tressel to decide that, personal loyalty and friendship aside, this guy needs to go?

This is not an opinion formed for me by a 3-game losing streak. Regulars here know that I have been calling for Bollman's head since 2002. He's pitiful. And JT is ultimately responsible for his being pitiful...for allowing him to be pitiful...and for pitiful play-calling himself.

As to Snyder, it took him until the fifth game before he even ONCE sent a DB on a blitz, and our lack of pass pressure reflected it. His zone defense makes me absolutely nuts. At the college level, defense is about penetration, pressuring the passer and disruption of the play in the backfield. Rush three, drop eight is a loser's defense unless it's 3rd and 30.

The classic example is the night-and-day difference in the approaches to playing Michigan that OSU and USC took last year. I don't think anyone needs reminders on that one.

For me, a 33-7 humiliation is better than a 17-16 squeaker loss. Maybe Tressel will wake the hell up. But I'm not counting on it. Maybe now, at least the posters who countered every single post that was even remotely critical of JT with the "25-2" or "27-2" or "28-2" mantra will be shut up temporarily. One hopes.

This team is weaker at offensive line and at running back than any Buckeye team that I can remember, and that goes back to about 1963. But even that weakness doesn't account for the way this team has played this year, even in victory.

This is not a well-coached football team.

Posted by dan at October 16, 2004 10:19 PM