I was enjoying a nice breakfast when I happened upon Lisa Horne's Top 10 storylines of bowl season to read this about Ohio State:
"The Buckeyes are in a BCS bowl for the fifth consecutive season. They are also facing: A. the usual six-week layoff after their last regular-season game and B. a team riddled with speed. Will we hear the travel and rust excuses if they lose? The bigger question is whether the Buckeyes will completely open the playbook when facing speed, or will Jim Tressel talk up again the most important part of the game -- punting? Tressel is a class act, but a loss here might cause the Senator to be impeached by the scarlet and gray faithful."
Needless to say, my Frosted Flakes haven't sat well since reading this. Horne exaggerates the relationship between Tressel and Buckeye Nation greatly, and even worse, she just has to throw the "speed" jab at the Buckeyes. Not only is that argument incredibly cliché, as is the rest of her article, but quite frankly it is pretty negligent. You have to wonder if these self proclaimed college football experts actually watch the games.
Now I realize that Ohio State has brought some of the criticism on themselves with their recent big game blunders, but you would think that the analysts would be able to pinpoint the real problem(s) for the Buckeyes. I think talking about speed is a cop out for Horne and the media, and the reality is that speed hasn't been the real issue. Anyone who has watched the Buckeyes full body of work this decade knows that.
2001-2005: The "speed" argument didn't exist at this point because the Buckeyes proved they were as fast as anyone. In the 2002 National Championship they showed that they were every bit as fast as a Miami team that was favored by multiple touchdowns. In 2003, they beat (and ran with) a surging Kansas State team who had just ran through, over, and past Oklahoma. Then in 2005, the Buckeyes proved how lethal they were by putting over 600 yards of offense on Weis and Notre Dame. Smith, Ginn and company were just plain explosive.
2006: The Buckeyes were the media darlings until they ran into a Gator buzzsaw in the National Championship (41-14). This game would start the talk about how the Buckeyes were so slow, but it is pretty hard to use this game as a litmus test. Ohio State looked out of shape, and it appeared as if they had left their desire to win back in Columbus after beating No. 2 Michigan. Honestly, they accumulated 82 total yards in the game, so there was a lot more than speed going on in this loss.
2007: In the '07 National Championship game the Buckeyes played a much more experienced LSU team, loaded with seniors. They showed off speed early though, with Beanie Wells burning by Tiger linebackers and defensive backs and then Saine burning down the sidelines to catch passes. Sure the Buckeyes lost, but speed wasn't the problem. What many people forget in that game is that Ohio State outgained LSU, but lost the turnover battle three to one (plus a ton of penalties). Not only that, but LSU punch OSU in the mouth with a power running game while hitting tight ends on play action passes, while Ohio State made timely mistakes (again and again). If speed played any part in this game it was the fact that the offensive tackles struggled with the speed of the LSU defensive line off the ends. With that said, the Buckeyes had plenty of opportunities and could not come through.
2008: Speed once again wasn't a problem in the Fiesta Bowl last year as the Buckeyes lost a heartbreaker to Texas. The Longhorns were considered by many the best team in the country outside of Florida. In fact, the Buckeyes were 16 seconds from a huge upset.
So if speed isn't the problem what is?
Well, I think there are several, but the biggest is the struggle with the spread on defense. It's about scheme not speed. Over the last 3-4 years the Buckeyes defense has been most vulnerable when facing schemes that spread them out and make them play assignment football. Heacock has struggled coaching against the spread as well. The Buckeyes have played a very passive brand of defense against spread teams, and rather than attacking, they have sat back on their heels and been picked apart. No matter how talented the athletes are, passive defense will eventually falter. It's one thing to wait on mistakes from lesser opponents, but in big games against good teams you have to attack (and force mistakes). Even worse is that Tresselball obviously doesn't work when the defensive is getting gashed. One of the few times I have really seen the Buckeyes attack on defense in a big game was against Penn State this year. The defensive backs played tight coverage while the front seven mixed up blitzing schemes and stuffed the run. In the end, there was a much different result for Ohio State.
So Lisa, the story line should talk about the spread not speed. Honestly, blame conservatism, blame coaching, even blame our defense in big games, but don't throw the speed crap out again. It's time that you and the media quit acting like the Big Ten and OSU have lesser athletes or are outmatched in quickness. I am not blaming you for pointing out Ohio State's problems, because they are there, but please show some football intelligence. If Oregon beats the Buckeyes it will have nothing do with speed and everything to do with the defense's inability to handle Masoli and company in the spread. So yes, that is scheme not speed!