It is the middle of the week prior to the first B1G game of the year for our Buckeyes, and it might be the toughest, and most important game of the year. So, we'll spend our time this week discussing all things Michigan State in preparation for a war at 3:30 Saturday in East Lansing.
Half Full or Empty: The young, energetic Ohio State football team is 4-0, and depending on your nature, you are either really optimistic about the season, or you think the sky is about to fall starting this Saturday. Consider the following:
-The Buckeyes offense has been explosive and they have yet to have all their weapons on the field at the same time or The offense has been inconsistent against weak competition and is about to play a really good defense.
-The coaches have been holding back, not showing all their cards, and waiting for this week to unleash the real Buckeye offensive arsenal or Herman and the rest of these guys are confused, failing to exploit obvious weaknesses in the opponents defense.
-The Silver Bullet defense is a work in progress, and is feeling the effects of some injuries along with an offense that strikes quickly, meaning they spend more time on the field than in the past or This is the worst tackling OSU defense in recent memory, made worse by poor scheming from Fickell and company.
-Special teams have veteran kickers and hungry young players on the attack squads, and should come up with a big play any day now or A blocked punt, a missed extra point, a surrendered onside kick and nothing out of the return team means this is a very unspecial OSU special team corps.
I could go on, but you get the point. The truth, as is usually the case, probably lies somewhere in between. Yes, if the team performs Saturday with the lack of execution and intensity they showed against UAB they are in trouble, but I imagine the coaches and players will bring their A game to East Lansing. Will that be enough? I'm not sure. I keep looking at the glass and can't figure out if it is half empty or half full!
On a positive note, Meyer is optimistic as the team heads into the "real" schedule, and that is certainly encouraging.
On defense Johnathan Hankins once again graded out as a champion, and if you rewatch the game take time to center in on big Hank. He just destroys things in the middle, and is without doubt the most dynamic player on D so far this year. How often does a defensive tackle get 10 tackles in a game...and Hankins has done it two weeks in a row. Doran Grant, getting the first start of his career, graded out a 91%, finishing with 7 tackles, a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery. Wow! Got to hope we see more of this young man. Maybe it is time to play 3 cornerbacks when we go nickel. The only other player to grade out as a champion was Christian Bryant, who received the defensive player of the game award. Really? Sure he made 8 tackles and forced a fumble, but I still see bad angles and missed tackles, and Bryant could have cost the Buckeyes the game with his stupid taunting penalty. Maybe it was a questionable call, I don't know, but I have a beef with this one. Personally, I thought Sabino was the other player who deserved praise this past week, not Bryant.
On offense, the player Meyer bragged about most was the ever improving Reid Fragel. Other members of the champion's club were Braxton Miller, Philly Brown, Evan Spencer, Jake Stoneburner (no catches but excellent blocking), and the offensive player of the game, Jordan Hall, who had his first ever 100 yard rushing day. I can't argue with any of these choices, but wonder why Stoney isn't being used more in the passing game. I also liked Rod Smith though he played in a limited role. Maybe he does have a future in Columbus afterall.
Tale of the Tape: I know you can make statistics say whatever you want them to, but sometimes they are so bad the only thing they say is "Yuck"! That's the case with the defensive statistics for the OSU defense after four games against very mediocre competition. For years we have become accustomed to the Silver Bullets being in the top ten in the nation in most defensive numbers. Well, that was then...and this is now. Right now the Buckeye defense is dead last in the B1G giving up 394.8 yards per game. As Meyer succinctly stated today, "That has to change real fast!"
Most of the yardage surrendered has come through the air, with the Buckeyes surrendering 277.2 yards per game passing. However, while teams have not gouged them too badly on the ground, the fact that the defense is allowing opponents to average 4 yards per carry demonstrates that there is work to be done in that area, as well. Which brings us to this week's game, and the mighty La'Veon Bell, who has rushed for 610 yards in four games, and is considered a Heisman candidate. In the immortal words of John Donne, "Ask not for whom the Bell tolls. It tolls for thee." So it is time for the defense to step up, in particular the linebacking crew that has not been stellar thus far. Although I have my concerns about the Buckeye D, I do think they match up better with a power running ream than they do with a spread offense. I know Big Hank is ready...now let's see if the other guys can step up to the plate. You with me Sabino? Can we count on you Shazier? Barnett? Barnett? Bueller?
Injury Update: Facing the biggest game of the season thus far it would be nice to have a healthy team, and that might just be the case this week. Let's start with running back. Carlos Hyde looks like he is good to go, according to Coach Meyer. It will be interesting to see how much he and Jordan Hall are in the lineup together, and what effect that will have on the O.
The defense certainly needs a lift, and should get it with the return of Bradley Roby, who gives Hankins a run for his money for defensive MVP thus far. C.J. Barnett should play Saturday, although that may not excite the Buckeye masses as much as Roby's return.
Beyond that I have heard nothing about the overall health of John Simon, but he will play hurt if need be, as he has done the past couple of weeks. Nathan Williams is not 100% but seems to be getting better as the season progresses. All of which leaves one player to discuss, which is Michael Bennett who has not yet played in 2012. Meyer made no promises on Bennett but did not rule out that he could finally see the field. I am not holding my breath, but would love to see big Mike jump back into the fray, and feel he could help the much maligned defense.
So, if the Buckeyes get beat up by Bell, it won't be because they are missing the key players. Let's just hope the guys who do answer the "bell" will wrap up and tackle like Silver Bullets!