A no-frills blog dedicated to Ohio State football, the Michigan rivalry,
and the ongoing melodrama that is life in the Big Ten.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Three Points and a Cloud of Rust

There’s a lot that I don’t understand. Dark matter. The existence of the platypus. America’s fascination with Chihuahuas. But what has me most stumped lately is this: How can an offense that returns ten starters and features two of the nation’s top three freshman recruits be so completely impotent?

In three of its seven games so far, Ohio State has failed to score a single offensive touchdown in the first half. Twice, the drought has extended throughout the entire game. When this happens against USC, it is simply embarrassing. When it happens against Purdue, it’s beyond embarrassing and becomes actually impressive in an odds-defying way: sort of like throwing a rock at the ocean and missing. This is not how one gets back into the national conversation.

I’m sorry, did I say national conversation? How about the Big Ten conversation? Two weeks ago, Ohio State beat Wisconsin 20-17 in what the media—a little prematurely, it would seem—dubbed Terrelle Pryor’s coming of age party. One week later, the Bucks had to rely on three field goals and a returned blocked punt to put up 16 points against Purdue. A victory? Yes. Impressive? No. Especially when you consider that, on the same day, Penn State throttled Wisconsin 48-7. And you can bet those 48 points didn’t come from 16 field goals.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Penn State game isn’t for another two weeks. In the meantime, we get to travel to East Lansing to face Michigan State (6-1, 3-0) and runningback Javon Ringer, the Big Ten’s leading rusher and a name on everyone’s Heisman short list. I have great respect for the Buckeye defense, which is finally starting to gel again, and for our special teams, which came up big last week, but not for a minute do I think we’ll beat Michigan State and Penn State with a nifty combination of field goals and blocked punts. Though I’d like to try it, so long as we’re using Chihuahuas instead of footballs.

So here’s my advice to Buckeye offensive coordinator Jim Bollman and crew: figure out a red zone offense. Here’s a hint: it starts with the offensive line—the same offensive line that failed to show up in the past two national title games, and now gets manhandled by teams like the Ohio Bobcats. Pryor may be more mobile than Boeckman, but he won’t pass any better when the pocket routinely collapses around him; all he can do is make the play last a little longer and look more athletic getting sacked. So I say again: figure it out. You’ve got one week to do it, and all the talent in the world.

And once you’ve got the offense back on track, maybe you can start helping me with dark matter.

Who’s Helping? / Who’s Screwing Us Over?

Speaking of helping (or not), I had a realization last Saturday, somewhere between my 8th and 9th straight hour on the couch. As all feeling slowly drained out of my left leg and drool began its long, slow journey down my chin, I realized that any college football game not featuring Ohio State is only interesting to me for its potential impact on Ohio State’s season. In short, the Buckeyes are the center of my college football universe, the raison d’etre for my interest in the sport. And in that spirit, I present: Who’s Helping? / Who’s Screwing Us Over?

Who’s Helping? Minnesota, you perky gopher, you. You’re 6-1. You beat Illinois last week. That’s great! It makes Ohio State’s throttling of your squad two weeks ago look a lot more impressive. Keep it up! Though I would note that, when the Buckeyes are looking to the Gophers to beef up their resume, these are not the best of times.

Who’s Screwing Us Over? Michigan, you three-legged weasel. How about a little consistency one way or the other? Don’t come back from a 19-point deficit to beat Wisconsin (a ranked team at the time), and then lose to Toledo for the first time ever two weeks later. It cheapens the experience for all of us who beat Wisconsin this year. If you’re going to roll over and die, then do so, and keep your head down until next season. Once you’ve lost to a 1-4 MAC team, any Big Ten victory you get the rest of the year only makes the conference look weaker.