Countdown To THE GAME 2014

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The B1G Is In BIG Trouble On The Coaching Front

There is an old axiom that football teams take upon the personality of their head coach.  For Ohio State fans, think back to when Jim Tressel was on the sidelines as Ohio State's head coach from 2001-2010.  During close games, most especially during the 2002 national championship season, Tressel remained calm and composed.  Consequently, a player such as Craig Krenzel seemed to also remain calm and focused, especially when the game was on the line for the Buckeyes.

This article is not going to be about how Ohio State has taken upon the personality of Coach Urban Meyer.  Ohio State fans, and college football fans everywhere, will generally acknowledge that Coach Meyer is one of the best coaches in college football.  Ohio State does not have to worry about the positive direction of the football program under Coach Meyer.

The rest of the B1G?  I will be charitable when I say, "Ugh".

There are so many theories that are being offered up for the decline of B1G football - population shifts to the Southern areas of the country.  Oversigning of recruits by other conferences, most notably from the SEC.

My theory?  It all starts with the coaching, or lack thereof.

For example, here are some of the names who were B1G coaches in 2004:  The aforementioned Jim Tressel.  Lloyd Carr, who shared the national title in 1997, and won five B1G titles during his tenure.  Joe Paterno, who won two national championships while at Penn State (1982, 1986), and could have arguably won others, such as the 1994 season.  Joe Tiller, who won the B1G title in 2000 and led Purdue to the 2001 Rose Bowl.  Barry Alvarez, who built Wisconsin football into a top program and won three B1G titles.  Glen Mason, who made every school he coached at into a competitive team (Kent State, Kansas, Minnesota).  Randy Walker, the winningest coach in Miami University football history and the man who helped to make Northwestern competitive via the spread offense.

Now think about who is on the sidelines today:  Only a few truly respected coaches, such as Coach Meyer.  James Franklin has won at Vanderbilt, and will win at Penn State.  Mark Dantonio won the B1G in 2013 and his Michigan State team ranked fourth in the nation at season's end.

The reality is the rest of the conference have entrusted their programs to individuals who are not necessarily in-demand on the coaching front.  I believe Darrell Hazell of Purdue has potential, but will Hazell be able to turn Purdue around?  Pat Fitzgerald may have done all he can at Northwestern.  Jerry Kill may have done the same at Minnesota.  I believe Brady Hoke is demonstrating to fans of That Team Up North what is meant by The Peter Principle.  And Kirk Ferentz of Iowa, who has been the team's head coach since 1999, has a contract that makes it virtually impossible to be replaced.  Tim Beckman of Illinois has taken a bad situation from Ron Zook, and somehow made it worse.

December is usually when programs determine to replace their head coaches.  Based upon the dismal performances and reputation of B1G football in 2014, do not be surprised if the axe falls more frequently than ever before.  What remains to be seen is if the respective B1G institutions decide to open up their checkbooks to truly bring in quality coaches, like other conferences seem to be willing to do to be relevant within the college football landscape.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

3 Things I'm Looking For With Ohio State/Kent State

A surefire way to make a one game losing streak into a two game losing streak is to keep looking back at the game your team lost.  While disappointed with Ohio State's loss to Virginia Tech last weekend, the Buckeyes need to regroup and refocus with the Kent State Golden Flashes coming into Ohio Stadium on September 13th.

Kent State will be the easiest opponent remaining on Ohio State's 2014 schedule.  With a bye week approaching the weekend of September 20th, here are three critical areas I will be looking for from the Buckeyes as they head into their first bye weekend ~

1.  Establish The Running Game:  So far this season, Ohio State has not been able to consistently run its favorite running play, the inside dive play.  A big part of that is because Carlos Hyde is now playing for the San Francisco 49ers and not the Ohio State Buckeyes.  Almost equally important is Ohio State has four new starters along its offensive line.  No matter which Ohio State running back is playing, I will be hoping the Ohio State coaching staff will be dedicated to developing a consistently productive inside running game.  With a strong inside running threat, the entire offense will become that much more difficult to defend.  The way Ohio State can develop and establish a strong running game is by...

2.  Play The Starters For At Least Three Quarters:  Developing chemistry and cohesiveness with the offensive line, the linebackers, the secondary, etc., can only happen through repetition.  By keeping the starters in through at least three quarters, Ohio State will be able to work through a lot of the kinks that have been visible through the first two games of the 2014 season.  Once the third quarter concludes, I would hope Ohio State would liberally play as many backups as possible, especially with backup quarterback Cardale Jones only one snap away from taking over the starting quarterback position.

3.  Fix The Special Teams Units:  For the first two games of the 2014 season, Ohio State's special teams have been consistently inconsistent.  Senior PK Kyle Clinton has twice failed to keep the ball inbounds on kickoffs.  Freshman PK Sean Nuernberger missed two field goals versus Virginia Tech.  Sophomore P Cameron Johnston had a 24 yard punt versus Virginia Tech.  And the kickoff coverage team made costly coverage and tackling errors.

While Coach Meyer would always prefer to score touchdowns versus field goals, focusing upon Nuernberger's psyche would not be a bad thing - I can recall how Ohio State legendary PK Mike Nugent struggled as a true freshman in 2001, and it took Nugent some time to work his way out of his issues.  Fortunately for Ohio State fans, Nugent was a clutch performer for Ohio State's 2002 national championship team.

While I would prefer for Ohio State to pin its opponents deep in their own territory, I would gladly sacrifice this option if it meant opponents were not starting on their own 35 yard line.  I would hope the coaching staff has worked with Clinton on his kickoffs, as this has impacted Ohio State twice this season already.

As for the kickoff units, I recall how Coach Tressel used his 2002 linebacker recruits (Bobby Carpenter, A.J. Hawk, Mike D'Andrea) on kickoff coverage.  Could Coach Meyer do the same with freshmen such as Raekwon McMillan, Dante Booker, or Sam Hubbard?

It is important for Ohio State coaches, players, and fans to get over the loss to Virginia Tech, and focus upon the remainder of the season.  The game versus Kent State is the first opportunity to refocus and concentrate upon the message in the image below.  Go Bucks!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

OSU Football Aftermath From VT, Using Numbers And Years

Before going too in-depth about the challenges facing Ohio State football, I believe the proper thing to do is to compliment Virginia Tech and Coach Frank Beamer for its outstanding performance versus the Buckeyes on Saturday night in Ohio Stadium.  Virginia Tech outplayed, and outcoached, Ohio State in its 35-21 victory.  Congratulations to the Hokies - the 2015 game will be something to look forward to next Labor Day weekend.

A big thanks to my cousin John who hosted me, my sister Sue, and my brother-in-law Kevin.  As always, it was great hanging out with Todd, Stef, Roger, Denny, and all of the traditional Ohio State fanatics at Todd's tailgate.

How bad was it?  Well...

A quote from may help to put it into perspective...

"The loss to Virginia Tech was the first by Ohio State in an Ohio Stadium home opener in 36 years, or since Penn State defeated Woody Hayes' 1978 Ohio State team with freshman quarterback Art Schlichter starting, 19-0. The loss was also the first to an unranked non-conference team in 33 years, or since Florida State defeated Ohio State, 36-27, in 1981."

Here are some other numbers to contemplate...

  • Virginia Tech was 7/10 on third down conversions against Ohio State in the first half.

  • Quarterback J.T. Barrett was sacked seven times by Virginia Tech.

  • And in its last four games played, Ohio State is 1-3.  As NFL Hall of Fame Coach Bill Parcells stated, "You are what your record says you are.".

I could keep going, but I think you get the point.  This was one of those games that my Dad used to say, "They really stunk up the joint.". 

I realize Ohio State fans are circling the wagons, as well they should.  Now is the time for Ohio State's coaches, players, and fans to rally behind Coach Meyer, and focus upon getting this team straightened out.  This was a total team loss across the board, in every aspect.  All of the coaches and players are pulling together to get this fixed.

Another thing my Dad used to tell me when I was growing up - "Anybody can cheer for a team when they are winning.  The true test of a fan is to cheer when things are not going so well.".

A loss like this hurts, and stings, but here is where the team can truly come together and grow for the remainder of the season.  Kent State is coming into Ohio Stadium, with former Buckeye Najee Murray and former Ohio State assistant coach/current Kent State head coach Paul Haynes.  Now is the time for Ohio State to rise from this defeat, and move forward as a team.

Or, as Coach Hayes used to say...

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you..."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

3 Concerns From Ohio State/Navy From The Mind Of Minnich

Congratulations to Coach Urban Meyer and the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes for their 34-17 victory over the Navy Midshipmen.  On the road, with nine new offensive starters, against a quality opponent, having to defend the triple option...Ohio State rallied in the second half, escaped Baltimore without any notable injuries, and get to come home to Ohio Stadium to face the Virginia Tech Hokies in a nationally televised contest.  I seem to recall one joker predicting the final score as 35-17 in favor of Ohio State, but I digress...

1.  The Ohio State Offensive Line Remains A Concern:  At the conclusion of spring practice, I ranked Ohio State's offensive line group as my biggest concern heading into the summer, and nothing I saw versus Navy helped to remove or reduce that concern.  While Ohio State's offensive line chemistry will develop over the course of the season, it should be the primary focus of work this week before the Virginia Tech game.  Pass protection was shaky in the first half, and it remains to be seen if the offensive line will be able to control the line of scrimmage for a dominating power running game.  Which leads me to...

2.  Ohio State Misses The Power & Blocking Of Carlos Hyde:  As promised, Dontre Wilson was heavily involved in all facets of the game plan, and probably will be so as the season progresses.  An area of Carlos Hyde's game that Dontre Wilson does not have is strong blocking.  Wilson tried to block, but simply lacks the strength and power of Hyde; I wonder if Rod Smith will get more chances versus Virginia Tech, as Smith is physically comparable to Hyde.

3.  The Defense Will Be The Team Strength:  I am not concerned about the rushing yardage accumulated by Navy.  As I stated last week, the triple option is difficult to simulate and execute - giving up 390 yards on the ground is worse than hoped, but the final score still was in Ohio State's favor at the end of the game.  An area that I believe the coaching staff needs to address is the defense needs to wrap up, as many of the Navy rushing yards came after initial contact by an Ohio State defender.

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