Countdown To THE GAME 2015

Friday, November 27, 2015

2015 Buckeyes Playing For Pride In “THE GAME”

It is far too common and completely understandable to want to dwell on a painful event or moment. Asking yourself, “What happened?!?”, over and over, trying to make sense of something that does not make sense.

At some point, you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and proceed forward. If you do not let the past go, it will remain with you into the present.

It is at this juncture where we pick up the 2015 Ohio State Buckeyes, fresh off a disappointing loss to Michigan State. While there are shades of the 1998 loss in this latest setback to the Spartans, a couple prominent points need to be made ~ 1. The 1998 team lost to an unranked Michigan State team that wound up 6-6; this year’s team came into Ohio Stadium with only one loss, so this was a loss to a good team. And 2. The 1998 team had the good fortune to get to play at Iowa after the Michigan State, before having to face That Team Up North in Ohio Stadium, while this year’s team gets no opportunity to regroup, having to travel to Ann Arbor – hence, the points I made in the second paragraph, up above.

The College Football Playoff is not dead, but is pretty ill. Ohio State needs to focus on what they can control, and that is defeating That Team Up North.

Three Things I Will Keep An Eye On During “THE GAME” ~

1. Ohio State’s Offensive Approach ~ To call Ohio State’s offensive output ‘disappointing’ sullies the word. Ohio State had five total first downs against Michigan State. That is not a mistyped word – five. Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer will be very hands on for this game, and it will bear watching how Ohio State attacks That Team Up North. Beyond Ezekiel Elliott, look for the various playmakers on the Ohio State to be involved far, far more than they were against Michigan State.

2. Line Play ~ Players on both teams will want to make sure their respective chinstraps are tightened up for this one. Somewhere, Woody and Bo will be smiling, as this game promises to be very physical along the lines of scrimmage. As Ohio State lost this battle last week against the Spartans, how will the Buckeyes respond to an equally physical Wolverines team?

3. Watch Out For This Unsung Player On That Team Up North ~ Ohio State fans are familiar with Jake Rudock, Jake Butt, De’Veon Smith. Here is a player you may not know now, but I am guessing you will be with by the end of the game – Sione Houma. A bruising fullback, the Wolverines use Houma as a receiving option, as well as an occasional ball carrier. If the Wolverines are near the goal line, do not be surprised if Houna gets the call or carry.

Throw out the record books. This is all about pride. The Buckeyes will battle a hostile crowd, and a very physical football team on both sides of the ball. Even with a refreshed offensive approach, this game should come down to the wire, as usual. I like Ohio State to eek it out in the end, with a score of Ohio State 20, That Team Up North 17.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Michigan State/Ohio State hype video (courtesy of

Ohio State Must Vanquish The Spartans On The Path To 'Contenders In November'

Remember when I wrote this, back in the summer? The anticipation has been building for months, and now it is practically upon us.
Remember how former Ohio State Head Coach Jim Tressel used to say, “October is for pretenders, and November is for contenders.”? Doesn’t it seem that Ohio State is truly facing the moment of truth as it relates to that statement? And directly standing in Ohio State’s path, the team that has been led for nearly the past decade by Coach Tressel’s top protege, Mark Dantonio.
Here’s something interesting that I discovered in my preparations for this week’s Men of the Scarlet and Gray podcast. Ohio State and Michigan State have played four times since Coach Tressel departed the sidelines for Ohio State. Michigan State has won twice (2011 in Ohio Stadium, 2013 in Indianapolis in The B1G Championship Game), Ohio State has won twice (2012 and 2014, both in Spartan Stadium). When I added up the final scores of the four games, the average score for both Ohio State and Michigan State was 24 points. This truly is a rivalry that defines well-coached and well-played. By the way ~ I know I repeatedly and shamelessly promote the podcast, but you will want to listen to this week’s edition. Major, major props to Shannon Sommers for getting Hondo Carpenter on the show as a guest to discuss Michigan State. It is well worth your time and listen, especially for Hondo’s perspectives on Michigan State. Please click on the link here to do so.
Senior Day in Ohio Stadium is always a special, emotional time. A big thank you to Adolphus Washington, Tommy Schutt, Joshua Perry, Taylor Decker, Nick Vannett, Jacoby Boren, Chase Farris, Bryce Haynes, Cam Williams, Jack Willoughby, Joel Hale, Jeff Greene, Braxton Miller, and all of the seniors for all of the tremendous contributions and memories all of those players helped to create in Ohio Stadium.
Here are three critical areas I will be watching throughout the contest ~
1. Ohio State’s Offensive Line vs Michigan State’s Defensive Line: Ohio State has struggled in pass protection this season. With Michigan State’s stellar defensive line, led by Shilique Calhoun, Malik McDowell, and Lawrence Thomas, will Ohio State be able to adequately protect J.T. Barrett? Will Ohio State roll Barrett out, in order to give Barrett more time?
If Ohio State tries to simply run the ball with Ezekiel Elliott on Michigan State, as the Buckeyes have done throughout the 2015 season, Michigan State will stack the box with nine men. Will Ohio State come out throwing on Michigan State, forcing them to adjust their defensive strategy? Can Michael Thomas, possibly playing his last game in Ohio Stadium, duplicate his performance of a year ago versus the Spartans?
2. The Health Of Michigan State’s Connor Cook: Cook suffered an arm injury in last week’s win over Maryland, leading to Cook leaving the game in favor of Tyler O’Connor. Like Cook, O’Connor is an Ohio player, and also like Cook, was not offered a scholarship by Ohio State – I am a firm believerthat particular scholarship slight, fair or unfair, always seems to give an extra motivational boost for those players when they are facing the Buckeyes. Back to Cook – while everyone expects Cook to play, will the Michigan State offensive line, which has been wracked by injuries this season, be able to protect Cook against a strong Ohio State defensive line?
3. Mark Dantonio’s Reputation For Special Teams Trickery: Has anyone forgotten the infamous“Little Giants” play Michigan State ran on Notre Dame years ago? How about this epic moment from this season, against That Team Up North?
The point I am making? Expect the unexpected, especially when it comes to special teams in this game.
Prediction: Both teams know what is on the line, and both teams are going to leave everything on the field. I think it will be rough sledding for Ezekiel Elliott running the ball, especially in the first half, but I believe Elliott will get his 100 yards, although it will certainly not come easy, in what may be Elliott’s final game in Ohio Stadium. I look for Joey Bosa to have a signature play or two, in what may be Bosa’s final game in Ohio Stadium. Ohio State toughs it out, and wins it in the second half. I have it Ohio State 28, Michigan State 20.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Buckeyes Hope To Enjoy “Champaign” After Defeating Illinois

Ohio State travels to The Land Of Lincoln to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini in Champaign, Illinois. Please forgive me if I sound overly cautious as I reflect upon previous Ohio State games held in Memorial Stadium.
Sure, Ohio State has not lost to Illinois in Memorial Stadium since 1991 (Illinois 10, Ohio State 7), a few years before the current players were born. Yes, Ohio State has been dominant in the rivalry,not having lost since the infamous 2007 game in Ohio Stadium.
My concerns are rooted in the memories of games in Memorial Stadium over the years that have come down to the wire. Games where Ohio State was heavily favored, and Illinois was not expected to play well against the Buckeyes.
Remember 2002? Ohio State, coming off the “Holy Buckeye” touchdown pass over Purdue the previous week, struggled against an Illinois team that wound up 5-7 on the year. Ohio State prevailed 23-16 in overtime, behind this Maurice Hall touchdown run…
Remember 2006? Ohio State, undefeated and ranked #1, behind eventual Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, escaped Champaign with a 17-10 victory over Illinois. Keep in mind, Ohio State crushed Illinois 40-2 in 2005. Do you think those players truly thought Illinois was going to be able to give them a game heading into the 2006 contest?
I am willing to bet Braxton Miller can tell you all about his first experience in Memorial Stadium in 2011. Ohio State won 17-7. Miller should be able to tell you all about his passing statistics from the 2011 game also, as he only attempted four passes, completing one of them. Don’t blink below in the clip below, or you might miss it…
Shannon Sommers and I had the opportunity to discuss all things Illinois on this week’s Men of the Scarlet and Gray podcast. We were joined by Robert Rosenthal (@ALionEye) from, and Robert was able to recall, as I can, all the quirky ways Illinois has played Ohio State through the years.
Below are three areas I will be focusing upon when Ohio State and Illinois kick off at 12pm EST/11am CST on ABC…
1. How Will The Ohio State Offense Perform Behind J.T. Barrett? ~ Yes, I know how Ohio State looked with Barrett at the helm at Rutgers two weeks ago. My curiosity is reflected primarily in the passing game, as the swirling winds of Memorial Stadium have been known to wreak havoc on the passing game. How will Barrett compensate, if this comes to pass on Saturday against the Fighting Illini?
2. Ohio State’s Run Defense vs. Illinois’ Rushing Offense ~ Illinois ran for 382 yards against Purdue, behind Josh Ferguson and one-time Ohio State recruit Ke’Shawn Vaughn. Ohio State limited Minnesota’s rushing attack to about 30 yards on the ground last week. Which of these units will win this battle?
3. Illinois’ Special Teams Play Against Ohio State ~ Considering Urban Meyer is the special teams coach, how much of an emphasis on punt protection took place this week in practice?
As I have stated up above, strange things have been known to happen in Memorial Stadium. While it would be tremendous for Ohio State to come out and dominate from the onset, I look for Ohio State to get into a consistent rhythm by the second half, pulling away for good from a pesky Illinois team in the fourth quarter. I have it Ohio State 35, Illinois 21.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Buckeyes ‘Gopher’ A Hot Start To November Stretch Run

Quite a relaxing bye week, huh, Buckeye fans? To be honest, I truly do not have the energy to go over everything related to J.T. Barrett’s suspension, after Shannon Sommers (@smsommers84) covered it so extensively on this week’s Men of the Scarlet and Gray podcast.

Loyal and long-time followers of Men of the Scarlet and Gray may recall how I wrote about Minnesota not necessarily being a pushover, back before the season started. It looks like Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer is of the same mindset, with the comments made after one of this week’s practices…

Say what you will about Minnesota lacking explosive speed at the skill positions. I will merely remind Ohio State fans that Minnesota is well-coached and fundamentally sound, despite the calamitous ending to the game against That Team Up North on October 31st.

Below are three critical areas I will be keeping an eye on as Ohio State and Minnesota kick off in Ohio Stadium at 8pm EST on ABC ~

1. How will Cardale Jones play as the unquestioned starter at quarterback – Last season, Cardale Jones was thrust into play, due to the season-ending injury to J.T. Barrett. With Barrett completely out of the picture, the team rallied around Jones…you know how that wonderful script ended. In a similar fashion, with Barrett suspended, will Jones go back to his carefree approach to playing quarterback that served him, and the Buckeyes, so well at the end of the 2014 season? And if Jones does play that way, will it be enough to earn Jones the starting quarterback job back from Barrett for the remainder of the 2015 season?

2. Braxton Miller as the backup/red zone quarterback – Ohio State fans became weary with Jones unable to lead the Buckeyes to touchdowns earlier this season. J.T. Barrett regained the starting quarterback position with his ability to fully execute the offense. With Barrett suspended, Coach Meyer has stated a willingness to use former quarterback and current wide receiver Braxton Miller as the backup, and possibly, the red zone quarterback. Will Miller be able to throw the ball, or is Miller’s shoulder still injured enough to preclude Miller from truly being more than just a wildcat quarterback?

3. Minnesota’s Confidence – Losing Jerry Kill to an unexpected retirement was bad enough. Losing a home game, in the manner and fashion that Minnesota did, truly defined the expression of “adding insult to injury”. How will the Golden Gophers respond after such a double dose of disappointment?
Prediction: Look for Cardale Jones to come out of the gate, playing with a confidence level that Ohio State fans have not seen this season. Even with Minnesota putting eight men in the box to stop Ezekiel Elliott, look for Jones to capitalize on some deep passes for big gains. Minnesota will put up a good fight, but I like Ohio State to pull away in the second half. I have it Ohio State 35, Minnesota 14.

Ohio State Video