Countdown To THE GAME 2015

Friday, January 13, 2017

2017 Will Have Ohio State Fans Yelling Out For "Wilson!"


Tom Hanks is one of my favorite actors.  I am old enough to remember him on TV on "Bosom Buddies", remember him from one of his first movies in "Splash", and certainly enjoyed Tom Hanks' stellar performances in "Forrest Gump", "Apollo 13", and "Saving Private Ryan".

One of Hanks' most underrated performances, in my opinion, is in the movie "Cast Away".  Hanks plays a shipwrecked man on a deserted tropical island, desperate to return home.  Among Hanks' most prized possessions is a Wilson volleyball, who serves as the only friend Hanks has to talk to on the island.

For those of you who have not seen the movie, I do not want to give too much of the plot away.  I will say that Tom Hanks, as shown in the clip above, yells out "Wilson!" during a particularly dramatic scene in the movie.

In 2017, with the hiring of Kevin Wilson as Ohio State's new offensive coordinator and tight ends coach, I am willing to bet that Ohio State fans will be yelling out "Wilson!" in a very positive and enthusiastic manner.  I am going to suggest that some people may have been doing this ever since the rumors began that Wilson was going to join the Ohio State staff...

Last week, I wrote about Ohio State had hired Ryan Day as the new quarterback coach.  Even though Ohio State has officially hired Kevin Wilson, Wilson has not yet spoken to any of the Ohio State media or beat reporters.  The closest idea Ohio State has regarding how Ohio State will look offensively in 2017 came from Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer, who offered a few comments at a recent American Football Coaches Association dinner...

Spring football practice will probably begin in March.  Ohio State fans, eager to see a balanced offensive attack in 2017, will be anxious to yell out "Wilson!" at their first opportunity during the Ohio State Spring Game.  #GoBucks!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Buckeyes Look To A New 'Day' In 2017

“This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Legendary Ohio State head football coach Woody Hayes not only could diagram an off-tackle play better than most, but Coach Hayes was quite fond of quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson.  It makes me wonder if Coach Hayes would have used the same quote I selected to describe new Ohio State quarterback coach Ryan Day.

Ryan Day was announced as Ohio State’s new quarterback coach on January 3, 2017.  Day replaces Tim Beck on the coaching staff, as Beck departed Ohio State to become the quarterback coach and offensive coordinator for the University of Texas, under former Ohio State assistant/former Houston head coach Tom Herman.

How did Ohio State fans and media respond to the news of Beck’s departure? 

In the spirit of Emerson, I am going to look forward to Day’s tutelage of quarterbacks such as J.T. Barrett, Joe Burrow, and Dwayne Haskins.  (Before Ohio State fans point out about the incoming QB recruits…I won’t count on them until they sign on the line that is dotted.  Then I am happy to refer to them as ‘Buckeyes’.) had a tremendous story that featured former Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy, who played under Coach Day.  Considering Day played under Chip Kelly when Day was in college at New Hampshire, then coached for Kelly in Philadelphia and San Francisco in the NFL the past two seasons, give me the impression that Ohio State is going to concentrate on getting back to an up-tempo offense that Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer has long admired, but has gone without since Tom Herman left Columbus for Houston.  (Again, I realize that there is strong speculation about who the next offensive coordinator is going to be in 2017, but until that person is officially named, I will not refer to him…) 

As I wrote up above, Woody Hayes certainly knew a thing or two about football, and was not too shabby when it came to Emerson.  As Ohio State fans look forward to a new college football season in 2017, let us hope that Emerson knew a thing or two when it came to talking about a new ‘Day’.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Buckeyes Defeating The Tigers May Not Be Elementary, (Deshaun) Watson

The phrase, “Elementary, my dear Watson” has been attributed to the fictional character of Sherlock Holmes.  The meaning of the phrase, with Holmes stating it to his loyal assistant Dr. Watson, was to explain the deductions that Holmes had made in deducing the case.  The reality is that Sherlock Holmes never uttered that phrase in any of the novels written by Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes.  The phrase became part of Sherlock Holmes’ lore as a result of movies, where the phrase gained prominence.

Ohio State will be facing a Watson in The Fiesta Bowl, when Clemson’s Deshaun Watson will lead the 2nd-ranked Tigers against the 3rd-ranked Buckeyes in a designated College Football Playoff.  As Deshaun Watson is a dangerous dual-threat quarterback, capable of hurting the Buckeyes with both his legs and his arm, it would be foolish to say that defending against Watson will be “elementary”.

Ohio State is a 3 point favorite against Clemson.  To be fair, this game and match-up seems much more difficult to predict.  Which Ohio State team is going to show up?  The team that came out and bludgeoned ranked opponents such as Nebraska 62-3, or the team that seemed to completely go into a predictable and frustrating funk offensively, such as when the Buckeyes eeked out a one point win at East Lansing against Michigan State?

In order for the Buckeyes to take another step closer to the 2016 national championship, below are three critical areas I will be looking for when The Fiesta Bowl kicks off at 7pm EST on ESPN…
  1. Ohio State must throw the ball deep ~ Even if Ohio State is incomplete, Urban Meyer has to stretch the field against a Clemson defense that will crowd the line of scrimmage.  By throwing deep, the Tigers will be unable to put eight or nine men in the box, thus giving the Ohio State running game a better chance of success.  Will K.J. Hill get a chance to be a deep threat?  Will Ohio State sometimes use Curtis Samuel as a deep threat?  As long as Ohio State makes this effort, that is all I care about.
  2. Will Ohio State Bring Back “Tressel-ball”? ~ If you have not yet read this article by Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated about what Ohio State needs to do to win The College Football Playoff, please do so.  I know that this seems like a contradiction after my first point, but once Ohio State gets Clemson to quit stacking the line of scrimmage, using Mike Weber, J.T. Barrett, and Curtis Samuel as ballcarriers to control the clock and tire out the Clemson defense would be advantageous.

3.  Will Ohio State Continue Its Opportunistic Ways On Defense ~ Think back to how many times Malik Hooker came up with acrobatic interceptions this season.  While Deshaun Watson has tremendous weapons at his disposal, in players such as WR Mike Williams, TE Jordan Leggett, WR Artavis Scott, and RB Wayne Gallman, the Buckeyes need to capitalize upon any mistakes that Watson may make.  Better yet, if the Buckeyes can force Watson into a mistake, with blitzes or pass rush pressure, the opportunity to score points defensively are there.

Prediction:  As written up above, this is a tough game to call.  Clemson has a tremendous defensive line, full of players Ohio State recruited, going up against an offensive line that has struggled with pass protection.  Even with all of Clemson’s talent, I think Ohio State has just enough to get by the Tigers in a shoot-out.  I am going to say Ohio State 35, Clemson 31.  #GoBucks!

Friday, December 23, 2016

The 2016 Airing Of Grievances

Happy Festivus!  For those of you who are unaware or unfamiliar with Festivus, please click on this link, and you will get a better understanding.

For those of you who are familiar with Festivus, I am going to take some time away from my preparation from The Feats Of Strength (if you clicked on the link, you already know what that means) to give my annual Airing Of Grievances (again, please click on the link) as they relate to the 2016 Ohio State Buckeyes.

I do not have too many grievances – after all, Ohio State is 11-1, only a blocked field goal from being undefeated, and will be playing in The College Football Playoff for the second time in three years with a roster that is largely comprised of freshmen or redshirt freshmen.  Not too shabby.
  1.  The Lack Of A Downfield Passing Game ~ Even Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer recognizes that Ohio State needs to improve its passing game, saying, “In the offseason we’re going to become a good throwing team and spend some time on it…”.  Perhaps it is a measure of a young offensive line not giving quarterback J.T. Barrett enough time to throw, perhaps it is the roster lacking a receiver who can get deep separation (I would dispute that one), but Ohio State’s passing game has become all too predictable and easy to defend, especially during the latter portion of the season.
  2. Ohio State Needed To Play More Freshmen ~ This one will sound like a contradiction, as the following true freshmen played in 2016, based on my records – Jonathon Cooper, Demario McCall, Tuf Borland, Michael Jordan, Austin Mack, Nick Bosa, Antonio Williams (but he will be redshirted due to a shoulder injury), Binjimen Victor, Keandre Jones, Rodjay Burns, Jordan Fuller, and Malik Harrison.  Here is where I would gripe – in so many blowout games, why not give those players even more time?  A case in point is redshirt freshman quarterback Joe Burrow.  Burrow was able to get some playing time, but when Ohio State was blowing out Bowling Green, Tulsa, Rutgers, Nebraska, and Maryland…could he have received even more time?
  3. Quit Relying Upon J.T. Barrett’s Legs ~ This is tied somewhat to the first grievance.  Coach Meyer has a tendency to put the ball in Barrett’s hands in crucial situations, and Barrett has been very dependable.  This has also led to the predictability of the Ohio State offense.  Who is not expecting a quarterback draw on short yardage?  Be honest.  More play-action passes, even if incomplete, will actually help to spread out the defense.
Well, I have to get ready for The Feats Of Strength.  I am usually adept at keeping the kids from pinning me, but they are getting older, and so am I – one of these years, the kids will be able to pin me without my wife’s help.

Happy Festivus, and sincere wishes to all of you for a safe and happy holiday season.  Go Bucks!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Far Too Frequent, Ohio State Fans Were Often Fickle About Fickell

Congratulations to new Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell.  After a lengthy and productive career as a player and assistant coach at Ohio State that spanned over twenty years, Fickell now has the opportunity to lead his own program, within the great state of Ohio.

While the accolades from former players and coaches were primarily positive about the hiring of Fickell by Cincinnati, there are a decent amount of Ohio State fans, and I would surmise college football fans, who have never truly given Fickell too much credit for the Ohio State defense.  In 2014, Chris Ash came on board as co-defensive coordinator, and when the Buckeye defense improved, Ash was given the credit.  This past season, Greg Schiano came on board to replace Chris Ash, after Ash had taken the head coaching job at Rutgers, and again, Schiano was given the credit.

And let's just put this out there ~ so many Ohio State fans have never forgiven Luke Fickell for the 2011 season, when the Buckeyes finished 6-7 during the dreadful "Tattoogate" era.  Fickell was thrown into a difficult situation, and was the convenient scapegoat for fans wanting to vent about the transgressions of the players and program that had lost its way.
For my line of thinking, I am grateful to Luke Fickell for all that he has done for Ohio State since 1992.  Yes, 1992 - the year Luke Fickell signed his letter of intent with Ohio State, despite scholarship offers from many of the top programs around the nation.

1992, a year when Ohio State football was not the prized commodity then as it is now.  Fickell started fifty consecutive games at nose guard, concluding his career against Arizona State in The 1997 Rose Bowl with a torn pectoral muscle.

Fickell began his ascension up the coaching ladder in 1999 under John Cooper, coached at Akron under former Ohio State assistant Lee Owens in 2000 and 2001, and has been a Buckeye assistant from 2002 until 2016 under Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer.  Ohio State fans seem to have forgotten that Fickell had opportunities to leave, most notably at Notre Dame, but Fickell declined the opportunity to stay in Columbus.  Loyalty counts.

I wish I knew how Luke Fickell's career at Cincinnati will go.  Many an Ohio State assistant coach has departed Columbus, and have seen their coaching careers progress positively, as well as others who have seen their careers decline.  I do believe that Fickell's strong reputation as a recruiter will serve him well, in a talent-laden area of the state.  The Ohio high school players are very familiar with Fickell's name and previous Ohio State ties, so Fickell will be able to get his foot in the door, and possibly persuade those players to become Bearcats.

Congratulations, Coach Fickell.  You have earned this opportunity, and I wish you nothing but the best going forward...except on September 7, 2019, when you bring your Bearcats up to Ohio Stadium to face the Buckeyes.