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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ramzy of 2010 Ohio State Football SWOT Analysis

Ramzy calls in the SWOT team, as in Strengths, Weaknessess, Opportunities, and Threats, on this year's Buckeye football team.

A couple of years ago I hastily eschewed my customary outlook-plus-jokes Ohio State preview in favor of formally SWOTing the season. Basically the only difference between a preview and that SWOT exercise were a few bullet points that are easier on the eyes and the the ability to falsely appear prescient after the season ended. Regardless of how the season turns out, a SWOT always seems to look frighteningly prophetic after the fact. Plus, I was taking a graduate-level marketing strategy class at the time and had SWOT analyses on the brain.

Predictably, hindsight was kind to that 2008 column as well as its Bucknuts the Magazine predictions - which I used to correctly predict the season record for the second consecutive year - so I SWOTed the 2009 season again last year in lieu of going back to the reliable outlook-plus-jokes preview model. Studying that SWOT again one year later, the Weaknesses and Threats were horribly exploited in both how Southern Cal and Purdue games went down, and it looks prescient all over again. There were no secrets revealed: This is an exercise in winning the game or knowing the reason why before the game is even played. These MBA people are onto something: SWOT swings the big bat of predictive clarity quite well; better than an outlook-plus-jokes Ohio State preview would, anyway.

So for the third year in a row, I’ll be eschewing a customary season preview column. Besides, adding yet another contribution to the stack of countless Ohio State season preview columns already available on the Internet would be like having your great grandmother’s tubes tied. Yes, granny is still a freak, but it’s always important to be mindful of overkill.


You can refer to that stack of countless Ohio State season preview columns, which overwhelmingly focus only on what keeps short attention spans engaged. That hyperactive blather begins with the enigma under center: Ohio State’s offense features a quarterback that is impossible to describe accurately. Terelle Pryor is very tall. A lot of quarterbacks are like that. He’s also very fast – again, not terribly uncommon. His field vision is, well, um, he’s very tall. His arm strength is, well, um, he’s very fast. He’s got a stiff arm that is eerily reminiscent of Beanie Wells, if Beanie had gotten the Gattica surgery to make him five inches taller.

He was the 2009 Preseason Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, and he promptly took the field and atrophied last season in several key quarterbacking statistics from efficiency to passing yardage. After the Purdue game, the square quarterback/round playbook futility was partially abandoned and more emphasis was placed on exploiting what was known of Pryor’s skills rather than what was still untapped, namely his size and his speed. Passing attempts evaporated, and when he was allowed to pass, it was a decidedly conservative - and effective - passing sequence. The 2009 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year is never just a steady game manager, not in any year. Yet Pryor - who did not come close to winning the postseason award or setting any relatively meager Ohio State passing records ablaze - still finished the season as the Rose Bowl MVP. He still managed to shock and awe. Tall, fast dudes have a tendency for doing that.

It’s almost as though the idea of a fully-functioning and prodigious Pryor makes the Ohio State offense intangibly more frightening than it is in reality, with merely mortal, fleshy Pryor under center. The degree to which the marquee carrying PRYOR as one of the must-see centerpieces of the entire 2010 college football landscapes cannot be understated: Pryor, who was not the first, second, third, fourth or fifth-team All Big Ten in 2009 at quarterback, repeated as Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year. His legitimate athletic ability has taken on a decidedly mythical perception. With the unfortunate events of NBA free agency this summer, Pryor can no longer be referred to as LeBron in Cleats. He can, however, be Achilles in Eyeblack (as long as nothing is written on it).

Strength: Fear Factor


During the Southern California and Purdue offensive implosions that saw the Pryor-led Buckeyes muster 15 and 18 points respectively against defenses that were absolutely shredded by lesser teams, the state of Jim Tressel’s Ohio State empire was called into question: What kind of football coaching incompetence could produce such abject failure with what is widely seen as some of the best talent around, not only in the conference but in the country? Mid-October 2009 was a significant crossroads for the Ohio State program: The team had lost three consecutive BCS games, two of the title variety, both of its home-and-home matchups with Southern Cal, they had choked away the Big Ten road winning streak record at 1-5 Purdue and the most sought-after quarterback prospect in years was faltering in an offense that did little to inspire the prospect of attracting similar high school superstars to Columbus.

The creeping death of the 2004 season which featured three consecutive, bad losses began to erode the Midwestern dynasty that the Buckeyes had enjoyed since that distasteful October five years earlier. A couple of layups and some significant wagon-circling later, Ohio State graciously provided for the more palatable and enjoyable half of the lose-lose proposition, the “oh what could have been” running of the table that the 2005 team delivered after mustering 10 points in Happy Valley with an offensive roster that still features numerous NFL players to this day.

Normally weakness is diagnosed by a missing or lacking asset. You may be worried about the lack of a returning, rocket-legged punter, game-changing kick returner or the third shift in the defensive back seven. Um, don’t be. It would take a nearly impossible, catastrophic decimation to ply the Ohio State roster depth down to unsustainable levels. You worry about depth on the 2010 Buckeyes the same way you worry about coming down with scurvy at a citrus orgy, i.e. you don’t. It should be a pick-your-poison task for each of the opposing 12 coaches to diagnose when they play Ohio State this year, and the bad news is that the better option for them is still poison.

This 2010 team would have little problem with the 2009, 2008 or 2007 Big Ten. Granted, each of those respective Ohio State units finished no worse than tied for first in any of those years. But this year’s team is facing similar elevated expectations that are tinged with an additional challenge: Its predecessors have all rolled up double-digit wins against what was acceptably seen as a no-better-than-mediocre Big Ten. This team is expected to do the same, only cleaner (no Purdue-like episodes allowed, not with this roster) and against a very strong Big Ten that will provide at least 20% of the top 15 ranked teams every week this season. They have the most stability, depth and talent in the conference. A couple of road games at Wisconsin and Iowa are noticeably challenging at a glance of the schedule, but most slates have at least a couple of scrums built into them and in a historical sense, very good Ohio State teams barely ever lose in Madison or Iowa City. Three losses in 22 years in Madison. Three losses in 48 years in Iowa City. Somewhere between elevated expectations and mythical perception is the inexplicable.

Weakness: Tactical Enlightenment (again)


A sixth-straight conference title, the final Big ‘Eleven’ championship ever, a seventh-straight win over Michigan, a chance to re-infect the 7.5-year old unhealed scab on the Miami Hurricanes psyche, a fourth BCS title game appearance and the Heisman Trophy are all within very reasonable grasp. Every year is brings elevated expectations, but we haven’t seen an accumulation like this in our lifetimes. Both 1998 and 2006 came close but lacked the unprecedented streak against the Wolverines.

Opportunity: Immortality


The schedule features four victorious bowl teams that return with expectations of being significantly better this season. The two bowl teams that lost their games actually lost tightly contested games to two of the other teams on the schedule. Only Eastern Michigan is a layup in the truest sense of the metaphor; in every single other game the opponent should require complete submission on behalf of the Buckeyes’ top 40 players. Ohio State has lost three straight home night games while winning several road night games in a row over four seasons; this schedule features both flavors. Speed bumps and potholes abound, but there’s nothing that this team shouldn’t be able to maneuver around, over or through.

Twelve teams separate Ohio State from what should be once again a crowded field of BCS title game candidates. The Buckeyes have lost to exactly one truly bad team - Purdue - since 2004. That fresh reminder from last October has and should continue to go a long way toward vanquishing last season’s top threat of Entitlement. Top to bottom, there isn’t a team in the country that is clearly superior. If this team is going to falter, those cracks will likely be self-inflicted.

Threat: Pressure

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