Maybe the Buckeyes can win a B1G push-ups championship, instead....
Ahhhh, Ohio State week. This should be quiet, right? I mean, we're talking about a team that cannot make it to Indianapolis, that plays its last game of any sort on November 24, 2012 (and then, RO*TEL QUESO BOWL TIME!), and is coming off its first losing season since 1988. I don't even need to do this Potluck, do I?
Wait, they hired WHO?
Ummmm, okay. When the Tim Tebow-Whisperer himself joins the conference, I suppose that automatically makes a team Potluck worthy, even if they're already eliminated from postseason competition. Join the OTE writers, and special guests Ian from Inside the Shoe and Matt B. from the brand-new SB Nation Ohio State blog Land-Grant Holy Land as we spill 4400+ words on a bro-tastic job demotion, talk about how Urban Meyer's offense might be better at destroying Ohio State's own defense rather than B1G defenses, look at the first bowl game to be played in Columbus, and apologize deeply for our teams' most obnoxious fans.
"You're replacing me with WHO?!?!? And want me to step back into my old job? Not cool, bro...so not cool."
1) Bacon-wrapped Dates Stuffed with Cream Cheese and Almonds: Last year, the Buckeyes lost their national title winning head coach Jim Tressel and rising senior QB Terrell Pryor after spring practice, and saw a wave of suspensions come down for a number of players (DeVier Posey, Mike Adams, Dan Herron, Solomon Thomas, Jordan Hall, Corey Brown, Travis Howard, Jordan Whiting). Into the breach stepped Luke Fickell - the teams linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator -- and the results were....mixed. While 6-7 is below Ohio State standards, it bears repeating that Ohio State did not lose to a non-bowl team (6-6 Miami would have gone to a bowl but for self-imposed sanctions), was starting a freshmen QB, and that in many games it had players missing due to suspensions (and/or being out-of-game-shape once they returned). And Fickell's reward for taking the bullet on 2011? A demotion back to his old job under new savior Urban Meyer. As a non-OSU outsider, this seems either incredibly unfair to me (Fickell deserved better than demotion after holding the ship together last year) or incredibly stupid on Fickell's part (he was interim coach at OSU, and thus qualified to be a head coach at some other mid-major). What's your verdict on Fickell's 2011 season at the helm? Do you think OSU was right to keep Fickell on staff in a demoted position? And was Fickell dumb to step back quietly for Urban?
JDMill: You gotta feel for Luke Fickell. Here's a lifelong OSU guy who ball all accounts is headed toward becoming a head coach at some point in his career, and he gets thrust into O(MG)SU-mageddon. He holds the ship together, and then realistically is given ZERO chance to win the job (even if Urbane Meyer hadn't stepped in). Meyer was right to give Fickell a job, any job, on his staff... OSU owed him at least that consolation prize, but for Fickell to accept it? Moronic in my opinion. I get his loyalty to OSU, but seriously, you've been given a position on Meyer's staff out of obligation, not out of merit. Can Fickell learn a lot from Meyer? Probably. But Fickell should have taken this chance to jump ship and take over a mid-major program.
Ted Glover: My verdict is Fickell did the best he could given the cicumstances he faced. It was really a no-win deal for him--Meyer was out there and his name was attached to OSU (at least by the fan base) from almost the moment Tressel stepped down. He knew what he was getting into, and he took one for the team and the school when no one else would touch Ohio State with a full body radiation suit. And for that, I think he earned the eternal respect of Ohio State fans everywhere. He kept the program above water, and was even able to land some big recruits before Meyer hit town. Is it unfair what happened to him? Yes, but after his on field performance, I think you could get Fickell to agree that he might need a couple more seasons before he's ready to make the leap to head coach, and who better to learn from than Urban Meyer? And yeah, I think it was right to keep Fickell. Lost in all the noise of last year is the fact that Fickell is a very good defensive coach, a very good recruiter, and I don't see the transition back to defensive coordinator all that awkward just because of Meyer's personality. If it was any other coach, save maybe Nick Saban, I'd agree that it was a mistake, but I think this has a better chance to work out.
KennardHusker: Fickell's season was not spectacular. He was often overmatched by someone with a pulse on the other sideline, and despite it really not being fair to judge him under the circumstances, he still didn't get results (6-7 is still in fact 6-7 regardless of the opponents). Of course, this leads me to the answer to that second half. Fickell really was in a bind after last season. Sure, maybe a good Mid Major picks him up, but why not go back to what you're good at, be a part of something awesome (assuming this ends awesome) and then get a shot at a low major (Kansas will be looking in a couple of years, I'm sure). I think this scenario was probably the best situation for him considering everything that happened. He really got painted into a corner on this one.
Matt B.: I think if we're being honest with ourselves, Fickell did have a bit of an unwinnable situation. Like you said, he was given a team wracked with suspensions and in total cultural shock after losing a program icon...I don't think the pieces were there for an actual B1G title run. I think it was clear he was a little overmatched with clock management, or with the development of the offense, and I think the team likely underachieved as a whole, but I certainly don't view it as a catastrophe.
I do think the decision to retain Fickell was a little strange, given his potential for getting a HC job, and because OSU brought in another seasoned defensive mind in Everett Withers. I guess it's possible that Fickell thought he could increase his stock by being a part of some more successful seasons in the Meyer administration. Maybe he thought he could learn a few things from another highly successful coach. Maybe he thought there would be more appealing HC jobs open next season (I'm not sure Akron is much of a prize, to be honest). As a Buckeye fan, I'm certainly not unhappy with Fickell remaining on staff, although I'd be a little surprised if he is still there in another 2-3 seasons.
Ian: Under Jim Tressel, Luke Fickell was an assistant coach that coached the linebackers. He was a pretty popular assistant coach as well, with the fan base completely backing him. If Tatgate would have happened much sooner, I have no doubt in my mind that former OSU WR's coach Darrell Hazell (Now the head coach at Kent State) would have been a top choice to be the interim head coach.
Instead, Fickell was thrust into the role with little offensive experience (and by little, I mean none). 2011 was a disappointing season, but one that can be overlooked after some time under Urban Meyer's reign.
With that being said about Fickell, there's no doubt that he's a damn good defensive coach. The list of linebackers that he coached is impressive. Ohio State is lucky that they ended up keeping Fickell on the staff as an assistant/Co-defensive Coordinator. Whether Fickell was dumb or not, I would have to say no. To coach alongside or under Urban Meyer is a fantastic addition to a résumé, when/if he decides to become a head coach somewhere.
MSULaxer27: There are times when one shouldn't step back into a subordinate role after leading a group or organization. In this case Fickell was right to stay on the new staff at OSU. He proved himself a loyal soldier (which will endear him to the fanbase) and he showed himself to be a capable manager in his handling of a difficult situation (appealing to potential employers). If Fickell went 9-3 we aren't discussing the "new" staff at OSU, but unfortunately he was learniing in the job. Being on Meyer's staff if the team should accomplish great things will only add to Fickell's reputation and resume. The one question I have is whether he is willing to take his "first" head coaching job in a lower league(ie. MAC)? I think given the limitations he had placed upon him last year, Fickell did as well as could be expected and he, Meyer and the athletic department made the right decision in keeping him around.
BabaOReally: Fickell was fine as an interim coach, but he's not ready to run the ship at a big-time program. If Fickell had a lot of confidence in his ability as a head coach, he would have tried to turn last season into a head job at a small school. He probably thinks that he'll be better off gaining experience as an assistant, and I tend to agree with him. I don't think he is too mad about his "demotion", nor should he be. If OSU would have been able to get Meyer to coach last season, Fickell would have never got the chance to be the head man at all. OSU didn't disrespect Fickell by knocking him back to a coordinator job; it's what he is qualified for at this stage in his career.
2) Creamy Potato and Prosciutto Salad: Urban Meyer returns to the sidelines after a year getting "healthy" (i.e. cashing big checks and scoping out possible job openings) and spending more time with his "family" (i.e. ESPN, who paid him money to basically scout potential job openings). And with him, he brings his up-tempo spread offense, which seems tailor-made for a talented dual threat QB like Braxton Miller. But Ohio State for generations under Tressel (and Cooper, and Bruce, and Woody Hayes himself) has prided itself on overpowering teams with power-running and pro-set offenses, playing field-position football, and clamping down tough on defense and special teams. This latter is of particular concern -- one sometimes unfortunate side effect of an up-tempo spread offense is the toll it takes on your defense, as your defenders have less time to rest between series. It's not impossible to have a good defense with an up-tempo spread offense (Auburn in 2010 certainly was good), but rarely do you see a GREAT defense (a la Alabama in 2009 or 2011) operating with a spread offense. Will Meyer's spread bring improvement to Braxton Miller and the offense? And, more importantly, will that improvement be enough to offset what might be a step back on defense due to less field-position/time to rest while the offense is on the field? (Or is this entire theory of mine that spread offenses weaken their own teams' defenses complete garbage?)
Ted Glover: Man, good questions. Braxton Miller seems perect for the spread offense, and their performance has to be better this year, simply for the fact it can't get much worse. People think the spread is a finesse offense, but Florida ran a very effective power game with Tim Tebow, it's just that Tebow was the QB. I look for Jordan Hall and Brionte Dunn to have pretty good years, they're bigger backs that can still run the ball between the tackles. As much as the spread can be a wide open offense, you're still going to have to run the ball in this conference, and I'm going to bet OSU will still do that effectively, it's just going to be from different looks that the traditional power I, two tight end sets we've been accustomed to. As to the defense, OSU might do better than average based on the depth along the defensive line that Meyer is amassing. Granted, a lot of these kids are recruits and have yet to play a meaningful down, but if they pan out to just 60-70% of their potential, OSU will have a ridiculous amount of talent two deep along the line (8 4/5* d-linemen recruits from 2011-2013, plus John Simon) and linebackers (6 4/5* LB's recruited from 2011-2013) that can rotate in and out, and that might keep them fresher and more effective. It could be an issue in 2012, though. We'll see.
Matt B.: Well, I don't really see how Meyer's offensive schemes wouldn't be able to help Braxton Miller...Miller seems perfect for an up-tempo offense that will allow him to make a few plays with his feet. I think it's going to be a learning process, especially since Ohio State may be lacking in weapons at WR, but given Urban's recruiting prowess, I wouldn't expect this to be a problem for too many more seasons. Given Ohio State's personnel, we may see running backs more involved than in previous incarnations of the Urban Meyer Offensive Death Machine.
I certainly don't think that having a fast paced, effective offense automatically means your defense will be ineffective. OSU has brought in a fairly monster recruiting class on the defensive lines, and being able to force turnovers or pressure the QB can render time of possession disparities moot. That being said, I don't think too many Buckeye fans will be upset if OSU's defensive ranking dips a little, as long as the team is successful. Remember, Ohio State isn't suiting up against Oregon or Oklahoma State every week in the Big Ten.
At the end of the day, as cliché as it sounds, the only really important statistic is wins. If Ohio State starts winning a few more 45-35 games instead of 17-14 games, I don't think anybody in Columbus will complain. In fact, after the puntapalooza that was the Tressel Era, I think a few points would be well received.
Ian: Braxton Miller is literally in every sense, the perfect fit for the type of offense that Urban Meyer wants his teams running. This offense will be such a vast improvement as far as keeping defenses guessing and mixing up the play calling to the point where it is balanced. Instead of the ever-popular off-tackle running play as the go-to play or the "bread and butter" play, Meyer's spread uses short bubble routes, hitches and a multitude of short passes to gain 3-4 yards every time it's ran.
The offensive system will not make the defense any more or less tired than before. With the recent additions of world-class recruits at defensive line (and other key defensive positions) rotating defensive players will be normal for Ohio State.
While you'll have your starters in each game, the majority of the players that the coaching staff sees fit will see just as much playing time as the starters, if they're good enough. So, really nothing changes here as far as tempo and pace for the Buckeye defense as a result of Urban's spread.
MSULaxer27: I'm going to skip this one...I don't care enough about the minutiae of what defensive and offensive schemes are played to be able to answer this. The coaches should be able to evaluate whatever talent their players have and put them in the scheme that is best suited to those abilities. I don't really care whether any team runs a 3-4,4-3 zone read, pistol, shotgun, pro-form or whatever. That's the coaches job. Be successful or face the consequences.
"Keep your eyes on that Ro*Tel Queso Bowl Prize, son."
3) Skyline Chili: Obviously, Urban Meyer has a tough task ahead of him in one department in 2012 -- motivation. The bowl and postseason ban on Ohio State means they're not playing for a Big Ten title, will not be travelling to Indianapolis, and have no games (or practices, for that matter) after they close their season against Michigan. To what extent will motivation (or lack thereof) be a hurdle to the Buckeyes in 2012? In what games do you see the motivation issue being a problem for OSU (obviously not against Michigan)? Or does the lack of pressure, every game is a bowl-game, us-against-the-world, try to win a voter's/AP championship provide enough of a spark for the Buckeyes in 2012?
Ted Glover: I'm going to go for the latter, and if I hear one more person go AP NASHUNAL CHAMPS RAWR I'm going to puke. There is no pressure from the outside, but according to everyone that's close to the program, Meyer has turned up the intensity to an 11. Everything is a competition, and winning is stressed in every facet of the program. I think Meyer is going to use 2012 as a shot across the bow to the rest of the conference, and will come loaded for bear. If the team is half as fired up as the fan base, motivation won't be a problem at all, and I think come Michigan week, the atmosphere is going to be electric once again. I can't wait.
KennardHusker: Does anyone really think motivation will be a problem for a team with this much pride (or ego depending on your frame of reference)? Look, I get that this team doesn't get to go to a bowl, and I even buy the, "You're being punished by the B1G in that we won't let you go to Indy IF you earn it (questionable outcome regardless)." But to assume that the Buckeyes aren't going to go all in to prove to people that they are as good as THEY think they are would be silly. I think this team wants to wash last year's bad taste out with the blood of every team that beat them and they want to prove to the other teams they are the team to beat going forward. Now, if this were a four year ban or something, it would be a different story. One year bans seem like a waste of time to me.
Matt B.: Maybe this is my Scarlett and Gray fanboy glasses talking, but I'd be a little surprised if motivation is an issue throughout the entire season. OSU may only be technically playing for pride, but given the amount of eyeballs that are going to be turned to Columbus to kick off the Meyer era, pride can be a pretty significant motivator. I don't think OSU's new staff is going to let the effort sink dramatically....the "nobody believes in us factor" is pretty strong.
Now, I think Purdue and Illinois are always possible trap games for the Buckeyes. Purdue always seems to play OSU very tough, and comes right before a possible look-ahead night game at Penn State. Illinois follows afterwards, and if OSU stumbles a few times before, it's possible they may struggle to maintain that energy. Luckily, Ohio State gets both of those teams at home.
Let's face it. If Kiffykins could muster enough mojo from his troops to remain competitive while under sanctions, I'm sure Meyer and crew can as well.
Ian: There will be no problem getting motivation for these Buckeyes. The returning starters went 6-7 last season at The Ohio State University and that's not something that they want to leave school with as their mark.
If they DO have any type of motivation problems, I would have to say that it would come against lower-tier teams such as UAB, simply because that's what all teams do. It's a fact of college football life.
This season is so, so crucial to the success of the 2013 season. The offense is learning the playbook, while the new play makers that Urban has recruited on both sides of the ball get settled in to their new school. That motivation right there will be enough for Ohio State in 2012. They may not go 12-0, but you can easily say goodbye to the 6-7 seasons.
BabaOReally: USC went through a similar situation last season and did pretty well. I don't think OSU is going to lack for motivation because of the bowl ban. It's hard to imagine athletes and competitors at this level not getting fired up to play every week, especially against decent teams. I don't think this will be an issue at all.
MSULaxer27: Unless you think that somehow, players who have been performing at a high level for their entire athletic careers will suddenly "turn it off", I'm not sure motivation will be that much of a problem. These guys don't want to be embarrassed. They know that in a year they'll be back in the hunt for Roses and bigger things. Meyer has shown himself to be a good enough coach to keep his players focused. For what it's worth, before we anoint Ole' Urbz and OSU champeens of the world based on the formula: Talent + Resources + Coaching success = ALL THE TITLES! remember that the sports world is littered with teams that were in essence "too big to fail". In one instance that the Ohioans should revel in look at the Miami Heat with Lebron, the 15-1 Green Bay Packers last year, 19-0 New England etc. etc.
No amount of childhood trauma can justify this....
4) Chocolate-Peanut Butter Buckeyes: All fan-bases have their worst representatives. For Ohio State, those fans are normally white-trash citizens of Ohio who never went to Ohio State, but nonetheless wear their Buckeye gear when they're out getting drunk and burning couches (am I right?). I'm sure many Buckeye fans would love nothing more than to ban these people from the 'Shoe and/or deport them to West Virginia (where they'd fit in much better). Describe for me the worst representatives of your team's fanbase, and what you'd like to see done about them.
KennardHusker: Yeesh... This is one of those questions that gets a writer in trouble, huh. Well, for me, I'd like to get rid of the people who think Nebraska is going to win a NASHUNUL CHAMPSHIP every year and that despite the fact that Pelini has won 9+ games every season, he still hasn't won the BCS title and should be fired. You can find these fans watching tapes from 1994 and 1995, and there is a good outside chance they will tell you Johnny Rodgers was the best returner you've ever seen (despite most of these fans being born after 1975). I think a good starting place for what I would do with these fans is to ban them from the internet. However, there is an argument that we should probably ban most fans from the internet, and then what fun would the internet be? The other really annoying fans are the Creighton Basketball/Nebraska Football fans. Just because Creighton is good now does not mean you like them more than the school you say you're cheering for. Unless you are only a Creighton fan (and generally hate football), you graduated from Creighton, or you cheer for Creighton when not playing Nebraska, you should not be mixing allegiances. These people should be banned to Council Bluffs... you know, because Council Bluffs sucks.
Chadnudj: Northwestern's worst fans? This one is a tie for me, between (a) the alumni who never show up for games (despite living in Chicago) and say things like "Yeah, I heard our team has been pretty good lately," and (b) any elitist fan who chants "state school" at games, or otherwise denigrates our competitors' academics. The first suck because they're the biggest problem with Northwestern athletics -- our team would have a lot more respect if we had halfway decent fan support, and it is REALLY easy to get up to Evanston for a game/games during the season. The latter suck because they play into the stereotype of Northwestern fans as elitist, and I'm very uneasy about making fun of our fellow B1G schools' academics, because frankly, all of our schools have a lot of great academic programs and smart students. (Well, except that non-AAU slacker Nebraska....just kidding!)
Matt B.: Ha, you know, on the internet, it appears the big OSU stereotype is the superBRO, instead of the white-trash couch burner...but in real life, I've met *way* more of the white trashy guys who flunked out of Kent State, but still cause trouble near campus after games.
Ian: There are fans that take Ohio State athletics seriously, the "superfans" if you will. Then, there are the people that gloat about being the so-called superfans and think they are in the right when they send death threats to TE's, drive former players out of town and even more death threats! This kind of thing doesn't fly in my book at all. The only problem is, there's truly nothing we can do about it, except try to give off a good example.
When a question regarding Ohio State's history that doesn't favor the Buckeyes comes up, I try my best to answer with my honest opinion, simply because it's the right thing to do. If they disagree or call me a homer, there's no need to react. That's what a lot of fans struggle with.
When someone on a website tells you that they're glad you're not "one of those fans" you immediately know who they're talking about. Every fanbase has them, but it seems that Ohio State has one of the largest fan bases on the Internet for better or for worse.
So while we can't directly do anything, when you're put in a position where you're reacting to something online or responding, you have to realize that the other person will get some of their opinions on Buckeye Nation as a whole by how you respond. It's just how it goes.
MSULaxer27: MSU is one of those schools (Wisconsin, Purdue, NC State among others come to mind) that don't have a large non-alumni, out of state presence. In other words, if you bump into someone in say New York, who is wearing a State shirt either they or someone in their immediate family went there. The subway douchebag fans tend to gravitate towards the school in Ann Arbor. In the state of Michigan I'm not as sure (as I only lived there for 3 years). I'm sure there are quite a few of the obnoxious, mouth breathing "fans" of the type you mention. I course I don't want those types associated with my school. Does anybody this side of Alabama(where they take perverse "pride" in these fans as some sort of token of how great their school is), want these yokels to be thought of as representative what your school produces?