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Closing Arguments: Ohio State

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An Impassioned Plea for the Scarlet & Gray

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Case History

Ohio State. The Ohio State University. The Buckeyes. An ongoing football enterprise. For many, the mere mention of the name elicits the rawest of emotions--both for and against.  The Buckeye team serves as the B1G's Tony Soprano of sorts: hero to some, villain to others, and always full of surprises. (Perhaps Cliven Bundy is a better analog, but he thankfully doesn't share Mr. Soprano's level of celebrity.) As Urban Meyer enters year three at the helm of the B1G's premiere program, he finds himself facing a grand jury of great expectations for the third time. The 2012 season was thrown out by the judge. The 2013 season was by most accounts a surprise verdict that left the defendant stunned, if not reeling. This year was supposed to be the reversal on appeal. Then, last week, the star witness vanished from the 2014 landscape. Now, the football equivalents of Nancy Grace are predicting an open-and-shut case.

I. Opening Statement

Fair citizens of the republic, you are to be thanked for your service as jurors. You have been told that this team and its papally-inspired leader are doomed to failure. The loss of Braxton Miller--easily the B1G's most talented offensive player--is supposedly the nail in the coffin. The 2014 season is said to be dead-on-arrival on the banks of the Olentangy. To borrow from Mark Twain, I assure you that reports of the Buckeyes' demise have been greatly exaggerated. While the various and sundry bottom programs of the B1G have been glad-handing with the parents of 2-star prospects, the top tranche of the league has been ruthlessly harvesting talent. No one has done it better than Mr. Meyer.

Will the loss of Braxton Miller hurt? Of course. There is no sane way to deny that the absence of the two-time B1G Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year is a haymaker to the offense. That being said, there is no reason to believe that Ohio State lacks depth at the QB position--yet. While you, the juror, might take that as unbridled optimism, I remind you that in 2011 an unknown kid with a funny name stepped onto the field and into the unfillable shoes of Terrelle Pryor. That kid turned out alright, didn't he? Just ask Bert. (And that was with Luke Fickell at the helm and a bare cupboard.) J.T. Barrett is a similarly unknown quantity, but reasons to fear are limited. Meyer knows QBs, and you'd be hard pressed to find a better developer and employer of QB talent than Tom Hermann.

Make no mistake, Barrett is no Braxton Miller. Fortunately, he shouldn't have to be. The depth of raw talent on the young offense is striking. Ezekiel Elliot is primed to carry much of the load from the backfield, and he exhibited flashes of brilliance in the few chances he had last year. Add to that the opportunity for senior Rod Smith to realize his potential and the frightening speed and versatility of slotback Dontre Wilson, and the loss of Braxton looks less and less like a kill-shot. Replacing Carlos Hyde in the backfield is no small feat. The man himself cannot be replaced, but his capabilities can be replicated by the bevy of talent on the offensive unit. There will be no 1,500-yd rusher in Scarlet & Gray this year. There could be three men who churn out 500+ yards each, though.

The prosecution has hammered the defendant time and again for the stunning lack of defense in years past. The People's accusations were well-founded in light of the evidence available. Expert witness Walter Sobchak would remind us, "New sh** has come to light!" As such, the present indictments of the Ohio State defense may well ring hollow. Simply put, you cannot find a better defensive front four in the league than the Buckeyes' down linemen. Joey Bosa, Adolphous Washington, Michael Bennett, and Noah Spence will play havoc with all but the most Herculean of offensive lines. Combined with crashing corners and press coverage, the defense should strike a fearsome new tenor.

The burden of proof for meeting expectations this season falls on the much-maligned Buckeye secondary. Simply put, the deep backs and the speedy corners must surpass last year's efforts in convincing fashion. That would mean occasionally stopping a thrown ball from reaching its intended target. Like, even once. To a lesser degree, the linebacking corps must also shoulder some of that burden. Senior Curtis Grant must present an impassioned defense (pun intended) to secure his own legacy and to make up for the departure of one-man show Ryan Shazier. The demands on standout recruit Raekwon McMillan are similarly high when he sees the field. The remaining two starters, Joshua Perry and former safety Darron Lee, will be expected to bolster the defense in coverage as well as run support. That is to say, standard linebacker stuff.

II. Discovery

What we've written about the Buckeyes this offseason

B1G 2014 / Ohio State Cocktail Party Preview

B1G 2014 // Ohio State's Smartest Guy in the Room

B1G 2014 // Ohio State's Birth of a Nation

B1G 2014 // Ohio State Pot Luck Off-Topic Empire Edition

B1G 2014 // OSU Pot Luck 1Pot Luck 2

B1G 2014 // Buckeye Hate Day

III. Pending Docket

8/30/14

at Navy

9/6/14

vs. Virginia Tech

9/13/14

vs. Kent State

9/27/14

vs. Cincinnati

10/4/14

at Maryland

10/18/14

vs. Rutgers

10/25/14

at Penn State

11/1/14

vs. Illinois

11/8/14

at Michigan State

11/15/14

at Minnesota

11/22/14

vs. Indiana

11/29/14

vs. Michigan

IV. Emotional Plea

Whether you find the defendant to be a menace to society or a pillar of the community, several facts cannot be denied. First and foremost, the Buckeyes survive. Even when the program seems to have foundered in the face of NCAA misconduct. Even when forced to place an erstwhile player turned fair-to-middling position coach between the earphones of the Head Coach headset for a year. Even with a freshman QB. Even with the loss of all the stars. The Buckeyes survive and thrive. Secondly, the B1G needs the Buckeyes. That cannot be denied. For a league clinging to relevance with buttery fingers, the Buckeyes are the only perennially respected brand. For an ascendant MSU program with playoff hopes, the Buckeyes are likely to be the only league opponent you can brag about beating to the playoff committee.

Ohio State is a nuclear arsenal. You may hate them, but damn it all, you need them. So let's all take out our Morris Cerullo prayer cloths and say the magic words: "Please, (deity of your choice), don't let J.T. Barrett be a dumpster fire."

V. Verdict

Aaron Y

11

1

7

1

Aaron R

11

1

7

1

Andrew

10

2

7

1

Brian

11

1

7

1

GoAUpher

11

1

7

1

Ray Random

11

1

7

1

MN Wildcat

10

2

6

2

DJ Carver

11

1

7

1

MC ClapYoHandz

12

0

8

0

Candystripes

11

1

7

1

Eric S

11

1

7

1

Graham

11

1

7

1

Hilary

9

3

6

2

babaoreally

10

2

6

2

Jesse

11

1

7

1

Mike

11

1

7

1

Avg.

10.8

1.2

Conf Avg.

6.9

1.1

I want to believe. I have to believe. Three years of building depth and recruiting top-tier, SEC-type talent in Columbus has to pay dividends. Success isn't about replacing lost talent. Success is about harnessing the talent on hand and maximizing its output on the field. Urban Meyer has a track record of doing so. 9-3 is likely. 10-2 is very possible, with an outside shot at 11-1. The staff average is, optimistically, an 11-win season (10.8) with only a conference loss besmirching the record. I like the sense of good tidings, folks.

At any rate, the Buckeyes have good things ahead. Woe be to the teams who think their prowess ended with a dislocated shoulder.