clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Citation Needed: Ohio State’s Defense Will Be Better in 2022 // B1G 2022, Buckeyes Potluck #2

And what the hell is Serbian chicken, anyway?

2022 Big Ten Conference Football Media Days
This is Alex Jones’s attorney, right? It’s gotta be.
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Since WSR has abandoned me on doing the 2022 Ohio State potlucks…well, if you are an Ohio State reader–really there are so few of you, you could call yourself THE Ohio State reader–you already know to set your bar low on these.

WSR: I SAID I WOULD HELP!

MNW: Fucking fat lot of good that’s been, you oaf.

Anyway, this turns into “MNW googles things and tries to avoid ‘Spoon University’ or ‘Only in Your State’ clickbait,” and this is what you get:

I mean…it’s chicken. Right?

NOT SO FAST, reader:

Barberton chicken, also known as Serbian fried chicken,[1] is a style of fried chicken native to the city of Barberton in Summit County, Ohio. It is a distinctive Serbian-American style served in several mainly Serbian-owned restaurants in Barberton and nearby Norton and increasingly in other surrounding communities. The style of chicken has given the town national recognition, with some proclaiming Barberton to be the “Chicken Capital of the World”[2] or the “Fried Chicken Capital of America.”[3]

Impressive! What a resume! Should we bother to check anything else about that claim?

Barberton chicken began with Milchael and Smilka Topalsky, Serbian immigrants who arrived to America at the turn of the 20th century. Like many during the Great Depression, they became burdened with debt and were forced to sell their family farm.[4] They opened a restaurant called Belgrade Gardens in 1933[2] in which they sold a distinctive style of fried chicken, along with a vinegar-based cole slaw, a rice and tomato sauce side dish seasoned with hot peppers (usually referred to as “hot sauce” or “hot rice”, which can also be eaten as a dipping sauce or a side dish), and freshly cut french fries. Barberton lore holds that these were exact replicas of what the Topalskys had known back in Serbia as pohovana piletina, kupus salata, djuvec, and pomfrit.[citation needed]

Delightful! Pull up here, Serbs! No need to overreach–

Let’s enhance that…

Well, it was a good try, anyway.

Writers:

1. Barberton chicken! Have you? Would you? Does this hold any appeal for you?

2. If not, tell me the small-town chicken preparation method of record near you. Citation not needed.

3. I am long on the record as saying we need more weirdly specific ethnic foods to feature for this piece, so tell me one of those that I might not know about. Have I been failing to try the Canadian jambalaya of Cerro Gordo County? Missing the Tunisian paczki of Greater Santa Barbara? Neglecting the Chilean pho of suburban Saint Paul?

Buffkomodo: I have not but absolutely would. God bless it, I love chicken.

The method of cooking in grandpaw komodo’s kitchen is not the preferred method, but I figured you’d enjoy it. GK’s chicken must have been marinated for 15 minutes, and then have all juices torched out of the meat. Then, ensure that the chicken is blackened on the outside. Serve with a handy amount of A1 or ketchup….okay…dad can’t cook for shit but it’s what I grew up with. You all must suffer too.

Being one of the whitest dudes you know, I’m not certain I can help here. The food of my people in Cincy is Skyline Chili for some reason. Back home in God’s country, Olive Garden or Texas Roadhouse is upper middle class. So…I got nothing.

BoilerUp89: The food of our people is fantastic and should not be looked down upon, komodo. Since we are talking about chicken, the best fried chicken I’ve ever had was across the border in Southeastern Indiana. No idea how those church folks prepared it, but it was delicious.

MNW: I have no idea how some of these cities get SUCH a good publicist that their way of preparing a chicken—with no seasoning!—gets its own Wikipedia page (lest you think it’s easy, try being a U.S. Senate candidate in Iowa). I’d give it a shot, but that no seasoning thing likely means I’m going to be disappointed, right?

I’m disappointed no one really cared about the “citation needed” angle. That made me laugh disproportionately hard for what a stupid little note it is.

BoilerUp89 is exactly right that the church basement chicken has something in it that just hits differently. Maybe it’s the holiness. Or the repressed guilt.

BRT: I love chicken and fried things, but I find that “zero seasonings” bit concerning. I think that really limits how high this Serbian chicken can fly. It might be good and I’d certainly try it– but I doubt it ascends to greatness.

Weird ethnic food… I mean, there’s always lutefisk for a real, disgusting head-scratcher of a cuisine. My Swedish forebears came to Nebraska, but Minnesota gets the “credit” for it usually.

IDEA! Next year, let’s get a church lady cookbook from each location and pick foods from there. It’ll be true to the spirit of the potluck, and also probably weird and disturbing. Wait until you see how creative those Czech church ladies got with beer.

WSR: Why would I want unseasoned fried chicken when I can get absolutely amazing fried chicken with a number of herbs and spices from small joints all around the Twin Cities? Come on man.

And I am a bit apprehensive about going into the church cookbooks. I’ve gone through them and looked at the culinary crimes my family has committed in the past, and they’re really bad. So many “Cream of” soups, so many “Salt & pepper to taste (optional). They’re lucky they’re not alive to get questioned.

Dead Read: Via the great state of Ohio, the people that gave the world Gavrilo Princip present…./drumroll/….UNSEASONED CHICKEN! Nope.

RU in VA: Ugh. It’s just a slap in the face to real ethnic chicken places that use seasonings and ingredients from WHERE THEY CAME. You’re telling me that fried chicken and fries is some Serbian delicacy forced upon the people from the Great Depression?

You know what else is alright? Afghan fire roasted goat. But don’t bring that shit over here in the next great depression. It tastes like ass. Actually, you know what - make Youngstown the roasted goat capital of the world. Do it.

Kind of…: Yeah, I’m calling shenanigans on the claim to authenticity. But I also don’t really care about that. I would still try it, though, because I grew up eating unseasoned fried chicken, so no big deal. I have branched out a bit and love Korean “fire” chicken. I cannot confirm the authenticity of this either, but there is a rough consistency of online recipes and, whatever, it’s good.

There are plenty of foods that damn near every culture has a variation on. There’s a “meat inside of bread” continuum that includes everything from dumplings to pierogies to pasties. There’s a “mixed leftover meat” continuum that covers almost anything that goes by the term sausage. Some use casing, some don’t. I try not to worry too much about the specific because authenticity is a sucker game.

That said, I did once participate in a bachelor party where the best man was a proud Serbian (perhaps too proud, but let’s move on). One night’s revelry included going to a Serbian fair in suburban Chicago, and, though, it’s been 20+ years, I still recall the cevapi (basically sausages of southeastern Europe). My understanding is that the Serbian variety includes beef and lamb, and maybe pork. I don’t care. They were great.

misdreavus79: Haven’t tried it, but wouldn’t be opposed to trying it if given the opportunity. Though obviously on presentation alone I don’t see the appeal.

Dominicans have this chain establishment called “Pollo Victorina,” which is what I think about when I think of fried chicken. That said, “pollo guisado” is more common there, so you’ll find plenty of lightly stewed chicken places if you’re ever down there (or, more realistically, whenever you’re in a heavily-Dominican part of the U.S.)

P.S.: I’ve been doing my part with Dominicanizing just about every single one of these!

Poll

Serbian chicken?

  • 16%
    Absolutely!
    (9 votes)
  • 50%
    If it’s offered, sure.
    (28 votes)
  • 20%
    No, for culinary reasons.
    (11 votes)
  • 12%
    No, because I am a Montenegrin and/or Kosovar nationalist.
    (7 votes)
55 votes total Vote Now

The Football

WSR promised he’d take this one, too, but…

Speaking of dubious claims, Ryan Day appears to think the defense is going to be just fine in Columbus. “Top ten,” in fact!

They come back with a lot of experience, almost the entire defense back, and really almost the entire Rose Bowl team is back from last year. So that’s exciting. So we have a bit more experience there. So that part’s good.

But new scheme, new coaches, all of those things are new. I think going up against them in the spring and seeing what’s happened this summer and now into the preseason, it’s been exciting to watch. There’s just an aggressiveness about them.

Having almost an entire defense back is great, but that’s one that finished 42nd in Football Outsiders’ defensive ranking, especially against the run–the Buckeyes were a pedestrian 62nd in power success stops on defense and fell to 95th and 78th in stuff rate and sack rate, respectively.

To fix that, Day brought in Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles. The Cornell man (Class of 1987) totes a 4-2-5 defense that will replace whatever it was Kerry Coombs (through three games) and now-Memphis DC Matt Barnes were doing. To help you, now, there are some statistics I would like to share with you now, and they are numbers:

Jim Knowles Defensive FEI Ratings

Year Team Rank
Year Team Rank
2012 Duke 97
2013 Duke 59
2014 Duke 54
2015 Duke 77
2016 Duke 52
2017 Duke 25
2018 Oklahoma St. 79
2019 Oklahoma St. 46
2020 Oklahoma St. 14
2021 Oklahoma St. 2
Football Outsiders

That’s…uh…I believe the technical term is “good”.

Knowles’ 4-2-5 defense (you can read Land Grant Holy Land or whatever that site about warriors is if you want to chew on some film, ya loon) relies on athletic, pressing cornerbacks and safeties prepared to attack the edge and stop the run alongside an edge rusher/linebacker hybrid called the “LEO” (not to be confused with Tom Allen’s “Lose at Every Opportunity”). Most profiles of Knowles recall that his systems will be more complex and aggressive than Coombs/Barnes, which, sure. They always are, aren’t they?

To be sure, Knowles should be able to make use of a solid corner in Denzel Burke and, likely, #2 Cameron Brown, with All-B1G safety Ronnie Hickman adapting from his role as Bullet to free safety…but the question will be how quickly the Buckeyes’ run defense can adjust: even with space-eater Taron Vincent in the middle, without Haskell Garrett and Tyreke Smith up front this is a retooling defense that allowed over 5 yards a pop to Utah in the Rose Bowl.

So, writers:

1. Would YOU trust a graduate of Cornell?

2. Has there ever been a new defensive coordinator who WASN’T going to be more aggressive than his predecessor?

3. Will it work for Ohio State, or are there concerns in the run game too great to keep the Buckeyes unscathed through Penn State, Michigan State, and Michigan?

BoilerUp89: reads above paragraphs… “Lose at Every Opportunity” - how did I not think of that?!?

I don’t trust any Ivy Leaguers - sorry whichever OTE writers I’ve offended. I know at least one of you went to one of these schools. Former cruel joke Bob Diaco was not more aggressive than his predecessor. Ohio State will be better at stopping the run this season and the drop off along the O-line at MSU and Michigan will probably benefit them as well. Which is all fine and well for winning the East, but isn’t enough to stop the SEC rushing attacks.

Buffkomodo: BU89 is right. Them Ivy League one percenters are not to be trusted. Down with the patriarchy.

If you must insist, I must again poke holes in the 2022 Indiana football team because this scenario did take place. Following Charlton Warren’s departure, Tom Allen opted to take playcalling on defense back while hiring a DC. To me, this amounts to said scenario. God this is going to be a long season.

It will work for the Buckeyes. They just had a kid reclassify, make a cool million as a redshirt freshman, then transfer back home to Texas. They have the best team money can buy, and I don’t mean that in a negative light. It’s legit true. They’re going to reclaim their glory this year. Cut the check.

MNW: It’s a pain in the ass to write these Ohio State potluck previews because (1) godddddd do I just not care if their latest DB star is a super-5-star or just a mere 5-star, and (2) when “wow, they’ll only finish Top 25 in defense” is basically what we’re talking here, what’s the goddamn point?

That said! I am just kind of wing-and-a-prayer’ing it here, hoping that the 4-2-5 is going to leave the Buckeyes’ run-stuffers and question marks at linebacker exposed at the worst times. I’d say November 5 at Ryan Field, but I know better than that.

I would never trust a Cornell grad. Especially not...

BRT: I mean, I’d trust a graduate of their PhD program in history. Good folks, those! I wouldn’t trust any of them to coach defense, but if anyone wants to throw six figures at me to try out the theory, I’d give it a go.

Ivy League schools are weird– you definitely meet the rich, entitled assholes that create the stereotype, but they are also full of truly brilliant, creative, cool people. You all can decide which I am.

Harvard people really are the worst though. Except GF3, but that’s only because he wasn’t there long enough to become truly insufferable, only a little bit insufferable.

I do not care about OSU’s defense at all, I’m sorry.

Dead Read: BRT, a Cornell grad whom I trust implicitly, has a good point. If you told me that Ivy Leaguers suck, I’d agree that you have a point. If you told me that Ivy Leaguers are fascinating and civic-minded people, I’d also have cause to agree. The experience is an incubator. Some people blossom into wild roses, others become corpse flowers.

Having said all that, fuck Harvard…and Princeton, too.

I refuse to spend any time fretting about the Buckeye defense. They will be fine.

RU in VA: The only person I know that graduated from Cornell is a fictional character from an NBC comedy series. I trust him more than someone that went to Penn State, but not by much.

Rutgers is trapped in this same aggressiveness death spiral. Every new coordinator is going to save the world or develop some unique wrinkle only to have OSU drop 50 on them in the first half.

Ohio State has enough dumbass boosters to hand over their checks. They’ll run the table.

Kind of…: Shifting to a 4-2-5 seems like setting yourself up for another Purdue Harbor. It IS aggression based so that bit of BS is actually probably true this time. Players are supposed to play instinctively. But you can get carved up over the middle (only 2 LBs, duh).

The Buckeyes will have some dominant performances against overmatched defenses that make their dumber fans think their D is on par with Alabama. But the reason Okie State’s Fiesta Bowl win was so exhilarating last year was because they spotted Notre Dame a 28-7 lead, and Jack Coan, nice as he is, won’t be lighting up the NFL anytime soon.

misdreavus79: Well for the first year or so at my job I had no choice but to trust a graduate of Cornell (three, in fact), so you know, I’m over that now. Should Ryan Day trust a graduate of Cornell? Well, he fired everyone else so I guess he also has no choice! Also why aren’t people giving Day the same level of vitriol for getting rid of coaches that didn’t do their jobs as Franklin gets for firing Kirk Ciarrocca even though Ciarrocca helped set records at Penn State, in the bad way?

You know, now that I think about it, every new coordinator at Penn State since the dead guy died has indeed said they’re going to be more aggressive, but, like, they actually have been. In a weird way, that leads to me being excited to see how Manny Diaz’s defenses will outdo Brent Pry’s.

I don’t expect Ohio State’s defense to be “fixed” from the jump, but just like last season, and every year before it, by the time we reach December, Ohio State will be firing on all cylinders. The Big Ten has decided that Penn State/Ohio State is going to be the mirror to Alabama/LSU (i.e. played in a certain weekend in October), so it’s unlikely Penn State gets the green version of the defense. But at the same time, it might not matter.

WSR: What are we trusting the Cornell grad to do? I need to know before I make a decision here.

When Joe Rossi took over from Robb Smith in 2018, he didn’t make the defense more aggressive. He simplified the LB reads and got guys to stop playing on skates. It worked. A defense so atrocious that it made a Scott Frost look like a competent coach turned itself around within a matter of weeks to beat wisconsin.

I don’t tend to bet against tOSU doing whatever they want. Their talent is a bit ridiculous, so if their football brains work halfway as well as I think they will this could be a terrifying upgrade.

Poll

Would YOU trust a Cornell graduate?

  • 1%
    With my defense? No.
    (1 vote)
  • 7%
    With my defense? Yes.
    (5 votes)
  • 2%
    With my history? No.
    (2 votes)
  • 7%
    With my history? Yes.
    (5 votes)
  • 13%
    No and no.
    (9 votes)
  • 4%
    No and yes.
    (3 votes)
  • 1%
    Yes and no.
    (1 vote)
  • 11%
    Yes and yes.
    (8 votes)
  • 29%
    I lost track. Which one lets us make fun of BRT and/or Dead Read?
    (20 votes)
  • 19%
    God, this is just MNW preparing for DWT;WT polls again, isn’t it?
    (13 votes)
67 votes total Vote Now

Poll

In 2022, Ohio State’s defense will...

  • 26%
    Be back to Death Star-ish proportions. 12-0, here they come. Sigh.
    (23 votes)
  • 46%
    Let them down once, but generally be very good.
    (41 votes)
  • 22%
    Actively cost them a couple games—maybe including a Harboring?
    (20 votes)
  • 4%
    Be an outright liability.
    (4 votes)
88 votes total Vote Now