When Urban Meyer was hired last November, the prevailing thought was that the defense would be the stable unit that kept OSU's head above water while Meyer installed his point a minute offense. The Meyer spread would be a lot of fun to watch...in 2013. But 2012 would be kind of a transition, and we needed to be patient.
7 games in, I think it's safe to say that most everyone is happy with the offense, with a couple exceptions. It's the defense that has struggled mightily at times, and it's been the offense that's been the stabilizing force that's kept the Buckeyes undefeated up to this point. And with the lackluster performance they turned in against the Indiana Hoosiers, one had to wonder if Luke Fickell and/or Everett Withers will be on staff next season.
With the evolution of things, at least this year, I am comfortable with the offense, but the defense causes me to go numb. Comfortably...numb.
When I was a child, I had a fever
My hands felt just like two balloons
Now I've got that feeling once again
I cannot explain, you would not understand
This is not how I am
I have become comfortably numb
Your point a minute SMR follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Braxton Miller, QB: All the Heisman talk this last week was rightly about West Virginia QB Geno Smith, who then promptly went out and got blown out by Texas Tech. Miller used the opportunity to have another magnificent game, running for 149 yards and a score, and throwing for 211 and 2 scores. He also had a LOLWUT interception in the red zone which Indiana converted into six. It seems that whenever OSU needs a play, Miller delivers. And I'm not going to be as critical on him with his passing game, as his receivers dropped several catchable passes last night. Miller is definitely on the short list for Heisman, and I don't think he'll win it, but he should be invited to New York.
Carlos Hyde, RB: When Jordan Hall got hurt, both before and during the season, it was felt that OSU's running game would really suffer. Yeah, not so much. In the last two weeks, Hyde has really emerged as a fast, powerful back that can really take the pressure off Miller. If you need four yards, he'll get you five, but he also has the breakaway speed to rip a 40 or 50 yarder, as he had 6 six carries of more than 10 yards. He also caught a shovel pass from Kenny Guiton for a score.
Zach Boren, LB...wait, what?: Boren is one of Meyer's guys, and with the injuries to the linebacker corps, the staff approached Boren and asked him to become a linebacker. On a night where defense was optional, Boren acquitted himself well, gathering 8 tackles on a night where just about every other defender took the night off. His performance was somewhat pedestrian were he a regular starting LB, but switching from offense to defense and then playing a significant amount of time is a testament to his selflessness and leadership.
Devin Smith, WR: Smith had a good game, but it could've been great to memorable. He only had two catches all night, but both were electrifying TD grabs. He should've had four catches for 4 TD's, however, and they were big drops on very catchable balls thrown by Miller. The first drop was on the goal line and forced OSU to settle for a field goal and a 10-0 first quarter lead, and it seemed to simultaneously lift Indiana and deflate Ohio State. If you're going to be big time, you have to make those catches. Have to.
WR's Philly Brown and Jake Stoneburner: Both Stoneburner and Brown had big catches for the Buckeyes on Saturday, and their emergence couldn't have come at a better time. Both had drive sustaining first down grabs at important points of the game, and Brown opened the scoring with a 10 yard end around run.
Whatever The Defense Is Doing: This was not expected. Ohio State's defense has gone through several evolutions this year--slow starts that turned into decent performances, bad tackling that seemed to get better, and prior to the Nebraska game you got the feeling that the defense was slowly getting better, and close to being the Silver Bullets we expect. That illusion is now gone, probably for good. With back to back big yardage, big point performances against Nebraska and now Indiana, the OSU defense is a liability, and it probably will be for the rest of the season. There are too few playmakers on that side of the ball, and the Buckeyes will need to outscore teams to win. In a down year in the B1G, that's doable, but it is unfamiliar territory for fans accustomed to a suffocating defense. When you lead by 18 points in the fourth quarter, it should be over. No sacks and 10 penalties. Seriously?
Special Teams: Yes, great blocked punt for a TD. Let's get that out of the way. It was a big play that turned out to be the difference, and Bradley Roby made another big play. But you CANNOT allow your punt to be blocked. You CANNOT miss a 35 yard field goal, and that was a Shankapotamus kick if ever I've seen one. You CANNOT allow a team to recover an onside kick against you. All of those things allowed Indiana to hang around, and they damn near pulled out a miracle win. And all of this is directly on Meyer. He is the defacto special teams coach, and the special teams is a trainwreck. Had this been any other team in the B1G, with maybe the exception of Illinois, Ohio State would've lost this game.
Zach Boren at LB: One of the reasons I made Boren a blue chip stock is because I thought it was important to recognize his team first, do anything to win mentality, even if that meant him converting from fullback to linebacker. I want to make it clear that this is not about Zach Boren the player, nor is it about his performance as a linebacker last night. Okay? Good. So, to continue...what does that say about the current linebackers on the roster that moving Boren became a necessity? Pardon me while I go all arrogant OSU fan for a moment here, but...this is THE Ohio State University. We don't rebuild, we re-load. Whoever the 'next guy up' is, at whatever position, should be, in theory, good enough to start damn near anywhere else in the country. Ohio State has produced some of the best linebackers that college football has seen in recent years, and this unit has been, historically, the identity of the defense. What the hell has happened to a unit that in recent years has produced guys like Matt Wilhelm, AJ Hawk, James Laurainitis, Brian Rolle, Ross Homan, and so on? It's either coaching, recruiting, or both. FIX IT.
Buy: Winning Ugly Is Better Than Losing. Everyone agrees that this was an ugly defensive performance, but at the end of the day OSU left Bloomington 7-0, and that's the most important statistic of all. The good news is that OSU can outscore anyone in the conference, and could probably hang 50 or 60 on a lot of teams. However, good offenses can probably hang 50 on this defense. WELCOME TO THE BIG XII EVERYONE! WOOOOOOOOOOOO!!
Sell: These 52-49 games. I want something more like 52-10, 52-20. Indiana is much better, but this is a game that OSU should have taken control of early, and ended by halftime. Look, these games are going to happen every now and then, like the 2006 Michigan-OSU game. But those were two great teams with two great offenses. Sometimes that happens. This should not happen to an OSU defense.
Buy: Pouring It On. I still love the fact that Meyer, at least on offense, has shown no inclination to slow down the frenetic pace of the offense. I mean, with the defense in the state that it's in right now, he needs to, don't get me wrong, but I think we've seen more 50 point performances in one season than we have in the last 6 or 7 combined.
Sell: Penalties. 10 penalties are unacceptable. On defense, they helped sustain Indiana drives, especially those personal foul penalties on the same play in the fourth quarter. That turned into a 30 yard gain for Indiana that resulted in a TD, and made this game far too uncomfortable.
But hey, all things considered, I'd rather be 7-0 than anything. And that's where we find ourselves this Sunday morning, 7-0 with an offense that is as potent as any in the nation. Things could be much worse. We could be Illinois fans.