I have to be honest with you, I'm not sure what to think about the 2012 Ohio State Buckeyes. The first three games I was willing to overlook some troubling patterns, but after yesterday you almost have to say that this team is who it is, because the same things keep coming up, over and over again...poor tackling, unfocused play, and with the exception of the last three quarters of the Miami game, they've played down to their competition the whole season.
I have a split view on this. Part of me looks at the record and see 4-0, and then across the landscape of the B1G and thinks OSU is head and shoulders above everyone. But the other part of me thinks that an uninspired effort for a half or three quarters will mean the Bucks will get stomped by somebody come conference play, regardless of how bad the rest of the conference looks to be.
Either way, it's kind of bittersweet, no matter how you look at it. A symphony of bittersweet. A Bittersweet Symphony...
I can't change, I can't change
But I'm here in my mind
I am here in my mind
And I'm a million different people
from one day to the next
I can't change my mind
No, no, no, no, no, no, no
I can't change
I can't change it
Blue Chip Stocks:
The Fact That OSU Is 4-0: I like to think that I'm more of an optimist than a pessimist when it comes to the Buckeyes. I agree that yesterday was as unsatisfying a win as I can remember...but it was a win, and Ohio State is only one of three unbeaten teams in the conference. The other two? Northwestern and Minnesota. Of all the big time teams in the B1G, OSU has been the only one to take care of their non-conference business. It hasn't been pretty at times, but they've gotten the job done.
Jordan Hall, RB: Hall continues to impress as he works his way back from his foot injury, and 105 yard day was just what the doctor ordered. It looked like there was a deliberate choice to somewhat limit Braxton Miller's carries and focus more on Hall getting the ball, and it worked out well. He only had 17 carries, but averaged over 6 yards per clip.
Braxton Miller, QB: Miller wasn't as involved in the running game, as he had only 11 carries on the day. But he had two nifty TD runs, and didn't turn the ball over. I'm not looking for Miller to break a 75 yard run or pass on every possession, but he does need to become more consistent. In the third quarter, the offense couldn't get out of their own way, and that largely falls on his shoulders. Dynamic player, but inconsistent one.
Special Teams: What in the hell was that punt formation that lead to UAB's only touchdown? I think it's called the 'Terrible' formation. As in "okay guys, 4th down. Line up in the Terrible formation. We want to let them block it and make them feel like they can play with us. On one." Seriously, it was almost like OSU tried to see if they could be that bad, and they were. There was such a gap in the line that it looked like UAB got to the punter damn near before the ball did. Terrible. But that's not all. How about the onside/pooch kick UAB executed to open the second half. It was more an infield pop up, but the effect was the same--OSU looked totally unprepared and UAB made a great play. If it's any consolation, the entire B1G is infected with bad special teams play this year.
Buy: Urban Meyer's Temperament After The Game. I was able to see about 15 minutes of the post game press conference, and you could tell he was as unsatisfied as anyone over the win. Yet he wasn't all dickish about it to the press like Mark Dantonio was yesterday (he went all Drew 'next question' Rosenhaus in his post game presser). I'm glad I just cheer for the Buckeyes and don't play for them. I think this week of practice is going to be brutal.
Sell: The Inability For The Defense To Get Off The Field On 3rd Down. Seriously, this is becoming a huge deal. They were able to get away with it against teams like UAB, because UAB sucks and shot themselves in the foot as much as OSU did. But how many big 3rd and long plays did OSU give up?
Sell: Tackling. For the first couple weeks of the season, I was willing to give the Silver Bullets some slack--it's early, still getting into game form, etc. But after four weeks of watching missed tackle after missed tackle, it's now officially a troubling pattern. Part of the reason the Bucks can't get off the field on third down is their inability to make a tackle in the open field. If the first guy that makes contact makes the tackle, those long first and third quarter drives don't take place.
Buy: The Ability To Bear Down And Get It Done When They Have To. I don't like the inconsistent play at all, but it seems that when OSU knows they need to score or make a stop, they do. I don't like the level of competition that they're doing this against (they should have beaten all these teams like a drum) but they can do it, and that might come in handy against a Michigan State or Michigan. Hey, silver linings and all.
So the Bucks end conference play undefeated, albeit with some nagging questions as they head towards their tilt with Michigan State. I would be worried that MSU would run them off the field, but then I watched a good part of MSU's non-conference schedule, and I don't see that happening. OSU needs to clean up a few things, but I still like their chances going forward.