In 2012, the Ohio State Buckeyes were a very good, if at times a very flawed team. I would argue the thing that frustrated fans more than anything would be that OSU would play like world beaters for two or even three quarters, and then take kind of a mental vacation, allowing inferior teams to hang with OSU much longer than they should have.
We saw a lot of the same in their home opener yesterday – a sizzling first quarter, a fair amount of 'meh' after that, and just enough offense and defense to keep Buffalo at arm's length. But the reasons for yesterday's letdowns weren't necessarily 2012's reasons, yet they were still a bit frustrating, if not concerning moving forward.
And even though we saw a 20 point win, and we saw some very encouraging things, we also saw some things that could go from 'problematic' to 'a big friggin' deal' in the coming weeks. A 20 point win is a 20 point win, but it wasn't the complete win some of us were hoping for.
Because you can't always get what you want, isn't that right, Mr. Jagger?
No, you can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometime you find
You get what you need
Your SMR of Very Little Defensive Depth follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Jordan Hall, RB: With Carlos Hyde out for the first three games due to a suspension and Ohio State wanting to limit the wear and tear on Braxton Miller, the bulk of the running game would fall on enigmatic senior Jordan Hall. Enigmatic not because of an aloof or distant personality, but more because he's been a bit star crossed since he arrived in Columbus. He was touted as a big play guy that never really busted any big plays, and every time it seemed he had an opportunity to take a prominent role in the offense, he either didn't seize it (2011) or got hurt (2012). Yesterday, Hall had another opportunity, and he made the absolute most of it. 159 yards rushing and two long touchdown runs (49, 37) later, Hall has put a kung fu death grip on the starting RB slot. Suddenly, we're not talking about the ballyhooed freshmen nearly as much as we were just a few days ago.
Kenny Guiton, QB: If you didn't see the game, and then you look at Guiton's stat line (1/1, 21 yards, 1 TD; 1 carry for 6 yards) you're thinking...this is stupid, Ted. And while you're right regarding 99% of the stuff I write, hear me out. It's the third quarter, Ohio State's lead is down to 10 points, and the drive that Guiton came in on was one where Ohio State was struggling to move the ball. Miller had been sacked and fumbled the ball, which Buffalo recovered at the OSU one, but the play was nullified by a Bulls penalty. It had taken them over 10 plays to get to the 50, and Miller had cramped up twice and had to come out of the game. When Guiton came in for good on that drive, things just seemed to click, and five plays later, Guiton hit Chris Fields on a 21 yard strike. It's 37-20, and OSU never looked back. Some people were wondering why OSU voted a backup quarterback captain – well, that's why, right there.
Braxton Miller, QB: When Miller was on, he was en fuego. He started out 10/11 passing with two TD's by the end of the first quarter, and it felt like OSU was going to hang 70 on Buffalo. The Bills, not the Bulls. But then Miller started exhibiting some of his bad habits from last year –he didn't read the run/pass option as well as he could have, he sailed some passes, and made a horrible throw that Bulls LB Khalil Mack intercepted and returned for a TD. Ohio State's defense stalled out in the second quarter, and Kenny Guiton came in and finished off the third quarter scoring drive. He seemed a little hesitant to tuck it and run, but the flip side to that was that he showed a lot more poise in the pocket, and his mechanics, for the most part, seemed a lot smoother than a year ago. Overall, it was a good opening game for the guy we like to call XBRAX 360.
Devin Smith and Chris Fields, WR: Like Miller, Smith and Fields both started off strong. Smith's first catch was a 47 yard touchdown, and he made a very nice adjustment to get to the ball. FIelds had a very good game early, but as Miller seemed to cool off, these guys disappeared. And Philly Brown was really a non-factor in the passing game. But in his defense, he was wide open two or three times, and Miller's passes throws were high. But for all the inconsistency we saw, we also saw a lot more talent, and a lot more potential. If this was week six or seven I'd be more concerned, but some rust is to be expected in week one.
The Ohio State Training Staff: This seems petty, but when your top offensive and defensive player suffer from cramps, and they get so bad that they need to come out of the game for significant periods of time, that's a problem. Maybe they were the only two guys that had issues, and maybe this seems a bit harsh, but cramps are easily preventable. Let's get it together. HYDRATION 101, SON.
Taylor Decker, T: Decker had a tough assignment, drawing LB Khalil Mack on his side a good portion of the day. Early on, Decker (and the rest of the OSU line, for that matter) were acquitting themselves very well. But come the second quarter, Mack and the Bulls figured something out, and Decker struggled for the rest of the day.
Armani Reeves, CB: Buffalo figured out the best chance they had for success was to match up their best receiver, Alex Neutz, on Reeves. Neutz and QB Joe Licata played like it was a seven on seven drill for a good part of the day, as Neutz caught eight passes for 98 yards and a TD. To say Reeves struggled would be an insult to people who struggle, but Bradley Roby should be coming back next week. So yeah, this shouldn't be a long term problem.
Buy: Ohio State's special teams looked much better. All facets of the special teams looked better, and it was their best all around game as a unit in over a year. OSU went 2 for 2 on two point conversions, Drew Basil nailed his only FG attempt, punt and kick coverage units were good, and although the new punter Cameron Johnston didn't boom every punt 240 yards, he did very well.
Sell: Philly Brown's two muffed catches on punt returns. Fortunately, it didn't cost OSU anything, as Buffalo couldn't capitalize, but that's just flat out unacceptable.
Buy: The playmaking potential of Dontre Wilson. The first time the freshman speed demon touched the ball, he went 18 yards, and was a lucky diving tackle away from housing it for 70 yards. Wislon reminds me of Ted Ginn, Jr., in that every time he touches the ball, he has the potential to take it to the barn. And he's going to, more than once this year.
Sell: Wilson's fumble. It seemed to be the catalyst that started The Great Second Quarter Unraveling. OSU was up 23-0, and just got the ball at the Bulls 42 thanks to an interception by Ron Tanner (who??). A score here and it's 30-0, and more than likely the rout is on. But Wilson's fumble was recovered by Buffalo, and three plays later Buffalo was in the end zone. Ohio State struggled for a good part of the second and third quarter, Buffalo got back into the game, it it turned out to be a closer game that it should have been. It's not Wilson's fault that OSU started to unravel, but this should be a solid reinforcement to hold on to the football.
Buy: The athleticism of the young defense. There were several plays where some of the young players or first year starters made some great plays. Noah Spence had a monster sack off the edge, showing tremendous get off and speed around the edge. Curtis Grant looked good more often than not, Michael Bennett did a good job clogging the middle of the line, and Joey Bosa flashed some serious potential in limited snaps. The goal line stand was epic, as far as games against the MAC go, and came just when OSU needed it most.
Sell: Youth and athleticism being good enough. As good as the athletes Ohio State has along the front seven are, if they don't start playing as a cohesive unit consistently, this will be just an average defense. Natural athleticism can beat the Buffalo's of the world, but not the better teams of the Big Ten, and it won't beat the top level talent in other BCS conferences, either.
Tip O' The Cap Goes To:
This year on the SMR, we're going to add a section where we recognize a player from the other team, and give him a shout out.
Khalil Mack is a grown ass man, if I may borrow a phrase from Urban Meyer. Buffalo's Khalil Mack is one heck of a linebacker, and he almost singlehandedly got Buffalo back into the game. He was everywhere, registering 9 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a 45 yard interception return that got Buffalo within 23-13 in the second quarter. In the third quarter, with OSU leading 30-20, he blew up Miller in the backfield, forced a fumble, and Buffalo recovered on OSU's one. It was on the verge of becoming EXTREMELY uncomfortable in Columbus, but Buffalo was flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty on the play, negating the sack and fumble. Still, Khalil Mack is going to play on Sundays, and if he keeps it up, he is going to be a top 10 pick. Now that he's never ever ever playing Ohio State again, I'm going to love watching him play.
So week one is in the books, and OSU is right where we expected them to be at 1-0. When you separate the wheat from the chaff, there's a lot to like about this team, but there's a couple things that are a cause for concern. The offense is going to be really, really good, but depth on the defense is something that will be an issue if key guys like Ryan Shazier get hurt.
Let's just hope he drinks more Gatorade next week. Just sayin'.