The 2017 season isn’t officially over-over yet, since Georgia and Alabama still have to play
the SEC Championship Game, er, National Title, but for Ohio State fans, the season is finished, and the look towards next year can really begin in earnest.
It’s been a weird season, with an especially weird final week. There was another convincing victory over a big-time opponent in a major bowl, unexpected bowl dominance from the Big Ten, a controversial Playoff field, and more weirdness.
You probably have a bunch of thoughts! I do too. Let me share a few as we close the book on this year, and move into the future:
- Look, I get why an Ohio State fan might feel underwhelmed or frustrated, but let’s remember some important context first. The 2017 Ohio State Buckeyes went 12-2, winning at least 11 games for the sixth consecutive year. They won the Cotton Bowl, and beat three Top-10 opponents this season, including the Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl champions. They were one of the best teams in the country, on a per-play basis, and demolished nearly everybody in the Big Ten. They also beat Michigan again. I can’t tell you how to fan, but I will say that objectively, that’s a pretty darn good season!
- To me, this also underscores the importance of plain ol’ luck in college football. To win a national title, not only do you need to recruit a ton of elite players, hire good coaches, develop raw talent, etc, etc...you need to be lucky. Lucky with injuries. Lucky with avoiding meltdowns that happen with teams of 20 year old dudes on limited practice time. Lucky that those meltdowns happen during opportune weeks. If you’re consistently excellent, eventually, you hope to be a position to win it all. The Buckeyes got a little lucky in 2014, and have been unlucky the last few seasons, as far as timing their mistakes. These things happen.
- Also, it’s probably worth mentioning just one last time...how the hell did that Iowa game happen? I saw Ari Wasserman tweet last night that all things considered, the Iowa might be the worst in Ohio State history, given the margin, the quality of both teams, etc. I think he might be right. At the very least, it’s the worst loss in 20 years, and it’s going to look even weirder as time goes on.
- The Big Ten had a really impressive bowl season! That’s usually not how things work, given that the conference typically plays most of these games on the road, and has been slotted into some really terrible matchups in recent memory. That wasn’t the case this year (not having a team in the playoff probably helped, tbh), and they also caught a few lucky bounces. I don’t think that means the committee made the wrong choice with Ohio State/Alabama (why the hell should a Purdue or Northwestern game, two teams that didn’t play Ohio State, matter in that decision?), but it’s a nice accomplishment all the same. The Big Ten was the deepest league in the country this season, a welcome change from recent memory. That’s what making a bunch of good coaching hires will do for you.
- Also, Michigan. Lol.
- Okay, let’s actually talk about Michigan real quick. I’ve been a big proponent of Michigan being excellent next season, and they may very well be excellent. They’re returning nearly their entire roster, they’ve recruited at an elite level, and they have one of the best defensive coordinators in the sport. But that Outback Bowl, where the Wolverines were outcoached by...Will Muschamp, and lost to a flatly inferior squad, really gives me some pause.
- Forget the quarterbacks for a second. Michigan will probably get at least above average QB play next year. But despite all their quality recruiting, Michigan’s offensive line has not been nearly as good as it should be. Their power run game hasn’t developed like it should. And they have not been able to hold leads or maintain execution against good teams over four quarters, leading them to blow games they shouldn’t. Part of that has to be on their coaching staff. And while they’re going to have a talented 2018 team, they’re facing a really tough schedule.
- I’m not saying Michigan is going to suck, or that Harbaugh is awful (or that he’s the sixth best coach in the Big Ten even, like I saw on Twitter a few times). But perhaps my faith in the Wolverines was a bit misplaced. They need to take a big step forward next season.
- Will Ohio State? I’m not sure.
- I think this will be a fun offseason to be an Ohio State fan. You can throw whatever barbs you want at Michigan (or basically any other Big Ten rival) and there really isn’t anything they can say back, and you also have a big empty canvass to project your hopes and dreams for the offense. Frustrated with a read-option focused rushing attack that struggled to pass the ball downfield? Maybe you’ll have a team quarterbacked by strong armed Dwayne Haskins, who would force a different look. Or maybe you get Joe Burrow, or even Tate Martell, who offer different twists on what we’ve seen the last few years.
- There are question marks, for sure (defensive end depth, offensive line depth, linebackers), but there’s also oodles of young talent at wideout, tight end and running back. You can imagine whatever you’d like for the next few months.
- I imagine we’ll be talking about the Playoff this offseason a lot, too.
- I get the frustration. UCF pretty clearly got screwed, never even cracking the CFP Top 10 despite winning a good league, then bodying a good Auburn team. And now we’re stuck with an SEC/SEC title game, a scenario the Playoff was created, in part, to explicitly avoid. Some stuff the committee said it valued, like playing difficult non-conference schedules, was in fact, not so valued. That’s all a bummer.
- I don’t know if expanding the playoff to eight teams is the best solution (without expanding roster sizes or changing redshirt rules, it probably isn’t), but I get why people are clamoring for it. More than anything, I hope that before this contract ends, I hope we get some real diversity on the committee. More people with G5 ties. More stat-heads. More people who are not ADs or former coaches. Let’s get some very clearly defined criteria and then actually try to stick with it, rather than spending the season trying to dissect conflicting rationale with talmudic distinctions.
- The system we have right now isn’t fair. Maybe someday we’ll have something that is. But college football ain’t ever been fair, not since Walter Camp was trying to delay rules reform to benefit Yale. It wasn’t fair before the Sanity Code. It wasn’t fair when Texas or Nebraska could sign 50 kids a recruiting class. It wasn’t fair in the BCS. And it probably won’t be fair after tweaks are made in the future.
- I’m open to talk about those all Summer. Beats the hell out of fretting about satellite camps.