Ohio State fans live in the extremes, whether good or bad. As they say, we have no chill. So, I am going to give voice to those passionate opinions by running through my completely level-headed, not-at-all over-the-top, 100% unbiased takeaways from Saturday’s 54-10 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Iowa needs to give Kirk Ferentz an ultimatum to make offense changes or lose his job
Call me an old sap, but watching Saturday’s game made me feel a little sad for the Iowa defensive players. Despite giving up 47 points (the other seven were on a pick-six), that is a legitimately top-line defense and it was continually put in difficult positions by a defense that is horrifyingly inept. It really is unbelievable that after all of the decades that Kirk Ferentz has been at the helm in Iowa City that he has not been able to establish a tradition of, at least, offensive competence to complement his traditionally stingy defense.
Now, I know that much of the problem stems from Kirk elevating his own son from a very good offensive line coach to a middling offensive coordinator and running back/tight ends coach to a completely ineffectual OC and quarterbacks coach. Our Meredith Hein wrote a phenomenal article about the scourge of nepotism at Iowa last week, and it is clear that everybody in Hawkeye Nation understands the issue as well.
Of course, I understand how difficult the situation must be for Kirk; knowing that you have pissed away a potentially historic season because you have continued to pretend that your son is not completely out of his depth and getting worse by the minute has to be hard, both as a coach and as a father.
Athletic Director Gary Barta clearly doesn’t want to fire Kirk Ferentz, and Kirk Ferentz clearly doesn’t want to fire his son, but it is incumbent on Barta to force Kirk’s hand. The Iowa administration needs to tell Kirk that if he does not completely overhaul his offensive staff during the offseason (preferably sooner, but at this point, I can’t see Brian getting canned midseason), it will be the end of the head coach’s tenure in Iowa City.
I realize that it is tough to get exceptional offensive talent to play for the Hawkeyes, but they don’t need a juggernaut-level output to keep Iowa competitive; they just need competence, and if Kirk refuses to do what is so painfully obviously necessary, then Barta needs to find someone who will.
This game was the perfect example of why Ryan Day needs to let someone else to call offensive plays
I know y’all hate it when I bring this up, so I’m going to try to not belabor this point for too long, but Saturday was the perfect example of why Ryan Day the head coach should give Ryan Day the play caller’s responsibilities to someone else.
The second half showed how dominant the Ohio State offense can be against high-quality defenses with exceptional play designs that took advantage of weaknesses in the Hawkeye scheme and allowed C.J. Stroud and his wide receivers to embarrass one of the best defenses in the country.
But the first half also showed how Day can struggle to diverge from his predetermined game plan and how he is seemingly incapable of making adjustments mid-game. He can obviously make them at halftime, but in the course of actual game action, Day has not shown the ability (or perhaps willingness) to deviate from his plan, at least not in the first half.
Obviously, it didn’t ultimately matter on Saturday against Iowa, but in the College Football Playoff against Georgia or Alabama or Tennessee, it could matter; it could also matter significantly against TTUN in The Game. And that’s what this is all about, being the best team possible when the games matter the most.
Because of how much better the Buckeyes are than nearly every team that they play, they don’t actually have that many opportunities to face off against teams that can truly stifle their offense. So, we get lulled into a false sense of security as OSU routinely puts up 60 points against overmatched teams. That is obviously what they should do against also-ran defenses, but — in my admittedly unexpert opinion — Ryan Day more often than not struggles to get into a play-calling rhythm against top-level defenses. I know, I know, the 2021 Sugar Bowl against Clemson.
But, beyond that, there often is nearly no flow in his play calling against great defenses and it seems like he comes in with one game plan and refuses to make substantive changes when the defense does something that he wasn’t expecting; again, at least until halftime. Gus Johnson even mentioned during Saturday’s broadcast how much he appreciates Day’s adjustments... in the second half. Gus wasn’t trolling, but it perfectly illustrated my point. These changes need to be made in real-time, not halfway through the game.
Iowa brought far more pressure on Saturday than it had the rest of the season and threw out different coverage looks than what OSU was expecting, but instead of adjusting and getting the ball out more quickly or taking advantage of the defensive aggression with slants or mesh routes, Day stuck to his preconceived game plan in the first half and it led to the No. 1 offense in the country coming up with three field goals and one touchdown in the first half.
Again, I am going to say this because people make assumptions when I don’t (and often even when I do), but I believe that Ryan Day is an absolutely elite play-caller, and if that was his only responsibility, I don’t think that there would be anyone better in the country. However, that’s not his only responsibility, he is also the head coach of the team, he can’t possibly be as focused on calling plays, making adjustments, and putting his offense in the best possible position to score with everything else that he has to do in-game and during the week.
One of the few truly inspired decisions that Urban Meyer made late in his Ohio State tenure was to bring in Day and turn the offense over to him. That move paid immense dividends almost immediately because it gave someone the ability to focus solely on making the most out of the offense. Whether it is Kevin Wilson (is he really the reason that substantive adjustments are made at halftime rather than in-game?) or someone else, I truly think it’s time for Day to try it as well.
I also fundamentally believe that whoever calls plays on both offense and defense needs to be up in the press box in order to be able to have the best view of what the opposing units are running; there’s a reason that the All-22 film is what’s used to break down film, and the same principle applies in-game as well.
We, as fans, all suck
After writing my third “Ryan Day should give up play calling” article in the past 10 months, I am going to acknowledge that, as a whole (and often as individuals), we Ohio State fans are an absolutely miserable collection of human beings — especially on game days.
In terms of college football, we have it about as good as anyone not rooting for Alabama. Our team is tied (with the Tide) for the second most wins all-time, they are tied for the most Heisman Trophies in history, they bring in one of the best recruiting classes every cycle, and are in the mix for a CFP berth practically every year; whatever issues we have with the team and the program are truly the most first-world problems of college football.
Heaven forbid that I admit that a Dr. Pepper Fansville commercial gets it right, but the new one where the guy tries to convince his horrified friends that it’s ok to not be devastated by not making the College Football Playoff is actually a really good lesson for anyone who gets overly invest in the Buckeyes, college football, or really anything.
Twitter is always a cesspool no matter the day or self-selected social media silo that you find yourself in, but it gets really ugly and really nasty on Saturdays on #BuckeyeTwitter — the number of people I mute from the LGHL account every week is staggering. We watch college football to be entertained, to enjoy the competition, to forget about the drama and stress of the outside world, we shouldn’t let our favorite team not being absolutely perfect on every play get in the way of that.
In the words of the hero that we neither knew that we needed or truly deserve, “Guys, it’s just a game; a bunch of kids with a ball ... Maybe there’s more to life.”
I’m going to be writing about Dr. Pepper, proximity, and perspective a bit more later this week, so crack open a cold one and get ready for that.