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 42-41 defeat to the Georgia Bulldogs in the College Football Playoff semifinal.
C.J. Stroud is one of the three best quarterbacks in Ohio State history
Throughout his time as Ohio State’s starting quarterback, C.J. Stroud has bizarrely, and unfairly, never been accepted by a certain vocal portion of the Ohio State fanbase. I’ve never been able to identify exactly why that is (although I have my suspicions), but in what will prove to be his final as a Buckeye, he showed that he absolutely belongs in the conversation for best QB in program history.
I have said since 2019 that, ultimately, that title belongs to Justin Fields, and I stand by that, but after I allow the fog of this game clear, I think there is a pretty likely chance that he slots in directly behind his predecessor. I think that OSU’s last Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith deserves to be in the discussion as well, but in the decade and a half since he played, the game and position have changed so much, that I’m not sure how to evaluate that.
J.T. Barrett might arguably have the best career of any Buckeye quarterback, but his skillset doesn’t warrant his inclusion. Terrelle Pryor might be the most physically gifted QB to ever wear the scarlet and gray, but his time beyond center (and how his career in Columbus ended) doesn’t stack up.
Obviously, I’m not counting any quarterbacks from before the invention of the forward pass, and maybe Art Schlichter or someone else I’m forgetting deserves to be in the running; but right now, it’s Justin Fields at No. 1 with C.J. Stroud — or maybe Troy Smith — at No. 2.
If Ryan Day calls plays like that all the time, the Buckeyes will never not be the best offense in the country.
I’ve been on (leading?) the Ryan-Day-Should-Give-Up-Play-Calling train for over a year now for a variety of reasons. Many of them are logistical, having to do with the other responsibilities of a head coach, not being able to fully see what the defense is doing from the sideline, and more.
But the other part of it has been that I think Ryan gets in his own way far too often to be entrusted with that specific responsibility. Whether it’s trying to prove a point about toughness, trying to play nine-dimensional chess when checkers would do, or being too stubborn, it just feels like far too often, he lets something other than the guys on the field determine if the offense plays to its potential on any given day.
Then there are games like this. Was it a perfectly called game? No, of course not; but playing the best defense in the country will do that to you. Was it miles better than what we saw most of the season, especially against Michigan? Damn straight.
So, if Day is going to keep the play-calling responsibilities (which I have resigned myself to accepting until he actually pulls the trigger) then he has to figure out how to replicate this creativity, this precision, this fun every game. No more coasting on talent, Ryan, that shit won’t fly anymore. It is not acceptable to only have games like this every few years in the playoff because you are smarting from being embarrassed.
This type of playcalling performance must be the standard, because if it is, Ohio State will never not be the best offense in the country... I mean, they already are — at least statistically — but we all know they can be so much better. Call plays like this and you will have the best players in the country wanting to be a Buckeye (even more than they already do). Call plays like this with that type of roster and you will be an absolute offensive Deathstar.
Or, you can settle for being an underachieving unit that gets by on talent because the head coach can’t be bothered to get in his bag for 95% of the games. Eventually, if you miss on a few recruits or some players don’t live up to expectations, the talent won’t be there to coast on, and it could be a precipitous fall from there.
The secondary is a major problem and I’m not sure that the current coaches are able to fix it
Let’s be 100% clear here, the Ohio State defense lost this game. Day, Stroud, and company did just about everything that you could hope that they would against the best defense in the country, but far too often, the defense got absolutely toasted. Whether it was a safety not getting deep enough or a corner not getting his hands up, despite being in position, a DB falling down, or a linebacker missing a tackle in the backfield, something stupid always seemed to happen when OSU needed a stop the most... and more often than not, that stupidity was emanating from the secondary.
I know that there are a lot of people in Buckeye Nation (and some that write for LGHL) that want to get rid of both Perry Eliano and Tim Walton (and maybe even Jim Knowles), but I’m not sure making massive coaching changes for a second year in a row helps all that much, but this has been a recurring theme for this team for quite a while — save for 2019 when Jeff Hafley was in charge,
I’ll have to go back and watch the game again (or maybe I just won’t), but I feel like the defensive line mostly played tremendous football, and I think the linebackers were mostly solid, but the safeties and corners? Woof.
Part of that is poor coaching. Part of that is poor execution (which can at least partially be attributed to poor coaching). Part of that is regular recruiting failures by pretty much every defensive coaching staff under Day.
Sure, Sonny Styles was the No. 12 player in 2022 and JK Johnson was No. 50 in 2021, but beyond those two, do you know how many DBs that have signed with Ohio State have been in the top 100? Two: Jordan Hancock was No. 73 in 2021 and Calvin Simpson-Hunt was the No. 79 player when he signed two weeks ago.
For a program that not that long ago bragged about its secondary being the “Best In America” (RIP #BIA), how is that possible? Two top-50 guys and four top-100 DBs in five classes (yes I know the 2023 cycle isn’t technically over yet); that is flat-out embarrassing.
Obviously, I don’t put all of the recruiting failures on this coaching staff, but they certainly haven’t done anything to turn the tide. But what they have done is seemingly not much to prepare the current players that they inherited to play at the requisite level to keep up with either the defensive front or the entire offense.
I would say that Lathan Ransom has had a pretty solid season but beyond that... I’m struggling to come up with anyone else in the secondary that has been consistently reliable. Whether it is cornerbacks using their athleticism to keep pace with receivers only to have their technique fail them at the point of the catch or safeties routinely overcommitting and getting burned deep, that’s as much on the coaching as it is on the players and despite their impressive resumes, I haven’t seen much that has given me confidence in Eliano or Walton (especially Walton) being able to fix that moving forward.
If they can’t figure something out, I’m afraid we are going to be subjected to seeing elite offenses and sturdy defensive fronts routinely let down by ill-prepared secondaries time and time again, and I don’t know if I can handle that.
1) The targeting rule sucks. If the rule is designed to protect defenseless players and yet it doesn’t protect defenseless players, fix the rule.
2) I think not having Jaxon Smith-Njigba or TreVeyeon Henderson available for the entire game, and Miyan Williams, Cade Stover, and Marvin Harrison Jr. available for large portions of the game is a bad thing for an offense.
3) It was pretty clear that something was wrong with Stover on his last play, it looked to me like he might have landed oddly on his back, but having to go to the hospital during a game is always scary and I’m sending him all the best.
4) Similarly, I really hope Marv is ok long-term. He appeared to be doing fairly well (all things considered) on the sideline, but anytime you are (presumably) dealing with a concussion, you get nervous.