Friday Skull Session

By poguemahone on September 24, 2010 at 6:00a

 If you're wondering what's obstructing forward progress on a nine-game conference slate in the brand new, 12-team Big Ten, here's your (painfully obvious) answer: $$$$$$$$. As anyone who follows the money in college football knows, athletic departments make bank on home games, and in the proposed new schedule, each Big Ten team would play five conference road dates. That leaves seven games on the schedule at home, if - and only if - each non-conference game is at home. This will frequently not be the case for teams like Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State, among others; the Buckeyes have home-and-homes lined up with heavy hitters like Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia Tech, while Michigan et al. have newly-dry ink on lucrative home-and-home contracts with Notre Dame.

 While we wring our hands over our 2nd-ranked Buckeyes' lackluster special teams play, Michigan may be starting a kid Rich Rodriguez met in the parking lot after a game in the very near future. Kicker, of course, isn't actually one of many positions that lack depth on Michigan's present roster, but with starting K Brendan Gibbons' obvious raw nature and yet another walk-on, Seth Broekhuizen, struggling, the Wolverines are getting desperate. Yet another transfer on the defensive side of the ball, Anthony LaLota, certainly doesn't help matters.

 In the interest of fairness, Michigan and Ohio State are not alone in special teams suckitude, as Adam Rittenberg details:

  • Iowa had a punt blocked deep in its own territory, setting up an Arizona touchdown. The Hawkeyes later allowed a 100-yard kick return for another Wildcats touchdown.
  • Wisconsin surrendered a 97-yard kick return for a touchdown against Arizona State and nearly gave up another before Shelton Johnson tripped up return man Kyle Middlebrooks at the 1-yard line as the second quarter expired.
  • Minnesota claimed a 14-13 lead against USC midway through the third quarter, only to relinquish it 12 seconds later when USC's Robert Woods raced 97 yards to the end zone on the ensuing kickoff.
  • Michigan had a punt blocked and missed a field goal, making the Wolverines 1 for 5 on field goal attempts this season.
  • Ohio State crushed Ohio but still had a punt blocked. It was the latest special-teams error for the Buckeyes, who had a field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown in the opener against Marshall and surrendered both a kick return touchdown and a punt return touchdown against Miami in Week 2.

Why is special teams play so dangerously inept across the conference? Is it really just a lack of good kickers? Put your thoughts in the comments. 

 The Dispatch's Ken Gordon's last look at the Ohio game yields some rather interesting conclusions, including this one:

For the most part, when OSU’s backs struggled Saturday, it seemed to be because Ohio had more defenders in the box than OSU had blockers. Clearly, OU was daring Pryor to beat them (and he did). I saw maybe two or three plays in which I thought the back chose the wrong hole. To those of you who read my TOTTs (Ed note: Tales of the Tape) last year, when I charted offensive line play all season, it should be no surprise to hear I also thought the OSU line pass-blocked much better than run-blocked. I rated the line effective on 61 percent of the run plays Saturday, and 80 percent on pass plays. Conclusion: You can say OSU should have been able to pound it down OU’s throat no matter what the Bobcats did, but I say unblocked players are tough to avoid. Let’s wait until the meat of the Big Ten season to form an opinion on this one, shall we? I’m guessing better numbers are ahead for Saine and Herron.

Lots of people have been pointing fingers at the running game as, alongside the special teams, the area of the team that needs the most work prior the Big Ten schedule. Those people are right, though I imagine the coaching staff is feeling an acute sense of deja vu: last season, the running game also got off to an underwhelming start against Navy and USC, averaging just over 3 yards/attempt heading into the game against Toledo. The third game ended up being the charm, as the running game seemingly got over the hump, with the Buckeyes racking up 247 yards on the ground at 5.7 YPC. A similar performance against Eastern Michigan won't (and shouldn't) assuage doubts, but it'll at least provide a way forward for a ground game that should be far more potent than it has been.

 Quick Hits. In less explicitly-Buckeye-related news: Butch Davis states the obvious re: agents, ex-Buckeye Bo Pelini knows defensive excellence when he sees it, and believes his defense has earned the hallowed "Blackshirts" in practice, MGoBrian goes over the Michigan defense's performance against UMass, and if one word could describe the unit's immediate future, it would be "doom", a Q&A session with MSU interim head coach (and former Tressel assistant at Youngstown State) Don Treadwell, and there are two Buckeye opponents - Marshall and Eastern Michigan - on ESPN's Bottom 10, which labels this weekend's game a "free win" for the Buckeyes. Yep, sounds about right. 



Tim's picture

The Big Ten lacks that SEC speeeeed, so that's where the special teams problems come from.

dmurder's picture

"We have always had the best damn band in the land, now we have the best damn team in the land"- Jim Tressel 1-03-03

KenK's picture

1. Brent is an ass.

2. The interview was with an Idaho newspaper. I wonder what he'd tell the Dispatch.

Johnny Hooker: "He's not as tough as he thinks". Henry Gondorff: "Neither are we".

Brady's picture

In the Buckeye's case, I think guys are just flying down the field looking for the big hit instead of staying in their coverage lanes and swarming to the ball.  Don't get me wrong, I love to watch dudes getting lit up as much as anyone, just not at the price we are paying right now.  It is getting to the point where I am the most nervous on kickoffs and to some degree punts.  I just pray that the bucks get this taken care of soon.  We have been lucky to overcome all of the special teams gaffes so far.  We can't get away with it forever.


Leanenaud's picture

I couldn't agree more. The kick coverage is FLYING down the field to the point where they're passing the ball carrier before he catches. Players just need to realize that making a good play on special teams means not letting them make the Big Play. Hope to see better things in the coming weeks.

Natty Light's picture

 agree, they are all very athletic on KOs and they over run it.  need to stay together and close in on the returner in an arc. 

tampa buckeye's picture

when your kicker can't get it passed the 10 yard line you've got problems.  If he can get it to the goal line the coverage can do their thing.  That will only hurt us against Bama or whoever we play in the title game.  

This team won't lose all year.  Iowa is weak, so is wisconsin and we are on a completely different level then the last 5 years up front both O and D lines are stout.

Estrada's picture

Don't forget that not only do you want the kicker to put the ball down that deep, but also have plenty of hang time...which is something else our kicker hasn't been doing thus far.  Shallow kicks + crappy hang time = bad things for kick coverage teams.

slippy's picture

You mean half of the teams every other year will play 5 conference road games right?  That'd be interesting otherwise.  I understand the money thing, and maybe it wouldn't work for everyone but there's gotta be a way to work it out so that, for instance, the year we're away at VT we have 5 home conference games.  Then the year they come to us we can play 5 roaders.


Also...Eastern Michigan?  I know we've played some bad games over the years (even I-AA here and there) but I don't think I've ever been less excited for a game since I've been watching.

tampa buckeye's picture

this is one of those games you want to see the backups in the 2nd quarter. 

NW Buckeye's picture

Scheduling is simple enough when you use one team as an example, but when you throw all 12 teams into the mix it becomes quite clouded.  Particularly when you split natural rivals into separate divisions.  Each school is naturally going to request that they do not want to have the 5 roadies when they also have to play their natural rival on the road.  Throw in the ND contract for UM and MSU and it really becomes an issue there.  Bad enough when you have to travel to both ND and OSU in the same season, but should that be the year for 5 roadies you are really cutting the potential for having the marquee home games that everyone is clamoring for.  Just take a look at your own comments about Eastern Michigan.  Could you imagine a year where we play all of our better opponents on the road and just the EM types at home?  Easy to avoid if we just take OSU into consideration when scheduling, however there are 11 others battling for their best schedule as well.  None of them want to face that situation. 

Sean N's picture

New Mexico State in the middle of the season last year?  At least EMU is coming in september.

AeroBuckeye2001's picture

Well, look at it this way. If Arkansas can knock off Alabama (and do it quickly), we could possibly be celebrating becoming the #1 team in the country in the 'Shoe. I know, it's a long shot, but I'm trying to stay motivated for the game.

The Ohio State University Class of 2001

BS Aero & Astronautical Engineering

Buckeyebrowny919's picture

as much as it pains me to say this..if alabama loses and Boise beats Oregon State...they can..and 95% chance will..jump us in the'll play itself out in the long run..but not this weekend...honestly, our best situation is just to have alabama win and have Boise fumble now in the season..b/c it won't happen later

To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift - Steve Prefontaine

AeroBuckeye2001's picture

I can't believe how much the media is playing up the Oregon St. / Boise game. Since when did Oregon St. become a national power. So if Boise wins, they're resume would include wins over a bad Va Tech team and a mediocre Oregon St team. That's it. Hardly worthy of jumping us. I will seriously go ape shit if something like that happens.

The Ohio State University Class of 2001

BS Aero & Astronautical Engineering

Buckeye Ben in Tampa's picture

obviously no one knows how it will play out, but unless i read that wrong, I think your crazy. If we stay undefeated BSU has exactly 0% of ever jumping us. especially not in the coaches poll. musberger sort of hit it on the head when he said how the media thinks compared to how the coaches think. the coaches will NEVER put Boise ahead of an undefeated BCS school when it comes to the top 2 spots. i think it was herbie who also said something like that a few weeks back during gameday, that if Ohio State and Alabama both lose, they would put the next 2 undefeated BCS school above Boise.

Buckeyebrowny919's picture

hey now hey now..just personal opinion and consensus of blogs on the world-wide-dipshetweb lol

To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift - Steve Prefontaine

dmurder's picture

nope i couldn't disagree anymore!

With miami winning in the fashion they did last night, and us playing 3 more ranked teams. They are not going to jump us in the standings, if anything they would jump bama because bama would drop to number 2,3,4,5.

"We have always had the best damn band in the land, now we have the best damn team in the land"- Jim Tressel 1-03-03

btalbert25's picture

Yeah there's no possible way that BSU leapfrogs OSU.  Plus, as Va Tech takes its lumps throughout the year, it's going to hurt Boise.  Last year they were helped by Oregon's great play after the Boise debacle.  I don't know what the allure is about Oregon State this year.  TCU beat them, and the struggled with Louisville.  I just don't think they are that good of a team. 

Most people in the media, not named May or Holtz,  realize how much Ohio State really dominated the Canes on week 2.  A Cane team that showed last night they are pretty damn good.  That win is going to trump anything Boise will see this year.  To this point in the Big 10 season, I don't see a team in conference that can pull of an upset of the Buckeyes.  It's not to say it won't happen, but there is no one who can match up on both sides of the ball.  The scarry thing is, Ohio State is going to get better, maybe a lot better. 

Another Jason's picture

On your first point, saying that all Big Ten teams will play 5 road conference games is not entirely accurate.  They will have 5 road games 1 year, followed by 5 home games, rinse and repeat.

If the goal is 7 home games a year, that's do-able even with a big home-and-home series as long as teams schedule the home half in the 5 road game year and the away half in the 5 home game year.

btalbert25's picture

I have no real problem with Musberger.  He is just saying what the local folks want to hear.  He didn't say anything bad about Ohio State, and at this point I think it's fair to say that Alabama is a little farther along.  It's not to say Ohio State at the end of the year won't be at that level, just right now they are definitely number 2. I don't believe there is anyone else close to them at this point though.  I think the top 2 are clearly the best after 3 games.   Oregon has looked beastly but I'll wait to see how the look against ASU this weekend before drawing any real conclusions about them. The one point that I don't buy from Brent is that he would lean toward an undefeated Boise team over a 1 loss SEC/Big 10/ Pac 10  team.   I'm assuming he is covering the game and is just trying to spark some interest/sell his product.

As much as I hate Da U, I'm glad to see them whip another BCS oponnent.  Especially since that team is supposed to be the best team in the Big East.  If Jacory can keep throwing the ball to his team, I think that could be a great S.O.S. victory and an example of how dominant Ohio State is this season.  It could be like Wazzou was back in 2002.

Buckeyebrowny919's picture

+1..we need them to just keep winning..that's how it works..swallow the pride for the greater good

To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift - Steve Prefontaine

dmurder's picture

"He didn't say anything bad about Ohio State, and at this point I think it's fair to say that Alabama is a little farther along."

What teams you watching? If anything they are pretty equal with a little nod to the buckeyes for actually beating a good Miami team.

Bama has been good, but who have they beaten?

San Jose State, i mean i shouldn't have to say much else right?

Penn State, I think we all know this team lost a ton of players (freshman Qb). I would be shocked if they didn't have 3 losses.

Duke, a team that has two losses. They gave up 54 points to Wake Forrest. Who??? Wake Forest the same team that got slapped by stanford 68-24. Then Duke turns around, and gives up 62 to bama.

Just saying, if you think bama is some how leaps, and bounds better than us. You might want to wait until they have played Arkansas this weekend.

"We have always had the best damn band in the land, now we have the best damn team in the land"- Jim Tressel 1-03-03

btalbert25's picture

Ok, so you quoted me saying that Alabama is a little further along than the Buckeys right now, but you deducted somehow that I think they are leaps and bounds better?   You did see that I said they are a LITTLE farther along right?  I love this team, and I think that they are great, but Alabama has gone 2 plus seasons without losing a regular season game.  They have arguably the 2 best RB's in America.  Their defense is still great despite the loss of a lot of talent to the NFL.   Until someone beats them, they are very worthy of the number 1 ranking, and I don't think the Buckeyes are quite there yet.  They have to work out some kinks with special teams and the running game then they'll be there.

Again, not sure where you came up with the idea that I think Ohio State is light years behind Alabama by my comments, but calm down, I think Ohio State's ceiling is much higher.  They are playing at an elite level right now, with all their players not firing on all cylinders.  When everyone puts it all together this team is going to be even more impressive.

tomcollins's picture

Alabama has put up some absolutely sick numbers against their opponents.  Obviously it's too early to tell anything, but they look legit.  They have dominated in ways even we haven't against similar opposition (Miami being a bit better than PSU).

plooder's picture

Musberger hasn't seen OSU yet this season.  He has seen Boise.  His interview is just an attempt to get odds lined up in his favor so that he can take his bookie to the bank.