November to Remember?

By Chris Lauderback on November 8, 2010 at 4:00a

After a much needed bye, the Buckeyes get back at it this week hoping to go on a run reminiscent of November's past with eyes on sharing the Big Ten title and earning an 8th BCS bowl game nod in nine years.

Turning in a unbeaten November is a must if Ohio State hopes to achive both of those remaining goals and looking at the numbers, they've got the right guy at the helm to accomplish the task. While January victories have proved a tougher get for Jim Tressel (4-3 in BCS games, 4-4 in January bowls overall), The Vest has owned November at Ohio State posting a stellar 26-4 record heading into this week's matchup with the Nittany Lions. Since 2005, he's 14-1 with the lone loss coming to Illinois, 28-21, back in 2007. In fact, the Illini are responsible for half of Tress's four November shortfalls (2001) with Purdue (24-17 in '04) and Michigan (35-21 in '03) also pulling off the tough task.

Last year's November run saw the Buckeyes shut down PSU in State College 24-7 before the thrilling OT victory over Iowa setting up the ho-hum 21-10 win in Ann Arbor. The defense keyed the victory over Joe Pa, forcing PSU into seven 3-and-outs while holding Daryll Clark to 125 yards passing. Penn State's favorite son, Terrelle Pryor, also had a hand in the win throwing two TD passes in the 2nd half, turning a 10-7 halftime lead into the 24-7 final score.

Facing a Paterno squad fresh off an emotional comeback win (400!) over Northwestern, the Buckeyes start the week as a lofty 17.5 point favorite and will also play host to the ESPN College Gameday crew. While a win seems like an afterthought in the eyes of the oddsmakers, the Buckeyes need to come out free of rust because Penn State will show up ready to play. Somewhat concerning is the fact Tressel is just 2-4 in games following bye weeks during his tenure at Ohio State but the extra time means Dorian Bell, Donnie Evege, Jake Stoneburner and Ross Homan, among others, were afforded extra time to get healthy. Homan is the most needed out of all those guys, obviously, and he's also the furthest away from 100% according to most reports.

Looking at the BCS standings, Wisconsin sits at 7th with Ohio State moving to 9th. WOPR and his compatriots continue to hate on the Buckeyes and while we should get some computer love (not that kind) if we can run the table, capturing the highest BCS ranking in-conference (and a BCS berth) is no gimme. The silver lining is that a BCS game (Sugar) is still very much within reach even if Wisky and OSU win out and Auburn/Oregon play in the MNC. What's your take? How do the Buckeyes fare this November and will they reach a BCS bowl? History is on their side, now they just gotta go win the games.

Switching to hoops for a moment, I just want to remind everyone to get on Aaron Craft bandwagon early so you can say you knew it was coming to all your friends come March. We all know Sully is going to be a guy who puts up double-doubles on a regular basis but Craft is the freshman who can take this team to the next level.

Evan Turner's departure left a hole at the point and while Matta is saying all the right things and insider reports plus the exhibition opener indicate The WB has improved his ball handling, there's still lost value in having Buford run the point. He's too good a rebounder to lose his length on the glass and too slowfooted to check guys like Kalin Lucas or Talor Battle in the open court (not his fault - who isn't) so why waste him there? Diebler also probably doesn't have the juice to run the point plus doing so likely kills his ability to run off as many backcuts and baseline screens for fear of nobody rotating back on D and while Lighty could probably handle the defensive duties from the PG slot, he's too valuable in the paint to spend heavy minutes out top.

Because of some of these factors, Matta has been talking about a PG by committee approach but I have to believe his underlying hope is Craft seizes the job sometime in mid-late December as he continues adjusting to the college game. Matta is smartly touting the group-PG plan to avoid putting pressure on Craft early, but if the kid can handle the job, the bench just got longer and Buford, Diebler and Lighty get to play their regular positions. If Craft can log even 20 effective minutes per game at the point, OSU can play matchups going big when necessary (Diebs, WB, Lighty, Dallas, Sully) while also having defensive flexibility against uptempo teams because Craft will have a just as good or better chance of slowing Lucas/Battle than anyone other than potentially Lighty. If Craft can handle the ball and play D (which is a lesser concern, imo), Ohio State can employ increased man-to-man this year, which should help limit the amount of offensive boards for opponents.

I know, there's more than few "if's" there but I expect Craft to deliver the goods. He certainly got off to a hot start yesterday with 12 points, eight dimes, four boards, two steals and zero turnovers in 26 minutes. He doesn't really need to score much considering the surrounding cast but even as a true pass-first PG, he's still a gym-rat son of a coach that Diebler has taken under his wing from a shooting perspective. So, while Sully projects to be the most dominating Buckeye this year, it's Craft that may be the missing link that helps Matta deliver another Big Ten championship and a deep run in March.


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Leanenaud's picture

I'll be roaming around Epcot with a full beer in my hand all day long this Saturday. I hope I hope the Rose and Crown has a tv so I can catch the game for a minute. Otherwise I'll just have to suffer through German girls with enormous racks serving me in the beer garden.

gravey's picture

The Bucks have a great shot at a BCS bowl because of the ratings we pull on TV.  Folks talk about other schools "traveling well", but it is TV sets that drive these decisions more than fans at the bowl games.  I think only one of the non AQ schools (TCU/BSU) must be taken, so one could be on the outside looking in as the Bucks take their spot.  That will be fine with the advertisers because last years' bowl between the non-BCS schools was a ratings loser.  The Buckeyes are a guaranteed ratings winner.

slippy's picture

Mike Conley's departure left a hole at the point


There I fixed it for you.

M Man's picture

"The Myth of the Bye Week Advantage":

Not a great deal of statistical prediction, just an observation that there is no basis for thinking about a bye-week advantage...

We'll see how things play out, of course, but I sort of like taking Michigan over Wisconsin in Ann Arbor on November 20.  So you got that goin' for you.  Which is nice.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

For a team coming off a bye, I wouldn't necessarily expect an advantage or disadvantage in that game; however, I would expect the bye to be helpful over the long run, especially for teams that are banged up (in Ohio State's case this year, against Iowa and Michigan). Also, an extra week of prep should help, in theory, in special cases, like versus Navy, GT, or Oregon, but might hurt in other cases, like perhaps versus teams that really lay the wood (Wisc, Alabama, etc.).

With the above in mind, I'm not sold on the WSJ's (suggested) conclusions.  From the article you linked above: "In the Big Ten in particular, byes seem to hurt more than they help. The Big Ten's 11 teams are a combined 17-32 since 2002 when playing conference games on extra rest. Ohio State, which is 56-10 in Big Ten play over that span, is 1-3 on extra rest against conference opponents. Among the defeats was a 2004 loss to Northwestern, the Buckeyes' only loss to the Wildcats since 1971. Penn State and Iowa also are 1-3."

Okay, the 49 BT post-bye week games they reference might not be a good "random" sample. It could that the teams coming off byes have just happened to face a relative murderers row of opponents - we'd want to give these bye week opponents some measure of relative strength.

In Ohio State's case, the post-bye record under JT could be misleading. They lost in 2003 after a bye, but at Wisconsin, which as we all know, is a tough place for the Buckeyes under any circumstances. The 2004 team, a few weeks into the season (when the bye took place) was still a pretty crappy team at that point, and only showed signs of life in the second half of the season. They lost to NW because they sucked, not because of the bye week. The next year, they played a great PSU team on the road after the bye week.

Basically, I'm not ready t draw any conclusions about bye weeks in the BT, either way, without a lot more evidence.    

Run_Fido_Run's picture

I want to agree with you that Wisconsin's trip to Michigan could be a potential Badger trap, but I see mixed signals. 

Partly why Ohio State lost to Wisc is that the Buckeyes have hybrid, versatile defense that can perform against a variety of offenses, but which might not be ideally suited to one extreme type offense (hard-core power, a la Wisconsin) or the other (a "run and shoot" type spead with an NFL QB, like Texas was in 2009). Heacock's system has been very successful in recent years, overall, but it is vulnerable to certain matchups, like most defense are - it's kinda pick your poison (the only defense that is close to being matchup proof is one with numerous NFL DTs and DEs, a la Miami, FL in the 1980s/early 90s, Ohio State 2002, Alabama 2009, etc.). 

In comparison, I had thought that Wisconsin's defense might be built to handle power and versatile pro-oriented stuff, but not so much the pure speed and misdirection-oriented run-option spreads. However, Ohio State had their best success running power against Wisc, and the Badgers throttled the Wolverines' offense last year. Of course, Michigan's offense is better this year than last, while Wisc's defense is probably down a notch or two; Michigan is at home and has better morale than they did last year, too.   

Still, Michigan's defense would have to occasionally slow down Wisc's offense, anyway, which doesn't seem likely.   

M Man's picture

I don't believe that our defense is designed to stop any kind of offense.  I think the whole idea is to let Denard catch his breath.

tomcollins's picture

Michigan can stop teams that run up the middle every play.  I'm gonna be a huge Wolverine fan now that you guys are bowl eligible for the game against Wisconsin.

M Man's picture

I tried to enlist the rooting support of 11W when we played Sparty.  Back then, nobody was interested.  So now you become Wolverine fans...

tomcollins's picture

Sparty was due to choke eventually.

But I don't think we can count on Northwestern.  But maybe...

Buckeye Black's picture

I, for one, will not be partaking in the rooting for scUM.  Never have, never will.

btalbert25's picture

I have to agree.  I will never cheer for Michigan.  It's just not natural.  If they beat Wisconsin so be it, but I won't be cheering.

tomcollins's picture

I rooted for them against Tebow.  Felt dirty but still better than seeing Tebow win.

Squirrel Master's picture

Hey. My boss wants to get tickets for Penn State this Saturday. I usually go through stubhub but he would like to get 4 tickets in B section for a reasonable price. Any suggestions?

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

Reens's picture

Craigslist - not as many options but you'll avoid service handling fees

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

Cara @ Dream Seats - 614-340-8989

Not the cheapest tickets in the world but they can get you where you want to sit and no service charges.  If it's local Cara will deliver.

tomcollins's picture

We win out, we are either playing for the Roses or a bag of Sugar.  Should be a great matchup either way.  BEAT IOWA (and PSU and Michigan).

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

Unless we face an SEC team. That is our achilies heal.

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

Pam's picture

Ken Gordon tweet: "Tressel given Patrick Henry Award by Ohio National Guard officers today. His quip: "Give me no turnovers, or give me death."

Jim Tressel ladies and gentlemen, Jim Tressel