That bye week ain’t so bad. No injuries to speak of and you can maneuver up the polls untouched. Ohio State sat at home all weekend twitteling its thumbs while many teams around them (Alabama, Oklahoma and Utah) fell back to earth with a loud thud.
Now it’s time for the home stretch. Standing between Ohio State and Wisconsin is a somewhat considerable gap in the Bowl Championship Series computer rankings. But many still believe the Buckeyes can make up the difference with their remaining schedule. For the second straight year, the Buckeyes have Penn State, Iowa and Michigan to finish off the season. It’s not NFL caliber, but it certainly beats Indiana, Michigan and Northwestern (the Badgers “gauntlet”).
Will it be another November to Remember for the Ohio State Buckeyes? They rode the running backs to three victories last year. Will it be much the same in November 2010? While Tressel Ball will certainly make appearances each of the next three weeks, I’m thinking Terrelle Pryor better bring an accurate canon/gun/arm with him to Iowa City if the Buckeyes want to win. A sixth consecutive Big Ten championship is well within reach --- and Ohio State can sense it.
Jim Tressel talked about the injury report (good news), Penn State and Joe Paterno, among other thigns, at his weekly Tuesday luncheon today.
Tressel on Penn State:
It will be a typical Penn State team coming into Ohio Stadium, which is obviously a great compliment.
Hmm. Is typical a synonym for overrated, lackluster or blah? If so, Tressel is spot on. Ohio State has owned Penn State since they joined the Big Ten. The Buckeyes have an overall record of 11-6 vs. the Nittany Lions since 1993 and are 7-1 at home. Half of OSU's wins have been blowouts. That's not to say Penn State hasn't had good teams. Like I said, they just have a habit of being overrated.
REPORTER: You always talk about getting better as the year goes on, your November record is very good here. Why do you think that is? Why do you think you've had so much success in November?
COACH TRESSEL: I think our guys do believe that you have to get better as the year goes on and hopefully we don't get too high or too low. I think it's difficult sometimes as the expectations get heaped on young people, it's easy for a coach not to get too high or too low because we've been both ends and we know how fast it goes. But that's not so true for a 19- or 20-year-old. They can buy the thoughts either direction, that, hey, you're terrible, they might buy that, or, hey, you're wonderful, they might buy that because they haven't found out that neither is true. But I think they've done a pretty good job of believing you have to keep working to get better and if you keep working to get better, you probably will. Then it gives you a chance in November.
When I saw these schedules about four or five years ago when they said you're going to have Penn State to start your November for a few years, I thought, oh, that's -- not to mention you're going to have Iowa and Michigan right after them, that's going to put a challenge on any November record anyone would have, but I think our guys believe that this is a very important time.
Tressel's November record is no coincidence. He clearly understands the importance and magnitude of late season games and his teams have bought into his beliefs. Ohio State plays its best in November. There is no denying it. The Buckeyes are 26-4 in November since Tressel took over in 2001, the fourth-best November record in the country. All but three coaches in the country would love to have that record.
The main thing with Ohio State the past decade is, they clearly get better as the season progresses. Their November record is evidence of that. Expect 2010 to be much the same. Although Tressel's teams have struggled after the bye week, I think it came at the perfect time this season: right before the stretch run. The Buckeyes got healthy the past week and are amped up to win another Big Ten title.
REPORTER: When you look at your running game and you talk about it's kind of to the point where you'd like, but it's been improving, what changed over the course of that? Was it just putting more emphasis on it? Was it giving the ball to Boom Herron more? What changed in the last three games?
COACH TRESSEL: I think that we've grown up front with our communication together and we haven't had too many situations where we've had minus yard plays where someone might say, well, I thought you called this or that, so we've had a little bit less mistakes. I think Boom has raised us through his play. I think his play has been excellent and if he'll play like he did this past month and like he did last November, we have a chance this November, and because I think he's a difference-maker.
There have been several mechanisms at work with the running game the past few weeks. No. 1 is Boom Herron is a good back. He can find the hole, he hits it fast and he runs with authority. The second thing has been the improved play out of the offensive line. The Boren Bros. have proven to be stout run blockers. The rest of the OLine has been good, too. Don't want to leave anyone out. Another reason for the success: the opponents. Ohio State ran well against Wisconsin for big portions of the game. I'm not denying that, but Purdue and Minnesota don't exactly have the best defenses in the country, let alone the Big Ten. Penn State and Michigan shouldn't pose a stiff challenge either. That leaves Iowa and its mighty D to see how good this running game is.
REPORTER: Your record's 2-4 after bye weeks. Is there any explanation for that or is it just another statistic that may not pertain to anything in the future?
COACH TRESSEL: It's probably irrelevant if we become 3-4. It becomes a big deal if we become 2-5 like most things. I guess part of it, we were talking earlier with a group, I forget who it was, that we said probably the most impactful thing about bye weeks is who you play after the bye. And I know we played Penn State after the bye in '05 and we were going to end up with a good team in '05, we felt, we weren't great yet, we felt, and that was a September bye, which is probably not a great time for a young team to have a bye. We came back and we didn't beat Penn State, so that's obviously one of those four, but I think every -- if there was a formula as to how to do your bye week, we'd all use it, but it's according to where you are health-wise, where you are development-wise, but it's probably most impacted by who are you playing after the bye and so we're playing a pretty good team after the bye.
I don't know what to make of Tressel's record after bye weeks. It got a lot of chatter last week and will get even more as the Penn State game gets closer. I tend to think there is some merit to it. Six games is a pretty big sample, and its not like the loses were to the USCs and Texas' of the world. They came to mediocre Big Ten teams. It could also just a coincidence, though. Maybe Tressel is equally as bad at coming off bye weeks as he is good in November. Something has to give, though, because Saturday's game is in that magic month.
REPORTER: How has Ross Homan's foot progressed and what's your expectation for him this week and Saturday?
COACH TRESSEL: Good. I would expect Ross to be ready.
REPORTER: Limited in any way?
COACH TRESSEL: I hope not. He's been out there. We didn't go live or anything. He was out there, ran 7 on 7 Sunday. Just like the trainer said, the key will be how does he do, like, two days in a row to see if there's any issues, but based upon after Sunday, I would say no doubt. He and Dorian Bell we would have back for sure, unless something happens in those two days. And then the guys that were lost for the year, we're not going to have Christian or Corey or Tyler or C. J. I guess that's the group. We wouldn't have them back, of course.
Ross Homan's addition is huge. He's a great player and a leader on the defense. Penn State's offense has been rejuvenated the past two weeks. After having major problems scoring the previous six games, the Nittany Lions have score 33, 41 and 35 in their past three. Homan, a starter, is certainly a boost to the depleted defense. His awareness and veteran skills will help against a former walk-on in junior quarterback Matt McGloin. Ohio Stadium and the Buckeye defense will be a tad different than anything he has seen during his short career. He is definitely going to have turnovers and at least one will likely come at an inopportune time for Penn State. Also, something to chew on, Penn State's last touchdown pass against the Buckeyes came in 2003. Yes, six games ago. Unbelievable.
REPORTER: Is it better to catch Penn State the week after they've won this landmark 400th win for Joe rather than if they were 399 coming in here?
COACH TRESSEL: Well, you know, selfishly, that was kind of like the guy that let them beat Bear Bryant, if you remember. I'm not sure I would have wanted that double play to be -- but, no, I don't think it makes any difference. Someone mentioned that two old coaches with the most wins or something are squaring off in this game and I'm not sure how I took that.
I agree with Tress that the number Joe Pa is on has nothing to do with how the game is played. Although, you might be able to say Penn State could have an emotional letdown this week. Regardless, I don't think Joe Pa's win totals have anything to do with what happens on the field.
It's interesting, though, that both of Paterno's milestone wins (No. 324 and 400) have been Penn State's largest come form behind wins at home in school history. Very weird.
REPORTER: He's one of your seven or eight guys from Pennsylvania. How do you explain the success you've had going into Pennsylvania and who are a couple of the assistants that really do a good job over there? You got Bell, the two Corey Browns, Sweat.
COACH TRESSEL: I think it all started with the fact that Joe Daniels in 2001 -- by the way Joe's in the hospital, nothing horrible, but keep your thoughts and prayers with Joe. Joe went there beginning in '01, and we probably went, I don't know, three or four years with maybe getting one guy, I think maybe Rory Nicol and Kyle Mitchum might have been the first two, and it took us some years, but you know Joe, he just kept plugging and plugging and plugging, and then when he became ill, Luke Fickel took over and followed up on all the groundwork that Joe had, and Joe was from Pittsburgh and Joe had a great relationship -- and we had a lot of kids at Youngstown from Pittsburgh, so we had a good relationship with the coaches from there, and I think the fact that it's so close. You know, you get on Route 70 and you're here as fast as you're some other places, and so it's just a natural proximity. But I have to say that it starts with Joe.
Now, Coach Bruce would tell you it starts with him. Where's Coach Bruce? Not here? He was here earlier. Coach Bruce was the Pennsylvania recruiter back with Basch Nagel and Jan White and Fred Pagac, so I guess I should make sure if you're writing a story he might read, put that it started with Earle and then Joe took over because I don't want to have to -- you guys have been there.
The recruitment of Pennsylvania the past decade has been vital in Ohio State's success. Obviously getting Terrelle Pryor was huge, but guys like Rory Nicol, Kyle Mitchum, Jordan Hall, Dorian Bell, Andrew Miller, Andrew Sweat, both Corey Browns --- and on and on --- have been a big part of the program. California, Florida, Ohio and Texas are clearly the big dogs when it comes to recruiting, but Pennsylvania isn't far behind. Penn State has suffered mightily the past five, six, years with the better guys in the state not going to State College. Ohio State, Pitt and Notre Dame are just come of the schools that have siphoned off the talent that used to be a lock for the Nittany Lions. Tressel's recruiting abilities will be missed when he leaves. Coop recruited well too, but he didn't have a wall around the state like Tressel has and he didn't get guys consistently from Pennsylvania.
REPORTER: Terrelle being a junior now, is this game, playing against his home state and a lot of guys he knows in and that coaching staff that he knows, has the novelty of that and being an exciting kind of game for him worn off or do you think it's still a game that --
COACH TRESSEL: Ohio State-Penn State period, and the fact that he happens to be from there, just like I'm sure the kids from Ohio that are there, there's been plenty of great ones over the years, that makes a special game even more special.
The Ohio State-Penn State game has been a great add for the Big Ten. When Penn State joined the conference, the match ups with Ohio State and Michigan were highly anticipated. While Michigan and Ohio State have had PSU's number, the games have lived up to the hype. I'm sure the ACC in envious. They tried to do the same with Miami and Florida State, but it hasn't come close to working out.
The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions have met three times since 1993 when both teams were ranked in the Top 10. In 16 of 18 games (this year included), at least one of the teams have been ranked. Fourteen of the games have featured both teams being ranked. Those are some amazing stats. Another great stat: Saturday will be the seventh occasion that GameDay has been on hand for the Ohio State-Penn State game, making it the most visited regular season match up by the GameDay crew. Florida-Florida State has seven, but one was the Sugar Bowl.
Ohio State's campus will play host to the show for a record 13th occasion. Florida is second with 11.
The 1996 Ohio State-Penn State game in Columbus was the first time Lee Corso made his now famous "head gear" prediction. That day he put on the Brutus head to signify an Ohio State victory. The Buckeyes did him proud, walloping No. 4 Penn State 38-7.
Saturday will also be the 28th time GameDay has originated at a game site involving the Buckeyes, the second-most of any university. Florida leads with 31 appearances.
The "and so forth" count: Three. That might be the lowest in Tressel's tenure at Ohio State.