Winning for Luke

By Matt Finkes on August 25, 2011 at 11:00a
2011W Ohio State Football Preview

This year is without a doubt the most anticipated season opener in recent Ohio State history. 

The stakes were similar 17 years ago.

There have been coaching changes in Ohio State's past and there will be more again in the future.  What makes this opener different is not the anticipation of the Buckeye fans, but of the Buckeye players. 

The questions that are ringing in the ears of the fans are the very same ones that are echoing inside of the helmets at the WHAC.  The team may be a little more confident than the fans, but all of the same questions remain. 

Only Woody Hayes has had a more public and embarrassing departure from the OSU program than Jim Tressel.  Isn't it ironic that the two most beloved coaches in school history have left under such negative circumstances? 

Regardless, much like Woody's abrupt departure left a strong roster behind for Earle Bruce, Tressel has left a cupboard full of talent for his successor, even if some of the best goodies aren't available until game six in Lincoln. 

That said, the obstacles facing this team and the coaching staff are far more numerous than any other in past transition years and, believe me, the players are quite aware of them.

Each year during Ohio State's designated media day, the players recite the same lines: "We aren't concerned about our ranking, we will go out and try to win each game one at a time, the best players will play, et cetera."  But each year the players know how they're perceived in the public eye, understand what is expected from them and are fully aware of what they must achieve in order to have a successful season. 

We all knew in 1994 that if we didn't beat Michigan it could cost Coach Cooper his job.  Michigan co-captain Walter Smith was kind enough to confirm this to the media.  I will guarantee you this year's team believes it needs to win the first five games to give Coach Fickell the best chance at extending his contract. 

Whether that is explicitly going into Ohio State's evaluation of Fickell does not matter; it is the perception, which has a funny way of becoming reality.  So along with this pressure, the media circus, the suspended players, the quarterback battle and everything else, all that this group of players can hope for in the form of a release is to finally get on the field.

Ohio State needs to win & win big.

College football is different from every other level of the sport in that players don't get to scrimmage or play against another team until it counts.  That wait is excruciating after going through three long weeks of camp hitting the same guys over and over and over again.  

Tempers flare and sometimes genuine animosity is formed between units.  All of that tension is then finally released on that first Saturday.  The only difference being this year the pressure could be at an unprecedented boiling point. 

This year there is no room for a 4-6-1 or 7-5 record as Coach Cooper and Coach Tressel respectively experienced in their first years at the helm.  Many are saying anything short of nine or ten wins could mean a pink slip for Luke. 

Believe me, the players have heard this.  With the scrutiny of national media, anything but a blowout win against Akron could set the team back in people's eyes.  Make no mistake, though the waters seem calm, the sharks of the national media are just below the surface.

Nothing matches running out onto the field at the Shoe for the very first time.  I can only imagine running out for the first time with so much purpose.  Circling the wagons has never had so much meaning to a Buckeye team.  

It still means a heck of a lot to put on that uniform.  You play for your school, your team, your family and the entire state of Ohio.  I think all Buckeye fans will be pleased to see what happens when you back this team into a corner this upcoming season.


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boojtastic's picture

*Nobody* puts baby in a corner.

Jeremy Birmingham's picture

Fantastic article, great job.  

L-TownNut11's picture

great post......why must you get me so jacked with still more than a week to go?....

acBuckeye's picture

I felt the same way. Couldn't Finkes have saved this for Sept. 2nd?? Oh well, great article. L-Town, i apologize in advance, but this won't help either:

BuckeyeSki's picture

Belly Jersey's: Almost as bad as 1970's basketball shorts

Banned from BlackShoeDiaries since 2008. Crime: Slander/Defamation of Character Judgement: Guilty

RoweTrain's picture

I do miss the gray stripes on the shoulders though. 

"Just bow up and go out and play." ~ D. Lee

"As it stands right now, I know I am the best athlete in college football." ~ B. Miller

BrewstersMillions's picture

I've started to move past the "Oh man we are screwed" attitude and have made my way towards optimistic town (It's a real place, google it). With Miami in shambles, our non conf is a joke so a 4-0 start shouldn't be so much of a dream now as an expectation. If we get through the Smoke and Mirrors team that plays in East Lansing, Nebraska might be in for a rude introduction to OSU football once the rest of the team gets to suit up. There is still going to be a ton of work to do to overcome the drama of the off season and loss of on field production on Offense and Defense...but aren't we Ohio Effing State? In light of all the nonsense that has been thrown at OSU, the one thing I just can't seem to shake is that a lot of people are lining up for OSU's funeral. I just can't buy that as happening. Tress' decade of destruction might not be in the works but this team is still going to punch a few people in the mouths for a few years.

jfrank373's picture

First off - great article.  Secondly, I am so jacked for this football season, and nervous at the same time.  I think the uncertainty of the NCAA investigation is the biggest thing.  But I am also pumped for Coach Fickell and see if he can attain the same kind of success as Coach Tressel.  But on the flip side, we must be prepared for a lacluster season. Part of the recruting success at OSU is the notion that every year, you play for a chance at a B1G and BCS title on the biggest stage.  So losing and mediocrity will not bode well for any of us.  With that in mind and certainly not wanting to jump the gun, all is not lost if Coach Fickell does not return as the permanent coach.  With Urban, Gruden, Mark Dantonio, and many others out there (including Coach Tressel - trust me, his return is not that far fetched) I'm not sure a winning season would even guarantee the head coaching position to Coach Fickell.

NC_Buckeye's picture

Ugh. Please stop talking about Fickell's successor and all the great coaches out there. We have a great coach. Get behind him.

jfrank373's picture

1 year contract. Interim Coach. I'm about as behind him as his bosses are. We'll see what happens!

GoBucks713's picture

Great article Matt. The only thing missing from the end is a solid RRRRRRROCK FLAAAAAG AND EEEEAAAAAAAGLE!

-The Aristocrats!

M Man's picture

I keep saying; there is a great comparison to be made, the way that Lloyd Carr entered the Head Coaching job at Michigan, and the situation now with Fickell.

Carr very nearly screwed the pooch in his first game; a nail-biter Pigskin Classic opener in the Big House against a 15th-ranked Virginia team.  Mercury Hayes caught a td pass within a toenail of the sideline with time expiring.  It might have been the biggest single play of Carr's career.  Had Michigan lost that game and then stumbled, they might never have removed his "interim" title.  And he might not have been there for the following year.

I really think that a win like that, coming early, will be important for Fickell.  And that the Buckeye faithful ought to be looking toward nothing less than the kind of season that would make it hard not to retain Fickell.

BucksfanXC's picture

Well, (I hate to even mention it, and btw, thank you for not doing so) there was another game he won towards the end of that season that helped Carr out, publicly and professionally.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

buckeyedude's picture

I still think Fickell can lose a couple, as long as he beats your team, M Man. If, God forbid, we lose, I think Fickell will have to go back to coaching LBs, DBs, or find a spot somewhere.



matti's picture

nice artriclle again, ? does anyone know when the alternate uni will be out just wondering seen uga boise and oregon have theirs out already?

buckeyes33's picture

No matter what happens this season I am proud to wear my Scarlet and Gray and do whatever I can to support. If you aren't excited then you simply aren't a true Buckeye.

Irricoir's picture

Herbstreit picks us against Iowa in the conference championship game. I am confused.

Thread jacked.

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

3cent's picture

Herbstreit is so fake and everything he says and does is calculated. He picked TOSU to
#1 stick it to Tressel and Pryor since they are no longer here
#2 get back in the good graces of Buckeye Nation
#3 get other teams fans to call him a homer so that he can seem like #4
#4 prove that he is "objective" and he can't win for anything and no matter what he does someone is mad at him

BrewstersMillions's picture

I have a hard time believing Herbie is that dastardly....

JeffMBeck's picture

 "I think all Buckeye fans will be pleased to see what happens when you back this team into a corner this upcoming season."

Great line.  They've been backed into a corner all summer.  Hope they can take it all out on opponents during the season.


Bucks's picture

Matt, I'm pretty much assuming you will be taking part in the Tunnel of Pride. I only wish all of you could storm that locker room & each one of you speak to these young men.

Will easily be one of the most meaningful entrances ever, for me.

Carolina Buckeye's picture

OT: Just wanted to thank 11W for not erroneously reporting the signing of certain recruits...that is all

Alex's picture

Can't blame Steve for writing what the kids own father told him.