Hello again Buckeye friends, and welcome to your Thanksgiving morning edition of the Skull Session.
The #11W staff would like to wish a great holiday to you and yours, a day full of family, football and feasting, and of course, frequent visits to Eleven Warriors to get your Buckeye fix.
Without further adieu, let's gab.
WILL HIS HEAD AND HEART BE THERE? At his weekly meeting with the media, Fickell was asked about the swirling rumors regarding his job and the ever increasing odds that Urban Meyer will be taking over the team, as early as next week. Luke's reply could likely be the soundbite of his career, up to this point:
“I’ve been told there’s a game at noon on Saturday, and my ass will be there.”
The Buckeyes have been an emotionally unbalanced team for the majority of this season, unable to develop any sort of consistency from week to week. Come out flat against Miami and Michigan State, play like their hair is on fire at Nebraska (for a half, anyway). Fight tooth and nail to beat a favored Wisconsin team, and then hit the snooze button in lackluster first halves against Indiana, Purdue and Penn State.
It's hard to tell exactly what the problem is with this team, because each week they seem to find a new way to struggle. Some have speculated that the team's leaders, the seniors, have turned their focus to the NFL in the midst of the issues the team faced in the past year. Others have suggested it's merely a matter of coaching, since there are no real "leaders" on the staff, rather a bunch of Tressel "yes men" who are unable to motivate and inspire an increasingly entitled group of young men.
Whatever the reason, this weekend has to be different for Ohio State, its players and its coaching staff. The team knows the value of beating Michigan, the seniors are desperate to complete their sweep of UM, hoping to complete 8 years of dominance over the Wolverines. The guys love Luke, and whether it's official or not, the knowledge that this is his swan song (as a head coach, anyway) will mean a pumped up, enthustiastic group ready to wear the proverbial headband for Fick.
Jim Heacock is not happy with how the defense has performed, Jim Bollam has no idea how the offense has performed (those three hours are naptime, so you can't blame him - naps are important) and Luke, for all his passion and intensity, lacks the coaching experience to adequately prepare his team by himself.
With all the rumors, will Luke and this team go out on the field fueled with pride and hunger, or will they be too distracted by all the rumblings regarding Urban?
NUMBERS THAT NUMB. This will be the fifth time that Ohio State has entered Michigan week with five or more losses. The previous occurences, 1943, 1947, 1988 and 1999, all resulted in Buckeye losses. Final score in those previous four meetings? Michigan 134, Ohio State 55. Michigan was ranked in top 10 in the country in each of those meetings, and enter this weekend's game ranked 15th. This year, the Buckeyes are 2-3 against ranked teams. Coach Fickell will try and reverse a disturbing trend that has Ohio State coaches at 5-10-1 in their first game against Michigan, but Michigan coaches sit at 10-2-1 in their initial meeting with Ohio State.
The Buckeyes, who Las Vegas has installed as an eight and a half point underdog this weekend, are 6-0 against Michigan in the Jim Heacock era, allowing just over 14 points a game to the Wolverines in those six matchups. If you remove the 39 Michigan scored in the real Game of the Century, the #1 vs #2 game in 2006, the Buckeyes have allowed a paltry 9.6 per contest against UM, scoring 30.6 per game during that stretch.
Michigan's offense is ranked 34th nationally with 434 yards per game, and they currently have five players with over 30 carries that average over 5.4 yards per carry. The Wolverine offense has scored 44 touchdowns on the season, the Buckeyes have scored 33 (Wisconsin's Montee Ball has 30 by himself). Ohio State's offense, ranked 108th of 120 nationally, will be trying their hand against a much improved Michigan defense.
Last year, Michigan surrendered over 35 points a game to their opponents, but first-year DC Greg Mattison has them feeling confident and playing fundamentally sound and it shows - they are giving up only 15.6 per game this season; Ohio State is allowing 19 points a game to their opponents, over 5 points more per game than they have allowed in any years of the Heacock years.
NCAA CLARITY AROUND THE CORNER? Lost in the hoopla surrounding the impending hiring of Urban Meyer is the light at the end of the NCAA tunnel that the Buckeyes dug themselves into is almost able to be seen. The day that we keep hearing is next Monday, November 28th, and the final penalties from the NCAA, combined with the Urban Meyer deal (if it happens, just as a disclaimer), will finally put an end to one of the most difficult years in Ohio State football history.
What should you expect from the NCAA's Committee on Infractions? All indications are that Ohio State will avoid a bowl ban despite the addition of the failure to monitor to their newest NOA, received in early November. The self-imposed loss of five scholarships over the next three years will likely have two or three added to it, and the Buckeyes will be placed on probation for the same three year period. There is always a chance that the NCAA decides to institute a post-season ban, but currently the feelings are that they will avoid it.
URBAN IMPACT. Upon announcing his intentions to attend Ohio State next year, Adolphus Washington made some news when he claimed that he thought Urban Meyer would be the head coach at Ohio State next year. Some felt that Washington's belief was a contributing factor in his decison to choose Ohio State, and while it certainly didn't hurt, it was not a major factor - Adolphus was going to Ohio State regardless. In fact, he wanted to commit in early September but held off after an opposing B1G coach convinced him (temporarily) that Ohio State was likely to get hit had by the NCAA. Fortunately for Buckeye fans, reason and common sense prevailed, as Washington's commitment yesterday proved.
There are however going to be other recruits who had not been considering Ohio State for one reason or another, who will now start looking in the Buckeyes direction. One of them, Joel Caleb, has scheduled an official visit for December 2nd. Caleb has over 50 offers nationally, and is an option for the Buckeyes after Dwayne Stanford decided on Oregon. Another interesting name that is beginning to be thrown around is former Indiana commit and #1 ranked QB Gunner Kiel. Not saying there's anything to that right now, but if the rumors of LSU offensive line coach Greg Studwara joining the hypothetical staff of Urban Meyer come to fruition, it may be a rumor that picks up steam.
Urban Meyer's impact could be felt in a whole bunch of different areas for the Buckeyes. In his career at Florida, Urban was 16-2 in his career against his rivals at Georgia, Tennessee and Florida State (Thanks, Gerd). In his career Urban is 7-1 in bowl games, including 4-0 in BCS bowls (one at Utah, three with Florida).
The Buckeyes hardly need a program "turnaround", but if there's one guy who is qualified to continue the dominance established by Jim Tressel, it's Urban Meyer. :BartScott:
BUFORD MOVING ON UP. With his 23 points on Wednesday night against VMI, Toledo native William Buford passed Jerry Francis to move into 16th on the Buckeyes all time scoring list. Coming into the season, Buford needed 174 points to move past Robin Freeman into tenth place. With a big season, roughly 19 points a game over 35 games, Buford has a shot to pass fellow Toledoan and Buckeye great Dennis Hopson to become the school's all-time leading scorer.
Where are you headed, dood? The 9th ranked Buckeye hockey team signs four players for next year...In the spirit of the day, a Thanksgiving guide...Looking for the place to score Black Friday deals for nerds? Here's a helper... Aren't evil kids are cute?