|Ohio State 6-6, 3-5 Big Ten Roster | Schedule||January 2, 2012 1:00 PM ET - ESPN2 —— EverBank Field Jacksonville, FL||Florida 6-6, 3-5 SEC Roster | Schedule|
Three years ago this would have been an absolutely insane matchup. Two coaches at the top of their game, both fielding freaks of nature at quarterback on the offensive side of the ball, with complementary dominant defenses... it would've been one hell of a game.
But hey, the brand is more important than the product, right? Just because Ohio State and Florida are both 6-6, a combined 6-10 in conference play, completely horrible at offense 98% of the time, and in various degrees of coaching flux doesn't mean that this won't be a complete barn burner that we'll all reflect fondly on for years to come. And actually, we'll have to, because after approximately 4:30pm EST it'll be roughly two calendar years before Ohio State will play in another bowl game.
Since we're going to be stuck in that airplane from the Langoliers for the next 24 months, the hope is that Ohio State will be able to make the most of the Gator Bowl, although that may be kind of like saying "Let's make the most out of this all day From Justin To Kelly marathon."
Honestly though, I am looking forward to this. The evolution of Braxton Miller is particularly interesting from a purely scientific standpoint, and of course there is the whole final vestiges of the Jim Tressel era being washed away in one final orgy of iso plays and half-assed draw plays. But mostly I'm excited about vicariously living the sights and sounds of beautiful Jacksonville Florida through my 32 inch Toshiba and pithy tweets from OSU beat writers about the poor food selection in the press box.
VIVA GATOR BOWL!
The mystical journey of John Brantley, Florida QB, is a tale of sadness and woe. Brantley had the incredibly unenviable job of having to take over a position recently vacated by Tim Tebow, whose excellent college football play became as routine and expected as his future NFL awfulness. Unless you were an idiot. Anyway, even if Brantley didn't have unfair expectations placed on his shoulders, he'd still have had an incredibly disappointing four year college career. The dude only managed 10 passing TDs this year, and in his last three games against teams not named "Furman," he's averaging 132 yards passing per game.
His 9/15, 104 yard, 3 INT passing performance to close out the season against Florida State was a combination of sad and horrifying, and left backups Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel doing that "Huh? Him? Me? Him? No, I'll stay over here, you go" thing people do when they are trying to pawn off a really unpleasant task on someone else.
And really, that's what the Charlie Weis experience was during his time as Florida's offensive coordinator. We've talked about it before, but it bears repeating, Florida's offense was terrible this year. 102nd in total offense doesn't really speak to a decided schematic advantage, but then again, neither does Weis' total inability to figure out how to use Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. Both of those guys are averaging over 5 yards per carry and have speed to burn, and against OSU safeties could be a pretty big threat. But since we're basically talking about the equivalent of a three year old with a billion dollars trying to build a robot, I'm not all that worried.
Defensively Florida is much better. They rank 9th in total defense nationally, allowing just a hair under 300 yards per game. Where they stand out is in their secondary, and rank 10th nationally in that particular category. CB Cody Riggs and S Matt Elam are both very good athletes who might end up making Braxton Miller's life miserable, which is in addition to how miserable Braxton Miller sometimes makes his own life.
What's funny is that this may be the Tresselballingest gameplan that OSU has come up with in a long time. The general consensus is that Florida can be run on, but truthfully I think this is predicated on the 215 yards they gave up to South Carolina and the fact that Dominique Easley is going to be out for the game. Not sure that this is enough; as much as I'd like to think it'll be the case, running straight at this Florida line is not going to win the game for the Buckeyes.
What might win the game for Ohio State is Braxton Miller. His transformation from a patchwork ugly duckling into a beautiful football throwing swan was hopefully permanent, but even if it wasn't, if he can replicate even one half of his 235 yard passing, 100 yard rushing performance against Michigan, OSU should be sitting pretty. Depending on how much leftover Christmas eggnog Jim Bollman has in his thermos, Braxton could be doing a lot of designed runs, although that's not really his bag. If Florida isn't disciplined enough to stay put when Miller takes off, he could have a field day.
He won't be throwing to Jake Stoneburner, because the dude will be recovering from getting his knee scoped, but who cares because frankly aside from a stupidly high percentage of his catches being touchdowns, you might as well get Reid Fragel in there and accomplish the same thing. The bigger matchup here will be Posey versus the Florida secondary; Posey may be the best overall athlete on the field today and if Braxton is able to connect on at least one of the bombs he missed against Michigan then it should keep them honest enough to allow Boom Herron the breathing room he hasn't been able to get since November 5th (less than 3.5 ypc in his last three games).
Beyond that, I really have no idea what version of the Ohio State offense will show up. I think the lynchpin here is Braxton Miller's rushing ability; how he goes, so goes the rest of the offense.
The defense is a lot healthier than it's been in a while in general, and smartly Heacock and Fickell have given Ryan Shazier the nod to start and be his usual wrecking ball self. The play of the safeties are, as usual, going to probably lead to a lot of clenched fists and a lot of frowny faces as they stumble around trying to contain the speed of Florida's WRs and RBs. Just get used to the idea of Tyler Moeller or Christian Bryant flailing once or twice at Chris Rainey like little kids jumping for candy held just out of their reach.
Thing is though, the combination of talent and an inability to use it on both sides of the field probably favors Ohio State. This time. Annnddd that is the 2011 season in a nutshell.
In all honesty, we're going to miss this. Or, at least, the good version of this. What I'm trying to say is that should Ohio State win this game, it'll cause us to reminisce fondly about how efficient and Swiss watch-like a Jim Tressel staff gameplan could be. If Ohio State loses, we'll all just be chomping at the bit all the more to get the current guard out of here. But I think that it's important for us to remember that when it worked, it really, really worked. Credit needs to go to both Jims, Heacock (a lot) and Bollman (uh... well, he was there) for helping to bring us ten plus years of awesome, awesome football.
Three and a half more hours and we'll be through the looking glass, people. Tresselball is dead. Long live Urbanball.
Ohio State 24, Florida 20