The Zen of Ten

By Sarah on November 5, 2012 at 2:00p
36 Comments

After dispatching Illinois on Saturday, Ohio State became the first 10-0 team in the country this season. Without context, that hardly seems out of the ordinary for a football powerhouse, even if it's only happened nine times in school history. 

Ten out of ten ain't bad.Ten Victorious Carmen Ohios

When Urban Meyer came aboard, undefeated records and Heisman Trophy candidates were anticipated even more than usual, though most fans expected those feats to wait until next year after the kinks of a new system had been ironed out and a national title was a tangible goal.

But here they are a year earlier with a perfect record and a top-five ranking in the month of November. Two rivals1—one more recent, one the ultimate—are what stand between Ohio State and a 12-0 record. So clearly, all is well and good in Buckeyeland.

Except, not quite. The team has had its share of screw ups and close calls; until the Illinois game and the win over Penn State a week before, Ohio State hadn't put together anything resembling a complete game. Even after their easiest victory of the season, Meyer wasn't satisfied:

"I've been fortunate to have a couple of top five teams," Meyer said. "This one probably has more holes than those other ones. However, there's also some great performances, so we are going to do dwell on the weaknesses because those weaknesses get exposed when you play two good teams like we have to finish the season."

The players seem to share that sentiment with their coach. According to Philly (né Corey) Brown, "He holds us to such high standards – and he should."

That's the kind of attitude people want their favorite teams to have, one where they're continuously focused on getting better. But as a fan, it can be exhausting to sweat the small stuff, always demand more, and not fully appreciate what makes a team special. 

This season, Ohio State does not fit the definition of elite, yet I'm proud of how much they've grown and the resolve they've shown to reach 10-0. As such, I've come up with ten reasons why, flaws and all, this team should be enjoyed.  

10. No Complacency

As stated above, fans don't want a team to settle for anything less than their best effort. With Urban Meyer, Ohio State has a coach who is quick to praise players who he feels have earned it, but he will also call out anyone who needs to improve, even a star quarterback whose passing game is not yet up to par. 

If the Buckeyes had been content with just making it through September undefeated, then they wouldn't have made it through October and into November unscathed. If they want to remain perfect, they have to keep trying to fix their imperfections. Fortunately, no one on the team seems willing to accept this is as good as they get. 

9. Work in Progress

And because they aren't complacent, the Buckeyes have made many strides, both from a year ago and during the season. The 2011 team won six games. The 2012 team has a chance to double that total.

In 2011, the offense scored 39 touchdowns and totaled 4,133 yards in 13 games. In 2012, the offense has scored 55 touchdowns and totaled 4,453 yards, and those numbers are only through 10 games.

Earlier in the season, Braxton Miller was the entire offense, and while he's still clearly the top playmaker, others have stepped up, most especially Carlos Hyde as his running partner in crime.

Meanwhile, the defense, particularly in the last few weeks after a poor outing against Indiana, has clamped down. The defense has had to deal with quite a few significant injuries and as such, has been a motley crew of sorts. Most notable is fullback Zach Boren making the switch to linebacker. But after a few games, the players have learned to play together and gotten into a bit of a groove.

"Leaders, leaders, leaders!" - Urban MeyerBoren has been an active senior.

Although it should be noted that none of their last three opponents—Purdue, Penn State, and Illinois—could be considered offensive juggernauts, the defense has given up much fewer big plays, a sign that they've worked on fundamentals like tackling, a huge problem area not too long ago.

8. Senior Leadership

This is not a team loaded with seniors, but their leadership has been invaluable. Boren moving to the other side of the ball is just one instance of a veteran helping the team. During the offseason, John Simon set an example for his teammates with his draconian workout sessions, and then Simon, who most likely has played hurt all season, gave an uncharacteristically fiery speech after Ohio State held off Cal.

On the field, their production has increased recently, whether it's Boren accumulating tackles following his position change or Simon disrupting the opposing QB. Their unselfish attitudes not only benefit Ohio State now, but also for the future when the underclassmen who look up to them become seniors themselves.

7. Youth Movement

As important as the seniors are, Ohio State's most nationally recognized players could all potentially return next year2. Heisman candidate Miller is a sophomore, Thorpe Award semifinalist Bradley Roby is a redshirt sophomore, and future first-round draft pick Johnathan Hankins is a junior. 

The team's top tackler, linebacker Ryan Shazier, is also a sophomore and since he's been joined by Boren, Shazier has reemerged as a beast on defense.   On the DL, freshmen Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence have been the key contributors in their class, though others have shown eagerness to play and made their mark on kickoff and punt teams. 

Nearly all of the starting offense, currently ranked 36th in the country, will be back next season as well.

6. Line Play

As Meyer noted in his Illinois postgame press conference, he places a huge emphasis on controlling the line of scrimmage and Ohio State has been able to do it on both sides of the ball.

The offensive line has excelled under Meyer and position coach Ed Warinner, helping pave the way for the nation's ninth-ranked rushing offense.

The defensive line has not dominated as many expected, but against the run, it has been stout. Ranked 16th in the country in rushing defense, Ohio State is surrendering just 3.49 yards/carry and 107.9 yards/game.  

Most coaches will tell you that games are won in the trenches, and Ohio State's lines are a big reason why they're 10-0. 

5. The Running Men

Such a handsome touchdown.Hall with the hole for Hyde

The guys that the OL blocks for have really come on strong lately. In the early part of the season, the running game wasn't very consistent outside of Miller, but after overcoming an injury, Hyde turned into a major running threat to complement his QB. Miller is averaging 116.6 yards/game compared to Hyde at 92.1, though it's Hyde who now leads the Big Ten in rushing touchdowns with 14, one more than Miller.

Rod Smith has shown promise as Hyde's backup with a robust 6.8 yards/carry. His reputation as a fumbler, however, remains the one glaring weakness to his game.

In garbage time against Illinois, freshman Bri'onte Dunn practically drove the length of the field all on his own. He totaled 73 yards on 13 attempts and scored his second career touchdown.

With versatile RB Jordan Hall injured most of the season, Ohio State has been able to prove that Urban Meyer knows how to use power backs and that Ohio State is a still a run-first team.

4. Spreading the Ball Around

Although everyone, even Miller himself, is aware that Ohio State's passing game needs to improve, the signs are there that it's slowly but surely starting to get better.

Leading receiver Brown, with 48 catches on the season, and Devin Smith, with a team-high six TD receptions, were the only two WRs targeted regularly at the beginning of the season. In the past month, Miller has gotten the ball to more teammates. Former tight end Jake Stoneburner has 15 catches while current tight ends Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett have combined for the same number. Rod Smith's 51-yard wheel route was a highlight against Illinois and WR Evan Spencer has accounted for over half of his catches in the past three games alone after not recording any stats in the four games prior.

Sometimes Miller struggles with accuracy and sometimes his receivers struggle with drops, but the passing offense is leaps and bounds from where it was last season and will continue to grow as the QB and WRs become more comfortable.

3. Winner's Mentality

This season, the Buckeyes have been able to make plays when they need to, most obviously in the thrilling comeback against Purdue. They have won four of their games by seven points or fewer. Last season, six of their seven losses came by the same margin.

This Ohio State team seems to believe in themselves, as represented by Roby declaring them the #1 team in the country and one that "can play with any team. We have the players to match up with any team."3

Part of their self-confidence can be chalked up to players gaining more experience and realizing what it takes to win, but some of it can also be attributed to the new coaching staff.

2. #YEAAHHHHH

Urban Meyer's staff appears to be a fun-loving, but intense group, and based on the team's production as well as their individual Twitter accounts, guys who know how to communicate with the players (and recruits).

Everyone knows about the exclamation-happy, Red Bull-loving Kerry Coombs and the juice-obsessed Mark Pantoni; there's also the less frequent zeal of Tim Hinton and Zach Smith and Tom Herman repeatedly mentioning how great it is to be a Buckeye:

 

Overall, the coaches come off as enthusiastic with an understanding of how to get the best out of their players.

1. The Greatest

Even though he will probably not take home the Heisman this season, for my money, there's no player more exciting in college football right now. I don't care what the QB rating of Kansas State's Collin Klein is or how many yards Oregon RB Kenjon Barner explodes for. When I noticed a headline about Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel's "fantastic touchdown run", I watched the video and practically yawned. It was downright mundane compared to the elusive, practically computerized moves that GIF-worthy Braxton Miller displays on a weekly basis.

On Saturday, Miller conducted his postgame interviews wearing a Cassius Clay sweatshirt and while the QB is not the greatest in Ohio State history, he has the chance to become just that. He's already set both the single-game and single-season rushing records for an Ohio State quarterback. He's also Meyer's first-ever 1,000-yard rusher. 

And he hasn't even reached his potential. Barring any unforeseen circumstances and as long as his passing game continues to come along, Miller will only become more amazing to watch. Witnessing his evolution into a premier playmaker has almost been more entertaining than seeing this team get to 10-0. 

It's tough not to be impressed with how far this team has come. Although the season is nearing its end, this could just be the beginning of even better things for the Buckeyes. 

  • 1 Both hated
  • 2 I'm not saying that, for example, Big Hank will be back next year, but it's at least possible. 
  • 3 While I don't agree with Roby that Ohio State is the best team in the country, it's not like anyone can prove him definitively wrong right now. 
36 Comments

Comments

ccollins0325's picture

So, in order to finish 12-0 this year, and win the National Championship next year, we will have to be 26-0. When is the last time that happened? Anywhere?

Baroclinicity's picture

25-0?

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

AirForceNUT's picture

12-0 this season, plus 12 wins during the regular season and then the Conference championship and then the National Championship adds up to 26 wins..  Unless I am incorrect somewhere :)

Baroclinicity's picture

Yeah.  Downvote me for that.  I keep forgetting about that stupid conference championship game.  And it's only stupid because I forget about it.

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

fear_the_nut70's picture

I am not certain under the right circumstances that a one loss OSU team couldn't play for a championship.  So many variables, but it happened in 2007.  Multiple undefeateds in the championship game is still the exception rather than the rule.  B1G would have to be much better, it would probably have to a close quality loss, and you couldn't have two undefeated big boys teams left.  All of this is at least possible.

Sarah's picture

When Ohio State beat Miami for the national title, the Hurricanes were riding a 34-game winning streak. Same with USC before they lost to Texas.

Bolt's picture

Didn't Miami win 34 straight or something before losing to us in the Nat'l title game? I bet our strength of schedule over this season and next is as bad as theirs was in the Big East back then...I give it a possible. Again, because our schedule will be possibly even worse next year than it is this year.

onetwentyeight's picture

To be fair, SOS notwithstanding, that Miami U team was stocked to the gills with first-tier NFL talent (illegally recruited, but STILL). They would've reeled off a similar streak in any conference IMO. 

bigbill992001's picture

Oklahoma-can you say Bud Wilkerson?

Poison nuts's picture

This is a very legitimate point.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

Baroclinicity's picture

I hope we're not taking Wisconsin too lightly.  Seems like we've already chalked up the win, and as we know from last year, anything can happen.
Love this team.  Love this season.  And 2013 could be special around here.
 

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Tim's picture

Yeah, at Wisconsin is always tough.  Not a night game, but at this time of year, a 3:30 game basically feels like it's a night game.
Agreed about this year's team and next year potentially being very special.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

The Buckeyes will not be looking past Wisc. More likely is that the Badgers will look past Indy this Saturday. 

fear_the_nut70's picture

I will let others speak for themselves, but I can't imagine anyone "chalking up a win" over a solid Wisconsin team on their home turf, especially since we all recognize that this OSU team has some deficiencies.  Wisconsin is playing their best ball of the year, and while they do have some issues at QB, we have them in our secondary.  It would be foolish for anyone to look past that game just because meat chicken is around the corner.

Mi.Buckeye's picture

So Ohio States longest win streak is 22. Who wants to see them beat that next year?
 
Plus I need some more helmet stickers so I can vote!

Baroclinicity's picture

Blatant pleas for upvotes gets you nothing but...
 
...an upvote every time!  Upvoted!

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

osubuckeye4life's picture

Do you live in Ann Arbor and have a huge inflatable Brutus in your front yard along with a large Ohio State flag flying 365 days a year?

danavh4's picture

Any chance we could see some good news about recruiting any time soon?

Michigan Fan: "We lose a long snapper and the whole team goes to shit!"

buckz4evr's picture

@ mibuckeye  Upvoted you, but had major reservations because of all your Detroit likings. 

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Urban f@#$ing Meyer - it just rolls SOOOOOOO nicely off the tongue doesn't it!!!  The more I hear about this coaching staff the more I am loving this entire team!  I remember reading an interview with Urban where he was saying that he doesn't know how good of a staff he has because he had not coached with many of them previously.  I'm guessing by the way this team is starting to gel that it also includes the coaches getting comfortable with each other!  Call me a complete Buckeye homer but I don't see this team going anywhere but up over the next 4 - 5 years. 
Personally, I don't think many of the coaches leave over the next few years because of the incredible opportunity they have at OSU right now.  Now that Urban came to town, the assistant coaches are getting paid big bucks so that is not going to be a factor.  They are literally learning under one of the best coaches in college football at one of the best colleges in the country.  I just have a feeling that we are on the verge of something that is going to just blow the Buckeye Nation away!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

Ahh Saturday's picture

Herman will be the first to go. He's young, bright, has no particular ties to Ohio, and is gaining experience under one of CFB's great minds and mentors. The buzz will start next year. By '14 his name will be mentioned in connection to most every job opening. In '15 he's the head coach at a mid-level team in an AQ conference. 

cplunk's picture

Probably true.
Do whatever it takes to keep Ed Warriner. Whatever. It. Takes. 

osubuckeye4life's picture

Exactly, if tOSU wins a national championship next year then Herman is most likely gone shortly after that. 

Alhan's picture

But as a fan, it can be exhausting to sweat the small stuff, always demand more, and not fully appreciate what makes a team special.

Isn't this all any self-respecting Ohio State fan does anyways?  ;-)

"Nom nom nom" - Brady Hoke

Will in Arizona's picture

Imagine what Urban could have done with Cam Newton or Terrelle Pryor (two guys he just missed out on for various reasons).  Two guys every bit as big as Tim Tebow, but better passers and faster (much faster in Pryor's case).  

osubuckeye4life's picture

If Cam Newton didn't take that laptop and stayed at Florida. It's very possible Meyer would still be there. Because if he had Newton it is very possible he could have won another title or two with Cam. After that Florida would of had to beat away recruits with a stick, everyone would have wanted to come there. 
 
It was a blessing in disguse that Cam left Florida. 

Buckeyebrowny919's picture

drives me crazy when they talk of the all amazing JOHNNY FOOTBALL and his touchdown run...I really begin to question if anyone has truly watched what Braxton Miller does every game he is on the field. People sure do put blinders on as soon as someone else starts talking about a certain player. Then, here comes the big ol' ESPN and they beat it into your head until you have no other option but to agree...just obnoxious really

To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift - Steve Prefontaine

WC Buckeye's picture

Amen and AMEN. It's all a manipulated conversation until the invitations come out, anyway, at which point the talking heads (a lot of them actual voters) view the "body of work" (trite phrase derp noted - not my choice of terms but it will be theirs). Miller's BOW is going to be more impressive because it will be for an undefeated* team, and the others' won't, although McCarron is looking like he could be a legit threat to that.
* Auuuuggghh, the number of times we hear - or will hear as the time for voting gets closer - "The Buckeyes, of course, are not bowl-eligible". AS IF EVERYONE'S BEEN COMATOSE AND NEEDS TO BE REMINDED OF THAT.

The only thing that's new in the world is the history that we have forgotten.

timdogdad's picture

i loved two plays by braxton-the one rolling to his right, looking, looking, no one open, and just cruises in the corner of the end zone. sort of like, let me try to get a td pass, nope, i'll just run it in like i'm playing against 5 th graders who have no chance of catching me.   and that sort of stop fake at the other end of the field.   sometimes it looks like he's just playing backyard ball with other kids.    plus better throwing mechanics equals nice spirals. we saw that too.  

Doc's picture

I'm hoping the team is well rested and laser focused for Wisky.  losing to themafter a bye week will be awful.  And of course kicking the crap out of AACC.

"Say my name."

dsbgobux's picture

I am loving every minute this year. I am happy there is a basketball game this weekend. Seven days without the Bucks makes one weak! ( at least my lawn might finally get mowed!)

Buckeye in PA purgatory

nickma71's picture

And the Borens almost went to Michigan.

buckeyewalker's picture

Good article, but some statistics were laughably wrong. For example, the quote about the offense gaining ~2500 yards. Obviously that can't be right, as that's about 250 yards a game and Brax plus Hyde gives us 209 on the ground alone! According to ESPN, our rushing game gets 256.1 ypg (9th nationally) and our passing gets 189.2 ypg, which totals to 445.3 ypg. This over ten games is 4453 yards, far more than ~2500. Also, it was stated that our offense is 36th in the country, where in fact our 39.9 ppg is 12th, according to ESPN. Not sure where those stats are coming from. 

Sarah's picture

The first part was my fault for including rushing yards when I meant total yards, which I have since fixed. But in total offense, Ohio State is 36th. In scoring offense, which I did not mention, they are indeed 12th. 

buckeyewalker's picture

Ah, I see. That would explain it. What does the differential tell us about this offense? That it is extraordinarily efficient at converting long drives into touchdowns? The high pts/yards ratio would suggest a good red zone offense and good 3rd down conversion rates. Turns out we're 30th in 3rd down conversions and 20th in red zone offense, with 39 scores in 44 tries. Not bad.