Pressure Makes Diamonds

By Ramzy Nasrallah on July 2, 2013 at 9:30a
This TD was not even possible with an XBOX controller.

A team that plays with a collective psychological detachment that allows it to execute at peak levels without the fear of failure is one of the most terrifying anomalies in sports.

It's because playing with everything-at-stake is generally accompanied by at least a hint of that naturally occurring and consummately toxic cognitive partner, everything-to-lose. You know that awful vibe you feel every time an offensive drive goes needlessly three-and-out specifically on account of telegraphed, frightened play-calling? That failure results for two reasons, and the second one is the fear of losing.

Ohio State didn't play frightened football last season, which might have been a reflection of its coach. It also could have been because it didn't have to.

The Buckeyes operated all year with nothing to lose after being told for the balance of nine months that they had nothing to play for with a postseason ban canceling its true purpose. Whether or not you choose to believe that had an effect on how 2012 played out, its hard to deny that being helplessly unranked and ineligible for holiday prizes every single week soothes some tensions.

And, in part, it devalued a little bit of what they accomplished. Not the inexplicable perfect record thing; the collective psychological detachment to execute at peak levels without the fear of failure thing. It was manufactured in part by a couple of NCAA allegations letters that they inherited. It also might have been mitigated by Urban Meyer.

What Ohio State did on the field 12 straight times was earned, but there was some ancillary, disgusting benefit to having championship dreams snatched away before even getting the chance to go to sleep. The national media told you this. Hell, I did too, and I rarely agree with the #narrative, so it must true. 

But that's all over. That unwanted Ohio State football talking point died ingloriously last November. RIP, Nothing-to-play-for: Everyone hated you. (2012-2012)

Joel Hale and Braxton Miller will have to work harder for this.

Now the Buckeyes get the highly-exclusive tasting menu that comes with having absolutely everything-at-stake: ANTIPASTO: The nation's longest winning streak! PRIMO: Being the prohibitive B1G favorite! SECONDO: National championship aspirations that began with hopes for the AP vote last season and, after all of that, DOLCE: Urban Meyer's Year Two track record for terrifying anomalies

That's a pretty dramatic departure from 2012, when everyone was sent to bed without dessert.

This means that naturally occurring and consummately toxic cognitive partner should return at full strength for the first time since the vacated 2011 season. A forgotten season followed by a handcuffed season led to this. It should be worth the wait, but the pressure will be enormous.

Braxton Miller won't be allowed to covertly play his way into a Heisman invitation for half of a season with nobody scrutinizing his candidacy credentials, as was the case with Johnny Manziel in 2012. Even Buffalo on August 31 matters, as does every game that follows it. 

In 2012 Miller was routinely knocked out of games with injuries that looked practically fatal. He was motionless on the turf. He was slammed into an equipment cart. He was taken away from the stadium in a goddamn ambulance. And each time, while there was prodigious concern for his health, there was also a very quiet, almost vulgar sense of consolation that whispered please be ready for next year.

Somehow he still hasn't missed a game since Jim Bollman benched him for Joe Bauserman against Toledo (because who needs reps, right?) The first time Miller gets up slowly, that prodigious concern for his health will return. The quiet, vulgar sense of consolation will not.

Every game this season will not only serve as the land mine that severs the Buckeyes and their already-dismissed schedule from title consideration; each Saturday could also be Urban Meyer's first loss as head coach. Perfection, double-digit winning streaks, Heisman campaigns and championship hopes all hanging for four hours at a time each Saturday. No biggie.

The question beyond how that new-ish defensive line comes together, ahead of Miller's durability, that night in Evanston or that afternoon in Ann Arbor is just how cruel that consummately toxic cognitive partner of everything-to-win is going to impact a roster that hasn't felt its true wrath in years.

So there will be considerably more pressure on the 2013 Buckeyes than on their departed sibling, which leads back to why Ohio State didn't play frightened football last season. It might have been a reflection of its coach, but it also could have been because it didn't have to.

Perfection, double-digit winning streaks, Heisman campaigns and championship hopes all hanging for four hours at a time each Saturday. No biggie.

If it's the former, then that's exceptional news for those of you who already have Los Angeles-area hotel rooms booked (twice; once for Rose Bowl week and another for the week after, only because you still don't understand or trust BCS math). If Meyer is the reason the Buckeyes played unafraid, that bodes well for 2013.

However, if it was because of the empty winner's circle, admittedly buttressed after-the-fact by the university with commemorative walls and rings, then you might feel more clenching in tight games than you would prefer.

In all likelihood, you're going to be pleasantly unsurprised by how 2013 progresses. The stress from outside of the WHAC on Ohio State football to perform at peak levels pales in comparison to what is being applied from within, and that tension arrived with Meyer's hiring. It even survived an abandoned postseason unscathed.

So Ohio State shouldn't be weakened by pressure. It should be even stronger. And that's exactly the kind of terrifying anomaly you're hoping to see.


Comments Show All Comments

Buckeye Rocket Sci's picture

Not sure if this just made me more nervous or excited.. lol
Either way, under 60 days 'til all the talk of possibilities and questions can subside, if only for a single Saturday, as college football FINALLY returns!!

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence" - Calvin Coolidge

FLBuckeye's picture

Beautifully written.

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

Ramzy, you've done it again.

Buckin_Tua's picture

Great, great article.  I personally was clenched up in every big moment this last season anyways, just the effect Buckeye football has on me.  The stuff this article refers to is the unmatched beauty of college football.  I can't wait.

txbucknut's picture

Ok so this made we want the season to start NOW! Well done!

meddler's picture

Looking forward to 30 November...

Location: Ann Arbor

Hovenaut's picture

I really like watching football.

Seems like reading about football has become extremely gratifying as well.

Especially since November 3rd of last year.

droessl's picture

So... Is Ramzy suggesting that the 2013 Ohio State football team could be a monster? 

causeicouldntgo43's picture

Looking forward to the "highly exclusive tasting menu" this year. I suggest our Buckeyes start out with a glass of Prosecco to cleanse the palette before they tear into their lean and bloody Buffalo steaks. Goes well with Badger and Wolverine meat as well since they have a lot of fat and gristle to contend with.  

MN Buckeye's picture

I see the rodents on our schedule (badgers and wolverines) getting run over, but I am not sure I would actually want to eat any of them.

causeicouldntgo43's picture

Coach Red Bull makes sausages out of wolverine and badger meat - it's not a pretty process but it tastes good.............

MN Buckeye's picture

Mmmmmm . . . I do love sausage.

whobdis's picture

Regardless of the's likely we finally lose a game this year. It's really bucking the odds to do otherwise. On the message boards we'll hear how Meyer has lost his edge..we shouldn't have kept Luke....'this is one game JT would have won'..ect. It seems so many already has pegged into the NC much as to fall into place. As good as Bama has been they still needed some help. Should be fun..

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

Bama needed SOME help???
They didn't even win their division 2 years ago, and if it weren't for the Buckeyes past transgressions, they wouldn't have made it last year...
they seems like "deal with the devil" type help to me.

fear_the_nut70's picture

Uh oh, where is our resident Alabama stalker fan?  This is going to go over like the proverbial fart in church (as the truth often does).

OSUBias's picture

The funny thing is that it's a ridiculous argument on the Bama fans part. They definitely needed help to get in. It's not really debatable. That's what happens when you lose a game. That doesn't mean they weren't definitely the best team in CFB at the end of the season.
I don't think we could have beaten Bama last year. I do think we could have beaten ND. With no sanctions, we end up with a possible NC without the best team in CFB being involved (assuming we got the nod over a 1 loss SEC team) in the game. And that is why the BCS sucks.

7 yards and a cloud of dust is a beautiful thing

fear_the_nut70's picture

It has been my experience that people will conflate "see what we did in the game" with "we deserved to be there," two things that really aren't related at all. 
Much of the fight over who should play in the MNC can be put into two distinct camps: 1) eye ball test (after watching 'em play, so and so is the best); 2) who deserved it/resume test (obviously some people use a hybrid approach which is sensible).
I do believe Bama was the best team in the country last year AND deserved to be there.  The year before, whether they were the best team in the country or not (and it was the better of the two Bama teams IMO), they absolutely did NOT deserve to be there IMO, having played a fairly soft schedule and having already lost to LSU in a home game (when I say soft schedule, I mean it was inferior to Oklahoma State's).
BTW, I think we would have been handled pretty easily by Alabama last year.  Though we clearly lost the NCAA Russian Roulette punishment process, I don't know if the Buckeye fans pysche could have handled another SEC beat down.  Might have been a blessing in disguise.  That's as honest as I can be...

buckeyedude's picture

 I think we would have been handled pretty easily by Alabama last year. 

ND was handled "easily" by Bama. I think John Simon and Big Hank and the rest of the Buckeyes would have put up a much better fight.
Nobody gave Ohio State a chance vs. the Hurricanes either.



BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

I agree. I didn't say that we were the best team in the nation last year... just that things seemed to fall in Bama's lap the last 2 seasons.
That said... we never had got to play Bama, so we'll never truly know what would have happened...
as a Buckeye, I'll assume that we would have beaten Bama or ND, lol...
but hey, Urban and the boys can prove it on the field this year... hopefully in January in Pasadena... and hopefully against an SEC team.

southernstatesbuckeye's picture

Destiny.  Who cares about odds?
There wont be any talk of Meyer "losing his edge" or "Tressell woulda done it thisa way", or any other reaction to this imaginary loss.  Cause the loss will never materialize.
The Buckeyes will need NO help this year from voters or analysts.  An undefeated OSU Big Ten Champion WILL play for all the marbles.  They have recruited all the help that could possibly be used.  This really is the year.  The myth about undefeated seasons is nonsense.  They have EXACTLY the same chance of going undefeated in 2013 as they did in 2012. 
Urban did it with a decidedly imperfect team last year.  This team has morphed into a true nightmare for opposing game planners.  It may take a few games to get their "sea legs", but my prediction is that by the time conference play rolls around, there will be far fewer doubters than there are now.
And how bout this for a far out prediction?  Even Mark May will be crooning about the Buckeye's chances in the National Championship!
Ok, maybe a reach.

I like cookies.

Buckaroo's picture

Today's CFB player is too simplistic to worry about expectations, past history, or tradition.  Perhaps the coaching staff, alums, or OSU staff has the high expectations, but you give too much credit to the players as far as worrying. They care about the day to day grind, not being put on the losers list, and keeping their position coach from riding their arses. The bottom line is that the B1G senior leadership needs to be damn well worried that the SEC and what they need to do to effectively compete with that league. Right now they aren't doing too hot in that very real battle for the hearts and minds of America's fans. 


rdubs's picture

I think by the end of the season they were playing with a bit of fear of losing.  We could have pounded ttun with the way the defense played, but our offense was conservative.  At Wisconsin, same deal.  Herman admitted that he was afraid to throw at times last year.  If not for fear of losing (or reliving Bauserbombs) why would he be afraid?  

buckeyedude's picture

I always enjoy Ramzy's articles, but I'm afraid this one plays right into the hands of the negative Ned's and Nellie's.



Michibuck's picture

Wow. Great writing, Ramzy.

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

I think the SOS is the big elephant in the room at this point in time.  There is plenty of noise throughout the Internet at how grossly easy OSU's schedule is and that can add a bit of weight to the pressure lumped on this team.  OSU is supposed to blow through the schedule leaving a wake of dead bodies and bloated margins of victory and if they don't - the conversation quickly turns to not being worthy of a shot at the title!  There is the potential that during a closer than it should be moment during the season that may induce some panic in players for that reason and lead to some sloppy play and fundamental breakdowns.  That will be a major challenge for the coaches and team leads to keep that in check!

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

fear_the_nut70's picture

I suppose what I am about to write goes with being a Buckeye fan (and it's better to have this conversation rather than "we're hoping to be bowl eligible this year" talk), but what annoys me AZbuckeye is talk already that the weak schedule "would keep OSU out of the game against, say, a 1 loss SEC team."  This annoys me not for the obvious reason (SEC fatigue), but because not one freaking down of football has been played.  That is to say, much of this should come down to the eyeball test, and until we see teams on the field (and not just on paper), how can one even begin to assess the relative strengths of teams?  What if OSU whips everyone by four or five td's (this is a hypo, and a pretty unrealistic one at that, but still makes a point)?  Wouldn't that matter?  I know much of this is fueled by haters in a sport where it feels like campaigning for your team is a must, but it still annoys me.  IF they actually went 25-0 over two seasons with pretty much the same starters, seems to me that says something about how good that team would be going into a possible MNC game (and I realize technically 2012 shouldn't factor in).  Perhaps I just need to be happy that this is even a topic of conversation, as such things aren't being discussed on most campuses in the country.

Buckeye Rocket Sci's picture

We are definitely lucky just to be able to talk about this with some sort of realism. However, I completely agree with you. It seems like most people forget that college football is so unpredictable and impossibly complex with teams coming out of nowhere to do really well (Northwestern) or collapsing (MSU to an extent, Arkansas definitely). By the time our conference schedule comes around, we could be talking about a few undefeated, great teams. Or we could be talking about one of the worst years in recent Big Ten history. The point is, nobody knows. The very idea of preseason determinations about who will be a good team and what will be the best games is nonsense meant merely to make some extra money during the offseason. 
I have faith in these guys and in UFM that they don't let anything slip away. If we lose a game, then it will be because they were better/luckier, not because we gave it up (except maybe Purdue, you never know with that black magic of theirs). 

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence" - Calvin Coolidge

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Completely agree!

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

BrewstersMillions's picture

2 days before the fouth of Joo-Lie and you're speaking foreign languages? This is Amehrica and we speak 'Merican here....if you don't like that you can jerrrrssst getttt ouuuut!
I kid of course. Two takeaways from this great piece.
1) Joe Bauserman was actually put in to replace Braxton Miller. We live in a world where that thing actually happened. Now I know Brax was a Freshman...but ya.
2) I might be the only person looking forward to "That night in Evanston". That blood letting is going to probably end up hurting OSU more than it helps. It should be a top 15 matchup barring some sort of bed crapping but if (when) OSU beats (mercilessly slaughters) NU, I'm sure a blowout of the best team they'll see all year (sorry Michigan) will have a detrimental affect on their total body of work, unless Northwestern wins out or only loses one more time and can stay inside of the top 25 after OSU eats them alive.

IBleedSandG's picture

Props for sticking to your prediction of the Bucks mercilessly slaughtering NU. I feel you may be one to something as far as the deterimental effect that may come if (when) tOSU does demolish the best team on their schedule. I still think ttun will probably end up being the best team we play in the regular season. Unless, Gardner gets hurt or plays like he did against us last year in the bigger games.


RBuck's picture



Long live the southend.

RBuck's picture

Just realized that I'll probably be flagged by HS for this.

Long live the southend.

Maestro's picture

Yikes RBuck.

vacuuming sucks

pjtobin's picture

Very good read. I ain't scared. Bring em on. 

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

Colorado Buckeye's picture

great article... what's weird is that in the past this type "pressure" would make me want to puke as a Buckeye fan yet strangely now I feel like running through a brick wall. Strange what effect leadership can have one's mentality. Lead us forward Urban the silver bullet army is right behind you!

Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory lasts forever!

unholy bucknut's picture

I trust in our teams mental toughness. They just need to go out there focus on their assignments play as a team and all the accolades will fall into place. Urban is going to put the blinders on Miller keep him focused. I think this team will thrive in the pressure and answer every call to be one of the best squads to grace Ohio Stadium.

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Awesome article!  One game at a time!!  Let's get rollin.
Go Bucks!

Maestro's picture

There are certain pre-seasons that just feel different.  It happens pretty regularly as a Buckeye fan which is why we are a pretty spoiled bunch.  This is one of those pre-seasons.  I am ready to have some hairs turn gray over it.

vacuuming sucks

JollyFatMan's picture

Ramzy. I love you. 

How firm thy friendship..

Maestro's picture

Ramzy.  I hate you.  I clearly read this too late last night.  I had nightmares about losing to scUM 3 consecutive years.  They were terrible and harrowing.  Thanks for nothing.

vacuuming sucks

Maestro's picture

Yes, I am replying to myself.  My ego knows no bounds.  
I wish that post was all in fun, but it really did happen.  The last game I remember (I very rarely remember my dreams) was a crushing 35-42 defeat.  I tossed and turned and was pissed.  Not a restful night...........perhaps I need some sort of intervention.

vacuuming sucks

Oyster's picture

It's noon somewhere!

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)