A Show-Me State of Mind

By Johnny Ginter on September 6, 2013 at 2:00p
Show me what ya owe me.

This is not a post about Missouri. And nothing against Missouri! It's a fine state that continues to give Yakov Smirnoff gainful employment, and for that I'm eternally grateful.

But instead, this post is more about expectations, and what I've learned over the past several years both as an Ohio State fan and as a writer for Eleven Warriors.

One of the things that I've notced is that every fall camp, we seem to gravitate toward calling one or two units as being particularly good. Last season it was the defensive line, the year before that it was... okay, nobody, but the year before that in 2010 it was the offensive line, and the year before that it was the defensive line again.

Sometimes these predictions work out. The 2009 version of the Ohio State defensive line was an absolute monster, allowing less than three yards per carry and only eight rushing touchdowns the entire season (half of which came in the first two games). Their dominance culminated in a Rose Bowl victory over a hyped Oregon squad that looked totally befuddled at times against a highly flexible OSU d-line.

Other times it doesn't work out. Last season that same unit was supposed to be one of the best in recent memory, and call to mind the efforts of the 2009 group. Instead, they gave up nearly 2/3rds of a yard more per rushing attempt, allowed three teams to reach the 200 rushing yard mark, and though they managed a respectable 30 sacks, their 64 tackles for loss paled in comparison to that of teams from the previous five seasons.

The caveat is that there are always extenuating circumstances. Injuries, bad coaching, how the opponents decide to play against certain units, or just plain bad luck can effect stats and our perception of how well a group played.

But the overall point is that it's impossible to accurately determine just how well a group will perform, no matter what the hype surrounding them was going into the season.

The hype itself is natural. Even though they're dumb as hell, people still love preseason polls because it gives them something to talk about. Last season, for instance, USC got 25 first pace votes in the preseason AP poll, and was ranked number one. They were followed by Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, and Oregon, in that order. By the time the final AP poll of the season rolled around, USC wasn't even ranked, and Oklahoma and LSU were 15th and 14th respectively.

Conversely, Texas A&M, which garnered all of five total points in the initial AP poll, ended the season 5th.

nooooooooooooooOH GOD WE'RE SCREWED

If you're saying to yourself, "well yeah, but who could've accounted for Johnny Manziel? Or a loaded USC team being completely mismanaged by an incompetent coach?"

But that's exactly the point. People are both fallible and unpredictable. No one could've predicted that Manziel would've come from absolutely nowhere as a redshirt freshman and rack up over 5000 yards of offense, and the people who should've known that Lane Kiffin would royally botch his easiest run at some kind of respectability didn't see it coming at all.

The reason for both of these things that sports fans and the media that caters to them want opposing things, at least as far as accuracy and the truth are concerned. On one hand, fans want to know which team or player or group of players are going to be awesome in an upcoming season, and they want to know these things quickly.

And since immediacy drives the narrative, the media is obliged to give people things like "breakout performers" and "top units" and "teams to look out for" that are really based on nothing but conjecture and, for the most part, hearsay. Aside from maybe Phil Steele, sports writers don't really care about accuracy at that point because readers almost never hold them accountable for being wrong.

So let's circle back around to Ohio State. This season, the offensive line should be very good despite a mediocre at best game from them last week. We, the fans and media, were buoyed in our line of thinking about the o-line because of quotes like this from Meyer from August 27th:

So as the Buckeyes prepare for the opener Saturday against Buffalo, they are much deeper on the line, Meyer said.

“Pat Elflein is a great story,” Meyer said. “What a worker, what a tremendous kid, tremendous family. Just tough. … Kyle Dodson has come on.” ...

“Those are all players that, a year ago, to think you would ever let them on the field in a situation where it counts, that’s not going to happen,” Meyer said. Now, in terms of Baldwin, “I have no problem putting him, Pat Elflein, Jacoby Boren in the game, and Kyle Dodson is getting close.”

We jumped on that quote like a cat on a laser pointer. Real depth! A rotation of guys! We're gonna be Alabama from last year yeeeaaaaaaahhhh!

Then, yesterday, Meyer had this to say about the line play:

The four sacks did not sit well with the coach. Buffalo also totaled nine tackles for loss.

"That's unacceptable," Meyer said. "Completely unacceptable."

Meyer noted that a couple of the sacks resulted from "pure misses by the offensive line."

Oh no, we're terrible now! Better get ready for 7-6 and the eventual heat death of the universe! Etcetera.

It's all relative. Like football polls, we shouldn't try to assess individual groups of 18-22 year olds until we've seen them on the field for at least 3-4 weeks. The offensive line may still prove to be one of the nation's best. A linebacker corps that is perceived to be very thin might surprise by coming together quickly. A vaunted RB stable might turn out to be mediocre overall.

But until we get more evidence either way, it's probably best to wait. Don't give me promises of greatness or knee jerk reactions to one sloppy game. Show me on the field, and in a month we can start to talk about these things.


Comments Show All Comments

mb5599's picture

all i know is that they need to bring it for 60 full minutes tomorrow.  i know everyone says not to worry about the polls. just win and it will work itself out. i'm here to tell you with this schedule, we will probably need style points if we want to get into the NC game. the SEC champ will more than likely get one spot. unless oregon or stanford loses (and maybe even clemson) we will be on the outside looking in even if we are undefeated.  this team needs to beat SDSU convincingly since they lost to a FCS opponent last weekend. just winning is not going to cut it unless you are satisfied with the rose bowl.  

Big B

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

So what's convincingly to you? 920 yards, and 80pts?

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

mb5599's picture

how bout more than one "lights out" quarter against a MAC team.  With our elite athletes we should have been able to line up and play smash mouth football.  Our line should have been able to completely control the game. What do you think would have happened against a good team? 

Big B

Ethos's picture

Style points are overrated.  There is a very slim chance, and I mean EXTREMELY SLIM, that any of the top 25 teams will leave this season undefeated, much less 3 of them.  I say this, because 3 teams going undefeated in 3 different conferences would have ot happen in order to keep an undefeated Ohio State out of the championship game.  You guys forget that this system is based on fans and $ and we have a lot of both so the only way we don't make it if we go undefeated is if two other teams, with harder schedules, go all the way.  If htat happens, then those teams DESERVE to be there.  
I don't want another 2006.

"I spent 90 percent of my money on women and drink. The rest I wasted." - George Best

NitroBuck's picture

I agree that style points are way overrated.  Enough is never enough when dealing with the pro-SEC hacks at CBS and ESPN.  The Buckeyes could beat SDSU 38-13, and those clowns will be harping about how OSU struggled to win again.

Ferio.  Tego.

MuraliPatel's picture

... did we watch the same game last week? Outside of the 1st quarter, we DID struggle, and mightily at some points, offensively, defensively and on special teams. Four Sacks? Unacceptable. Soft coverage designed to dislodge balls from receivers but was unable to? Unacceptable. Philly Brown bobbling/muffing 3 punts? Unacceptable. In a small twist of irony, at least the punter looked good.

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

Still won by 20, and put up 460 yards.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

mb5599's picture

I think youre wrong.  i think its a pretty safe assumption to say that the sec champion will more than likely take one of the NC slots. that leaves one. with the BIG 10's reputation, they cannot afford to have any other undefeated teams.  If Ohio State and either Stanford or Oregon goes undefeated, i believe Stanford or Oregon will get the nod due to their strength of schedule.  Last years undefeated season wont count for much.  It could help stop a team from jumping us if we are at #2, but it wont allow us to jump over an undefeated PAC 12 team.  Thats why it is critical to look good every week. that means style points are important as we saw last week when we looked like world beaters for one quarter, looked average for three quarters, beat buffalo by 20, and still dropped in the polls. 

Big B

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Nah - if Ohio State goes undefeated this year for the second year in-a-row (25-0), they probably won't need any style points - although that's a possibility - even given the Buckeyes' mediocre schedule. What is clear is that Ohio State does not "need to beat SD State convincingly," although that would be nice to watch.   

mb5599's picture

i hope your right, but i doubt we get in over an undefeated oregon/stanford or mabye not even an undefeated clemson.

Big B

chitown buckeye's picture

@MB5599- So its come down to a 1 game season, the second game of the year? If we don't beat SDST "convincingly" our national title hopes are over?? This is the craziest thought process yet! We need to win. If we are unbeaten, "style points" wont matter. The ace in the hole for OSU is the fact we are coached by Urban Meyer. He will kill the media and everyone else to get us into the big game, the same way he did for Florida in 06'. He has a proven track record and that will play in our favor. Tell me who wouldnt want to see a Saban vs Meyer NC game??! Enough with the style points talk! There is no magic number that we need to win by....

"I'm having a heart attack!"

OldColumbusTown's picture

I think it is obvious MB559 is not saying OSU must rout SDSU tomorrow in order to continue national title hopes, but I think what he is getting at here is valid.
OSU needs to take each game, one at a time, and try and play and "look" as impressive as possible.  Let's face it, college football has turned just as much into a beauty pageant as any other sport possibly could.  It's all based on voters, which is all based on perception.  Squeak by a team that just lost big to an FCS school, and it doesn't look good.
Now, chances are if OSU goes undefeated again this season they will make the championship game.  But, MB559 is right that if OSU doesn't win games impressively, against a fairly weak schedule, and teams like Alabama, Oregon, Stanford, FSU, or Clemson go undefeated while looking good in the process, it is going to be difficult to justify putting OSU ahead of them.
I don't like the style points talk any more than the next guy, but fact of the matter is that is where we are in college football today.  They do matter, unfortunately...

mb5599's picture

ok, tell me this then, who do you think would get the nc game nod if ohio state and either oregon or stanford is undefeated at the seasons end? what if clemson or florida state makes it through undefeated?  the big 10 gets no respect and our schedule is weak. thats why i am saying they need to keep the pedal down when they play every game.  if they look poor in 3 quarters tommorrow, odds are they may drop another spot. they may not want to, but they need to be aware of where they are in the rankings every week.

Big B

BuckeyeQ6's picture

I completely agree we need to bring it for 60 minutes tomorrow, but I think the need for style points is overblown. In the 15 years of the BCS there has only been one undefeated team from a power conference to be left out of the NCG (Auburn '04). We've never had a 1 loss team knock out an undefeated one. So I doubt an undefeated OSU team would have 2 more undefeateds to compare resumes with, or have a 1 loss SEC team bump them. That said, style points and perception would matter in the unlikely event of 2 undefeated teams from Oregon, Stanford, Clemson, the SEC, and maybe Big 12. 
Style points are also more important for our national perception. We should win convincingly because it will help our legitimacy as a champ if we don't end up playing an SEC school in the NCG. That's why I'm (regretfully) rooting to play Bama in the title game--so we beat the best. But if we don't play them, how we get there matters. Still, people will remember us more for how we play at the end of the season...so long as these early games aren't too close a la Purdue. 

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

 Last season that same unit was supposed to be one of the best in recent memory, and call to mind the efforts of the 2009 group. Instead, they gave up nearly 2/3rds of a yard more per rushing attempt, allowed three teams to reach the 200 rushing yard mark, and though they managed a respectable 30 sacks, their 64 tackles for loss paled in comparison to that of teams from the previous five seasons.

To be fair, the '12 D-Line dealt with a ton of injuries. You add that to the fact that it was a new coaching staff, and it's not too surprising that they struggled at times.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Earle's picture

I wasn't going to comment on this, since Johnny was just using it to make a point that was still valid, but since your brought it up, I place a lot of the blame for the defensive woes, including rushing defense, on the linebacker play, especially the first 2/3 of the season.

Snarkies gonna snark. 

bucks_4_life's picture

Im not ready to yell "fire" after 1 game!! Coach will turn these guys into studs just like he did last year. We have the talent and the coaching. Final step is to put it all together on the field!

The juice is worth the squeeze

RedsBuckeyeBoy's picture

In America, Missouri employs Yakov Smirnoff,
In soviet Russia, Yakov Smirnoff employs Missouri!

buckeyedude's picture

I did not know that Yakov was still alive.



spacemonkey57's picture

At least cover the spread.

ITWASME's picture

Missing two of our best secondary players really held back our pass rush and defense as a whole. Not to mention Shazier being out for most of the game. We cant really decide how good our defense is without seeing it with all of its pieces intact. 

MuraliPatel's picture

I for one wonder if Shazier is really, completely healthy. When he was dinged last year, he started running around with one shoulder down, almost as if he was protecting the (I think) right arm; I saw a little bit of that last Saturday.

gwalther's picture

Anybody see Phil Steele's tweet about being impressed with Oregon scoring 9tds and 1fg in 20 minutes time of possession?
If so, hopefully you tweeted back that Nicholls St. is an FCS team that went 1-10 last season.

Class of 2008

DannyBeane's picture

I know making comparisons to the 2002 NC team are like comparing apples and oranges but still, that team didn't blow anyone out. They struggled at times and their games looked downright dirty but they won. They did what they needed to do. Yes there weren't any undefeated teams and the b1g was stronger then but still.
And still, if the polls think an undefeated stanford/oregon/whatever team deserves to be in the NC game instead of OSU then so be it. We don't have control over that and the BCS isn't fair. No use whining about it.

will0327's picture

Yea if you really think about it this team knows nothing of losing (i know the Fickell year) but other than that. They are not no struggling team trying to learn how to win, just let it come all together naturally ......this team still hasnt lost in a while


The Buck Guy's picture

Agree with this story entirely. Finally a voice of reason. Every time I read some of the posts by fans here with the unreal expectations and over-hyping incoming freshmen I just roll my eyes and move on. I used to laugh about those posts, but after reading so many of them and how they prop each other repeatedly until it becomes group-speak, I just started ignoring the comment section following the stories. Hopefully you have managed to reign it in a bit.
Don't get me wrong, I've been going to the Shoe and cheering for my Buckeyes since the early 60s. I always hope that this year will be the magical year. But after 50 years of ups and downs, I've learned to expect the unexpected, understand and weather the down times, and fully embrace the good times when they happen. But never try to build up the good times ahead of time. Embrace this team here and now for what they are actually doing, not in comparison to your dreams about what you think they should be.

~ The Buck Guy
Go Bucks!!!!

buckeyedude's picture

 I've been going to the Shoe and cheering for my Buckeyes since the early 60s.

Damn! You old!



BoFuquel's picture

Always ware your cast iron underwear. GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Great article Johnny!  Love the info.
Go Bucks!!

pjtobin's picture

I try not to buy into the early season hype. There are a few players who I thought would be golden. And it seems Wilson, and  Bosa are on their ways. I was hyped up about Apple, and Mitchell also. And now it doesn't seem so good for them. I am going to take your advise. I will wait until the third or forth game before I start praising these young men. 

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

KCAlum's picture

Missouri is actually a pretty cool state, and not all that different than Ohio, just think St. Louis= Cleveland and KC=Cincinnati, and the big state school is in the middle of the state.It has usually been a swing state in elections, and has southern influence in the southern part of the state, as well as the beginning of a mountain range there as well...