I'm changing my game a bit. I invited my friend John - the biggest glass-half-empty fan I've ever known - to share some thoughts on where the Buckeyes stand right now...
Me: Wow! What a great win over a solid opponent. The Buckeyes start out the season 2-0 with a two-score win over what could be a BCS-buster (sans NCAA sanctions) in UCF. Braxton was masterful once again, leading in both passing and rushing. The defense held ground and forced some turnovers. All of this added up to a win. What say you, glass-half-full-guy?
John: While this was a solid victory for sure, there are several glaring concerns. For starters, Braxton Miller scares me. He is so good on his feet, he scares opposing defenses as well. But the problem here is that we are quickly becoming overly dependent on his feet. On one hand, his TD runs are exciting and great to watch right now, but soon they won't come as easy. There are two reasons why this will happen. One, the likelihood of injury dramatically increases and while I like Kenny G, he is no Miller.
Two, the defenses we face in the future will be of better quality, better depth, better coaching and more film to prepare for the run Miller offense. Miller must improve his passing game. He still threw behind receivers and missed open guys on more than one occasion. Our wideouts saved him with nice catches on at least two receptions.
By the way glass half full guy, why aren't you mentioning how much better our wideouts have been this year compared to last when they seemed nonexistent?
Injuries are a concern. Both Hyde and Howard are vital to the success of the team.
The defensive secondary still let guys slip behind them. That is something I expect to be fixed, but two games now they allowed inferior teams beat them for big plays.
I would like to see this defensive line make more of an impact than it has and I worry as we enter the Big Ten season with larger offensive lines, they will be a non factor instead of the strength we expected them to be this season.
Not sure Cal is going to give our Buckeyes any trouble this week, but we better be careful because we could easily find an unexpected loss if Miller can't take a step forward and not have to rely on taking so many yards forward as he has been in these first two games.
Me: An unexpected loss? Whoa, step away from the ledge, my friend.
Yeah, Braxton did carry it a lot on Saturday, but that's what happens in this kind of offense. Besides, I'd rather him run through tackles as opposed to getting blind-sided in the backfield. Besides, he is OSU's best player. Who else would you rather carry the ball? Either way, the coaching staff will correct his workload with a lot more Philly Brown and the eventual return of Hall and Hyde. Hall should be back this week and I suspect Dunn gets more carries.
Honestly, I feel better than I have in...well...forever about our backup situation. Can you remember a full-time backup QB at Ohio State in which you had this much confidence? I can't. The only times I can think of was when Pryor and Miller were backing up ineffective Senior passers. Even then, the coaching staff had it backwards. I have a lot of trust the Guiton would lead the offense like no other backup has done at OSU.
I'm also not worried about the competition down the road. After this past weekend, Ohio State may have already played two of the top-5 teams on their schedule. At the very least, UCF is the third-best team they'll play all season and Miami's QB might be the best they'll play. (Denard doesn't count.)
Miller's passing is vastly improved from last year. You have to admit this. He completed 75% of his passes this past week. He throws a good ball when his feet are set. Plus, he has an actual QB coach this season. The deep-ball will come with practice and game reps. There are two games in a row with suspect defensive backfields which should give him plenty of practice.
The wideouts have been great. I'm surprised you didn't bring up all the drops against Miami. With improved play from the receiving corps, Miller's timing can only improve. Philly Brown looks like the real deal and the others are fitting into their roles nicely.
I'm not worried about the injuries at running back. That's why it was so great the team entered the season with so much depth. They have bodies who can perform. Really, for this week, they have Dunn, Smith, Boren(!), and Brown to fill that role. Plus, there's a good chance we see Hall in for a handful of plays. The depth will be there by the time they roll into East Lansing.
The secondary doesn't worry me in the least. In two weeks, they've managed five interceptions. Plus, both quarterbacks they've faced might be the best QB's they'll see all season. And besides, we're in an era where everyone can pass (sans Joe Bauserman). Teams are rolling up huge yardage through the air on everyone. QB's enter the NFL as ready-to-perform entities. Teams are going to pass with success like we've never seen before and at a greater rate. More on that in a bit.
You and every other Buckeye fan is worrying about the defensive line. I guess I don't understand. They're giving up around 50 yards a game on the ground. There has been only three sacks, but when they've provided pressure, it's typically ended in an incomplete pass or interception. Plus, the schemes and personnel they've faced in the first two weeks are designed to counter the D-Line's strength. Miami threw quick passes. UCF did much of the same only with a strong run game (a la a former 5-star running back). Ask George Joseph O'Leary what he thought of the defensive line. He left impressed to say the least.
A new aspect we are going to have to get used to is that the speed of the offense is going to have a definite affect on the defense. The reason OSU's defense has been so strong for so long is that Tressel teams controlled the clock, requiring the defense to be on the field for shorter amounts of time. Think about the games that got away from OSU or when the defense couldn't finish because they were gassed. The offense couldn't maintain any kind of drives. There will be an adjustment period for Fickell and Whithers in regards to scheme and rotating players. So, from what I can tell, they're running a pretty vanilla defensive scheme until they figure all of this out. Once they do put all the pieces together, I suspect we'll see the Silver Bullets we've come to expect, especially from the front four.
Our Picks for this Week:
Me: OSU 84 Cal 3
John: OSU 27 Cal 21 (not really, but I bet this is what he'd say)