Heacock-ball, style points and polls

ExpatBuckeye's picture
September 30, 2013 at 12:14p

There was a lot of hand-wringing and misplaced concern over Ohio State's narrow win over Wisconsin.  Despite seeing their Buckeyes play impressively on national television and in front of a lot of important recruits, fans (and some pundits) looked at the scores of the Oregon, Clemson and even Alabama games and started wailing about Ohio State not being impressive enough.  Let me help those among you with such worries with two helpful tips:  

1.  The Buckeyes played much better than you think, and

2.  Even if the Buckeyes win every game the rest of the year by only one point, chances are they will still play for the national championship.


Everything according to plan
It was pretty clear going into the game that Ohio State's defensive strategy was to shut down Wisconsin's run game and make Stave beat us.  A big part of that scheme was to use their pre-season All-American cornerback Bradley Roby to attempt to lock down Badger receiver Jared Abbrederis all over the field.  Despite the record-setting day by Abbrederis, I'm here to tell you, the scheme worked as planned.  The impressive variety of Wisconsin run plays were mostly stuffed, forcing the Badgers to figure out (a little late) that they needed to pass to win.  Abbrederis was unusually brilliant, Stave was a little more accurate and poised than expected and the Buckeye pass rush was not quite as good as planned and despite all of that swinging to Bucky's favor they still lost the game convincingly 31-14 ... and that is exactly how close the game was.


"Tresselball" equals wins
When Philly Brown snagged a 1-yard flip from Braxton Miller with 2:18 left in the 3rd quarter, coaching minds immediately started calculating.  In games that feature any kind of defense (hard to find these days), each team gets the ball for three drives per quarter, sometimes four.  Up three three possessions with a couple minutes left in the 3rd quarter, the coaching staff understood the game was theirs to lose.  Only some really lame-brain plays - turnovers, long pass plays - are going to throw a team off "schedule" at that point.  Even better, the staff understands that they are about 3 or 4 first downs away from putting the game completely out of reach.  With an excellent running game and offensive line, the smart play was to go low-risk and eat the clock.  I'm sure the staff had high expectations they could get those first downs and possibly even a smash-mouth touchdown drive.  Chris Borland and the Wisconsin defense had other ideas but, no matter what, it wasn't going to be enough.  The defense also went into Tresselball-mode or, in this case, Heacock-ball mode.  Rush three, give them the dink and dunks, keep everything in front of you and make the clock the enemy.  Once again, the plan worked exactly as it almost always does.  The game was never really in an imminent danger and was effectively over at 31-14.  The final score only mattered to those that didn't understand how the end game played out.


Polls and style points don't matter (mostly)
Despite all the hand-wringing and self-flagellation over SOS and margin of victory and the impact on the polls, history says it's much worry about (almost) nothing. If an undefeated Buckeye team didn't play in the national championship game, it would be a snub that would rank somewhere between historical and unprecedented.

Since the BCS era started in 1998, there has only been ONE undefeated team from an AQ-conference that did not make it to the national championship game and that was Auburn in 2004 - and that was the only year in the 15 years of the BCS that there were more than two undefeated teams at the end of the regular season.

There have been more years where there were NO undefeated teams (3) than years where there were more than two (1). So the chances that an undefeated Ohio State team doesn't make it to a national championship game are extremely slim. Rest easy, if the Buckeyes merely take care of their own business and win every game, they are in.


Undefeated AQ-Conference Teams at the end of the regular season (incl. conference championship games)

2012: Notre Dame, Ohio State(i)
2011: LSU
2010: Auburn, Oregon
2009: Alabama, Texas
2008: None
2007: None
2006: Ohio State
2005: USC, Texas
2004: USC, Oklahoma, Auburn
2003: None
2002: Miami, Ohio State
2001: Miami
2000: Oklahoma
1999: Florida State, Virginia Tech
1998: Tennessee

In the end, as you can see, the polls don't even matter.  The only time a concern that should ever arise is if a one-loss team jumps us in the polls.  It has happened before but, even in those instances, it never mattered in the end. 


Comments Show All Comments

njclebuckeye5's picture

the last point is the thing that makes me rest easy while we sit 3rd and 4th in the polls right now. At the end of the year, there are rarelymore than  two undefeated teams. If the Buckeyes take care of business and go 13-0, I have no doubt that theyll get a shot at the title game. Out of Bama, Clemson, Oregon, Stanford or whoever, I dont think two will be undefeated at the end of the season. The polls arent worthless but they arent meaningful quite yet.

Lobs it to the endzone... Touchdown Devin Smith!!

Boomcat's picture

Exactly. What is good about those 4 teams that you mention is that one of them is guaranteed to lose (Stanford vs Oregon), and Clemson will surely pull a Clemson at some point in the season. Additionally, it would be an absolute outrage if a 25-0 Ohio State team got left out of the NC. I think if we take care of business we will be in good shape. 

southernstatesbuckeye's picture

Hmmm.  So you're sayin that in the last FIFTEEN years...the team with the MOST undefeated seasons is...
Ohio State!
Yeah.  I likes it berry berry much.

I like cookies.

FitzBuck's picture

it's because the big ten is the AQ equivalent of the Mountain west.  
(sarcasm font engaged)

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

Bucksfan's picture

Since the BCS era started in 1998, there has only been ONE undefeated team from an AQ-conference that did not make it to the national championship game and that was Auburn in 2004 - and that was the only year in the 15 years of the BCS that there were more than two undefeated teams at the end of the regular season.

Forgot Cincinnati (Big East) in 2009.

USMC11917's picture

I know the Utah was not an AQ conference contender but the way they dismantled the Tide makes me feel like they got the worse screwing of any team during this time frame.

ChazBuckeye's picture

I agree with this from EXPATBuckeye.  
I heard Mark May and Coach Holtz's banter back and forth about this late Saturday night.  I don't agree with May (imagine that) that OSU needs to be winning by bigger margins in order to move up in the polls (his argument is null and void really if Clemson stays put at 3 even after a bye week and not playing).  According to May's dumbass analogy then these SEC teams don't deserve to be in all these NC games over the last 7 years.  None of those "good" teams beat each other by large margins.  At least not the good ones.  So I don't see why tB1G teams have to beat each other by large margins?  It makes no sense that only mighty SEC teams are the only one's that can have a 48-45 games and get credit for it (i.e. LSU and GA shoot out over the weekend.  But 31-24 result between OSU and Wisconsin is bad for OSU????).  

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

1MechEng's picture

 The game was never really in an imminent danger and was effectively over at 34-17.  The final score only mattered to those that didn't understand how the end game played out.

First, I believe you mean 31-14 or 31-17, not 34-17.
Second, I respectfully disagree with your logic as the final score was 31-24 - only a 1 score difference. Wisconsin did have a chance to tie or win (2 pt. conversion) as they had the ball with 90 yds. to go and 1:29 on the clock, but fortunately the OSU defense held them without a first down to preserve the win. The win was not secured until less than a minute to go in the game.

lippertini's picture

great minds...:P

ExpatBuckeye's picture

Thanks for the correction.  I edited the score in the post.
My argument remains the same, however.  With a 17-point lead there was no reason to take a risk - the game is effectively over if we don't make a mistake.
A loss was never at risk.  At best, Wisconsin would have to drive 90 yards in under 90 seconds (with no timeouts?) to tie.  Smart tactics by the OSU coaching staff for the taking the air out of the ball.  Winning tactically is no less impressive.

lippertini's picture

I disagree with your premise.  
True or false?:  Wisconsin got the ball back with 1:29 with a chance to win.
Nuff said right there.  They really pushed it close with their conservatism.  Wisconsin makes some more plays and Tressel-Heacock ball comes back to bite us.
And any objective observer who watched the game realizes that Wisconsin was a few plays away from potentially winning:

  • Philly Brown nearly (AGAIN!) turned the ball over trying to field a punt he shouldn't have.
  • Wisonsin dropped an INT just before Braxton connected on the TD to end the half.

Both those go the other way and it's quite the battle.
I'm glad we won and it was a deserved victory.  But I wish we would have been just a smidge more aggressive in our play calls to get another first down or two, and I wish we would have pressured a bit more.  A little more risk, but as we saw, despite the caution, Wisconsin were in position to win regardless.  

ExpatBuckeye's picture

True.  But not to win, to tie.  Wisconsin would not go for two in that situation.  I think you'll find that the percentage of success go 90 in 90 is pretty small.  OSU was one first down short of a perfectly executed end-game.
I think you and I would have bet money that the Buckeyes manage one first down in the final drives when they really needed it.  I think there was some thought that Braxton was still Braxton running the ball when he was clearly not.

lippertini's picture

Road team typically goes for the win, home team for the tie to send to OT.
Yes, the percentage of 90 in 90 is small, but not insignificant.  Now, if the Buckeyes had run a high-percentage screen pass or jet sweep, or better yet, go 4 or 5 wide and let Braxton keep it - anything but vanilla Braxton keeper from a run formation or Dave - then we would have had a MUCH better chance for some first downs.  I'm all for being somewhat careful, but they clearly went too far.
Exactly, it was clear Braxton was not his explosive self, but they didn't adjust and it almost burned them.

osupolo's picture

Lipper, the two near turnovers that you mentioned above took place before we went up by 17 with a couple of minutes left in the 3rd quarter. Having two close calls is precisely why Urban wanted to go to Tresslel ball with the lead and time remaining allotments.

lippertini's picture

Pls read my new comment above, I'm not suggesting they should have thrown downfield.  And one of those was a punt return, not relevant.

njclebuckeye5's picture

yea i still dont know what Philly was trying to do by diving on a ball that was only gonna roll about another 5 yards. 

Lobs it to the endzone... Touchdown Devin Smith!!

Kaceybrown's picture

Aside from being a bad decision, I think in his mind he had already committed to doing it and..... Yeah that was just a poor choice. 

cjmgobucks's picture

That's all fine and good and I hope you're right, except the final score was 31-24, not 34-17. Am I missing something here?   A 17 point win over Wisconsin would have been much more appetizing than a 7 point win, even though I know exactly where you're coming from...

"When I look in the mirror, I want to take a swing at me."

Wayne Woodrow Hayes

ExpatBuckeye's picture

Yes, the point was that at 31-14 the game was effectively over.  To me, it's just as easy to look at that as the final score since OSU's strategy was simply to run out the clock after that.

Toilrt Paper's picture

What if Alabama, Oregon and Clemson don't lose?

Kaceybrown's picture

Then we implement the 4 team playoff immediately. 

Kaceybrown's picture

Very good article.

darbnurb's picture

I would argue that we should have been even more conservative in second half.  If my memory is correct, we had an easy 3rd and 2, and went for a 20+ something yard end zone strike (which was dropped) when we were already up 17pts.  Had we converted the short first down, we get in field goal range and eat more clock.
Also, the tressball strategy was not a bad one, just poor execution by the players.  Miller and Hyde were both stuffed on several 3 and 4th downs (manageable) that could have kept drives going.  Miller also missed on a pitch to Hyde that could have had 7+ yd gain, but kept it for only a 2 yard pick-up on first down.    
Anyway, count me in the minority of those who appreciates Tressball (read: high % game plan for winning.)  
Also, I love a great punt followed by a defensive stand to win a game.  

lippertini's picture

Miller is already known as a notoriously bad decison-maker in the read/option.  Calling that instead of a better play is a coach's mistake.
Wisconsin knew we were running the ball between the tackles in the 4th qtr and schemed against it.  You can't blame the players for not converting runs when they have 8 people in the box.  It's the coaches' responsibility to adjust (if they want first downs).

JKH1232's picture

Ever read something that basically said what you wanted to say, but didn't know how to say it? I'd call this blog post pretty much that.
I don't know why people hate Tresselball so much.  It wins games, and they play to win the games, not make a good movie or something.