After four solid days of USC aftermath, I'm hoping our collective Buckeye bowels have finally passed the stank waste otherwise known as reaction to another big game stumble and we can now move forward. Lord knows we won't accept a letdown week from the Buckeyes so as fans we're obligated to practice what we preach and turn the page to the Toledo chapter of the season.
Judging from Tressel's presser in which he took some backhanded shots at a minority of fans and got a little defensive when challenged on his play calling skills, I'm wondering if Tressel hasn't given the team a full dose of "It's us against the world" this week in hopes of galvanizing a young team that still has plenty to play for.
So, whether or not you are still peeved at Tressel and Pryor about last Saturday, you've got to keep on keepin' on as kickoff in Cleveland looms just beyond the horizon. The question is, what do you want to see out of this group on Saturday to help remove the bitter test of defeat from your palate? Here's a few things I'll be watching for:
As painful as the home loss was, this team has a good enough blend of youth and veteran leaders to expect they'll play like their hair's on fire at the outset. Both the players and the coaches read the papers, watch TV, check 11W and whatnot and I'm sure the negativity has created some red asses in the locker room. What I'm most interested in seeing is if they keep the intensity up for a full 60 minutes, or at least until the game is no longer in doubt, assuming it comes to that. Anything less than focused intensity coming off a loss - regardless of opponent - would be a major letdown.
Though Pryor stood up and told the media he was responsible for the loss while the rest of the players sang the company line about winning and losing as a team there's no question the offense is aware they were chiefly responsible for last week's non-win (see, I'm being positive already). That, coupled with a porous Toledo defense, should be enough to have the Buckeye offense focused and hungry for points. With all the chatter about TP's clunker and JT's play calling, I'm very curious to see how the Buckeyes go about attacking the Rockets.
Specific to Pryor, will he show immaturity by trying to do too much in hopes of making up for last week or will he calmly execute the offense against the imaginary defense? I suspect he might overthrow a pass or two early but after that it should be smooth sailing both through the air and on the ground. I also expect Tressel will call more running plays for Pryor than last week but if the Toledo secondary is as bad as it looks, he's likely to unleash plenty of passes in hopes of giving Pryor and the fans something to build on.
In the backfield, will Zoom get more than the one carry he registered against the Trojans? I think we all were expecting a two headed monster at RB this season with Boom seeing a higher volume of the carries but not the 18:1 ratio we witnessed last week. A similar ratio Saturday would seem to indicate the coaches view Saine mainly a receiver out the backfield and a clear backup to Boom as opposed to the 1 and 1A wishes of some fans. How do you think this situation plays out this week?
The offensive line had its best showing in a big game in quite some time but the offense still only managed 2.9 yards per carry though giving up just one sack was a positive. Predictable play calling might have played a role but the fact is the line still failed in short yardage / goal line situations and abusing the Toledo front, while expected, would still be a nice confidence booster with Illinois headed to the Shoe the following week.
J.B. Shugarts figures to see some action so keep your eye on how he looks in addition to any kids that see the field if the expected blowout emerges. Jack Mewhort looks like he'll be the real deal eventually and I woudn't mind getting a gander at Marcus Hall at right tackle.
Other than surrendering the game winning drive, the defense stepped up last week so keeping momentum and avoiding a letdown against a lesser foe will be a chief focus. The defensive line and linebackers had very respectable showings and the secondary produced a solid effort to build on. Collectively, the D held Barkley to under 50% through the air while picking him off once and sacking him twice. They also held McKnight to a 3.8 yards per carry (3.0 as a team).
Toledo is a different animal in more ways than one as dual threat Aaron Opelt helped the Rockets spread pile up 624 yards of offense against the team formerly known as the Colorado Buffaloes. Man, have they fallen off the map over the years. Anyhoo, with Opelt's versatility and a solid running game offering support, a disinterested defense could make for a frustrating afternoon.
Though Opelt threw just 23 times in last week's W, he aired it out 67 times the week before in 52-31 loss to Purdue. Expecting Toledo will be playing catch up, keep an eye on the revamped secondary and specifically if Torrence continues to outshine Amos. I'm expecting Torrence to seize the starting job if he hasn't already as the Buckeyes look to clarify roles in prep for Juice.
What are you on the lookout for this week?