Ahh, here we are. With one game under our belts, the Urban Era has officially begun. What a week it was. All the pent-up angst and excitement came to a head in a 56 point offensive explosion against Miami (OH). It has been a few years since us Buckeye fans have been able to be fully excited for the start of a season, let alone the excitement of having arguably the greatest college coach of our era leading OUR troops. It is a very, very good time to be a Buckeye. It is not often that something like this can be said after the first game of a season in which post-season play is not even a possibility. Now I know how Indiana feels every year (sorry Hoosiers) (actually, no I’m not).
Anyways, what happens next? How do we approach a season in which the ultimate goal is not a possibility? These are not questions with definite answers. They sure as hell are not questions which I would have any experience answering. Every year I was there, the only things on our minds were the BCS Championship and the Big Ten title. Anything less would be a disappointment (in my five years on the team, we won five Big Ten titles, no big deal. Yes, I’m bragging).
First off, I can tell you what most definitely is next. The University of Central Florida is next. They come into Ohio Stadium on Saturday with a ton of confidence based on their 56-14 demolition of Akron last week. Down in Florida, it is SEC country. They do not respect the brand of football we play up here in Ohio, nor do they think that we have the athletes that they have. One thing that I can agree with them on is that they have athletes. These are not the same quality of football players that earn scholarships to SEC schools, but they are great athletes nonetheless. These are players who competed in high school against the SEC players, and get to live in their shadows every day of their lives. They are not going to be scared to come into the stadium of Ohio State, from what they perceive to be the weak Big Ten conference.
What our players have to be careful of is the way in which they handle success. I have touched on this in previous articles, and it can be one of the biggest dangers to a young, talented football team. The thing is, there are few starters on this football team that were even contributors the last time the Buckeyes had any success. This is the first time that they have had the fans fawning over them, and the first time that they have seen their names splashed on the television and on the internet.
The adoration of Buckeye Nation is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it instills the greatest confidence imaginable in a young player’s mind. The other side of it is that if all the attention is handled incorrectly, the confidence leads to cockiness, which leads to complacency, which leads to failure. It is up to the leaders of the team to keep the talented youth on track.
Many of the coaches are basking in their first taste of Buckeye glory as well, so a huge onus is placed on the shoulders of guys like Coach Meyer and Coach Luke Fickell to manage confidence levels and expectations. Also, players like John Simon, Zach Boren, and Jake Stoneburner must be rocks for their teammates to lean on, as they were major players on the Sugar Bowl champion team of 2010.
Another exciting, but dangerous twist this season is the university’s change from quarters to semesters. This means that students are on campus for the whole season for the first time in recent memory. Having a few games before the students moved back to campus served as a kind of pre-season for us. We would have typically one huge challenge of a game (Texas, USC, Miami FL, ect.) surrounded by a few cupcakes or in-state schools. Then, just as it was time for Big Ten season to start in late September to early October, the students would be back and the excitement that surrounds the Buckeye experience filled the air.
Now, it is full-on excitement from the get go. The players left the hotel from camp to a campus full of rabid fans, challenging classes, and most dangerously, beautiful girls. The buffer period for freshmen is gone, as they go straight into the shark tank that is being an Ohio State University football player. While the addition of students is incredible for game day atmosphere, it can be tough for the players to focus on the things that are truly important.
Whilst this is the burden shared by all collegiate football players and athletes alike, it is a new burden the men of Scarlet and Gray. I have full confidence that the men in charge of the troops are more than equipped to deal with the challenges, but it will be interesting to see how all things unfold.
The Urban Era has begun. All the waiting, the speculation and the angst is over.
IT IS FOOTBALL SEASON IN COLUMBUS!!! I want to scream it from the rooftops. I want to laugh at the pundits questioning the Buckeyes. I want to punch Mark May in the face. All of these things are, of course, extremely biased opinions (except the Mark May thing, he is universally hated, right?).
It is going to be fun to see how all of this turns out. It could go any number of ways, but my bets are all on up. The talent level in the capital city of Ohio has not been this high in years, and the coaches have the group working their asses off in the right direction. We will see how it all unfolds. Time will tell. But doesn’t it feel amazing to just be genuinely excited again?