Welcome to the first edition of a new weekly series: “How to Watch Football This Weekend.” Now that the season has started, the need for a “season preview” series has naturally disappeared. In part because I like writing columns with recurring themes and, in part because I don’t want to be required to think of a new topic, I’m starting a brand new series. This one may explain itself when you read the first edition below. I hope you enjoy. Go Bucks!
God, that was satisfying.
After the week’s worth of time we’ve had to digest last weekend’s demolition of Miami, I’m actually thankful that the team took the field looking like garbage in the first quarter. It may have served as a useful reminder of just how damn lucky we are to have Urban Meyer coaching the Buckeyes this year. Because the combination of offensive ineptitude and defensive proclivity for giving up big plays reminded me a lot of 2011.
Fortunately, those days are gone. Braxton Miller looked like the superstar-to-be that he hoped he’d blossom into. The offense was superbly balanced, with Carlos Hyde providing the power. The receivers were crisp in their routes and, obviously, great with their hands. The defense tightened up and, in particular, Bradley Roby and Travis Howard, finally showed up to play. And the coaches’ game plan proved to be well-thought-out and, well, kinda ruthless.
So my satisfaction level with the Buckeyes’ performance last weekend was high, a sentiment that most of the internet seemed to share as well.
Weirdly, that satisfaction didn’t reach every corner of the campus. I had multiple students who attended the game tell me this week that they were either disappointed with Braxton’s performance or that the team had them nervous until the final buzzer. That the game was somehow too close for comfort.
Yes. A 46 point win. Too close for comfort.
The Buckeyes this week
UCF isn’t a gimme. I think the Buckeyes will win here, mainly because I think this team is still a lot better than we know. And I believe that they’ll show that when pressed by quality competition.
I want to see the Buckeyes tested. Urban Meyer spent the week talking up UCF. For good reason. They’re a genuinely talented football team. They’re solid at every position. They play physical, punishing defense. And they’re coming to Columbus fresh off of a Buckeye-worthy dismantling of Akron.
So when you’re watching this game, look for what happens when the Buckeyes inevitably get punched in the face. What happens when the Knights find holes in the defense and actually exploit them (unlike, say, the RedHawks). What happens when Braxton gets laid out on a read option.
It’s going to happen this week. And I think the Buckeyes will respond. That’s what Ohio State does and that’s what an Urban Meyer-coached “angry” football team does. I can’t wait to watch.
The rest this week
This week is a dud.
Honestly, the Buckeyes may be playing in the most interesting game this week. I’m not saying that as an Ohio State fan. I’m saying that as a football fan. The Buckeye game has a compelling storyline: a resurgent national powerhouse is tested for the first time against a talented, generally disrespected national afterthought.
The rest of the top 25 is a wasteland.
I’m moderately interested to see how Notre Dame responds to their trip back to America and first dose of real competition in Purdue (3:30, NBC). For that matter, I’m interested in seeing whether Purdue is any good. The Kansas State-Miami (noon, FX) game also holds some intrigue, if for no other reason than to see if one of these perennial above-average programs can make a jump.
But the night games are a disaster. Cupcakes all around.
How to watch
The schedule is weak. The weather is still decent (in most of the country).
If you’re not in Columbus or, alternatively, you’re in Columbus but can’t go to the game in person, spend this football Saturday after the Buckeyes win doing something you love.
If you’re of age, go to a bar with your friends. Day drink. If you’ve got a family, engage them. If you’re in college, go to a freaking party. Watch football in the background. This isn’t a week to studiously study our opponents. Only two teams can hold my attention while blowing out their opponent: the Buckeyes and whoever’s playing Michigan. And the Buckeyes will be finishing just as the day is really getting started.