Monday Morning Optimism Week 3: Ohio State vs. Cal

On September 17, 2012 by

Smile, Urbs. We’re 3-0

Well, it’s Monday again. You know what that means. It’s time for another installment of Monday Morning optimism: The once-weekly feature where I talk the Chicken Littles among us off of the ledge, and give those less-pessimistic fans three more reasons to strut around the office.

This week The Buckeyes won a close one against Cal. While some might say we squeaked out a win at home against a bottom-tier Pac 12 team, I choose to say that Ohio State overcame adversity, made the big play when it mattered most, and defeated a major-conference foe. It wasn’t pretty at times, but plenty of good things happened. The Buckeye pass rush woke up, its quarterback had another fantastic day, and the team put another checkmark in the left-hand column. So, without further ado, here are the three things that I liked from this week’s game.

The offense is good, and it hasn’t even been that great – I don’t know if there has been a productive offensive team that was as often-maligned as this years’ Ohio State team. The truth is, there have been some bad stretches. For instance: the first quarter against Miami and the third quarter against Cal. There have also been some ridiculously explosive stretches like the 2nd quarter against Miami.

What we can glean from this is that the schemes are good and the players are good, they just aren’t experienced enough in the new schemes to be completely consistent. So basically, they’re exactly what we all thought that they would be. The good news: each week they get a little bit more experienced. That wrong read in week 1 may not be there come week 9. That miscommunication on a route against Cal has plenty of time to get fixed before the Buckeyes head to Madison.

That being said, despite being “inconsistent,” the offense is still putting up numbers. The Buckeyes are putting up 216 yards per game through the air and 237 on the ground. The team’s 40.7 ppg average is good for 20th in the country. If that’s what the offense can do while it’s still learning, just imagine how good it will be by November…or by next season.

The secondary struggled, but it’s not as bad as it seems – Right now the Buckeyes are giving up 283 yards per game through the air. That’s not good, but let’s try to put the performance of the secondary into context. On Twitter last night, @11W tweeted out a series of stats that help us do just that.  The first number that we need to take into consideration is six. So far this season, there have only been six teams in the country that have faced more passes than the Buckeyes. So our opponents are getting yards, but at least part of it can be attributed to the amount of passes that they are throwing.

There’s a benefit to having teams drop back to throw again and again. The defense is getting the chance to make plays—and they are doing just that. Ohio State’s six interceptions are good enough for fifth nationally. Travis Howard is ranked fourth nationally with three interceptions. Also, for as many passing plays as they give up, the defensive backs are breaking up quite a few too. So far both Bradley Roby and Travis Howard are in the top 20 nationally for passes defensed. That tells us that the corners can play. With the pass rush rounding into form to the tune of 6 sacks last week and solid corner play, the defensive numbers should only get better.

I’d rather be us than them – So who caught Wisconsin this weekend barely eeking out a win over Utah State a week after losing to Oregon State? Who watched PSU start the Bill O’Brien era with two straight losses before finally winning a game against a service academy? Did anyone watch Michigan get blown out by Alabama and almost lose to Air Force? Who stayed up to watch Michigan State’s stone-age offense stutter against Notre Dame? I could keep going, but you get the point. If I had told you that by Week 3 Ohio State would be the highest-ranked team in the conference, you would’ve called me crazy. Big 10 teams are embarrassing themselves left and right, but not the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes are enduring the ups and downs that can be expected with a young team and a new coaching staff, but they’re staying in the win column as they do it. So relax, guys. This is football, Ohio State is undefeated. It’s supposed to be fun…and I have to say, so far this season, it really is.

4 comments
Darin
Darin

"bottom tier" Pac12 team... it is true that Cal doesn't always live up to expectations on the field, but they actually have better (potential) talent than many Pac12 and B1G teams. Over the last 5 years, Cal's average recruiting class ranking (according to rivals) is 25th. Over the last 3 years, their average recruiting class ranking is 17th.

Ryan
Ryan

Since 1960 they've won the Pac-10 (12) twice, while only placing in the top 3 six other times. We're not giving out medals over here for that either. Also all 5 National Titles came before World War II even started. To say "bottom tier" Pac-12 is more a compliment as it's more like bottom tier of teams nationally known. Even Illinois has won a National Title more recently than Cal. The only reason they are still really talked about is a play where a band out shined a football team. Also recruiting class ranking is as relevant as their record, as a team, at the end of the season.

TheEdge
TheEdge

I have sat at a local establishment for three weeks screaming at the secondary and I believe the word sieve came out of my mouth at some point. Dan makes an excellent point regarding the level they have had to perform. Miami OH is ranked 122nd in FBS for rushing, we knew they would try to light up the air and they did 53 times. UCF had 41 attempts and Cal 38. To Dan's point, 132 times defending a pass play in 3 games, The Buckeyes have 6 INT vs 4 TD's in their defense of the pass. I'll take Dan's advise and try to chill for next week and enjoy another W. I’d rather be us than them – (Is a true statement everyday regardless)

Ryan
Ryan

Couldn't agree more with the last one. Everyone outside of Bama and LSU have had their early season struggles, which are to be expected to some extent. We have to keep remembering that this is a new offensive scheme, with still very young players. The defense clearly needs to mold together as a unit, and wrap up better in the open field. Most of these guys have had three different head coaches in three years, and there's something to be said for that. Hell look at the New Orleans Saints.

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