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.