It wasn’t all bad.
Yes, Cal tied the game in the fourth quarter, meaning that we needed a lesser version of “Holy Braxton” to win the game.
Yes, the defense is disturbingly prone to giving up big plays. So much so that Luke Fickell was rendered an insomniac after Saturday’s game. That’s mainly a function of bad tackling and missed assignments in the secondary, both of which are fixable problems, even if the remedy won’t come easily.
And yes, the offense is hot and cold. After starting slow, the Buckeyes went three-and-out on far too many drives. That put a great deal of pressure on an already-buckling defense. It was masked by the fact that the Buckeyes put up 35 points, but consistency on offense, particularly on the ground, will be important in Big Ten play. Particularly against a defense like Michigan State’s.
But honestly, wasn’t this expected? We knew that the Buckeyes would go through growing pains in the first year under Urban Meyer, even if we didn’t anticipate what exactly they would look like.
We have a star quarterback who has both dramatically improved his passing and field awareness and played his way into Heisman contention. As a sophomore.
Further, the Buckeyes are 3-0 and constantly learning from their mistakes. In the past two weeks, they’ve been quality (if not elite) opponents. In each of those weeks, they could have played substantially better than they did. And despite the crowing during the game, the outcome was never truly in doubt. Some part of us, as fans, knew that the Buckeyes would pull it out.
And they did. If you can go through “growing pains” and win at the same time, you’re living a charmed existence.
The Buckeyes this week
I don’t know much about UAB. Except that they’re terrible. I’m also not interested in learning more about UAB. Because the focus on Saturday should be exclusively on the Buckeyes.
UAB is a well-timed game, if for no other reason than the Buckeyes need a game to iron out the issues they’ve been having. The team has practiced hard this week, and the coaching staff has worked equally hard at correcting the issues that have developed over the first three weeks of the season. Bringing a team to town that the Buckeyes can punish while putting those corrections into action right before Big Ten play starts seems like a damn good idea to me.
Look for Braxton Miller to run, but not too much. No need to risk your star quarterback in a game. Look for Braxton to pass, and pass well. Having a game like this to further develop his chemistry with the Buckeyes’ receiving corps is invaluable. Look for Jordan Hall to run early and often. And look far more explosive than he did last week (a joint function of reduced quality of competition and getting back to speed). Look for the defense to dominate.
The rest this week
Between the end of the Ohio State game and the start of the night games, there’s not much.
But then, starting at 7:30, the most compelling six hours of the still-young football season begins. Michigan and Notre Dame kick off at 7:30, in a matchup I can’t wait to see. We’ll find out a lot about the relative strength of the two teams on Saturday. If Notre Dame wins, their win in East Lansing last week wasn’t a fluke and they could be headed for the program’s best season in years. If Michigan wins, the Alabama loss looks substantially less important. It would be judged as a statement of the Crimson Tide’s dominance rather than the Wolverines’ incompetence.
Twenty minutes later, at 7:50, Kansas State and Oklahoma kick off. Ten minutes after that, Florida State and Clemson start play. I’m particularly interested in Florida State’s performance. I don’t like the Seminoles, but any top-five team that’s not in the SEC gains some sympathy these days.
That’s three compelling games between ranked teams going on simultaneously. God, I love college football.
The nightcap (the game you watch in the background while moving on to other things) is Oregon-Arizon. It’s always fun to watch Oregon smack down a low-level Pac-12 team. And it’s always fun to watch Rich Rodriguez get embarrassed.
How to watch
Watch the Buckeyes at noon. Then take a break. Take a nap. Go for a run. Talk to your family.
Because the evening games should be insanely entertaining. With three of them going on simultaneously, you’ll need all of your faculties intact to properly appreciate the awesomeness. There’s a compelling argument to be made that Saturday night needs to be spent at a bar. Flipping back and forth between these games may not do them justice.
It’s Saturdays like these that make me wish a Red Zone Channel for college football existed. So buckle up.