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Harrison: What Went Wrong With Ohio State?

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Oct 3, 2011


The Buckeye mess, how it all went wrong, and how it's still going to be a problem.


 

CFN Analysis 

5 Thoughts, Oct. 3 

- Fiutak: Will LSU vs. Bama be for the title?
- Cirminiello: Russell Wilson is what the game needs 
- Zemek: The time problem at South Carolina
- Sallee: Georgia is back in the SEC title hunt
- Mitchell: What's wrong with South Carolina
- Harrison: What went wrong with Ohio State  

By Phil Harrison

What a difference a year makes.

It's an old adage, but for Ohio State it pierces the very soul of a proud program that's been left wondering how things could have fallen so quickly.

Rewind to last year, there was a wee little incident with some tattoos and discounts, but all seemed right with the world once the Buckeyes got the two-ton SEC gorilla off its back by beating a very good Arkansas team in the Sugar Bowl. The sins seemed to be minor, and plenty of talent returned for next year including an All Big Ten-caliber quarterback that could keep the program moving into the right direction. The smoke had been extinguished before a four alarm blaze could occur.

Or so it seemed.

Shortly after the redemption in The Big Easy, more rumors and investigations swirled and the monster of a program had lost its heart-and-soul coach, starting quarterback, and four other key players for the first five games of the year, not to mention calamity-sized hit to its reputation. All of the off-season mystery has served as a shock to the core of football factory’s central nervous system with no re-wiring in sight.

For all of the trials and tribulations though, Ohio State still has a lot of talent on its two-deep roster. This is still, if you go by the recruiting types, the most talented team in the Big Ten.

So how have things gotten so bad?

It starts with the quarterback situation. Terrelle Pryor was supposed to be the veteran steadying force who'd make up for all the problems, but now he's an Oakland Raider, Joe Bauserman can't get the offense moving, and Braxton Miller needs the at bats; he might be ultra-talented, but he's also a deer caught in the headlights.

When Pryor left like a thief in the night last spring, all that was left on the roster was a fifth-year senior with little playing time (Bauserman), and a true freshman (Miller) who lacks too much experience to overwhelm the talent he possesses. The result has been ultra-conservative and predictable situations - even by Ohio State's standards - that are a byproduct of the coaching staff’s game planning as well as the lack of confidence of the inexperienced signal callers. That combination has resulted in an offense that is way to easy to game plan against, and Miami and Michigan State took advantage.

The coaching staff is trying to find its way, too.

Luke Fickell is a true gentleman and has given his career  to Ohio State through his playing daysand as an assistant, but the reality though, no matter how harsh, is that he is like a a turtle on a lamp post. The only way he got there was by someone putting him there.

Fickell could very well make a solid head coach some day, but not yet-he is simply not ready and he was thrown into a tough situation. He was handed the job because someone needed to take the reigns of this melting snowball. The game plans have been very vanilla, the in game adjustments have not been working, and the under the gun decision making lacking (time outs anyone?). Worse of all, there are signs that Fickell is starting to lose this team as post game comments from Carlos Hyde suggest. For all of the criticism that Jim Tressel received, his teams won on a united front. Things are fragmenting quickly for Fickell and his staff, and the majority of it is just unfair because of what got handed down.

That’s not all. The players are just not there in the key positions this year on offense. It is generally true that programs like Ohio State don’t rebuild, they re-load, but that isn’t happening this year. With suspended players in key spots to go along with the  problems at quarterback, the football factory has had to halt operations and put the production on hold. The talent is still there, but each piece of the offense has just enough missing to put a crack in the foundations. The work now is to repair the foundation might involve an excavation rather than a cosmetic lift as originally thought.

If there's been one silver lining, it has been the defense. True to years past, the defense has still been one of the tops in the league. Nationally, the Buckeyes still rank 13th in total defense, and 11th in scoring. The problem that will continue to plague OSU is that it is simply not enough to overcome the warts that the team has on offense.

OSU fans should now begin to reset their expectations on what this season truly is-one of transition that will result in frustration and humiliation at times. A once proud program is going through a rehabilitation of sorts, and it is one that could stem beyond even this year. Once complete though, this program will be back among the elite because of the tradition and fertile recruiting grounds that follow the program. The program could even be, dare I say, an Urban legend.

Buckeye fans can’t wait.

Please follow Phil Harrison on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN.

- Fiutak: Will LSU vs. Bama be for the title?
- Cirminiello: Russell Wilson is what the game needs 
- Zemek: The time problem at South Carolina
- Sallee: Georgia is back in the SEC title hunt
- Mitchell: What's wrong with South Carolina
- Harrison: What went wrong with Ohio State