2012 Ohio State Preview – Game On
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CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Ohio State Buckeyes
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Game on, Big Ten.
Head coach: Urban Meyer
11th year overall: 104-23
Off. 25, Def. 20, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 24
Ten Best Ohio State Players
1. DT Johnathan Hankins, Jr.
2. DE John Simon, Sr.
3. QB Braxton Miller, Soph.
4. TE Jake Stoneburner, Sr.
5. OT Jack Mewhort, Jr.
6. S C.J. Barnett, Jr.
7. LB Ryan Shazier, Soph.
8. DT Garrett Goebel, Sr.
9. WR Devin Smith, Soph.
10. OG Andrew Norwell, Jr.
Sep. 1 Miami Univ.
Sep. 8 UCF
Sep. 15 California
Sep. 22 UAB
Sep. 29 at Michigan State
Oct. 6 Nebraska
Oct. 13 at Indiana
Oct. 20 Purdue
Oct. 27 at Penn State
Nov. 3 Illinois
Nov. 10 OPEN DATE
Nov. 17 at Wisconsin
Nov. 24 Michigan
Ohio State is in the business of competing for the national title. Big Ten titles are nice, and winning the Leaders is a must, but you don’t get as big as THE Ohio State University football program and you don’t go get a living legend of a head coach like Urban Meyer to merely be in the running for big things. It’s this simple for the Buckeyes under Meyer: win the national championship, or the season is a complete and utter failure.
After all the media scrutiny, and after most of the skeletons started to come out of the closet, and after the firing of another legendary head coach in Jim Tressel – historical numbers will treat him kindly – everything went about as perfectly for Ohio State as any die-hard fan could’ve dared to dream possible.
There was no real talk of any sort of a Death Penalty, and the program somehow avoided getting the Coma Penalty that USC is just awakening from. Considering what seemed possible 12 months ago, missing out on a bowl game and not playing for the Big Ten title this year really isn’t any big deal considering the team wasn’t likely going to play for the national championship in 2012. And again, at Ohio State it’s all about being in the mix for the whole ball of wax.
Even the 6-7 record last season couldn’t have been more perfect. Had Luke Fickell taken the Buckeyes to the Big Ten title, or had just gone 9-4 after all the turmoil, would he have been pushed aside for Meyer? Maybe, but it would’ve been tougher to justify considering all Fickell had to deal with. Instead, the team wasn’t all that bad; the true freshman superstar quarterback got a year under his belt; and in what was going to be a rebuilding year even under the best of circumstances, now it’s possible the program got a coaching upgrade.
Forgetting for a moment about all the allegations about how the soup was made, Tressel was brilliant in leading OSU to BCS game after BCS game as he took the program to a whole other level after John Cooper had a reasonable amount of success. But Meyer at the peak of his ability is a better head coach for a top-shelf program than Tressel at the height of his powers – and that’s no knock on Tressel – and he appears ready to be just the sort of tweak and change the program needs at the perfect time.
At least in terms of going after a national title, 2012 was going to be another year of building and reloading as Meyer was going to need a little time to get everything in place, and now he has the extra bunker-down, us-against-the-world mentality that he thrives on.
The talent from some great recruiting classes is just starting to mature and should be ready to peak at the right time in 2013, and because Urban Meyer is the head coach, more top-shelf stars are on the way with his ultra-aggressive recruiting style that just upped the ante in the Big Ten. The antiquated unwritten rule among the Big Ten coaches that they don’t dance with anyone else’s dates after a verbal commitment went bye-bye when Meyer went after and got Wisconsin-bound offensive lineman Kyle Dodson, and there are sure to be more where that came from.
But for now, the program is in a bit of a holding pattern and can’t do anything more than be 2011 USC. It can set the tone for next year in what amounts to one giant preseason, and while that might stink for the seniors and any potential NFL early entries, this is a young enough team that the payoff could be tremendous.
It all starts with quarterback Braxton Miller, who has all the skills and all the tools to be Meyer’s next great spread quarterback. The rest of the skill spots are shockingly average, but that could quickly change with almost all the key parts certain to be back in the mix for at least 2013 – there’s time to get better.
The O line that struggled so much in pass protection and with its consistency will likely start four juniors to go along with a freshman tackle in Taylor Decker, who’s destined to be a big part of the fun, while the special teams should be among the best in the Big Ten.
The defense should take the biggest jump up in production with a loaded secondary full of young talent and a line with two All-America killers in tackle Johnathan Hankins and end John Simon to work around. The linebacking corps might need to get better, but sophomores Ryan Shazier and Curtis Grant are nice pieces of the puzzle.
And then there’s Meyer, whose reputation wasn’t exactly tarnished during the post-Tebow era at Florida, but it wasn’t exactly a smooth exit. The messy way that things ended in Gainesville will be quickly forgotten if he does what he’s supposed to do and wins national titles – plural – and makes Ohio State into Ohio State again.
Game on, college football.
What to watch for on offense: The maturation of Braxton Miller. Getting more out of a looks-like-Tarzan-plays-like-Jane receiving corps would be nice, and finding more rushing options with top tailback option Jordan Hall hurting is a must, but the only thing that matters in this redshirt year for the program is how Miller looks and plays in the Meyer spread attack. Meyer gushed at times this offseason about how sharp Miller is, and the passing game improved enough to look solid at the spring game, but his running skills will be what eventually makes the offense shine. He gets a year to get the timing and the decision-making down.
What to watch for on defense: Consistency. The belief is that with experience comes consistency and with consistency comes production. At least that’s the hope for a D that gets nine starters back from a not-that-bad 2011 group. The linebacking corps was mediocre, the secondary gave up too many completions, and the line didn’t get into the backfield enough, but outside of getting steamrolled in the loss to Nebraska the defense held up relatively well in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Now the Buckeyes should take things to a whole other level with nine starters returning and with a ton of depth to use in a rotation. The secondary is loaded with good backups who can step in when needed, and Meyer went heavy on excellent recruits for the defensive line with a year to get their feet wet.
The team will be far better if … the offense doesn’t turn the ball over. There was a slim margin for error for the 2011 Buckeyes with a few special teams slips proving costly and with turnovers turning into a big deal. The offense didn’t throw too much and only gave up five picks, but four of them came in losses with the lone win coming against Indiana. OSU went 5-0 when it didn’t give up a pick before losing to Purdue, Penn State and Florida without giving up an interception, but in those last three games the O lost two fumbles against both the Nittany Lions and the Gators. There weren’t any turnovers against the Boilermakers, but there was a blocked extra point leading to the overtime loss.
The schedule: The Urban era really starts in 2013 when the team can play for the Big Ten title and more, but this year needs to set the tone and it starts with the league’s toughest interdivision schedule going to Michigan State and getting Nebraska and Michigan. The Leaders slate isn’t a positive, either, with road trips to both Penn State and Wisconsin, but at least there’s a week off to prepare to the date in Camp Randall.
The non-conference slate isn’t taxing outside of a good test against Cal, but UCF will be more than just a speed bump. Getting UAB at the end of September is a nice tune-up before going to Michigan State and kicking off the Big Ten season.
Outside of the dates with the Leaders, the Buckeyes don’t have it too bad considering Nebraska and Michigan have to come to Columbus, Penn State might be a shadow of its former self, and Michigan State and Indiana are the only road games before the end of October.
Best offensive player: Sophomore QB Braxton Miller. Terrelle who? A star recruit last season, Miller was thrown into the fire early on and showed poise and skills beyond his years. While he wasn’t allowed to throw too much, he did a nice job of being careful with the ball throwing a mere five picks while completing 54% of his passes with 13 touchdowns. More than anything else, he was great at making things happen on the move leading the team with 715 yards and seven touchdowns showing off great breakaways speed and phenomenal quickness. He’s the franchise for the next three seasons, and he should turn into a special player as he gets more and more familiar with the new attack.
Best defensive player: Junior DT Johnthan Hankins. End John Simon is the heart-and-soul leader up front with the fire and passion that makes new coaching staffs gush, and he should be the team’s leading pass rusher and tone-setter. Hankins is better. Great defenses start with elite rocks on the inside, and OSU has a future NFL starter in the 6-4, 317-pound junior with excellent athleticism and shocking quickness making 67 tackles with three sacks and 11 tackles for loss. While he’s a solid interior pass rusher, he’s at his best when he has to hold up against the run.
Key player to a successful season: Junior RB Carlos Hyde. Miller will lead the team in rushing and he should be the team’s most dangerous all-around playmaker, but he’s not Tim Tebow when it comes to powering the ball and being physical; it won’t be a plus if he leads the team in attempts again. The problem is that the team’s best running back prospect, Jordan Hall, will be out for a while with an injured foot meaning the 6-0, 235-pound Hyde has to become a bit of a workhorse at times to take the pressure off. He needs to do the heavy lifting to help keep Miller, The Franchise, fresh.
The season will be a success if … Ohio State wins ten games. It might be too much to ask for a Leaders title with a trip to Wisconsin and with interdivisional games against Nebraska and Michigan and at Michigan State. However, it shouldn’t take too much tweaking to be in for a big year. With the exception of the loss to Miami, all the defeats last season could’ve easily have gone the other way with six losses by a touchdown or less. Meyer and a more experienced team should account for wins in a few of those – there’s no way this year’s team loses the Purdue and Penn State games that last year’s team dropped – and there’s no reason to shot for anything less than ten wins. On talent, no one in the conference is better.
Key game: Nov. 24 vs. Michigan. The Wisconsin game has become far more important now when it comes to winning the division and, down the road, the Big Ten, but the game is on for the new era of Urban Meyer vs. Brady Hoke. Ohio State might have ramped things up a bit by getting Meyer and with the revamped recruiting effort, but Michigan has taken a bigger leap forward under Hoke and might end up needing this game to get to the Big Ten championship. The Buckeyes gave the Wolverines all they could handle last season in an entertaining 40-34 loss, but this year the classic rivalry is the equivalent of a bowl game. For any and all of Jim Tressel’s flaws, he dominated Michigan and the last thing the Meyer era needs at the end of its first season is a loss to the arch-rival.
2011 Fun Stats:
- Sacks: Opponents 46 for 251 yards – Ohio State 23 for 144 yards
- 2nd Quarter Scoring: Ohio State 111 – Opponents 47
- Interception return yards: Ohio State 128 on 13 picks – Opponents one yard on five picks
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