Buckeye Battle Cry on Michigan State-Ohio State The Enlightened Spartan: Buckeye Battle Cry on Michigan State-Ohio State

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Buckeye Battle Cry on Michigan State-Ohio State

In advance of the gridiron battle between the #25 Spartans at the unranked Ohio State Buckeyes, the ES is providing the OSU side of a reciprocal blogchat with Buckeye Battle Cry - the ES response to MSU-OSU is up on BBC - link here.

Here are the responses from BBC to the interrogation by the ES.  Enjoy, and, thanks BBC!

Braxton Miller seems to at least temporarily be the answer for the Buckeyes at QB, after the rough game by Joe Bauserman at Miami.  But why swap QBs so soon in the season, particularly after Bauserman’s serviceable performance in the tight win vs. Toledo (ahem)?  Is Bauserman the fall guy here? Is this an itchy trigger finger by Luke Fickell?

This is certainly anything but an itchy trigger finger from Luke Fickell.  During the Toledo game, the Buckeyes had intended to bring Braxton Miller into the game, only to find themselves down 15-7 at the end of the first quarter.  That situation, and the fact that the Bucks were never able to gain a solid lead led to Fickell and company sticking with Bauserman the entire game.

Now, many fans viewed Bauserman's performance against Toledo to be far less than serviceable, despite the fact that he committed no turnovers and ultimately won us the game.  Bauserman missed plenty of open targets, always overthrowing his receivers, and often throwing the ball away with an open receiver somewhere else on the field.  While the outcry about Braxton not getting to play wasn't deafening, it was pretty loud.

Then came the Miami game, and down crashed any illusion of the OSU passing game surviving the loss of Terrelle Pryor.  Joe Bauserman completed 2 of 14 passes for the entire game, often throwing the ball away rather than risking a pass to a perfectly open receiver.  While Braxton Miller did not do much better in crunch time (0-2 with 1 INT) he wasn't given a lot of opportunities, constantly being pulled from the game after the slightest mistake.  If anything, Luke's itchy trigger finger was keeping him from giving the young gun a shot.

The Colorado game demonstrated to us that Braxton Miller is absolutely the future of the program.  Coming in, it was a certainty that Miller would get the start, particularly considering that "playing it safe" was not going to gain us as much as giving the future of the program a shot.  While that decision led to only 5-13 passing for 2 touchdowns, many of those misses were due to drops from the receivers rather than a poor pass from Miller.  In fact, Miller's play during the Colorado game was particularly impressive overall, and hopefully he can continue to progress from there.

How instrumental is the passing game for OSU, or is all that matters is a little bit of running here and a lot of defense there?

It's just as instrumental to the OSU offense as the running game is.  Luke Fickell had a fantastic quote in the Colorado postgame,

COACH FICKELL: Obviously the whole goal of an offense is to be balanced. I think that’s the number one most important thing. To me you don’t want to lead the nation in rushing, because if you lead the nation in rushing you probably can’t throw the football. If you lead the nation in passing, you probably don’t run the football too well. So we’ve got to continue to figure out how we can be a little bit more balanced in everything we do.

Obviously, the OSU strategy strongly depends on excellent defense. In the last decade or so, the Buckeyes have rested their hopes on the defense keeping the other team from succeeding at their game-plan, and allowing their offense to do whatever it can.  Sometimes the offense goes crazy, and sometimes it struggles - but OSU's long list of 10 and 11 win seasons has happened because the defense has kept opponents from scoring particularly often.  This has not changed at all with the changing of the coaching guard.

Give a little insight into the OSU backs, Carlos Hyde or Jordan Hall: who is the better running back or receiver… and why are these Buckeyes so damn effective when they get their hands on the ball?

Carlos Hyde has started to come into his own the last couple of games, but Jordan Hall is absolutely the better back of the two.  Jordan Hall has an incredible field vision that few players manage to develop.  He hits the gaps in the defense better than many, in both the running game and in the return game, and has a swiftness that belies his lack of breakaway speed.  Carlos Hyde is probably not going to be the next amazing OSU back, but he's certainly improved his vision the last couple of games.

Ultimately, it's the offensive line that makes these backs so successful.  The Buckeyes have a veteran line led by senior Center Mike Brewster.  This line is absolutely one of the best that has played at OSU during the last decade.  They get a fantastic push in run blocking, and often single-handedly break the running back into the secondary without a single defender getting a whiff at him.

Who has stepped up their game to make the Buckeyes once again so tough this year on defense?  If the Spartans are to be effective at all on Saturday with their offense, how can they take advantage of the Buckeyes? 

Several names come to mind on the defensive side of the ball.  For the most part, the entire OSU Secondary is new, and they are doing a fantastic job.  Most notably are Travis Howard and Bradley Roby, OSU's corners.  Joining them are CJ Barnett and Christian Bryant in the safety positions.  All four have combined to be a very effective coverage unit.

Not surprisingly given their youth, they do still give up a big play here or there, particularly in their zone coverage.  The Buckeyes tend to run a hybrid zone/man defense, rarely depending on a full zone.  However, when they do run a zone, the defense seems to struggle in the coverage, giving up soft targets over the middle (primarily due to the linebackers).  The other method of attack is to use the screen, which OSU struggled to defend against when playing Toledo.  The Rockets repeatedly went back to the screen and gashed big gains against the Buckeyes.  Colorado had less success, but that could have more to do with their quality as a football team than anything to do with the Buckeyes improving their defense.

The best player on the Buckeye defense who the Spartans need to have etched into their foreheads is ___________  (name one).

John Simon, #54.  Know the number, because he will hit Kirk Cousins, even if he doesn't quite get there in time for the sack.  Blocking him coming off the edge is very nearly impossible, and he likes to make quarterback's pay for their tackle's mistakes.

If this game came down to a kick by Drew Basil or Dan Conroy from 45 yards… who do you choose?  From what maximum distance do you have faith in Basil when the game is on the line?

If this game comes down to a kick by anybody, I'm not gonna be a happy camper.  At this point, I'd take Dan Conroy, but only because Drew Basil has yet to demonstrate that he is anything more than an acceptable place kicker.  Early in the season he missed several chip-shot field goals, shanking the kicks in entirely the wrong direction.  Now he's on a streak, hitting 5 straight including a 47 yarder.  How he plays in this one will go a long way towards improving our confidence in his abilities as a kicking threat.

What will be the play of the game that the Spartans can try to avoid?

The Buckeyes don't usually depend on a single play that opposing teams can avoid.  Often, OSU will simply use a never-ending stream of less significant plays that slowly drive you absolutely insane.

Or was that drive us insane?  I can't ever keep that straight.

If we learned anything from the Colorado game, the OSU Special Teams completely crushed the Buffaloes.
The best thing MSU could try to avoid is a big return from Jordan Hall.  He's bound to break one for a score one of these days, and has very nearly done it already, so it would behoove the Spartans to practice sealing the gaps before this one.

Hayes (205 wins, 76%) – Bruce (81 wins, 76%) – Cooper (111 wins, 70%) – Tressel (94 wins, 81%) – Fickell?  Fickell… really? This guy can top 70% wins over a 10+ year career? 

And how did you guys feel about Dantonio following in Saban's footsteps?  Exactly.

To be honest, we don't know yet how Fickell will do in the head spot.  We've seen 4 games to date, and he's done a reasonably solid job of taking care of business.  It's hard to say yet if he's the right choice for the job. in fact we didn't know that Tressel was "right" for the job until he beat Michigan in his first season.
Though, you could also argue that it required the majority of the 2002 season for us to really feel like he was the right guy.

As for Fickell, he's got the right personality and mentality to be able to do a good job, he just needs to get some experience under his belt.  I think he'll do fine eventually, he's just got to be given a little time.

So, how does Gordon Gee feel about handling orders from his new boss?

Just fine, thanks.  Everything is peachy-keen down here.

I’ll bet you the state of Ohio that the ES hates scUM more than you, more than Mr. Bucknut, and more than the entire Buckeye nation.  I bet you. 

Well, considering you don't own the state of Ohio I'm gonna need a wager on your end before I defeat you mercilessly.
As a graduate of Ohio State University, and a current graduate student at Michigan State University, I can honestly say with 100% certainty that Michigan State fans do not hate Michigan more than Ohio State fans. But even given that, considering I enjoy the non-Michigan side of both of these charming rivalries, I absolutely hate Michigan more than you.  Hands down.

Patience young grasshopper, someday you will find true zen Michigan hating.

You can go ahead and keep the UP, we don't need it.

(ES REBUTTAL:  The ES likely ain't as young as BBC thinks, the ES dislikes the UP after working as an SID and living up dere for a year, and the ES just earned his PhD from MSU last week...  That said, at least we have a common hatred.)