Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ohio State vs. No. 25 Michigan State -- Week 5 Game Preview, History Lesson, and Prediction



The Buckeyes officially began the Braxton Miller era last Saturday in Ohio Stadium -- and in a way -- hit the reset button on their 2011 season.


Better late than never as they say...

After three weeks of indecision that culminated with an embarrassing loss in Miami to the now 1-2 Hurricanes, coach Luke Fickell and offensive coordinator Jim Bollman finally pulled the plug and took the failed Joe Bauserman, starting-quarterback-experiment, off of life support in favor of Miller.

The week five depth chart no longer lists the starting QB as Joe Bauserman OR Braxton Miller -- but just Miller. After his showing against Colorado, the coaching staff has finally made it official -- This is his team now.

Miller's debut against the Buffaloes was far from perfect, but the offense moved the ball -- often literally on the legs of Miller -- and scored 37 points -- which could have actually been 45, but unlike Miami against OSU the previous week, Ohio State instead showed class and ran out the clock rather than going for a touchdown to run-up-the-score in the final seconds.

Buckeye fans got a promising glimpse into the future (and the present) as Miller hooked up with wide receiver, and fellow true freshman, Devin Smith for two touchdowns in the win.

Miller needs to play within himself, protect the football, and do a lot less of this, and a lot more of this and this instead -- and the Buckeyes should definitely be in the mix for the Leaders division crown and another Big Ten title.


Brief Game Outlook / Players of Note

Ohio State and Michigan State have each lost their only road games so far this season -- both to teams they probably should have beaten (Miami-Fl and Notre Dame respectively) -- but, those losses are in the past, and there's no time to dwell on those defeats as the two rivals kick off inter-divisional conference play this week in The Horseshoe.

The Spartans currently lead the nation in total and pass defense, giving up just 172 yards per game and 101 yards through the air (albeit against a fairly weak OOC schedule).

They also rank eighth in fewest points allowed per game (11.0) and the defense leads the Big Ten with six interceptions in four games.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins has thrown for 935 passing yards, with five touchdowns and two interceptions. His passer efficiency rating is 148.

Wide receiver and Biletnikoff Award candidate B.J Cunningham (pictured at left) leads the Big Ten with 29 catches for 428 yards and has scored once.

The running back duo of Le'Veon Bell and Edwin Baker have combined for 433 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

Ohio State is currently 16th in the nation in total defense. They rank 18th in fewest points allowed per game (15.8). The defense has four interceptions and 10 QB sacks through four games.

In a little over two games, Miller has 235 passing yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He also has 145 yards rushing with a current passer efficiency rating of 147.

Smith appears to be everything Duron Carter was supposed to be at wide receiver. He leads the Buckeyes with eight receptions for 183 yards and three scores.

TE Jake Stoneburner has been quiet the last two weeks, but is still second on the team with eight catches for 94 yards and four touchdowns.

Carlos Hyde leads the team in rushing with 263 yards and three touchdowns, but Jordan Hall is close behind with 171 yards rushing and a touchdown in just two games since coming off a two-game suspension to open the season.

Ohio State and Michigan State both play traditional Big Ten football -- they like to run the ball and mix in the pass. Bell and Baker vs. the Buckeye defense and Hyde and Hall vs. the Spartan defense could decide this game.

Both defenses will be challenged, but the team whose defense can best limit and contain the opposing running backs (and the occasional dual-threat QB) will likely win the game.


Ohio State—Michigan State History Lesson

• Ohio State is 67-7 in Ohio Stadium since 2001.

• Ohio State is 27-12 all-time vs. Michigan State (14-7 at home).

• Ohio State has won the last seven meetings against Michigan State.

• Ohio State is 70-23-4 in Big Ten openers since joining the conference in 1913.

• Ohio State defense has held opponent to fewer than 10 points 30 times since 2006.

• Ohio State's defense has allowed just five 100-yard rushers in their last 38 games.

• Ohio State has held 64 of 77 opponents to 21 points or fewer since the start of the 2005 season.

• Ohio State's defense has allowed just one 100-yard rusher in the past 25 games at Ohio Stadium.

• Michigan State is 10-10 on the road since 2007 under coach Mark Dantonio.

• Michigan State is 20-12 overall vs. conference opponents since 2007 under Dantonio.

• Michigan State last beat Ohio State in Columbus over the then-No. 1 Buckeyes in 1998.

• In the most recent meeting, then-No. 12 Ohio State dominated then-No. 20 MSU, 45-7, in East Lansing in 2008.


Final Thoughts and Score Prediction

In the 24-6 loss at Miami, Ohio State didn't have a passing game or a quarterback -- now, all indications are that they do (even if he is a work-in-progress).

In the loss at Notre Dame, Michigan State did have a passing game and a quarterback (Cousins threw for 329 yards and a touchdown) -- but, they still lost 31-13.

The Spartans could only muster 29 rushing yards against ND, while their own defense yielded 114 rushing yards to the Irish.

The Ohio State defense all-but-NEVER gives up 100 yards rushing at home, and the Buckeye "O" is averaging 184 yards rushing per contest. Those trends should continue on Saturday.

So, what do you get when you put together everything you just read?

This.

Ohio State 34
Michigan State 20



"To be a champion, you have to believe in yourself when no one else will" - Sugar Ray Robinson




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Accompanying article image copyright Getty Images

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ohio State vs. Colorado -- Week 4 Game Preview, History Lesson, and Prediction



After the debacle in Miami last Saturday -- which included a 2 for 14 passing performance from starter Joe Bauserman -- it's finally Miller Time -- as in Braxton Miller.

Coach Luke Fickell confirmed Miller, the true freshman QB, will get his first career start against Colorado, but much to the dismay of most Buckeye fans, added that Bauserman will also see action.

If the Buckeyes can survive the next two games (CU, MSU), this team will still have a chance to be pretty good, and yes, still compete for the Leaders Division crown and the Big Ten Championship -- but it's time to pick a starting QB (not named Bauserman) and stick with him (Miller) for the remainder of the season.

There will be growing pains, so Buckeye fans will need to show some patience with Miller if and when he makes freshman mistakes, but just remember, this move will allow Miller to gain invaluable experience, which should pay huge dividends for OSU in 2012.


Brief Game Outlook

Ohio State is now 2-1, while Colorado is 1-2.

In 2008, freshman-phenom Terrelle Pryor replaced senior Todd Boeckman after an ugly road loss, and led the Buckeyes to a 10-2 regular season record and the Big Ten title.

We can only hope, with Miller replacing Bauserman, that it's deja-vu all over again.

Besides QB Miller, RBs Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall, and TE Jake Stoneburner are the players to keep an eyes on when the Buckeyes have the ball.

To date, Miller has seen limited action, but thus far has completed 10/16 passes for 152 yards with one touchdown and one interception and has also gained 62 yards on the ground -- Hyde and Hall have rushed for 223 and 87 yards respectively and Hyde has two scores -- and Stoneburner has eight catches for 93 yards and four touchdowns.

The Buckeye defense and the O-line are the team co-MVP's at this point and each unit should shine once again this week -- the defense in limiting Colorado's offensive output and scoring opportunities -- and the O-line in giving Miller time to pass and the running backs wide-lanes to run through.

Ultimately, the end-result will depend on how well Miller settles in and protects the ball once he gets past the anxiety and the butterflies he's sure to feel as he makes his first career start in front of 105,000 insane Buckeye fans.

Ohio State has better athletes across the board and is by far the superior team on paper on both sides of the ball.

That being said, there's no denying that this team is very young and while 2011 is not a complete rebuilding year, Colorado could keep it close and make a game of it -- well, for awhile anyway...


Ohio State—Colorado History Lesson

• Ohio State is 3-1 all-time vs. Colorado.

• Ohio State is 66-7 in Ohio Stadium since 2001.

• Ohio State is 42-8 vs. non-conference foes since 2001.

• Ohio State is 55-26-2 all-time vs. current Pac-12 member schools.

• Ohio State is 7-2 at home all-time vs. non-conference foes in the BCS era.

• Ohio State defense has held opponent to fewer than 10 points 30 times since 2006.

• Ohio State's defense has allowed just five 100-yard rushers in their last 37 games.

• Ohio State's defense has allowed just one 100-yard rusher in the past 24 games at Ohio Stadium.

• Ohio State has won 56 consecutive regular-season non-conference home games against teams not ranked in the AP Top 25.

• Colorado is 1-3 all-time vs. Ohio State (1971-Win, 1977-Loss, 1985-Loss, 1986-Loss).

• Colorado is 0-6 in road games vs. non-conference BCS opponents since 2005.

• Colorado is 1-5 in road games the week after facing CSU since 1997.

• Colorado is 14-36 against BCS conference teams since 2006.


Final Thoughts and Score Prediction

Miller has been compared to both Terrelle Pryor and Troy Smith for his ability to scramble when pressured, like Pryor, and deliver the ball accurately down field when under pressure, like Smith.

Miller is no-doubt a talented dual-threat quarterback that could potentially surpass the accomplishments of both Pryor and Smith, but if he wants to remain the starting QB for Ohio State, he must make protecting the football priority No. 1.

Priority No. 2 is getting the ball into the hands of his backs and receivers.

Priority No. 3 is to tuck the ball and run if the receivers are covered, or just do as Bauserman did all-too-often and aim for B-deck -- but please, please, please, whatever happens -- hang on to the football!


Ohio State 33
Colorado 10



"To be a champion, you have to believe in yourself when no one else will" - Sugar Ray Robinson









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Image copyright of Jim Davidson / TheOzone.net (Used with permission)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

No. 16 Ohio State vs. Miami (FL)—Week 3 Game Preview, History Lesson, and Prediction


A fter opening the season with a convincing 42-0 win over hapless Akron, it seemed fairly reasonable to believe the Buckeyes (2-0) would not have too much trouble dispensing the Toledo Rockets in week two.

Toledo, an experienced and veteran squad, returned 18 starters from their 2010 team -- including superstar WR Eric Page -- yet, the Buckeyes were favored to win by 19.5 points.

In reality, the game was much too close for comfort. Toledo was not intimidated, and fully expected to compete, and win the game.

In the end, the Big Ten's top defense bent, but did not break, and stopped Toledo's final -- and potential game-winning -- drive in the final two minutes, securing the 27-22 victory/escape.

In 2002, on their way to 14 wins, including a BCS national title, the Buckeyes won seven games by 7 or less points. Winning close, and sometimes winning ugly, is better than losing any day of the week.

As for Miami (0-1), the Canes had an off-week to lick their wounds and prepare for Ohio State after opening the season in defeat on the road at Maryland, 32-24.

On a kind of cool/kind of hideous side note:



Seeing the Maryland "state-flag" jersey was like seeing two Arena League teams merge, and then not be able to agree on which jersey to keep going forward, so instead, they decided to take half a jersey from each team to form the new team's jersey -- OR -- Perhaps they resemble a CFL team sponsored by a taxi-cab company?



Brief Game Outlook

As programs go, there are a lot of similarities between Ohio State and Miami.

Both have at least five national titles (OSU 7, Miami 5).

Each school boasts a who's-who list of national award winners, and both programs have sent multiple players to the NFL.

Oh, and you may have heard something this off-season about both schools being under investigation by the NCAA regarding players that have received improper benefits.

While the off-the-field infractions that occurred at Ohio State are very serious and are likely to warrant additional sanctions from the NCAA on top of those already self-imposed by the university, those at Miami could include a lack of institutional control charge, and all-totaled, could potentially be deemed as death-penalty level violations.

As for the game this Saturday night, it's a bit of a toss-up.

Last week, freshman QB Braxton Miller was expected to play against Toledo, but never saw the field. Instead, senior Joe Bauserman played the entire game, and while Bauserman didn't turn the ball over, he also did little-else to help lead the Buckeyes to victory.

This Saturday, against a speedy and athletic team like Miami, Coach Fickell might want to strongly consider playing Miller. Not only can Miller move well in the pocket and scramble away from pressure if needed (a la Terrelle Pryor), but he also possesses excellent passing mechanics and a strong, accurate arm (a la NOT Terrelle Pryor).

Jordan Hall (RB), Travis Howard (DB), and Corey Brown (DB) will be reinstated by game time. Miami QB Jacory Harris has also been given the all-clear and will start for the Canes. In all, the Buckeyes still have four players (including 3 starters) out due to suspension -- certainly an edge in favor of Miami.

Last season in Columbus, Miami scored two special teams touchdowns, but the Buckeye defense pressured Harris into four costly interceptions, and held the Canes offense to just 10 points en route to a 36-24 win.

Harris will look to improve upon his poor performance and breath some life into the Canes passing game that was somewhat lacking in their opener.

Miami RB Lamar Miller played well in the losing effort against the Terps, rushing for 119 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown.

For the Bucks -- running back Hall may have to earn his spot back -- so expect Carlos Hyde to start his third straight game. Rod Smith or Jaamal Berry should also get some touches, although Smith has had two untimely fumbles in two games -- generally a sure-fire way to find yourself on the sidelines more often than not.

Freshman receiver Devin Smith leads OSU with 119 yards on 5 catches and has one touchdown reception. TE Jake Stoneburner has been the Buckeyes' most consistent and reliable receiver so far this season with eight grabs for 93 yards, including four for touchdowns -- two more than he had all of last season. Converted high school QB Verlon Reed is third on the team with five receptions for 89 yards.

Ultimately, look for the 2011 game to be decided much the same as the 2010 contest -- by turnover margin and in the trenches. The team that best protects the ball and the quarterback, and opens up the running lanes for their tailbacks should come away with the "W".


Current FBS Team Rankings



Ohio State—Miami History Lesson

• This will be the 5th all-time meeting between Ohio State and Miami.

• Ohio State is 3-1 against Miami (including the vacated win from 2010).

• Ohio State is 15-7 all-time vs. ACC opponents.

• Ohio State is 32-16 all-time in night games, including a 17-6 mark on the road.

• Ohio State is 42-8 vs. non-conference opponents since 2001.

• Ohio State has held opponents to fewer than 10 points 30 times since 2006.

• Ohio State's defense has allowed just four 100-yard rushers in their last 39 games.

• Ohio State has 821 wins all-time, the fifth-most among FBS teams.

• The last Buckeye head coach to win his 1st first road game was Earle Bruce, a 21-17 win at Minnesota in 1979.

• Miami is 23-2 in home openers since 1986.

• Miami is 1-3 vs Big Ten opponents since 2001, having lost their last three.

• Miami is 49-15 overall at home since 2001.

• Since joining the ACC in 2004, Miami is 14-1 at home vs. OOC opponents.

• Miami is 5-14 overall against ranked teams since 2006.

• Miami is 3-5 at home vs. ranked teams since 2006.

• Miami has won four straight home openers (2007-2010) by an average of 34 ppg.

• Miami coach Al Golden is 1-12 vs. BCS teams in his career.


Final Thoughts and Score Prediction

Both teams need a win -- Miami, to avoid an 0-2 start, and Ohio State, to prove last weeks scare against Toledo was a fluke and that they are deserving of their top 20 ranking.

The Canes rarely lose in home openers, but the 23 wins in 25 games since 1986 have mostly not been against teams the caliber of the Buckeyes.

Both teams have question marks on offense, but defensively, Ohio State gets the edge.

If there is an area of concern for OSU, it's the young secondary of the Buckeyes, however, Jacory Harris has yet to prove he can consistently play well and protect the ball -- see 2010 in Columbus -- and there are several up-and-coming defensive backs (including Bradley Roby and Dominic Clarke) on the rise for Ohio State.

Expect the Buckeye defense to contain Miller and the running game and to pressure Harris into a repeat of last years meeting -- and a similar game result.


Ohio State 31
Miami 16



"To be a champion, you have to believe in yourself when no one else will" - Sugar Ray Robinson









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Some image(s) copyright of Jim Davidson / TheOzone.net

Monday, September 5, 2011

No. 15 Ohio State vs. Toledo—Week 2 Game Preview, History Lesson, and Prediction



Week one is in the books and it was finally nice to see Ohio State get back to football with a convincing 42-0 win over Akron.

While week two also provides an opponent from the MAC, beating Toledo, who defeated New Hampshire 58-22 in their 2011 opener, could prove to be a bit more of a challenge for the Buckeyes.

The 2011 Rockets are not your typical, early season, cupcake opponent the big schools like to play in a confidence-building tune-up game. A win over this Rockets squad may not come as easily as it has in the previous meetings of the series.


Brief Game Outlook

It goes without saying that the Buckeyes have far more talent across the board than do the Rockets, but, UT is an experienced team with 18 returning starters, and an offense that can -- and will expect to -- move the ball and score a lot of points.

Akron had the worst offense Ohio State will see all year—Toledo may have one of the best.

Much like Ohio State, UT will also play two quarterbacks. Austin Dantin should start, but Terrence Owens will also play. Against New Hampshire, Dantin went 15/21 for 161 yards and three touchdowns. Owens was 10/13 for 122 yards and 1 score.

Adonis Thomas is a very solid tailback. Last week, he rushed nine times for 115 yards (12.8 ypc) and a touchdown.

And then, there is receiver Eric Page. Page was tabbed as a Walter Camp 1st-team All-American selection (as a kick returner) in 2010. He was also named to the preseason Biletnikoff Award watch list for 2011.

While he didn't light up the stat book last week with only five catches for 60 yards and a score, there is no denying that the guy is a stud, period. The Buckeyes have a lot of young talent at WR to appreciate (this season and especially over the next couple), but imagine if Page were wearing Scarlet and Gray this week instead of Blue and Gold.

The Buckeye secondary better be ready for Page and Toledo's "other" WR, Bernard Reedy. Reedy had five receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns in the opener.

For the Buckeyes, QBs Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller can both expect to play once again. Bauserman raised some eyebrows with his impressive performance against Akron and may have stolen away some of Miller's thunder and playing time, but Miller also played well, so that remains to be seen for now.

There's been no official word yet on the status of RB Jordan Hall, however, with what both Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith did out the backfield, nobody should be too worried about that position.

With DeVier Posey out until week six, the biggest concern for OSU entering week one had to be the lack of experience at wide receiver.

Several of the Buckeye's young wideouts stepped up last week, including Verlon Reed, Devin Smith, T.Y. Williams, and Evan Spencer, but the biggest impact was the breakout game had by TE (/WR) Jake Stoneburner -- who became the first Buckeye TE ever to score three TDs in a game.

Make no mistake, the Rocket defense is going to be have a hard time matching up with and containing all of the weapons Ohio State has at their disposal.

Ultimately, this game will be won with defense and by controlling the clock. The Toledo offense will be a much better gauge to measure the quality of the OSU defense than Akron was.

Toledo has big-play ability, and the Buckeyes will have to limit those big plays and win the time-of-possession battle. Ohio State's size advantage on the O-line and punishing running game should be able to pound UT's D-line and tire out their defense in the second half.

Ohio State is the better team on paper on both sides of the ball, but games aren't played on paper, and the gap between Ohio State and Toledo isn't as big as it might normally be, so just showing up on Saturday won't be enough.


Current FBS Team Rankings




Ohio State—Toledo History Lesson

• This will be only the 3rd all-time meeting between Ohio State and Toledo.

• Ohio State won both previous meetings with Toledo (49-0 in 1998 and 38-0 in 2009).

• Ohio State defense has held opponent to fewer than 10 points 30 times since 2006.

• Ohio State is 65-7 at home since 2001.

• Ohio State is 43-0-1 vs. in-state schools since 1922.

• Ohio State is 41-8 vs. non-conference opponents since 2001.

• Ohio State last lost to an in-state school in 1921 (Oberlin, 7-6).

• Ohio State is 28-1 all-time vs. MAC schools (lone loss came in 1894 vs. Akron).

• Ohio State has won 55 consecutive regular-season non-conference home games against teams not ranked in the AP Top 25.

• Ohio State's defense has allowed just three 100-yard rushers in their last 36 games.

• Toledo is 6-8 all-time vs. ranked opponents.

• Toledo is 6-14 all-time vs. Big Ten opponents.

• Toledo is 3-3 on the road vs. Big Ten opponents since 2000.

• Toledo is 6-6 in road games under 3rd year coach Tim Beckman.

• Toledo is 0-2 against top 25 teams under Beckman with losses to #11 Ohio State in 2009 and #4 Boise State in 2010.


Final Thought(s) and Score Prediction

ESPN college football analyst and perennial Buckeye-hater Mark May ripped the Buckeyes last week when they were only leading 21-0 over the Zips at the half.

Coincidentally, he did not do the same to Alabama (for obvious reasons, cough..., the SEC's, cough..., huge TV contract, cough..., with ESecPN) when they too were also only winning 21-0 at the half over their MAC opponent, Kent State.

Well, Ohio State isn't going to score 60 or more points, and a shutout of UT seems very unlikely this week, so you can expect Mark May to be at it again -- but it's only because of his total ignorance of the fact that Toledo is a solid team -- unlike Pitt in 1996 (or any other year for that matter) -- but I digress.

This week, the score prediction could be construed as a bit conservative, but Toledo is no slouch, so let's just call it cautious but confident, shall we?

Ohio State 44
Toledo 13


"To be a champion, you have to believe in yourself when no one else will" - Sugar Ray Robinson









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Some image(s) copyright of Jim Davidson / TheOzone.net

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Video: We Are THE 2011 Ohio State Buckeyes and You Are Buckeye Nation



Future Buckeye Frank Epitropoulos posted a link to this video via Twitter in which he gives a S/O to his uncle for making and uploading it to YouTube.

Thank you Frank Epitropoulos's uncle!!!








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