On the Friday before the opener against Akron, I met my dad, James Bond and Fred at the Varsity Club, for a kickoff lunch and the renewal of a high-stakes bet based on our predicted records for the season.
I don’t recall everyone’s predictions, but I think that at 9-3, I was the pessimist of the group.
And after Saturday, I think 9-3 would feel pretty good.
Because it’s not all that hard to imagine Ohio State not winning again until it plays Indiana. In November. Ouch.
But I don’t think that’s what’s going to happen. There could be another five losses on the schedule — but I don’t think that’s going to be the case. This isn’t going to be a championship season — and it’s not even going to be close, boys and girls — but things aren’t as bad as they felt at 7 p.m. Saturday evening. Look:
The defense is what we’re used to seeing at Ohio State. After Saturday’s game, our Buckeyes still had the 10th best scoring defense in the country. It’s easy to lose sight of this after a loss, but holding a senior quarterback and his very good offense to 10 points is a great day.
Help’s on the way. Returning to the field on Saturday: left tackle Mike Adams. He may or may not be joined by tailback Boom Herron and receiver DeVier Posey (it sounds like we’ll find out more about that this afternoon). The return of the skill players is important (Posey in particular — we’re already seeing injuries among the receivers and having an all-conference guy back can do nothing but help the confidence of whoever’s playing under center) but getting Adams back will be the biggest deal. The offensive line has struggled; having its anchor back in the huddle — and moving the other guys back to positions that more naturally suit them — is going to help.
It’s all in their heads. In 2008, there was a crushing road loss at USC and a devastating loss to Penn State at home; the team improved after both losses and won a bid to a BCS game. I’m not seeing a BCS berth at the end of this season, but we will see improvement. I’m not ready to make any predictions about wins and losses, but I guarantee we’re going to see a better team on the field against Wisconsin than we did against Michigan State. The current seniors were here for that 2008 season; they know what it takes to recover mentally, and they will bring the other guys along.
Youth movement. Think about it — four seniors, all starters, all among the better players at their positions in the country — and all gone for the first five games this year. Could we realistically expect the same kind of performance from replacements who A) had been perpetual backups or B) are true freshmen? Not if we’re being honest with ourselves, no. Think back to 2008 again. We saw occasional brilliance from that season’s freshman quarterback — but more often, we saw him play like he was a freshman quarterback. Braxton Miller’s in the same boat. We’ve seen great plays from him already, and I think he has a greater upside than did his predecessor. But if Ohio State is going to realize that potential for the next two or three years, we’re going to have to endure some mistakes now.
(Caveat to the above: We need to play Miller. Joe Bauserman’s performance against Akron had less to do with his ability than it had to do with what Akron lacked. It’s going to be better all the way around to suffer through Miller’s mistakes while he improves than to hope for a decent season from a mediocre caretaker — and have to go through Miller’s learning process next year.)
We’re going to be fine, boys and girls. We have the same talent on this team as we’ve had in the last decade. We have a ton of young guys — not to mention a young coach — and they’re not going to react like veterans when things get tough.
But later this season, they will. And they’re going to need us behind them when they’re ready.
Photo credit: The Ozone.