When one attempts to put into words the impact that Aaron Craft has on a basketball game, a team’s season, or a program in four short years, it proves to be an incredibly tough task. Running jokes about Craft’s tenure at Ohio State lasting the better part of a decade aside, he’s been the engine that keeps his team running, all the while saying the right things and excelling in the classroom. Ohio State basketball had seen some of its darkest days in Craft’s tenure with the team—and likely longer with losses in five out of seven January contests, including failures against bottom-dwellers Nebraska and Penn State.
The Michigan State loss was an understandable loss because of the hostile Breslin Center environment against an experienced top five squad. Buckeye fans were comforted by the valiant comeback and forcing overtime, nearly pulling off the stunner. Then, there was the Iowa game Sunday. In the first major home game of the conference season, Iowa was no slouch to be certain with a large starting lineup and the fourth best offense1. The Buckeyes just don’t lose at home that often, and after sustaining early scorching of the nets by the Hawkeyes, it looked like they were poised to win the game after taking a 9-point lead about halfway through the second half. However, they unraveled due to turnovers and lost their second straight contest. With that rough week behind them, the Buckeyes headed to The Barn last night to take on the Golden Gophers. What ensued was one of the worst efforts from a Thad Matta squad in years. LaQuinton Ross was the only Buckeye consistently capable of offense, and the team’s defense and rebounding failed them due to smaller lineups and poor coaching decisions. Minnesota stunned the Bucks with a 63-53 home win, and the Buckeyes have now lost three straight for the first time in nearly five years and eviscerated any realistic chance at the conference title just five games into the gauntlet of Big Ten basketball.
It is time to slam the panic button. [Read more...]
- That is in terms of adjusted efficiency according to KemPom.com [↩]
Today we look back. Forget the star-studded 2014 recruiting class. Forget the possibility of having someone not named Luke Fickell coaching the Ohio State defense next season. Today we have but one purpose, and that is to relive the peaks and valleys, twists and turns of another Buckeyes season in the books.
Last night was an eye opening evening in my favorite sport. As I laid in my bed with a wicked sore throat, I had a few moments of clarity as conference play began all over the country. Iowa State, which is one of the five remaining unbeaten teams, is to me the clear front runner in the Big 12, a league that has been won by Kansas nine consecutive years. The SEC is easily the worst of the power conferences; one of their alleged better teams, LSU, was destroyed at home by Tennessee last night and looked bad doing so. But my biggest perception change for the better came from a team that lost.
I am officially sold on the Ohio State Buckeyes as a Final Four contender.
An outcome assured, I was armed with thoughts of disappointment. The Buckeyes, relatively untested through 15 games, headed to East Lansing for their toughest game on the regular season slate, and they didn’t look ready for it. A season-high 17 turnovers in the game’s first 32 minutes, the team’s two leading scorers in LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith Jr. a combined for 4-for-18 for 12 points, a scoreless first half from the starting backcourt of Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott, a run of 11-2 to close the first half, and falling behind by 17 points in the second half were going to be the key barbs to hammer home.
And then, sheer lunacy unfolded. The Bucks erased that 17-point hole to force overtime and nearly pulled off the stunner in the Breslin Center. Sparty on the strength of key threes from Keith Appling and Adreian Payne regrouped to hold on 72-68 in overtime, but it was the comeback and the emergence of new ready-for-primetime players that has me most intrigued moving forward.
Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year is an annual must-read. Given that the national recognition rarely has anything to do with the teams or individuals whom we cover. In turn, WFNY will soon announce its choice for 2013′s Cleveland Sportsman of the Year. Here’s one of the nominations for that honor by an WFNY writer.
It was no surprise performance, no jaws were dropped, no eyebrows were raised. Rather, it felt as if the predetermined script played out nearly absolutely as expected. The Orange Bowl got its shootout, with Tajh Boyd and Braxton Miller going back and forth. It looked like Ohio State was on the doorstep of taking control, but Philly Brown’s muffed punt changed everything, and Sammy Watkins shattered school and Orange Bowl records with his receiving as the Tigers held on to win over the Buckeyes 40-35 in South Florida.
In some ways, there was no possible way that Ohio State’s defense had a chance. We had seen it allow 41 points to Michigan followed by 34 to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game, and that was with nearly their full complement of players. Already missing safety Christian Bryant who wasn’t able to return in time for the bowl, the team was without defensive end Noah Spence and cornerback Bradley Roby. Sure, there were big plays made by the Buckeye defense, including two interceptions, a safety, and a turnover on downs, but there was not enough pressure to be had, and nobody had an answer for Sammy Watkins. Joey Bosa (5 tackles, 1 sack) played with a gladiator-like effort after injuring and re-injuring his ankle, limping off the field after making plays. It made you wonder how bad Bradley Roby, with his bags packed already for the NFL, and his bone bruise were. [Read more...]
There’s no use in denying it at this point: Ohio State’s defense cost them a shot at the national championship. Through a combination of unfortunate injuries (Christian Bryant), failure to try new players (Vonn Bell), and pure incompetence (Armani Reeves, Pitt Brown, Joshua Perry), the Buckeye defense bungled their way to some embarrassing yardage and point totals against what should have been overmatched opponents.
Now that same defense will be called upon to stop Tajh Boyd and the high-powered Clemson offense, which ranks 11th nationally with 329.3 pass yards per game. That job has gotten harder in the past few days with the news that the Buckeyes could be missing three regular starters.
Starting defensive end Noah Spence and his team best eight sacks did not make the flight to Fort Lauderdale with the team. Coach Urban Meyer originally told the media that Spence is dealing with a personal issue, but on Wednesday it was announced that Spence was suspended for three games, including the Orange Bowl, for an unspecified violation of Big Ten rules. That violation is reportedly the use of an unapproved dietary supplement, but no specifics have been confirmed by the school or conference.
With Spence banned, his starting spot will be deputized by some combination of sophomore Jamal Marcus and junior Steve Miller. The two have seen some action this year, combining for 27 tackles and five sacks, but it is still a significant downgrade from Spence.
Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell also told the media earlier this week that middle linebacker Curtis Grant was unlikely to play as he continues to battle ankle and back ailments.
The most troublesome news, however, comes in the secondary. Earlier in the week Fickell insinuated that All-Big Ten cornerback Bradley Roby could miss the game with the knee injury he suffered against Michigan State. On Wednesday, Meyer told the media in Miami that he did not expect the junior to play against Clemson.
That revelation would mean that Roby’s career in Scarlet and Gray is likely over, as he has made his intention to declare for the NFL Draft exceedingly clear. His career has been a memorable one that included an All-American selection last season, but the last significant play of that career just might end up being the third quarter pass against Michigan State on which Roby bruised his knee and dropped an interception that would have likely locked up the game and a BCS Championship Game berth for the Buckeyes.
If Roby doesn’t suit up, Doran Grant will slide into the top cornerback role with Armani Reeves moving back into the starting lineup. That sounds to me like a recipe for disaster against the Clemson receiving corps led by speedster Sammy Watkins.
In other bad, yet more expected news about the Buckeyes’ defensive backs, Fickell revealed that injured senior safety Christian Bryant would not be able to play on Friday as he continues to recover from the broken ankle he suffered against Wisconsin. Furthermore, Meyer told the media on Thursday that he believes that Bryant’s appeal to the NCAA for a medical redshirt that would grant him an extra year of eligibility was denied, meaning that his collegiate career is over.
All of this news combines to seriously threaten the fragile ecosystem that is the Buckeyes defense. It’s no secret that the secondary is the weakest link of this weak unit. A top-10 team should not have a unit that ranks 102nd nationally as the Buckeyes’ passing defense does. The 259.5 yards they allow per game have come against relatively weak aerial attacks, a category to which Clemson does not belong. Now, with Roby out, there is even more pressure on the Ohio State front seven to get pressure on Tajh Boyd and unsettle the Tigers passing offense.
With Spence out, that responsibility falls on defensive linemen like Adolphus Washington, Michael Bennett, and Joey Bosa. This game could be a coming-out party for the freshman stud from Fort Lauderdale. A massive game on the national stage could launch Bosa’s name into the national spotlight for next season, when he figures to be a candidate for All-Big Ten and possibly even All-American honors.
At the second level, fellow Fort Lauderdale native Ryan Shazier must continue his spectacular season to help pick up the slack from the possible absence of Grant. The junior linebacker is considered slightly undersized, but this week the NFL Draft Advisory Board projected him as a second-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft. For the Buckeyes to shut down Clemson, they need Shazier at his best, but a great performance may lead him to enter the draft and forgo his senior season.
Both Shazier and Bosa are vital to the Buckeyes’ hopes. Perhaps even more important will be the play of the secondary itself, specifically the safeties. C.J. Barnett and Corey “Pitt” Brown both had nightmarish games against the Spartans. Those performances led to a reshuffling of the depth chart. Barnett retains his starting spot but must bounce back from his weak showing in Indianapolis. The biggest change on the defense comes with the promotion of true freshman safety Vonn Bell to the first-string nickelback spot. That move means that usual nickelback Tyvis Powell will start in place of Brown at the safety spot opposite Barnett.
While I don’t think we could possibly see this new set of safeties perform as poorly as Barnett and Brown did against Michigan State, they will still need help from the rest of the defense to stifle the Tigers. If Bosa, Shazier, and company can keep Boyd uncomfortable in the pocket, it will go a long way towards helping the Buckeyes secure an impressive BCS victory that could combine with the bowl victories by Michigan State and Nebraska help the Big Ten earn back some much-needed respect.
(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
The Ohio State basketball team is ranked No. 2 in the nation, and some are wondering why. It’s a fair argument. Much of their early season slate has been less than spectacular in terms of difficulty. Their leading scorer averages less than 14 points per game. Last night didn’t alleviate very much of that head-scratching with a hard-fought 76-64 victory at The Schott where the Bucks allowed Delaware to hang around for the entire game. So, where do the Buckeyes belong? With the Big Ten opener less than two weeks away, the Buckeyes are about to find out if their ranking is indeed too lofty.
The Buckeyes are where they are because of their defense. How good are they? Try 1st in adjusted defensive rating (per Ken Pomeroy’s ratings) by a whopping 2.7 points at 87.3 points per 100 possessions, 2nd in field goal percentage defense (40.1%), and 1st in 3-point defense at 23.2%. Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott are the best defensive backcourt in the nation. Amir Williams is proving to be a more consistent presence in the paint blocking shots, and the Bucks may have the most solid nine-deep group of defenders that they’ve had under Thad Matta. Even when that offense struggles, Ohio State can make that pale in comparison by holding teams without a field goal for four or six or eight minutes at a time. At times, it’s not a pretty brand of basketball, but it does get the job done nearly all of the time. [Read more...]
But it wasn’t only dreams of a national championship that slipped out of the Buckeyes’ grasp in Indianapolis. With the loss, Ohio State not only lost out on the opportunity to play for the BCS title on January 6 in Pasadena, but they also missed out on the chance to head to the same stadium for the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day – replaced by the Michigan State team who had just defeated them to take the Big Ten crown.
It was a somber march through the cold Midwestern night for the 40,000 plus Buckeyes fans1 who had made the trek to Indy. With no BCS Championship Game and no Rose Bowl, Ohio State supporters were left to wonder where their team would end up when the bowl pairings were announced the next evening.
- The announced crowd was 66,002. Of that number at least two-thirds were wearing Scarlet and Grey. [↩]
After Ohio State’s 10-point loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game this past Saturday, the Buckeyes will face the Clemson Tigers in the Orange Bowl on January 3rd. Looking both back and ahead a bit, here are some of my thoughts on the scarlet and gray.
- The Buckeye defense, much maligned all season, finally caught up to the Buckeyes. People point to the offense scoring just 24 points as to the reason that the Buckeyes lost the Big Ten Championship game. I can understand that, but giving up 34 points to Michigan State’s offense is not an acceptable outcome. They made Connor Cook look like an elite quarterback, throwing for 300 yards. Sure, he made the throws the downfield, but it was again a product of the Buckeyes (minus Joey Bosa, who played one hell of a game) not getting enough pressure with their front four. It’s also goes back to scheme a bit too. Having your safeties covering wide receivers deep is not a recipe for success, and it seemed like Cook was able to find Barnett or Brown in moments of coverage weakness.
- So, what’s the real problem with the defense? I think people forget to mention that the Buckeyes lost one of the most important players on the unit early in the season when senior safety Christian Bryant broke his leg. In 5 games, he had 22 tackles, and last season, he was second on the defense in tackles (71), pass breakups (12), passes defended (13), and forced fumbles (2). The losses of Jonathon Hankins and John Simon to the NFL still sting, but I think they’ve been effected more by the loss of a guy like Zach Boren, who converted over from fullback to linebacker to be a solid complement to Ryan Shazier. [Read more...]
Michigan State upsets Ohio State to win Big Ten Championship, knocks Buckeyes out of national title contention
Urban Meyer and Ohio State’s 24 game winning streak came to and end in Indianapolis on Saturday night with a 34-24 loss to Michigan State. The win caps off a dream season for the Spartans, sending them to their first Rose Bowl since 1988. The loss leaves Ohio State looking back at a 24 game win streak that is now in the past and ends without a BCS title or a Big Ten title.
The Spartans opened the game with a 14 play drive aided by two Buckeye pass interference penalties that led to a 40 yard a field goal. Then the Spartans defense took the field and looked as advertised, forcing OSU punts on the game’s first three possessions. The Michigan State defense keyed in early on Braxton Miller, giving him little room to run the football. While Miller was bottled up early, Michigan State sophomore quarterback Connor Cook let it all hang out. Cook found Keith Mumphrey behind the OSU defense for a 72 yard touchdown to give the Spartans a 10-0 lead and then hit Tony Lippet for 33 yard touchdown to stretch the Spartans lead to 17-0 early in the second quarter.
Trailing 17-0 Braxton and Buckeye offense finally got it going, moving 84 yards on a quick 2:35 drive, capped off by a 20 yard passing score to Philly Brown. Brown got behind the Spartan defense up the seam as Miller put the ball high, back shoulder for Brown to go up and make the catch for the score.
Both defenses then locked in until the Buckeyes got the ball back at their own 36 with 1:23 remaining in the half. After a Miller and a Carlos Hyde run, the Buckeyes had the ball into Michigan State territory at the Spartans 47 with just 13 seconds remaining. Miller then connected with tight end Jeff Heuerman for a 36 yard game down to the Spartans’ 11 yard line. The Buckeyes hurried to the line and spiked the ball with 7 seconds left in the half to set up a much needed Drew Basil 28 yard field goal to cut the Spartan lead to 17-10 at the half.
The OSU offense started the second half getting their running game on track, gashing the Spartans offense for 59 yards on the drive, including an 8 yard Miller touchdown run that knotted the score at 17-17 early into the third quarter.
The next drive saw Connor Cook intercepted by the Buckeyes’ C.J. Barnett. The turnover didn’t amount to points for the Buckeyes, but flipped field position. Both teams would then traded punts with OSU getting the ball at the Spartan 44 yard line. Ohio State capitalized on the great field position and marched in to take their first lead of the game 24-17 on a 6 yard Braxton Miller run with 5:36 remaining in the 3rd quarter.
Michigan State was able to answer the Buckeyes’ score with a 44 yard field goal to bring the game to 24-20 heading into the 4th quarter.
Cook then led the Spartans down the field on a 90 yard drive sparked by a 48 yard pass to Macgarrett Kings Jr. and a crucial pass interference by OSU’s Doran Grant. Three plays later Cook would find Josiah Price for a 9 yard touchdown to give Sparty a 27-24 lead.
Michigan State then attempted an onside kick of sorts that the Buckeyes recovered on their own 41. Sparty would force the Buckeyes three and out, which was followed by the Ohio State’s defense holding serve forcing MSU into a punting situation. While punting from inside their own 25 yard line, Michigan State had the punt blocked by Ryan Shazier who came full force into the Spartan wall of protectors, bulldozed his man, and got a hand on the punt that gave the Buckeyes the ball back at the MSU 47 yard line.
But the Spartans defense were up to the task stopping the Buckeyes on three straight before Urban Meyer elected to go for it on 4th and 2 at the MSU 39 yard line. On fourth down the Buckeyes ran Miller around right end, but he was never able to get the edge and brought down a yard shy of the marker.
Michigan State took over the ball on their own 38 yard line with 5:41 to play and needing to bleed out the clock for a trip to Pasadena. Connor Cook completed a crucial 3rd and 4 with a five yard pass to Tony Lippet at the OSU 34 yard line to put Sparty fully in the driver’s seat. After a Jerry Langford 8 yard run, Langford broke off a 26 yard touchdown run to give the Spartans a 34-24 lead and lock up a Big Ten title.
With the win Michigan State heads to Pasadena to represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl against Pac 12 champion Stanford.
The loss for Ohio State snaps a 24 game winning streak and knocks them out of contention for a berth in the BCS National Championship game. Ohio State will more than likely receive an at large bid to a BCS bowl game to be announced on Sunday night.
[Photo: Mike Mulholland/MLive.com]
24. In 24 straight contests, the Buckeyes have come out victorious, subpar schedule or not. It’s something that no one in the current college football landscape can claim. To get to 25, however, they’ll need to beat their first Top 10 opponent in that stretch. The Michigan State Spartans are looking to make their own claim to the conference and hush critics who say they too haven’t played anybody. With a stout defense, this will be the most complete opponent that Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde, and company have faced in their career. On the other end of this game, should they navigate a victory, stands an almost-certain trip to Pasadena and the BCS National Championship Game. Here’s some notes on the matchup and how they get to No. 25.
The Michigan State defense vs. Ohio State offense: Who have they played?
I think the first thing to look at is who these two polarizing sides of the ball have matched up against so far this season. [Read more...]
We heard the cautioning words before the game. We were told you can throw the records out in this best of all rivalries. Michigan specifically has ended the national title hopes of many Buckeye squads of seasons past. The Buckeyes’ defense has been suspect against lesser conference opponents this season. All of this culminated in a ready-made upset stunner, but the Buckeyes on the legs of Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde and the ability to make one key defensive play at the end of the game, Ohio outlasted That Team Up North in a 42-41 instant classic thriller. I’m still sitting in my recliner in my living room trying to lower my blood pressure and slow my breathing.
- The Buckeyes announced that they were wearing all-white uniforms for this year’s game in Ann Arbor. I’m okay with this as a one-time deal, especially given the drastic deviations of uniforms of the Pro Combat variety in recent years’ Michigan games. However, I think the Buckeyes’ look on both home and road is so much more iconic and unique with the gray pants. The Buckeyes chose to honor the 1950 game, known as the “Snow Bowl”, with their uniform choice. I may be in the minority, but in most cases, I don’t like the way white-on-white football uniforms look.
At noon this Saturday, the Buckeyes will march into Michigan Stadium to take on what should be an overmatched Wolverines team. Immediately following that game, the Alabama Crimson Tide, number one team in all the land, will head to Jordan-Hare Stadium to take on arch-rival Auburn with the SEC West crown on the line.
Considering Ohio State’s current BCS predicament, some Buckeye fans may tell you that this year’s version of The Game is simply the warm-up for the all-important Iron Bowl; an appetizer, so to speak. I’m here to tell you that those people are wrong.
No. 8 Ohio State sauntered into Bloomington’s Memorial Stadium at 6-0, coming off consecutive wins against ranked opponents to open the Big Ten schedule – the latter of which was a 63-38 dismantling of then No. 21 Nebraska. The Hoosiers came into the game at 2-3 (0-2 in the conference) and looked to be an inconsequential speed bump on the Buckeyes road towards an undefeated season. But then the Hoosiers started doing whatever it is that Hoosiers do1, and the Buckeyes couldn’t get a key stop against Indiana’s suddenly potent offense, and by the it was all said and done Ohio State escaped – yes, that is the appropriate word – with a 52-49 win.
- Really though, the question of what a Hoosier is will bother me until the day I die. I lived in Indiana for seven years, my mother and an aunt are graduates of IU, and my brother is a current student there, and I still haven’t accepted that it’s just a stupid name for someone who lives in Indiana. But I digress. [↩]
- I fear for the Buckeyes next trip to Lincoln, Nebraska, where the team inhabiting Memorial Stadium is actually a traditional power, unlike either the Illini or Hoosiers. [↩]
In another game in a weak schedule that the Buckeyes were heavy favorites, they took care of business yet again on the road. Braxton Miller moved the offense with his legs more than his arm, and Carlos Hyde exploded, particularly late, accounting for five total touchdowns and 270 yards of offense. The Buckeye defense missing some starters left a lot to be desired, but the important thing is the Buckeyes came back to Columbus with a 60-35 victory that keeps their BCS title game hopes alive.
Early, this game looked a lot like the Purdue game. The Buckeyes took just 36 seconds to get on the board as Braxton Miller took a quarterback keeper up the middle for 70 yards and the score. C.J. Barnett picked off a Nathan Scheelhaase pass in the first quarter, and Bradley Roby picked off a second that he took to the house to make it 21-0. The scarlet and gray opened up a 28-point lead early in the second quarter before Glenville’s V’Angelo Bentley put the Illini on the board with a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown. Following another Carlos Hyde score, his 2nd, Illinois answered back with a Scheelhaase touchdown toss to make the score 35-14 at the break. [Read more...]
One year later, following a non-game debacle on an aircraft carrier in Charleston, South Carolina, the 10th-ranked Buckeyes and 17th-ranked Golden Eagles finally got together to play some basketball. I’d be lying to you if I said that this game was some kind of classic game. In fact, it was ugly, and that’s coming from someone who sat through the Cavs-Bobcats game in person on Friday night! Two coaches and two teams that pride themselves on scrappy, defensive play and athleticism don’t always have good shooting to accompany that. The Buckeyes grabbed the win by a 52-35 margin as the two teams combined to score the fewest number of first half points this season in college basketball. Here are some thoughts on the Bucks’ key early season victory.
-When I first saw that Thad Matta chose to start both Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott in the backcourt to begin the season, I was confused and didn’t necessarily agree with the decision. First, it makes the Buckeye starting five incredibly small with the 6’2″ Craft, 6’3″ Scott, and the 6’4″ Lenzelle Smith Jr. sliding over to play the three spot. But, as it is, Sam Thompson comes off the bench as a super sixth man. But, you see why Matta likes this setup for defensive purposes. [Read more...]
“I think we’d wipe the floor with both of them.”
That’s what Ohio State junior wide receiver Evan Spencer had to say about his team’s hypothetical chances if they were to play either Alabama or Florida State, the only two teams who the Buckeyes are still looking up at in the BCS standings.
Seems innocuous enough. Keith Olbermann thinks so. This is a player at the highest level of college football saying his undefeated team would defeat either of the two most likely opponents that they would face if they were fortunate enough to have a chance to play in the BCS Championship Game.
Isn’t this exactly what we want our athletes to think; that their team is the most talented and would beat any other team they line up against? What is Spencer supposed to say? Should he tell the media that the Crimson Tide and Seminoles are the two best teams in the nation and they should face each other for the national championship at the expense of his own Ohio State team? I would personally be much more alarmed if he had said something along the lines of the latter, and I suspect that most of Buckeye Nation would agree with me
As it turns out, Urban Meyer sees Spencer’s statement differently.