Adam on 09 11, 2009
Finally this is the year Ohio State competes with USC, right? USC is starting a true freshman at quarterback, they lost significant members of their defense to the NFL, and Ohio State is playing at home. Not to mention Ohio State has a true game changer, and most importantly an elite athlete in Terrelle Pryor. This is a guy who can run with the USC defense, punish them for overpursuit, and keep plays alive long enough for his receivers to get open.
This is the year, right? Wrong.
Ohio State will not beat USC even though they are playing at home, with a mega talent at quarterback. In fact, Ohio State is going to get blown out again, as they have virtually every time they’ve played a big time opponent in the last few years.
Consider the following Ohio State losses. In 2006 the Buckeyes came into the national championship heavily favored over the Florida Gators, they lost 41-14. The following year (2007) the Buckeyes made it back to the title game and were again embarrassed, this time by LSU, 38-24. Then last year they faced off against the Trojans, getting smashed 35-3. Additionally they lost their bowl game last year to Texas, albeit in a closer game, 24-21.
There is substantial debate as to why Ohio State has had such trouble in big games over the last few years. Some say that the Big Ten is a weakened conference. That the conference is slower than the SEC or Big 12 and unable to recruit from the hotbed states of Florida, Texas, and California.
It may be true that the SEC and Big 12 have better athletes from top to bottom than the Big Ten, but certainly Ohio State recruits as well as any other program in the country. So again, why is Ohio State having so many problems with big programs from other conferences?
The first reason is stylistic. The Big Ten is philosophically stuck in the football of yesteryear. Smashmouth football is the heritage of the Big Ten but not its future. Athletes in today’s game are too strong to simply be run over and mauled by big offensive lines. Balance, creativity, and ingenuity are required in today’s college football. This is something the Big Ten has been slow to grasp.
Florida, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Texas all ran wide open and imaginative offenses last year and were among the most successful teams in the nation. Utah was able to overwhelm a physically superior Alabama team with preparation, execution, and ingenuity. The discrepancy between the athletes of Alabama and Utah is much wider than the gap between the players on USC and Ohio State.
BYU and Boise State have also been able to play with the big boys in recent years and beat them. So clearly it is not a question of sheer athleticism and skill, but of coaching, preparation, and belief.
Belief will be the biggest hurdle for Ohio State when they collide with USC on Saturday night. With the painful memory of their recent big game debacles they may easily be intimidated by the swagger of USC.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that USC is just more athletic than the Buckeyes, because that simply isn’t true. When you see USC scoring at will and confusing The Buckeyes offense remember what BYU just did to Oklahoma. Remember that Boise State beat the Sooners in a bowl game two years ago, and that Utah dominated Bama’ last year.
Ohio State has been surpassed as an elite program because they are unwilling to adapt, not unable to recruit. They will continue to get beat by other conferences until they learn that it’s not the caliber of the athlete that determines the game, but the quality of the preparation.