Tag Archives: Big Ten

A Buckeye who was nearly a Wildcat weighs in on CFB union issue

Michael Bennett, a senior defensive lineman for Ohio State who seems to have a good shot at being a captain for the Buckeyes this fall, was asked yesterday about his thoughts on the movement at Northwestern to create a union for college football players.

“I don’t know the full reason behind their union. I don’t agree necessarily with football players being unionized. We don’t necessarily see the money, but we are getting a lot of benefit out of our scholarships. It just kind of seems silly to want to be unionized because we get a lot of stuff that people don’t get. Yeah, we don’t get the same opportunities, but we can get set up for life after football if we really want to. So it’s all about taking advantage of what you do  get. I don’t think the union is necessarily a great idea. Everyone wants to get more money all the time, but I mean we’re getting a good amount.”

Bennett was a four-star line prospect as a senior at Centerville High School near Dayton four years ago who had Northwestern as a finalist when he chose Ohio State. One of his former high school teammates, Ifeadi Odenigbo, is a current member of the Wildcats, but there was no indication last night if the pair have discussed this issue amongst themselves

Before talk turned to football, Bennett was asked if he was in favor of an addition stipend for players, but he did not sound too fired up about that issue, either.

“Yeah, it would be nice to get a little bit more, especially… I mean the cost of living is going up and I don’t think our stipend is going up, so I’d say a little bit more money is always nice but I’m not really in the business of trying to force people to do that.” 

Of course this is just one man’s perspective, but I found it interesting nonetheless.

Each Ohio State QB progressing his own way this spring

Tom Herman’s top three quarterbacks all have different things they are capable of focusing on this spring, and the Ohio State quarterbacks coach has stressed for them to do just that.

That includes not only Braxton Miller, who is working on the mental side of the game while sidelined following shoulder surgery, but also Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett, who are battling for the right to back Miller up this fall for the Buckeyes. 

Scout.com: Each OSU QB Progressing In Own Way.

Saban still Ohio State’s worst secondary coach statistically

In case you were wondering, Nick Saban is still the worst secondary coach in Ohio State history – at least statistically.

The 2013 Buckeyes came close to setting a record for most passing yards allowed per game at 268.0 but fell short of the mark of 273.1 yielded in 1981.

Ohio State lines up to try to stop Purdue one last time

Saban was Ohio State secondary coach that season as well as in 1980, when the Buckeyes allowed a school-record 621 yards passing in a game to David Wilson of Illinois. The only other 500-yard passing game by an Ohio State opponent also happened under Saban’s watch in ’81 at Purdue via quarterback Scott Campbell.

Head coach Earle Bruce fired Saban (along with defensive coordinator Dennis Fryzel and line coach Steve Szabo) after the ’81 campaign, but the Kent State graduate recovered nicely, as you may have heard.

He got his revenge on Ohio State in 1998 when as head coach at Michigan State he led an upset of what for my money is the best Buckeye team of the past 25 years at least. Oh yeah, then he won a total of four national championships at LSU and Alabama. Saban also was head coach at Toledo and served four seasons as defensive coordinator of the Browns before becoming the big boss of the Spartans.

As for his time in Columbus, Saban told the American Football Coaches Association convention last month the most memorable victory of his career was the Buckeyes’ 14-9 upset of No. 7 Michigan in 1981. Saban’s secondary was key in that victory as safety Todd Bell’s late interception prevented the Wolverines from adding to a 9-7 lead in the fourth quarter. Art Schlichter then engineered the game-winning touchdown drive for the Buckeyes.

Close the books on another college football season

So another season of college football is over. And what did we learn?

The SEC isn’t the only conference where teams can be made up of big, strong Southern athletes, although anyone who didn’t know that must be under 30 or have a very short memory.

Clemson runs out the clock on Ohio State.

Clemson runs out the clock on Ohio State.

That’s because Florida State cornered the market on dominance for more than a decade leading up to and through the beginning of the BCS era. Before SEC teams were getting the benefit of the doubt in the polls because of recent history, it was the Seminoles. And they earned their place at the top by taking the place of the Miami dynasty that went off the rails after a swaggering, successful decade of the ‘80s.

I am curious what Michigan State might have been able to do in the national championship game because of its defense – the same reason I stopped being curious about how Ohio State would fare on the same stage.  Continue reading

My All-Big Ten football picks for 2013

By now you’ve probably seen the official All-Big Ten teams. They included 10 Ohio State players and a few head-scratching selections by the coaches or the media (especially the former).

I posted my first-team choices at FoxSportsOhio.com, a group that includes a couple of Ohio State players snubbed by the coaches or media and one who made their list but not mine.

Tough choices at RB, LB, WR in making All-Big Ten picks.

Cus Words: Blowin’ in the Wind

Are the computers Ohio State’s biggest threat? We look at that and more in this week’s column.

Carlos Hyde had quite a day at Illinois

The Buckeyes took care of business eventually at windy Memorial Stadium and now turn their focus to Indiana, a similar team that figures to provide a bigger challenge.

Scout.com: Cus Words: Blowin’ in the Wind.

Delany’s pay-for-play comments hit the mark

As you might expect if you’ve been here before, I am on board with Jim Delany’s thoughts on compensation for college athletes.

(If you need a refresher, please see here.)

Since the time I wrote that entry, Delany has come out strongly in favor of covering full cost of attendance for athletes, and I see that as an essential change in the way the NCAA does business regardless of what else happens. Continue reading

Ohio State Football: Winter Practice?

Ohio State resumes practice today 101 days after beating Michigan to close out a perfect season, and the school’s official release notes this is the earliest start on record for Buckeye spring football.

It might not be the first time the men of the Scarlet and Gray hit the practice field with snow on the ground in Columbus, though.

Head coach Francis Schmidt decided to hold winter practice in February 1935 and informed the players via letter.

“We have several new ideas including plays, formations, shifts, etc. that we want to try out, and this looks like a fine time,” wrote Schmidt (via Brett Perkins’ 2009 book, “Frantic Francis“). “Two months is long enough to lay off from football anyway. I want to get all the preliminary stuff out of the way so that when spring practice rolls around, and we can get out we will be ready to start mapping out our attack. We will spend most of the time on lateral passing and forward passes, and we’ll spend a whole month on it.”

According to Perkins, this was an unusual move, but then Schmidt was far from a usual man (even for a football coach).

Francis Schmidt

There was hardly a time he wasn’t thinking about football, and he had a manaical devotion to developing his “razzle-dazzle” offense.

Schmidt was in his second year at Ohio State in 1935, and he had good reason to want to get a jump start on season preparation. The Buckeyes would play host to Notre Dame in November in what was then and remains one of the most heavily anticipated college football games in memory.

He was probably more concerned with the vaunted Fighting Irish than he was Michigan. After all, the Buckeyes had shut out the Wolverines 34-0 the previous year after Schmidt declared, “They put their pants on one leg at a time, same as we do.”

Ohio State would blank the Wolverines again the following season – the 38-0 score remains the largest margin of victory ever for the Buckeyes in the series – but things did not go so well against the Fighting Irish, who scored two late touchdowns to stun the Buckeyes 18-13 in Ohio Stadium.

Regarding Big Ten Expansion…

Adding Maryland and Rutgers is a good play for the Big Ten in terms of keeping up with the Joneses. I do believe it’s inevitable there would be more expansion with everyone getting bigger, and I understand the potential value of those two programs with those two markets. I still don’t like it in general.

I think expansion leaves fans worse off in the long run with regionalism and familiarity suffering in the pursuit of the almighty dollar. I’m pro capitalism, but at some point enough is enough. That’s especially true if you look at the ways a lot of these programs choose to spend their money.

Maryland has been intriguing to me ever since they came up; Rutgers not so much. I don’t believe Jim Delany is really going to get the benefits he expects from the Scarlet Knights, but it probably doesn’t matter at this point. Maryland I can see being competitive in a variety of sports and actually bringing the TV market that they want. I suppose there’s a good chance both programs can bring some talent into the conference, but I think it remains to be seen how much conference affiliation means in recruiting overall. Plus Big Ten schools already recruit both areas regularly, as some do Virginia, Georgia and especially Florida.

I’m also willing to believe that this is the beginning of a more powerful play, maybe even one that still brings Notre Dame around. I’ve heard the chatter about Texas, but I have a hard time believing it. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

What got me fired up on Twitter earlier this week was a report that might turn out to have been premature about the Big Ten divisions. Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Virgina and others have their own appeal as well.

I think in general Jim Delany and the conference presidents have done things they needed to do to keep the Big Ten competitive. However, I think they’ve made several missteps along the way that have lessened the overall positives.

The number one issue is the divisions, which were botched from the beginning, so I’ve looked at the further expansion of the way as a good chance for them to undo that gigantic blunder.

While the league and its members overall will be stronger financially based on the moves that have been made, I think Ohio State and Michigan have gotten the smallest benefit of all. Maybe that’s one of the symptoms of being on the top, but I think that the damage has been greater than it needs to be based on some decisions that have been made within the context of the overall expansion.

The best thing this conference had going for it for a very long time was Ohio State’s football rivalry with Michigan, and I think it was already asking a lot to push it down the line in terms of prestige by adding a conference championship game. They really added insult to injury by splitting the teams up and creating the possibility of a rematch, something that changes a fundamental dynamic of the rivalry that exists throughout amateur football: you play your rival once a year for all the bragging rights and whatever conference spoils come with it. In basketball (and the NFL), teams play twice (once at each home venue) so it remains symmetrical. One at your place, one at mine. That’s fun and still easy to digest, but it doesn’t offer the finality of the once-a-year-and-done cycle in college and high school football. Maybe there is a rubber match in the postseason, but that has as much a chance to dilute the product as it does decide who’s boss for the year.

We tend to be admittedly OSU-Michigan centric here (for obvious reasons), but it should be noted they split up a significant historic rivalry for just about every team in the conference, too, with their totally misguided attempt to set the divisions (with their pretentious and embarrassing names) by competitive balance. Programs are inevitably going to rise and fall through the course of time, and I’m not convinced they split the teams in the most balanced way, anyway. Yes, they locked in many rivalries yearly with permanent crossover games, but that screws up the competitive balance, too, and wouldn’t be necessary in as many cases as it is with the current set up if they just split the league geographically.

Why the leaders of the two most powerful programs in the Big Ten don’t recognize this and push for it is beyond me.

In closing I’ll say the Big Ten divisions and the Ohio State Pro Combat uniform experience are similar to me in that they aren’t necessarily terrible ideas but their execution has made them more disruptive than they needed to be to the good things the conference and the Buckeyes already had going for them.

I don’t have an issue with alternate uniforms, especially properly executed throwbacks, but Ohio State has accepted them from their Nike overlords in the worst possible way in time every year but one.

Like concluding the regular season and deciding conference and sometimes national title fates, part of the Ohio State-Michigan mystique is seeing the winged helmets against the silver ones covered in a Buckeye leaves. Both schools have changed their looks throughout the long and storied existence of their football programs, but they’ve largely remained the same since the era that defines it most began. The Buckeyes moved to their current look – including the beginning of the Buckeye leaf helmet sticker tradition – in the late 1960s, and the Ten Year War soon launched with legendary head coaches Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler stalking opposite sidelines and making national headlines.

Just like the Big Ten can expand without altering as many traditions as it has, Ohio State can play ball with Nike and offer one little caveat. There are 12 games (or more) every season, and I see nothing unreasonable about insisting one is off the table when alternate uniforms are discussed. Just like divisions.

Second Thoughts: Ohio State-Michigan State

I walked out of Spartan Stadium on Saturday puzzled by a lot of the things Michigan State tried to do in a 17-16 loss to Ohio State. A second look indicates the Buckeye coaches might just have been a step ahead of them most of the day.

First of all, Michigan State could not block Ohio State straight up. This probably came as little surprise to either staff as it is consistent with what both sides have shown this season. However, I think the Spartans capitulated too quickly and easily.

Ohio State lines up against Michigan State

Michigan State tried a variety of ways to move it on the ground, and what worked they stopped trying as soon as Ohio State made one adjustment, if any.

They had a nice gain on outside zone run out of a two-tight end set once, and they managed to get a numbers and personnel advantage by aligning two receivers and the tight end to the field and then running to the boundary another time. Both times it was because they were finally able to run away from Johnathan Hankins, who usually lines up to the formation’s strength. Ohio State responded to that by putting Hankins back in the boundary when it saw the two-tight end look again and you can imagine what happened. Hankins beat a block and blew up the play.

Otherwise, Hankins generally could be found on the tight end side making life very difficult for whichever guard was trying to block him. He got more help this week from John Simon, who is probably getting healthier because he seemed more able to shed blocks against the run than he has the past couple of weeks. Garrett Goebel continued his stellar play at nose guard, and the linebackers all looked better when challenged.

Eteinne Sabino in particular was all over the field, flowing to the ball carrier more quickly than he often has in the past and finishing plays (aside from the MSU touchdown when the defense collectively lost its wits).

When the Spartans went back to the “tight end trips” look, Ohio State kept Hankins on the strong side and merely played the run better as Goebel and Simon beat single blocks, linebacker Ryan Shazier stuffed the guard and Sabino cleaned it up. I’m not sure we would have seen all of those things happen in previous weeks, but that was the different in East Lansing. Getting the middle linebacker Sabino to make a play going inside out like that was a huge difference, but one wonders if the Spartans would have been wise to make him prove more than once he was capable of doing it. Ditto regarding Shazier, who makes a lot of plays because of his athleticism but is still developing consistency.

Andrew Maxwell flashed some potential at quarterback, but he isn’t there yet, and his receivers are probably farther away. If experience breeds toughness, there were a handful of catches the Spartans probably make later in their careers. They could have had a big impact Saturday, but credit the Buckeyes for bringing the wood when they had the chance downfield. I do like Maxwell’s arm, and he avoided bad decisions. He still hasn’t thrown an interception since the Spartans’ opener, when he had three and looked kind of overwhelmed.

I thought Christian Bryant played a clean game, and Orhian Johnson provided help over the top several times when there was potential for a big play. The secondary continued to make some mistakes as both cornerbacks committed costly penalties, and Maxwell found some holes in coverage that might have been a result of people being on different pages.

While Michigan State was kind of all over the map, I thought the Ohio State staff brought a relatively concise plan on both sides of the ball.

They gave Maxwell some different looks in coverage but pretty much played the run straight up. Blitzes seemed well-timed, too, even though they only sacked him twice and those were probably both coverage sacks.

Offensively, the wide receiver screens did not yield any huge gains, but they probably played a role in running out the clock at the end because Michigan State was still respecting the slot receiver with the Sam linebacker even in an obvious running situation.

That provided some extra room for Miller and Hyde to pick up the initial first down of the last drive on two plays. They brought a safety down over the slot to free up the linebacker on the third play of the drive, but Ohio State maintained a numbers advantage by using Hyde as a lead blocker on a quarterback sweep. Zach Boren kicked out linebacker and Hyde hit the safety to give Miller and extra five yards.

On the last third down, they brought a cornerback in case Miller wanted to keep it and sent the middle linebacker up the middle, but Hyde sidestepped him and the outside linebacker got there a couple of steps too late to prevent him from finishing the run with power and making the line to gain. Why was he late? Because he lined up splitting the difference between the tackle and the slot receiver. Right tackle Reid Fragel had a key block, pancaking the tackle on that side, and Zach Boren held off the end long enough to create the crease for Hyde. Then the Buckeyes ran out the clock and started looking forward to a visit from Nebraska.