After a 12-0 first season and a very good recruiting class last year, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes coaching staff responded with an even better recruiting class this year. The class was ranked from 1-4 depending on the publication, but signing day coups like getting 5-star safety Vonn Bell helped make this a stellar class. Meyer is obsessed with competing with the SEC, so it will be interesting if the Buckeyes can get a shot in 2013.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to see the Alabama-Michigan game last Saturday night in person at Cowboys Stadium. Here’s the view from our luxury box, and yes, the stadium is as impressive as you’ve heard. Jerry Jones has done at least one thing right in the last 15 years.
As an Ohio State fan, I wasn’t very thrilled about the match-up, though of course these are two of the most storied programs in college football. Nick Saban has Alabama at the top of the mountain, while Brady Hoke is trying to rescue Michigan from the RichRod debacle.
Michigan fans were thrilled with last year’s 11-2 record, but many of them and the “experts” around the country were a little too giddy about Michigan’s prospects for this season. Michigan didn’t beat a top 15 team last year, so that record wasn’t as impressive as it looked.
That said, the team’s performance on Saturday was pathetic, and frankly I blame the coaching staff. Sure, Alabama is clearly the better team, but Brady Hoke has Denard Robinson, and he’s the kind of player that can change a college football game in seconds with his explosiveness.
Last year I wrote about Michigan’s dilemma with Denard Robinson. Brady Hoke wanted to run a pro-style offense, but he had one of the best running quarterbacks in the country. Well, Hoke tried to have it both ways for a while, but on Saturday he and his staff called plays as if they had Tom Brady under center instead of Robinson. The result was ugly with incompletions and brutal interceptions. Hoke specifically avoided Robinson’s best play – sending the receivers deep and then tucking the ball and running.
We’ll see if Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges realize they blew it with the game plan. Hoke likes to run his mouth, and he’s gotten plenty of support following RichRod, posting 11 wins and then beating Ohio State. But now Urban Meyer is in Columbus, and he seems to know how to use his dual-threat quarterback Braxton Miller. Hoke’s support in Michigan will start to whither if he can’t find a way to unleash Robinson and starts losing to his Big Ten rivals.
Urban Meyer. REUTERS/Matt Sullivan (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
Urban Meyer made quite a splash with a monster recruiting class at Ohio State, but some of his fellow coaches in the Big Ten weren’t too happy that he came in and “flipped” players. The whining from Bret Bielema and Mark Dantonio seemed a bit much according to David Whitley, who pointed out that recruits had every right to change their minds after a coach of Meyer’s caliber joined Ohio State.
But Whitley makes a larger point – that the Big Ten has much more honorable recruiting practices than the SEC. Yes, the SEC is currently winning all the titles, but Whitley points out some pretty pathetic actions by Les Miles and Nick Saban. The oversigning has gotten out of control.
Hopefully the push by the Big Ten towards 4-year scholarships will put even more pressure on the SEC to clean up its act.
Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller (5) is tackled by Wisconsin lineman Kevin Claxton (9) during the second quarter of their NCAA football game in Columbus, Ohio, October 29, 2011. REUTERS/Matt Sullivan (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
Ohio State has scheduled a press conference for 5:15 to announce Urban Meyer as the new head coach of the Buckeyes. This is naturally a coup for Ohio State, even though the hire comes with some risk. We’ve seen that Urban Meyer can be a little flaky, and all indications are that he’ll be trying to achieve a work/life balance with this new job that he never achieved in Florida. Can he be as successful without be obsessive with his devotion and time? We’ll see. Will he stick it out if things get tough? Who knows.
That said, it’s a great fit as Meyer is from Ohio and this is his dream job.
Todd McShay has an excellent analysis of Meyer’s approach to coaching and his offense and how that fits with the current Buckeye roster. You need a membership on ESPN to read the whole thing but it’s definitely worth it. McShay is an excellent analyst and I always learn something reading his stuff. Bottom line – Meyer will probably work right away to recruit more versatile and speedy playmakers to fit into an already talented roster. But, it looks like he has his quarterback:
So what does all that mean for the Buckeyes’ talented true freshman QB, Braxton Miller? It means it’s time to go to work.
I think Miller is loaded with talent and he has the ideal physical skill set to excel in Meyer’s system. He has a big, sturdy frame and still has room to add muscle. Miller has very good arm strength (check out his 54-yard TD strike against Michigan) and he’s a more sudden athlete than former Buckeyes QB Terrelle Pryor.
From what I’m told, Miller also has a strong work ethic, leadership potential and toughness (both mental and physical). If that proves to be the case, winning a national championship and a Heisman Trophy are attainable goals for Miller. But he needs to be willing to pay the toll — and it won’t be cheap.
Miller showed a lot this season, and he also showed where he needs to put in serious work. He is a great runner. He’s very elusive with devastating cutting ability. Terrelle Pryor was a beast once he got going, but Miller is better in tight spaces. He can also throw the ball, but he missed three open throws against Michigan that would have changed the game. He has to work on his accuracy, and since he was a true freshman we can all expect him to improve in that area.
The Buckeyes will be replacing their starting center and two starting tackles next year, so there will likely be some growing pains. But the overall roster is stacked with talent. If Meyer can bring in a couple of playmakers, the Buckeyes will be dangerous right away.
Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson (C) celebrates with teammates after his diving touchdown into the end zone against Ohio State during the first half of their NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Michigan November 26, 2011. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook (UNITED STATES) – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
The streak is over. It had been 2,926 days since Michigan had last beat Ohio State, but today, the Wolverines ended that, picking up a 40-34 win against the Buckeyes in a thrilling game at the Big House.
Courtney Avery picked off a Braxton Miller pass in the final minute of the game to seal the win for Michigan, which is now 10-2 with a legitimate chance to be selected to a BCS bowl. In fact, at this point, I’d be surprised if the Wolverines were passed up by the Sugar Bowl, which is very likely going to have two at-large choices thanks to the SEC likely putting two teams in the national title game.
It was an improved defense that had Michigan in that position heading into today, but it was Denard Robinson that finished the job. The junior quarterback had the best game of his career in what was really a must-win situation for the Wolverines (more on that in a second). He was 14-of-17 for 166 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for 170 yards and two scores. He’s had statistically better games, but this is the one that Denard will be remembered for in Michigan.
As to the must-win declaration: With Ohio State in the state it was in this season, and with Urban Meyer coming on board, if Michigan didn’t win this year, it might have been a while before the Wolverines found a way to win against the Buckeyes. Brady Hoke has done a great job in Year 1, but he’s led a bit of a charmed existence thanks to a very weak Big Ten, an 8-game home schedule, and his chief rival — both on the field and in recruiting — being hampered by a rough season on and off the field. He’s taken advantage and deserves credit for doing so — he should make no apologies for dragging a fading program back to 10-2 — but had he lost this game, a lot of the goodwill he has built up might have been gone.
It nearly was, had it not been for the erratic arm of Braxton Miller. The Ohio State freshman looked brilliant in spots, especially running the football, but he missed a lot of open receivers and cost the Buckeyes at least two sure touchdowns with overthrows. The second came on the final drive, as DeVier Posey had double-moved J.T. Floyd into oblivion and was running free down the sidelines.
The thought of Miller with some more seasoning and in Urban Meyer’s offense should scare not only Michigan fans and the rest of the Big Ten, but the rest of the country. Those two will win a lot of games together.
But not today. No, today belonged to Michigan, which isn’t thinking about all of that other stuff while celebrating the only thing that matters in Ann Arbor, beating Ohio State.