Analysis: Ohio State looks the part
That’s EXACTLY what you want to do if you’re the No. 2 team in America.
Ohio State didn’t come out sheepish, didn’t play true Tressel Ball, and didn’t let Marshall have a chance to breathe. Terrelle Pryor was able to be a quarterback, and not a running back who lines up under center, and the offense kept it open (by OSU standards) after all the success from the Rose Bowl.
Does this signal a new era for Buckeye football? It’s almost as if Tressel realizes his program needs to do something a bit more to break through the ceiling, and now that he has an experienced Pryor to handle the workload, he’s going to allow the team to do more.
Maybe it’s okay to take a few more shots down the field, especially knowing that the defense can take care of the rest. When the Buckeyes were rocking and rolling on offense in 2006 with Troy Smith at the helm, the attack was able to break out of the conservative mode a bit. Tressel and the coaching staff appear to be comfortable enough to allow his great team to play up to its talent level and to open the throttle, but let’s see what happens against Miami. It’s one thing to be relaxed and cool against Marshall, but it’s another when the Hurricanes blow into town.
Again, though, Ohio State won easily. That’s not a normal occurrence in early September, but it might be the norm for this team.
Sharp. Crisp. Tight. Exactly what the coach of the nation’s No. 2 team would want out of a season opener.
Yes, it was Marshall, a middling Conference USA program with few stars. However, on this night, Ohio State was really competing against itself, looking to shake off the rust of another long offseason and live up to lofty expectations. So far, so good. While we’ve seen the Buckeyes start slowly at times in the past, that was not the case on Thursday. They showed big-play ability from RB Brandon Saine and receivers Dane Sanzenbacher and DeVier Posey, and the defense was predictably air-tight, out scoring the blundering Herd offense, which failed to produce a point. Oh, and that Pryor kid continues to evolve into one of the nation’s most dangerous all-around quarterbacks. Yeah, the special teams had a couple of breakdowns, but if that’s Jim Tressel’s biggest issue when he watches film, it’s a blessing in Columbus. More than just getting the W, Ohio State was well-prepared and executed as if it was October … regardless of the opponent.
Marshall may have been this week’s opponent, but even before halftime, many people began turning their attention to next week’s anticipated visit from Miami. The ‘Canes could be in big trouble. Despite not having to dig too deep into the playbook, Ohio State already looks worthy of its label as a national title contender. You never want to get too high or low on opening day, but the Buckeyes exposed very few holes for Randy Shannon in Week 1.
If you’re an Ohio State fan, there are only two times in a football season when complete criticism-free joy is acceptable: after a Michigan win, and after a BCS bowl triumph. Every other game brings worried murmurings, regrets and pained recollections.
Jim Tressel looked wounded in his walk-off-the-field halftime interview, as he conceded how unsettling it was to have a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown against his Buckeyes. Never mind that his team had complete control of the Marshall Thundering Herd; the bad plays occupy a coach’s focus… and the attention of Buckeye fans who smartly realize that Marshall is no Miami (Florida).
The kicking game is a concern heading into the Sept. 11 showdown against the Hurricanes. So is the secondary. Ohio State’s corners were not at their best on Thursday night. The second and third quarters were far too patchy for anyone’s comfort zone in Columbus. OSU’s defensive power and skill-position excellence were manifestly apparent, but that was to be expected. The things that didn’t go right in this cupcake contest are the things that should rightly earn the attention of Mister Sweater Vest and his staff.
The best news of the night for Ohio State? The Hurricanes, down in South Florida, challenged themselves far less than the Buckeyes did. OSU at least scheduled an FBS opponent. Coming out of this game, there’s nothing to suggest that the Buckeyes won’t beat Miami again on Sept. 11.