Ten Things We Learned

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Last updated: 11/25/2012 2:07 PM

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Football
10 Things We Learned from The Big One
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was a winding, wild, dramatic, incredible first season for Urban Meyer at Ohio State. I can’t wait to see what year two will bring.

In one year, Meyer took a 6-7 football team and transformed them into one of the truly great teams in America. Not great because they dominated everyone they faced, but great because they had heart and talent and the will to win. They overcame improbable odds to capture that perfect 12-0 season, and it was only fitting they had to grit out a 26-21 victory over Michigan to get there.

Here’s a look at the 10 Things We Learned from a win in The Big One.

Jim Tressel
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jim Tressel

1.Ohio State fans still love their coach. No, not Urban Meyer. Of course Ohio State fans love Urban Meyer. They adore him. They will probably worship him and name their children after him, especially if he can bring home another BCS national championship to Columbus. What we learned Saturday is that most OSU fans – at least the ones who buy tickets and sit in 35 degree temperatures – still have nothing but love for Jim Tressel. Regardless of the fact he cost them a chance at a national title this year, Tressel was cheered as loudly as anyone in that stadium on Saturday. It wasn’t surprising. Fans have never really turned on coach Tressel, even after the bowl ban was handed down, but now we know for sure how they feel.

2. In the end, this team had what it takes. It’s amazing what a difference there is between 12-0 and 11-1, or even 11-0 for that matter. At 11-0, there was still a chance this team was not as good as it was pretending to be; there was the possibility they had escaped some tough situations on luck alone and that all of that would be exposed in one, agonizing, defeat to end the season. It still would have been a good year. Not many teams can say they won 11 football games, but a loss to Michigan would have made this season largely meaningless in the eyes of most OSU fans. But this team wasn’t about to let that happen. Like they have done all year, the Buckeyes overcome numerous mistakes to pull off a 12th victory and cap off an undefeated season.

3. That was a very average Michigan team. I think we all know it now, but that Michigan team was not as good as it was billed to be coming into the season. Three losses probably should have told us that, but I still wasn’t sure what to make of the fact two of those losses – Alabama and Notre Dame – were against teams that may very well play for the national title. The Wolverines have some good individual players like Jake Ryan, Roy Roundtree and even Devin Gardner, who could be a pretty formidable challenge for opponents next season. They put up over 200 yards and 21 points in the first half, but most of that was courtesy of Robinson, who claimed he could have passed, but clearly wasn’t much of a threat. When the Buckeyes figured out how to slow Denard down, they effectively ended any chance Michigan had to pull the upset.

Braxton Miller
Photo by Jim Davidson
Braxton Miller

4. Braxton Miller is about to embark on the biggest offseason of his career. What a season for Braxton Miller. The kid finished with over 2,000 yards passing, 1,200 yards rushing and 28 touchdowns, with just six interceptions. Statistically, it was one of the truly great season in school history, and yet the final two games of the year seemed to indicate just how much room Miller has for growth. He threw the ball pretty well in the first half against Michigan on Saturday, including that 52-yarder to Devin Smith, but he has to improve that area of his game tremendously this offseason. He also has to improve his ability to make reads in the option game, which is something Tom Herman said would probably have to happen after the season. This will be a big offseason for Miller as he looks to take that next step to true greatness.

Carlos Hyde
Photo by Jim Davidson
Carlos Hyde

5. Carlos Hyde is more than just a sidekick. I think we can officially start talking about Hyde as one of the best backs in the Big Ten, and possibly the country for next season. He finished this year 30 yards shy of a thousand and scored 17 touchdowns, despite the fact he missed 2.5 games with a knee injury. The Buckeyes will have Rod Smith and Jordan Hall back next season, along with Bri’onte Dunn, Warren Ball and some incoming freshmen, but there’s no question Hyde is the guy for the Buckeyes. And he’s not just Braxton Miller’s trusty sidekick. It was Hyde who carries Ohio State to victory over Wisconsin and Michigan, and it’s Hyde that allows this team to control the ground game. 

Devin Smith
Photo by Jim Davidson
Devin Smith

6. Devin Smith needs to be more involved in the offense next season. One of the biggest things the Buckeyes need to figure out this offseason is how to get Devin Smith more involved in the offense next season. It started to take shape this last two weeks, with the Buckeyes using him on some shorter routes and screen plays, which will eventually free him up for more big plays down the field. That became the problem for Smith this year. He was a deep threat only, so corners were playing really far off him and the Buckeyes weren’t making them pay. They started to change that against Wisconsin and Michigan, but it has to evolve even further going into next year.

7. Adolphus Washington is going to be a good one. It was only one play, but we got a great glimpse of what young Adolphus Washington might be capable of during his OSU career. Playing in the biggest game of his life, Washington made one of the bigger plays of the day. He used his unique blend of speed and power to go right by all-conference left tackle Taylor Lewan in the first quarter. Not only did he get to Gardner, he knocked the ball loose on his sack and it was recovered by Zach Boren. The Buckeyes will need a whole lot more of that next year, as they move forward without John Simon and Nathan Williams.

Adolphus Washington
Photo by Jim Davidson
Adolphus Washington

 

Zach Boren
Photo by Jim Davidson
Zach Boren

8. This team will miss guys like Boren, Simon, Williams and Sabino more than we can imagine. Speaking of Simon and Williams, who would have guessed it would be this senior class that would lead the Buckeyes to that rare air Urban Meyer was talking about. It was supposed to be last year’s group, led by the Brew Crew, but a lot of these guys were a part of that class. Williams, Sabino, Orhian Johnson, Travis Howard, Ben Buchanan all came in with that 2008 group. So did Jake Stoneburner and Garrett Goebel, and all of those guys are going to be missed. This team really was the most selfless group I’ve been around at Ohio State and that started at the top with guys like Boren and Simon. They set the tone for everything, and you don’t simply replace that type of leadership over night. You only hope they imparted some of that wisdom and understanding to the next group of seniors, which will include guys like Jack Mewhort, Corey Linsley, Corey Brown and C.J. Barnett.

Bradley Roby
Photo by Jim Davidson
Bradley Roby

9. Bradley Roby has all the physical tools, but… Saturday’s game seemed to serve as a reminder of what Roby can be instead of what he already is. That’s not to discount what Roby has done this season. He has been one of the best players on Ohio State’s defense and easily one of the best cornerbacks in the Big Ten all season long, but you still get the sense he is just starting to really tap in to how good he can really be. Remember, he is a redshirt sophomore who played mostly wide receiver in his school. His natural coverage abilities and his knack for closing on the football are NFL-ready, but his game is still a work in progress. He could go to the NFL now and probably be a first-day draft pick and get a chance to play some special teams, but if he comes back next year, he could play his way into being the first defensive back taken in the entire draft. He’s that good.

10. The best is yet to come. This team may be the most flawed team Meyer ever coaches at Ohio State. They had no depth on the offensive line, they had to move their three-year starter at fullback to linebacker and they tried to shoot themselves in the foot at every turn. Remember when they roughed the punter and fumbled the punt return on Saturday? That was the perfect example of this football team in a nutshell, and yet, somehow, they overcame. It seems unfathomable to think this team went undefeated while everyone was already looking ahead to next year and the year after when Meyer can really sink his teeth into the program. v

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