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Last updated: 01/09/2013 10:56 AM

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Football
Thinking Out Loud: Enjoy 12-0
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Be thankful, Ohio State fans.

Be thankful the Buckeyes will head into next season with an unblemished record under head coach Urban Meyer. Be thankful they will play a schedule that lines up perfectly for a run at the final championship game of the BCS era.

Be thankful Braxton Miller will be a junior and, in theory, much improved over his first season under Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman. Be thankful the Buckeyes return most of the offense from this season, along with a handful of key defensive players, including linebacker Ryan Shazier and corner back Bradley Roby.

Be thankful Urban Meyer and his staff put together one of the top recruiting classes in the country, one that includes a much-needed influx of talent at the linebacker position as well as the offensive skill area.

Be thankful that Carlos Hyde is likely coming back next season, and that Meyer will also have the opportunity to get guys like Jordan Hall, Jalin Marshall and Ezekiel Elliott involved in his offense, which should evolve to look more like the one he ran at Florida.

And be thankful Ohio State was not on that football field in Miami Monday night. That’s not to say the Buckeyes could not have matched up with Notre Dame, who would have been their likely opponent if not for that pesky NCAA bowl ban. An Ohio State-Notre Dame championship game would have been just as exciting, and a whole lot closer.

The Buckeyes also probably would have looked a little better than the Fighting Irish if they were matched up against Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. I say probably because I’m not sure there is a team in America that could have hung with Alabama on Monday night.

That includes Chip Kelly’s Ducks and even Johnny Football and the Aggies down at Texas A&M. Yes, they were the only ones to beat Alabama this season, and they did it at Paul Bryant Stadium in Tuscaloosa, but we saw what happened with LSU in a rematch under similar circumstances in last year’s title game.

This is more than SEC dominance, this is Alabama looking down at the rest of the country like they did at Notre Dame so very often on Monday night. Saban has captured three of the last four BCS titles at Alabama, to go with the one he has from his days at LSU.

He practically scoffed at the competition outside the SEC after his 42-14 victory over the Irish in the most lopsided championship game since that one Ohio State fans have tried so hard to forget back in 2007.

And why wouldn’t he? This was supposed to be Notre Dame’s best team in a quarter-century. They will eventually be back, but Texas and USC are both on the downtrend, at least until the Trojans realize Lane Kiffin is holding them back, and Florida State is, well, Florida State.

The same goes with Oklahoma. The Sooners haven’t finished with fewer than two losses in a season since 2004, when they got smoked by USC, 55-19, in the Orange Bowl. While Saban forges ahead like a pack of elephants, the rest of college football seems to be at a standstill.

Penn State is under water for the next five years and Michigan isn’t quite as “back” as everyone wanted to think after Brady Hoke led them to an 11-2 season in his first year back in Ann Arbor.

Stanford has something good going out on the West Coast, but as it stands today, the only two schools that really seem to stand between the SEC and another five years of dominance are the Oregon Ducks – who haven’t proven they can play against elite, SEC-caliber defenses – and the Buckeyes, who snatched up Saban’s rival down at Florida to build something that can compete with that is currently going in Tuscaloosa.

It won’t be easy, especially without the magic weapon known as oversigning. Teams like A&M can afford to bringing nine new wide receivers whenever they feel a position is depleted, while the Buckeyes have to piece together a class that stays under 25.

Football, For Football’s Sake

If anyone can do it, it’s Meyer, but even he wouldn’t have been much help against that overpowering Alabama football team on Monday night. The spread offense has certainly taken football by storm, not just college but also the NFL. It’s fun, it’s exciting and it challenges opposing defenses in a way that few offensive adjustments have since the days of Paul Brown.

But all the up-tempo, no-huddle, speed Quack Attack football in the world cannot change the essence of the game, at it’s very core. Strip everything else away, and football is still about two things: blocking and tackling. Alabama did a whole lot of the first on Monday night, and Notre Dame didn’t do much of the second.

Alabama won this game, like so many others, with a dominant offensive line that pushed around one of the better defenses in college football. The Buckeyes might have faired a little better up front with Johnathan Hankins, Garrett Goebel, Nathan Williams and a healthy John Simon, but even that might not have been enough.

We saw this OSU defense give up big plays throughout most of the season because of poor tackling. They were much better at the end of the year, but I’m not sure this defense was ready for what Alabama was bringing to the table on Monday night.

Staring Out

The one difference Ohio State might have had in this game was Braxton Miller. We saw what a shifty, dynamic quarterback could do against this ‘Bama defense when paired with the right style of offense.

It’s not quite fair to compare Miller to Johnny Manziel at this point, only because Manziel appears to be a much better scrambler who can throw on the run when things become chaotic. Alabama is very good at creating chaos, and Miller didn’t always handle that well this season.

In fact, Miller might be one of only a handful of players from the 2012 Buckeyes who would have been on the field as starters for Alabama on Monday night. Even with that, it probably wouldn’t have been at quarterback. A.J. McCarron is much more of a typical Nick Saban quarterback, but even he would have to find a place for Miller in the starting lineup.

But who else would have been out there?

Johnathan Hankins could start on any team in American. The same is probably true of Bradley Roby, who would have made for a nasty combination across from Dee Milliner Monday night.

Who else?

I have to believe John Simon would be out on that football field. He brings too much passion, energy, heart and toughness to a football team. He was called the heart and soul of the Buckeyes and I think any team in the country would have been lucky to have him.

After that, I’m not sure. That’s not to say Ohio State didn’t have some other nice players. Devin Smith would have been in the rotation at receiver because of his ability to stretch the field vertically. Carlos Hyde is a nice back, but I don’t see him out there over Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.

Andrew Norwell would be a great fit for Saban’s style of smashmouth football, but I think Jack Mewhort would have found a starting spot on that offensive line. Maybe? That line is one of the best in recent history.

Corey Brown, Christian Bryant, Nathan Williams and Zach Boren are all nice players, but the only other guy from this 2012 OSU team who I would see out there as a starter for the Tide Monday night is linebacker Ryan Shazier.

I know ‘Bama has some pretty good linebackers, especially that C.J. Mosley, but Shazier is the perfect blend of power and speed for that defense. I don’t see any way he isn’t out there instead of Trey Depriest or Nico Johnson.

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