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Published: Monday, 11/5/2012

COMMENTARY

OSU flawed, but can still be perfect

BY DAVID HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

Ur­ban Meyer has been here be­fore. His Ohio State Buck­eyes are the na­tion’s first and, thus far, only 10-0 FBS team.

They beat Il­li­nois de­fin­i­tively on Satur­day 52-22, and there was talk af­ter the game that the Bucks would likely sneak into the top five of the AP poll. Indeed, that be­came a re­al­ity on Sun­day.

“I’ve been for­tu­nate to have a cou­ple of top-five teams,” Meyer said af­ter the game. “And this [one] prob­a­bly has more holes than those other ones.”

It prob­a­bly does. But you might be sur­prised at which as­pect Meyer chose to ex­pound upon.

After en­dors­ing quar­ter­back Brax­ton Miller as a Heis­man Tro­phy can­di­date ear­lier last week, Meyer chose this time to ex­press dis­may over his abil­ity to de­liver as a drop­back passer.

The tim­ing was cu­ri­ous. Miller had just en­joyed one of his bet­ter pass­ing days — 12-of-20 for 226 yards, an av­er­age of 18.2 yards per com­ple­tion, and two touch­downs. Add in his 73 net rush­ing yards and that’s 299 yards of to­tal of­fense, a healthy chunk of OSU’s 567 against the woe­ful Illini.

“The area we’re not ef­fi­cient enough is the drop­back pass,” Meyer ram­bled. “And we have to … while he’s not a drop­back passer, you have to be. It’s not ac­cept­able.”

It is true that most of Miller’s best work as a passer comes as the re­sult of play ac­tion — and why not, con­sid­er­ing Miller’s own threat as a run­ner and the emer­gence of run­ning back Car­los Hyde? — and in mak­ing plays while on the move.

As Meyer ad­mit­ted, Miller is not a drop­back passer. So … why the con­cern and the heavy-handed treat­ment?

I sus­pect this was Meyer’s ver­sion of pub­licly-traded mo­ti­va­tion. He knows that the big­gest hole in the Buck­eyes’ top-five rank­ing is who they have beaten, and he knows what the fi­nal two weeks of the sea­son will bring.

Games at Wis­con­sin on Nov. 17 and against vis­it­ing Mich­i­gan on Nov. 24 will pit OSU against two of the Big Ten’s top de­fen­sive teams and two of only four con­fer­ence teams that have al­ready man­aged bowl el­i­gi­bil­ity.

Ohio State’s 10 van­quished foes are a com­bined 43-49. Only two of them were ranked when they met the Buck­eyes and only one, Ne­braska, against which the Buck­eyes pro­duced by far their best ef­fort of the sea­son, re­mains in the AP Top 25 at No. 18.

The state of the Big Ten, as much as any­thing, harms the Buck­eyes’ cred­i­bil­ity as a top-five team. In­clud­ing the or­der of the “oth­ers re­ceiv­ing votes,” the con­fer­ence has four teams ranked among the top 32. The Mid-Amer­i­can Con­fer­ence, headed by Toledo at No. 23, has four teams among the top 32.

That’s a dead heat with Lit­tle Brother — al­ready with six bowl-el­i­gi­ble teams — that the Big Ten would just as soon ig­nore.

Of course, polls merely re­flect hu­man opin­ion based on trends as much as facts.

In OSU’s case, the only fact that mat­ters is that per­fect record. The Buck­eyes have lined up 10 times, no mat­ter the eeeeeeeeeeecom­pe­ti­tion, and won 10 times. That in­cludes good road wins at Mich­i­gan State and Penn State.

Two games re­main in what will be a post­sea­son-less cam­paign. Two wins and the Buck­eyes can claim to be the Big Ten’s best of the reg­u­lar sea­son, Leg­ends and Lead­ers alike, and in ab­sen­tia would steal con­sid­er­able thun­der from the teams that play in the con­fer­ence ti­tle game.

And Brax­ton Miller, drop­back passer or not, would be smack in the mid­dle of the Heis­man dis­cus­sion.

A team that is far from per­fect, a team with holes, has a shot at per­fec­tion. No­body would be ask­ing how, just how many.

Wouldn’t that be some­thing?

Con­tact Blade sports col­um­nist Dave Hack­en­berg at: dhack@the­blade.com or 419-724-6398.



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