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When Winning Isn’t Enough: the Ohio State Story

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Buckeye Nation has been in an interesting state throughout the month of October 2016. While most people in America are fretting over the ridiculousness of presidential politics and the specific candidates to choose from, it seems that many Buckeye fans are struggling to enjoy this football season.

Following a spectacular September with four blowout victories, the Buckeyes have seemingly regressed to a state of growing pains throughout a month filled with conference games. For those keeping score at home, the month included:

  • A 38-17 home win over Indiana where the passing offense completely stalled out for less than 100 yards;
  • A 30-23 overtime road win at Wisconsin where the team was out-schemed for over a half before making adjustments to come back from a double-digit deficit in the second half;
  • A 21-24 loss at Penn State where the offensive line faltered (6 sacks) at the same time the play calling turtled by playing not to lose, and also in a game where special teams had an unusually awful night with two blocked kicks in the fourth quarter; and
  • A 24-20 win at home against Northwestern in which a 10-0 early lead was followed by offensive ineffectiveness for the remainder of the game.

While it is certainly fair to ask some questions and evaluate what this team is doing to work through the youth growing pains and fix any play calling deficiencies on offense, an overwhelming sentiment has emerged the past two weeks that feels familiar after watching Buckeye Nation be frustrated all of the season with the 2015 Buckeyes.

That sentiment is this: winning by small margins against teams like Northwestern is just not good enough.

In short, many fans are not enjoying a bounce back victory over a hot Wildcats team that came in on a 3-game winning streak, but instead, are complaining about every deficiency this team shows. Complaints about the offensive line, the weak play at wide receiver, the overly conservative nature of J.T. Barrett, the slow down of turnover generation on defense, the special teams mistakes, punt return adventures, and on and on.

Hell, even the beat writers at Cleveland.com started a topic online that gained traction throughout the fan base along these lines: “Urban Meyer is 56-5 (57-5 now) at Ohio State, but…

Yes, seriously.

http://gty.im/460394431

A program with a national title two seasons ago and dominance over much of the Big Ten for the last 15 years is being criticized for flies in the ointment when the overall background is a 57-5 record since 2012. Oh, and that also includes a 13-2 record against Michigan since Coach Tressel took over in 2001.

How quickly some of these fans forget: success is fleeting for almost everyone in this sport where rosters turn over in their entirety every 3 or 4 years. Dynasties happen, but they do not tend to last for very long. Before the 2002 national championship, Ohio State had not won a title since 1968! Lest we also forget how badly OSU fared against the Wolverines under prior coach John Cooper in the 1990s (2-10-1).

If fans cannot enjoy being a consistent player in the national championship picture and the type of team that loses about one game per year, on average, then those fans are doing it wrong. Every program outside of Tuscaloosa would absolutely kill for what Ohio State has right now.

Here’s another dose of reality. The Big Ten has five, count them, FIVE teams in the top 12 of the initial College Football Playoff committee rankings. The only conference even in the same ballpark is the SEC, which similarly has five teams in the top 13. This is a huge sign of respect from the highest authority about the depth of the Big Ten.

It’s not just the ranked teams, as the next tier of teams (Northwestern, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan State when not in 2016, etc.) are solid competitors as well. In that type of conference which is the best in college football, there are very few easy wins or weeks.

If that sounds familiar, it should. That’s precisely how the SEC dominated this sport for an entire decade, as the depth of competitors in that conference made every week interesting in conference play. The depth also made it abundantly hard to go undefeated, and also to repeat as conference champs. Alabama finally pulled that feat off in 2014 and 2015, but before that, a different team won every year going all the way back to the 1990s when Florida and Tennessee each had consecutive titles.

Those rules are how life is in the Big Ten now. None of those October games (post Rutgers) on Ohio State’s schedule was a pushover opponent, especially considering these are the opponents which know OSU the best. It’s exactly why Alabama has struggled at times with teams like Ole Miss, opponents which know the Crimson Tide well.

Teams, even the top-level ones, in the SEC got through this period of dominance in the sport by being content with wins of any variety. Wins move a team towards the goals of conference titles, which often leads to a playoff appearance. Survive and advance.

That’s what a young Ohio State team did in October, most of the time. While the loss against Penn State was disappointing for Buckeye Nation, it did nothing to take the season goals off the table. A second loss would do that, but it has not happened yet.

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In the context of this outstanding run of success and a super-competitive conference and East Division, every Big Ten win should be cherished, no matter how big or small. Instead of suffering through every Saturday in a season that flies by quickly when the team does not meet some sort of standard of perfection, delight in the exciting close games and the big battles between top contenders which focus the attention of the nation on Big Ten country.

This is exactly what college football fans live for and yearn for. The chance to play meaningful games in November and December against Top-10 programs like Nebraska and Michigan. That’s what faces Ohio State in 2016.

If substantial parts of Buckeye Nation cannot enjoy this period of unprecedented consistent excellence (57-5!), then how sad will we all be when times get worse in the future? If you count yourself among fans who believe in national championship or bust, especially with a young developmental team like the 2016 version of the Buckeyes, then I truly pity you. There’s nothing more sorrowful than failing to smell the roses and enjoy the abundant levels of success when the opportunity is there.

Winning is enough. Survive and advance. Enjoy it, and seize the moment. 

After all, if you choose not to, then some other fan base (Michigan or otherwise) will do it for you. Trust me, Buckeye Nation, you will not enjoy that.

Dave is a FWAA member and a Columnist focusing on Big Ten football for talking10. Before joining talking in 2014, he was a Featured Columnist for three years at Bleacher Report and previously wrote for seven years on SouthernCollegeSports.com. He was born in Hawkeye Country and went to college in Columbus, so there's plenty of B1G running through his blood. Dave is a patent and trademark attorney in his day job. If you have any questions in those areas or about his latest articles, please contact him on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy.

Buckeyes Football

Greg Schiano out at Ohio State, Michigan’s Mattison reportedly in

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In terms of rivalries, there is no more intense in the Big Ten than Michigan an Ohio State. It’s one that lives on in the fans, players and coaches for 365 days a year.

On Jan. 7, 2019 things got a whole lot more interesting for the next 365 days that’s for sure.

First, news broke that defensive coordinator Greg Schiano will not be back with the Buckeyes under new head coach Ryan Day. Many believed this past season wasn’t up to par for the Buckeyes and Schiano seemed likely to take the fall for that.

OSU finished this season ranked 72nd in total defense after back-to-back seasons in the top 10 of that category nationwide. The Buckeyes gave up over 400 yards of total offense this year as well.

So, who will replace Schiano? In a really interesting twist, multiple reports have come out stating that Day has his replacement ready — in the form of Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison.

According to Mike Sullivan of 97.1 The Ticket, Mattison’s contact with Michigan was about to be up and that Harbaugh chose not to renew his deal.

Thus, he is a free agent and Day has chosen to scoop him up.

Mattison is very familiar with this rivalry, having served as Michigan’s defensive coordinator under Brady Hoke (2011-2014) and then accepting just the defensive line coaching position on Jim Harbaugh’s staff.

His defenses were very consistent in his four seasons as defensive coordinator. Michigan was never worse than 31st in the country in total defense and peaked at No. 6 in his final season at the helm of the Wolverines defense.

Coaches plying their trade on both sides of the rivalry is nothing new, but it is a rarity overall.

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Buckeyes Football

BREAKING: Urban Meyer announces retirement

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Last week, FootballScoop.com reported that Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer would be stepping down by the end of the 2019 season and likely by the end of this season.

They also reported that Ryan Day would take over as the new head coach once that happened. 

After a weekend in which the rest of the media attempted to discredit the report, it is now exactly what is happening. 

Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com broke the news early this morning.  In the report, Lesmerises notes that Meyer is being forced to step down due to complications from a cyst on his brain. 

The Rose Bowl game against Pac-12 champion Washington will be the final game he will coach at Ohio State. 

Additionally, Ryan Day, who replaced Meyer as interim head coach while he was serving a three-game suspension to start the year will take over as the full-time head coach starting next season. 

More information will be made available at a news conference scheduled for 2pm ET. 

Meyer has had one of the most successful tenures as a head coach in Buckeyes history. He’ll retire having never lost to Michigan (7-0), won three Big Ten championships and with an 82-9 overall record at the helm of the Scarlet and Gray. 

OSU athletic director Gene Smith is the one who decided Day would get the job on a permanent basis, seeing what the Buckeyes did under his leadership in that three-game stint earlier this year and hoping to ride the wave of young coaches making big splashes. 

His rise up the coaching ranks comes just as the Buckeyes are putting up some of the most dynamic numbers in the pass game that college football has ever seen. 

Star quarterback Dwayne Haskins could potentially top the 5,000-yard and 50 touchdown marks in the upcoming Rose Bowl game. 

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Buckeyes Football

Talking10 Podcast Episode 100: Something, something Urban Meyer

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Ohio State made its decision on Urban Meyer. Andy and Phil are here to break it all down for you and give you the truth in a hazy situation. What better way to celebrate episode 100 of the podcast than to spend 50 minutes breaking down a mess of a situation in Columbus, right?

We’ll talk our reactions to the press conference, break down the actual findings of OSU’s investigative report and we’ll even talk how the media-at-large and the OSU media handled the fallout from Wednesday night’s press conference.

Don’t forget you can listen to the podcast each week via Radio Public and other podcasting apps. 

Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Twitter @talkingB1G

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Buckeyes Football

Urban Meyer and OSU AD put on suspension following investigation

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The media stakeout of the Ohio State Board of Trustee’s meeting can now end. It only took 12 hours or so, but answers finally came. 

According to multiple reports, including from the AP, OSU head coach Urban Meyer is suspended for the first three games of the season. In addition, athletic director Gene Smith will serve the same suspension from Aug. 31 to Sept. 16 — both will not receive pay during that time frame as well. 

Both came under fire as this story unfolded. It began just prior to the Big Ten media days in late July, the story that Zach Smith had been arrested for criminal trespassing in April of this year broke and Meyer fired Smith on Monday morning of the start of Big Ten media days.

Brett McMurphy then detailed in an exclusive report that Smith had previously been “arrested” back in 2015 for a second allegation of domestic abuse against his then-wife Courtney Smith. 

Meyer was questioned about that arrest and allegation from 2015 at media days and struck out against reporters repeated questioning. He would deny knowing of the arrest report back in 2015. 

However, further reporting by McMurphy put that denial in to further question and Ohio State decided to get to the bottom of it. 

Once Meyer was put on paid administrative leave, he would put a statement out admitting to knowing about the 2015 incident and alerting athletic administrators of the domestic abuse allegations. 

Meyer has stayed silent since that statement and awaited the outcome of the 14-day inquiry in to whom knew what and when and what action was taken. 

That investigation ended this past Sunday, with the committee verbally advising the Board of Trustees on Monday morning of its findings. Two days later, the Board of Trustees would come to meet publicly and then behind closed doors to discuss what would happen to Meyer and others involved in this situation. 

Meyer’s suspension is for the first three games, and on the field that is a big hit with three FBS games coming at the start of the season. OSU kicks off the year against Oregon State, plays a Big Ten contest against Rutgers and a massive game against TCU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. 

We will have more on this situation and the reaction to what Meyer and Smith had to say on the talking10 Podcast tomorrow. 

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