Being banned from postseason play, losing scholarships, and being under NCAA investigation is bad for any football program. Getting a renowned coach to fix the program and going undefeated halfway into his first season are good things.
It would follow that things are good (or as good as they can be) for the Ohio State football program. Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes are now 7-0 in his first season in Columbus, and quarterback Braxton Miller is, thus far anyway, a Heisman hopeful who has been performing at a pretty high level. The Buckeyes would be ranked in this week’s initial BCS standings if it weren’t for their punishments stemming from the Jim Tressel/tattoos/Terrelle Pryor being a dick scandal. All good things, except for the punishments.
But you wouldn’t think things were good at all to listen to the way the Buckeyes have reacted to their 52-49 win at Indiana on Saturday night. Meyer has even gone as far as holding meetings with all the defensive players and coaches and telling them to do a hell of a lot better than the last two games.
For the record, I totally agree with him. Giving up 49 points to Indiana is cause for a massive amount of soul searching and finger-pointing for any football program.
Of course, this isn’t the first time this season Meyer has let it into the press that he’s not happy with his defensive players. Something tells me he knew that unit wasn’t going to be great in 2012. The Buckeye defense is currently surrendering an average of 24.6 points and 400 yards per game. That’s definitely not great, especially in the offense-challenged Big Ten. That said, the defense has really only had two bad games: this past Saturday at Indiana (49 points, 481 yards) and against Nebraska (38 points, 437 yards).
And this is where the conspiracy theorizing begins.
Ohio State’s next three games are against bad and mediocre offensive teams: Purdue, at Penn State, and home against Illinois. There is every reason to believe Ohio State’s defensive performance will improve dramatically pretty much by default.
Illinois’ offense is ranked 112th in scoring (18.1 points, 309 ypg), one spot ahead of the woeful Auburn Tigers. Penn State and Purdue are only scoring points and gaining yards at or just below the averages Ohio State is already surrendering. Indiana has a better offense than all three of those teams, so while 49 points is way too much, it’s not as disastrous an effort as one might think either.
So why the meetings and hand-wringing? Because Meyer knows that their next three opponents aren’t great on offense, so he figures that if he looks like he’s doing something to make it better, and it almost certainly will be, then he looks even better, and everyone thinks everything is fine even if the defense isn’t much better.
Or maybe he’s just tired of getting scored on like a dwarf in an NBA game. Whatever.