Saturday, October 17, 2009

Five Key Factors in Ohio State-Purdue Game on Saturday

Here. Go, Buckeyes!

[UPDATE: Sports radio callers are after Jim Tressel's scalp. One guy I heard after the Buckeyes' loss to Purdue said that "the game has passed...[Tressel] by."

My take is different. First, the offensive line, which almost everyone who follows Buckeye football knew coming into the year was a big question mark, seems fairly limited either in creating a safe passing pocket for Terrelle Pryor or blowing open holes for the running game.

Second, I think that Pryor has been wrestling with confidence issues all season long. The tentativeness with which he played during the USC game earlier this year seems to have carried forward to the subsequent five games.

Much preseason chatter said that the success or failure of the Buckeyes '09 campaign depended on Pryor performing, not just well, but as a superstar. It overlooked the important fact that Pryor, a sophomore who was the starter for half a season last year, is this year surrounded by almost entirely new personnel at the skill positions. In addition, I wonder how confident any of us would be if our passing pocket was collapsing all the time.

Jim Tressel is a five-time national champion (four times at Division 2 Youngstown State and once at OSU) who admittedly creates conservative game plans for his offenses. But I personally believe that under his leadership, the Buckeyes have, in some ways, overachieved this season.

Today, the defense had an uncharacteristically bad day, allowing Purdue to get away with little dump passes under coverage which, I think, set up the Boilermakers' running game. A squad that has been carrying the weight for the Buckeyes so far this season could be expected to eventually have an off-day. The D just couldn't compensate for the deficiencies in offensive execution, as it had in five of the first six games, today.

But, in his heart of hearts, Coach Tressel must be hoping that his incoming freshman offensive line will step up next year in a big way.

In the meantime, I know that Tressel, who I think is the best college coach in the country, will continue to challenge the Buckeyes to learn from this loss and keep getting better.

If the offensive line can be shored up in some way, maybe Pryor can relax, have fun, and play the way everybody knows he can.

Of course, my opinions should be taken with a grain of salt. I'm not a football coach, but a preacher!]

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