The Ralphie Report sat down with the great Ohio State blog, Eleven Warriors, to discuss this week's game in Columbus. Thanks to Elika Sadeghi for her very in depth answers. You can also follow Elika on twitter @steaknstiffarms. This is one of the more informative Q&As yet so definitely worth the read.
When it was announced that Luke Fickell would be taking over for Jim Tressel, at least in the interim, how did Buckeye fans feel about him running the program? Have those feelings changed three games into the season?
The head coach saga at OSU has been quite the roller coaster for some time now, starting with the prospect of not having Tressel on the sideline for the Akron and Toledo games, to the present situation we face today. You don't need to be a Buckeye to know just how big of a blow it is to lose a coach like Tressel, the impact is not even debatable. That said, by the time the news had come that Tressel would be resigning and Fickell would be the head coach (the interim tag has since been dropped), I think many OSU fans had at least a little bit of a chance to adjust to the idea of not seeing the sweater vest every Saturday. Despite the whispers among the fan base about the big name coaches a program like OSU could get, many people really wanted to see Fickell succeed, mainly because of how strongly he epitomizes what it means to be a Buckeye. The man is tough, hardworking, energetic and an alum (who played in the Rose Bowl with a torn pectoral muscle, no less). He's an excellent recruiter, and a "players coach." Though fans were nervous about someone with zero head coaching experience taking over, they desperately wanted an excuse to feel good about having him on the sideline, for reasons beyond just the win/loss record.
And now, you ask how one of the more spoiled fan bases in America feels about its rookie head coach after a complete meltdown against Miami. To be honest, many were either highly disappointed or angry after the loss, and I think the latter is probably a better description. You could probably explain away many decisions that a head coach makes (such as the mess of a two QB system we've witnessed, or the end of the Miami game in which fans were hoping Fickell would show some fight and call timeouts), and argue for either side of the story if you really wanted to. The fan base has heard many explanations for, what it perceived to be, nothing but rookie mistakes out of Fickell on Saturday, but I'm not sure many buy them. Fortunately, as we've distanced ourselves a bit from last Saturday, I think many are putting things into perspective and realizing the difficult situation Fickell has walked into, as well as some of the embarrassing losses we've seen even with a tenured coach like Tressel calling the shots. Fickell's leash with the fan base has gotten much shorter since the loss, but I think he definitely still has some supporters who are interested to see how he can turn this around.
more after the jump...
How have expectations changed for this team after the loss to Miami? Can the Buckeyes still challenge for a spot in the B1G championship game?
Expectations for a program like Ohio State are difficult to gauge in a season like this, where the big play makers are gone for half the season and we're starting from scratch at QB. There are many Buckeyes who expect no less than a B1G title no matter what, the pessimists who look at the issues we're facing and think 6-6, and the majority of realists who lie somewhere in between.
Luckily, the Miami game has no bearing on the B1G race and our suspended players return before we have to face Wisconsin. The 2008 Buckeyes recovered from a similar, embarrassing, Week 3 loss at USC and came back to nearly beat a national championship game worthy Texas team in the Fiesta Bowl after only one other loss that year. That USC game also brought about a new freshman QB as the official starter and, at least on the field, that seemed to work out well for the program. I like to hold on to the parallels from that game, and hold out hope that a B1G championship is still a possibility and Miller can produce the same results on the field that Pryor did. But frankly, when I take my scarlet and gray colored glasses off, this just isn't the same team as 2008 and Wisconsin looks too good. Ask me again once our other starters return, I hope I have more reason to be optimistic then. The general consensus on new expectations for now, pending Braxton Miller's future performance, is a 4 or 5 loss season.
Everyone is familiar with DeVier Posey, Mike Adams and Boom Herron, but our readers may not know as much about their replacements. What can you tell us about the players that will be starting in their place on Saturday?
Unfortunately, nobody has really proven themselves to be a substitute for DeVier Posey's play making abilities at WR, but hopefully that will improve with time. Redshirt Freshman Verlon Reed, who originally came to OSU as a QB, is Posey's official replacement until the Nebraska game. Reed is incredibly talented, and reportedly was recovering from a hand injury during the Miami game, which may or may not have had something to do with his performance last week. I'm hearing his hand is healing fine, and he's been working like crazy in practice to make up for Saturday, so we'll see how much of a difference a week makes. If you're looking for an offensive player to watch that the QB will be targeting, watch out for TE Jake Stoneburner, who's been a great option in the red zone with 4 TD catches so far this season.
Andrew Norwell, a 6'5" 308lb Sophomore OL is stepping in for Mike Adams for the first five games, and done admirably. He doesn't have the experience a guy like Adams does and still has room for improvement, but I think he's done very well and overall, the offensive line has been looking pretty strong for the most part. The coaching staff may face a dilemma when Adams returns, as Norwell has exceeded most expectations to the point of possibly warranting a starting position.
As far as the RBs trying to make up for the loss of Boom Herron, Jordan Hall returned to the team last week against Miami, following a 2 game suspension. Hall proved to be the bright spot for the rather ineffective offense, racking up 87 yards on 14 carries, and showing that he can move the chains. Carlos Hyde also contributed to the running game with 54 yards on 12 carries. The two backs have different styles, as Hyde is more of a power guy and Hall provides the speed, but look for both to play on Saturday and Hall will likely further separate himself as the leader of the pack in the coming weeks as the rust wears off until Herron's return.
Who do expect to see starting at quarterback this weekend and what advantages and disadvantages do both of them bring?
Fickell bought himself a bit of time with some of his more vocal dissenters and announced on Thursday that Freshman Braxton Miller will be starting this weekend against Colorado.
As far as differences between the two, let's start with Joe Bauserman. The biggest advantage that Joe brings to the table is his ability to not turn the ball over, which is a great quality when holding on to a lead. Unfortunately, he also seems to lack the play making ability the team would need in many other situations. In fairness to him, he'd probably look much better if the Buckeyes didn't lack big play makers at WR right now. However, Bauserman hasn't really shown much in the way of being able to create plays when his options are depleted.
Braxton, on the other hand, appears to be the exact opposite. He's young, especially in comparison to 25 year old Joe, and his inexperience has shown itself through critical turnovers (one INT and one lost fumble against Miami). On the bright side, Braxton has shown glimpses of an ability to move the ball when things appear to be working against him, I'm optimistic that over time this could develop into a great ability to create plays for himself. Additionally, though we haven't seen much of it yet, Braxton supposedly is a pretty good pocket passer for a QB his age, but only time will tell. The past few weeks haven't given him enough snaps to work on building anything, but if Braxton can learn from his mistakes and mature as a QB, we'll look back on this decision as a no-brainer. If nothing else, I believe we've seen Bauserman hit his ceiling, in terms of potential, and Braxton gives the Buckeyes an ability to start building for the future. I'd consider any of his turnovers an investment for next year, at the very least.
Do you see any weaknesses with this Ohio State team that the Buffs may try and exploit?
I'll start with the offense, which has been struggling with a widely publicized two QB dilemma and lack of play makers. It (hopefully) helps that Braxton Miller has been named the starting QB, as it's something to build on moving forward. Until it does though, he's still an inexperienced freshman with a decent probability of making critical mistakes. Couple that with WRs who haven't really proven an ability to get open and hold on to passes, and the air attack likely won't be a sight to see on Saturday. If the Buffs can stop the run, Buckeye fans will be biting their nails all afternoon.
Run defense, as it was not pretty against Miami. Granted, it was hot and the OSU defense spent a lot of time on the field last week, but that's really no excuse. They gave up 184 yards to Lamar Miller, including a 54 yarder, and had 27 missed tackles. That's right, 27. With a shifty guy like Rodney Stewart, who may be coming home to Columbus with something to prove, this may pose a big problem for the Buckeyes. Unlike your readers, I'm hoping that was a onetime deal, and I know the guys on defense are hoping so too.
Sophomore Drew Basil finally made his first career FG in week 3 this season, after missing two 50 yarders last year, and two over 40 yards in the first two weeks. He made 22 and 24 yard FGs against Miami, so hopefully it provided a confidence boost for him, but if not, look for him to possibly struggle beyond that range on Saturday.
Finally, an early lead. I don't know how much I trust this team when they're already down, but we'll see if that changes with a new starting QB and another week under their belt.
Who do you expect to see lining up against Buffaloes wide receiver Paul Richardson?
Junior CB Travis Howard, aka Howard Island, returned to the field on Saturday against Miami, following a two game suspension. Howard had originally won the starting position, but Redshirt Freshman Bradley Roby and Sophomore Dominic Clarke have also done very well in the secondary in his absence. Howard and Roby are listed as the starters on the depth chart, and I'm expecting to see Howard line up against Richardson on Saturday. He's an incredible talent, and with the Miami game behind him and some time to shake off the rust, he should start to live up to expectations in the coming weeks. It should be a fun match up to watch.
What other players on defense should we be watching out for?
The defensive line is really the greatest strength of the OSU defense thus far this season. Unfortunately, DE Nathan Williams is out with an injury, and he normally would've been a great player to look out for. Williams aside, DE John Simon and DT Johnathan Hankins are ones to look out for. SS C.J. Barnett, who picked off Jacory Harris in Miami last week, would also be a fun one to watch. He spent most of last year on the sideline with a knee injury, after a promising start to the season, so he's definitely looking to prove himself now that he's healthy again.
Anything special that Buffs fans heading to Columbus for the game should make sure and do before or after the game?
If you're a fan of big burgers and beer, Thurman Cafe in German Village is a must. They can have a wait of up to 2 to 3 hours during peak hours, as it is a bit of a hole in the wall, but I've always found a couple seats at the bar within 5-10 minutes of tenacious bar stool stalking. Jeni's Ice Cream is an Ohio specialty, originally from Columbus. They have unique, homemade flavors that are incredible and several locations in Columbus. If your readers would like food recommendations, I have way too many to list! Feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or ask me on twitter (@steakNstiffarms) for advice and I'd be happy to assist! The Short North and Arena District are probably the areas you would want to check out on a Friday or Saturday night. The Arena District is mostly bars, while the Short North offers more restaurants, shops and galleries, providing a good plan for Sunday afternoon as well.
If you like college campuses and want to check out a few things in addition to the Horseshoe, I'd recommend the Oval and Mirror Lake. Every Thursday before the Michigan game, around midnight, students jump into Mirror Lake to awaken the spirit of Woody Hayes in order to help us beat the Wolverines. You can check YouTube for videos, it gets pretty crazy, and I believe it was 24 degrees when I did it in '08. The new Student Union and Library are pretty impressive as well, if you're into that sort of thing.
St. John Arena, two hours before kick-off, houses "Skull Session" the final band practice before each game (basically a pep rally). If you're into marching bands and would like to see it, I would recommend you get there early as seating is first come, first served and in high demand before big games. If you're a golf buff, the OSU campus is home to the Jack Nicklaus Museum (closed on Sundays, limited hours on football Saturdays) and Columbus has several fantastic golf courses. If you're into shiny objects, the Woody Hayes Athletic Center is home to any trophies for accomplishments that haven't been vacated, including the Heisman trophies.
Lastly, Varsity Club may not be special to outsiders, but I've realized in my travels that every school has it's bar that is a campus institution, and I enjoy checking them out. Varsity Club is that for Ohio State, and just a 5 minute walk from the stadium. There are other bars on High Street near campus as well if you prefer that scene to tailgating on game days. Do NOT go to fraternity row (otherwise, you should be okay). Have fun!
Prediction for the game?
This Ohio State team is full of young players, and we have yet to see how they react to a difficult loss. Likewise, it'll be interesting to see how Colorado builds off of their first win of the season. I'm putting a lot of stock in Colorado's ridiculously long road loss streak and predicting a Buckeye win. Vegas has the Buckeyes as 17 point favorites, but I wouldn't be so generous, they've given the Buckeyes too much credit all season.