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2011-12 was the season of Buckeye discontent. The offseason was filled with NCAA scandals and investigations that ultimately led to the dismissal of head coach Jim Tressel and quarterback Terrelle Pryor giving up his senior season at OSU. That was just the beginning of the bad news.
With the suspensions that carried over from the previous season and the absences of Tressel and Pryor, the Ohio State offense took perhaps the biggest hit of any unit in the Big Ten. Hardly known for being a high-powered unit under Tressel, the 2011 version under interim coach Luke Fickell was downright bad for long stretches of the year.
The first five games hit the unit the hardest. After a ritual shellacking of Akron, the Buckeye offense struggled with Toledo, looked anemic against Miami, did what almost everyone else could do against Colorado and then got thoroughly dominated against Michigan State. The MSU game in particular was indicative of the ineffectiveness of the Buckeye offense in the early season. Neither quarterback could pass with much success, which allowed the Spartans to load the box and bring pressure every play. It was nearly enough for a shutout.
Quarterback was the main deficiency for most of the year. Ohio State first hitched its wagon to Joe Bauserman, but that quickly proved to be a colossal mistake and true freshman Braxton Miller was given more and more time to learn on the job. By the time Miller had led OSU to a big lead against Nebraska only to see Bauserman squander it in particularly painful fashion, the writing on the wall was clear: It was Miller's team. The freshman struggled at times and rarely threw more than 10 or 12 passes, but it was enough thanks to the return of tackle Mike Adams and running back Dan Herron from suspension, which gave the Buckeyes a more credible running threat.
Defensively, it was just a battle to keep a head above water. Ohio State wasn't bad per se, but when you spend the better part of a decade smothering the rest of your conference with a defense loaded with multiple draft picks, being just average against the run (50th, 141 YPG) and pass (pass-efficient defense, 53rd) isn't going to keep the locals from venting at your expense.
Of course, it didn't help that Ohio State lost its final four games to Purdue (making Danny Hope 2-1 vs. OSU), Penn State (a team OSU had owned for much of the last decade), Michigan (breaking a seven-game win streak in The Game) and Florida (a team with arguably a worse offense).
If good news had a name, however, it would be Urban Meyer. The hire has more than satisfied the fanbase, reignited recruiting, and put the Buckeyes on every other sports writers "Teams to Watch" list for 2012. The pieces are certainly there with a defense that returns almost completely intact and a young set of skill players, including sophomore Braxton Miller.
Way-too-early-2012-record prediction: 8-4