Ohio State football is finally back as the Urban Meyer era has officially begun!
Saturday's game got me thinking about what might have happened if Meyer had been the head coach of the Buckeyes during previous seasons. And that is how the idea of this article was born.
One of the best ways to trigger one's imagination is to start a sentence off with the words "what if". Being filled with anticipation for what might happen later on this season, I decided to apply that to the Ohio State Buckeye football program.
In consideration of some of the greats who put on scarlet and gray attire in either the past or present, I present to you the 25 biggest "what ifs" of the last 2 decades!
Santonio Holmes was a game-changer with sprinter speed and excellent route-running abilities. After having a productive junior season, however, he opted to skip out on his senior season and take his talents to the next level.
Being a legitimate deep threat on every given play, how much more productive would the passing game have been if Holmes stuck around for another year along with an improved Troy Smith at quarterback?
In 2005 Ohio State had arguably the best defense.in the country, highlighted by a great trio of linebackers. The would-be star James Laurinaitis was only a freshman during that season. But what if it wasn't?
The 6'3" 247-lb linebacker nicknamed "Little Animal" went on to win many individual awards (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Laurinaitis) in his college career. During his senior season, Laurinaitis recorded 130 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, four sacks and two interceptions.
Just imagine if he did that alongside players such as A.J Hawk and Bobby Carpenter who had a combined 170 tackles, 26.5 tackles for a loss, 17.5 sacks, and three interceptions in 2005!
Being 6'7" 325 lbs, Orlando Pace was almost always the biggest player on the field during his outstanding football career, and he used every bit of his size to near perfection.
Having a tremendous amount of power, strength, quickness, and pancake ability, imagine how much havoc the big bodied bruiser could have caused if only he played on the defensive side of the ball!
Troy Smith vs. Texas (2005)
Led by star dual-threat quarterback Vince Young, the second-ranked Texas Longhorns came into Columbus on September 10, 2005, to square off against the fourth-ranked Buckeyes of Ohio State.
During that game, Jim Tressel opted to shuffle his two quarterbacks, giving them both around the same number of snaps behind the center. I know that Justin Zwick was the one that threw the dropped touchdown pass, but his wasn't the best quarterback on Ohio State's roster.
What would have happened if the "Sweater Vest" kept Troy Smith in for the entire game? After all, Smith was the more exciting QB of the two and his mobility kept defenses honest.
The only part of the 2006 National Championship game that Buckeye fans enjoyed was the opening kickoff that was returned for a touchdown by Ohio State's star receiver Ted Ginn, Jr.
After the speedster crossed the goal line, however, he suffered an ankle injury during the celebration. But what if this wasn't the case?
Without having Ted Ginn to pass to for the first time in his career, Heisman trophy-winning Troy Smith never looked comfortable in the pocket, not appearing confident at all.
How much of a difference would Ted Ginn have made if he hadn't gotten injured?
As one of the best Buckeyes of the '90s and one of the top wide receivers in school history, Joey Galloway was very exciting to watch in his day.
Before the two-time All Big Ten Conference-performer left Ohio State, he finished 2nd in Buckeye history with 19 touchdown receptions, and 4th in both total receptions and receiving yards
Just imagine what he would have accomplished if Ohio State had a better QB than Bobby Hoying back then!
Although he didn't turn out to be Ohio State's best option at quarterback, Justin Zwick started for the majority of the season. But what if this wasn't the case and Smith was able to start?
It wasn't until the Michigan game when Smith got to showcase his talents. He led his Buckeyes to a victory over the seventh-ranked Michigan Wolverines while piling up a whopping 386 total yards and three touchdowns as just a sophomore.
I wonder how the Buckeyes would have fared if he had started all 12 games of of the 2004 season.
Quarterback Joe Germaine and the top-ranked Buckeyes looked to be the team to beat during the 1998 season. After a sloppy game against the Michigan State Spartans, however, the then No.1-ranked Buckeyes suffered their first and only loss of the season.
Even after the disastrous turnovers in that game, Ohio State lost by only four points. If they would have played a clean game, however, who knows what they would have accomplished that season?
Ohio State averaged 220 rushing yards per game in 2010. However, in their only loss of the year (against the Wisconsin Badgers) they only had 155.
How much would a running back of Chris Wells' caliber have changed that?
And if the Buckeyes ran the table in the 2010 regular season, how would the Terrelle Pryor and Chris Wells-led Buckeyes have fared against the likes of Cam Newton and Michael Dyer of Auburn?
Led by power back Eddie George, the Buckeye football team was one of the best in the country in 1995. However, they lost the two biggest games of the year at the end of the season.
One can only imagine how much more this team could have accomplished if Troy Smith was around to play quarterback back then.
QB Stanley Jackson shared snaps with Joe Germaine during much of the 1996 season, being used as a change of pace signal-caller primarily because of his mobility.
But this wasn't the case versus the arch rival Michigan Wolverines when the Buckeyes lost a close 13-9 game.
Like times before, Michigan gave Ohio State its only loss of the year. However, would this have been the case if Stanley got to split playing time with Germaine?
Regardless of what team you root for, Orlando Pace is one of the best left tackles in college football history.
If given the opportunity, how much could have Chris Wells accomplished if he was blessed enough to have a guy like Orlando Pace block for him?
Unfortunately, we will never know.
After the tattoo scandal, Terrelle Pryor skipped out on his senior season to try his luck in the NFL. But what if this wasn't the case?
Being a legitimate touchdown threat on every given play, just imagine how much young Braxton Miller could have learned from Pryor.
Lastly, how much of a difference would the lanky quarterback from Jeanette, Pennsylvania, have made on the win-loss record in 2011?
Big-bodied, broad-shouldered and powerful with excellent speed, Eddie George was very hard to take down. Just ask opposing 1995 defensive players.
Now just imagine if the 6'3" 240-lb speedster played on the defensive side of the ball. That's enough to give me goosebumps!
During the 1990s, Ohio State seemed to produce all kinds of studs on the defensive side of the ball. Linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer was one of the best of them as his motor never seemed to stop running.
What if Katzenmoyer was moved to the fullback or running back position while applying that same aggressive attitude?
Just imagine the broad-shouldered bruiser pounding the ball downhill with his 6'3" 240-lb frame!
Even though he was a bit undersized (5'9"), Antoine Winfield was a lock down cornerback in his days of suiting up in the scarlet and gray.
Winfield went on to be recognized as a first-team All-American during his senior year, when he also took home the Jim Thorpe Award.
Can you imagine how much more dangerous he would have been if he were only 6'1" or 6'2"?
Linebackers can be the most intimating players on the defense, especially when you have the talent, speed, and depth that Ohio State has at the linebacker position
Just imagine how much more intimidating the linebackers would be if they were flying after you with the Brutus costumes on!
That would be an awesome sight to see!
Troy Smith was one of the most accurate quarterbacks in Ohio State history. Even though Smith won the Heisman trophy in 2006, he ranked just 38th in the nation in passing yards with just 2,542.
To put things into perspective, even Texas' freshman QB Colt McCoy threw for more yards than Smith did in 2006.
While averaging 8.17 yards per attempt, if Smith would have thrown the ball as much as the team rushed it (480 times), he would have ended up with around 3,922 yards on the year.
I wonder what kind of difference that would that have made on the win-loss record?
During the 2005 season, the Vince Young-led Texas Longhorns came into Columbus and knocked off the fourth-ranked Buckeyes in a thriller that was decided by just three points. On that memorable September night, however, Ohio State had many opportunities to win the game.
Ryan Hamby's dropped touchdown pass was a classic example of that. Had he caught it (assuming the Buckeyes made the extra point afterwards) the Buckeyes would have won in a close 26 to 25 game.
How would that have affected the end of season results of the 2005 football season?
Terrelle Pryor is one of the most exciting quarterbacks in the history of Buckeye football. Just imagine how much more exciting he would have been if his talents were used in Urban Meyer's fast-pace, read-option spread offense.
He would have probably put up close to the same numbers as either Vince Young did at Texas (2005) or Cam Newton did at Auburn (2010).
With an exceptional 40-yard dash speed (4.4 seconds) and a 6'6" 230-lb body, Terrelle Pryor would be a dangerous weapon at the wide receiver position.
Especially if a guy named Troy Smith was chucking balls in his direction!
A.J. Hawk 2005
The 2006 Buckeyes were ranked number one in the country for the entire year until they got stomped by Florida in the National Championship game.
But would this have been the case if they hadn't lost eight of the11 defensive starters from the previous year?
The 2005 Buckeye defense was considered by many to be one of the best in the country. Led by senior linebacker A.J. Hawk, the 2005 defense ranked eighth in the country in terms of points allowed per game.
Thanks to their stingy defense, the Buckeyes were the only team in the country that the Texas Longhorns didn't score at least 40 points against in 2005.
How would they have fared vs. Florida?
Before getting caught trying to cover the memorabilia sale scandal of some of his players, Jim Tressel was the greatest Ohio State football coach since a guy by the name of Woody Hayes trotted up and down the sidelines.
Tressel had a very impressive overall record (106-22) as the head coach of the Buckeyes as well as a 9-1 record against the arch-rival Michigan Wolverines.
Assuming he had the same win percentage versus that team up north, if Tressel had been doing this a decade earlier, the series would be just about dead-even, with Michigan leading it 51-50-5.
After only his freshman season at Ohio State, Maurice Clarett made a big name for himself. He was the heart and soul of the offense and a major contributor on the 2002 National Championship squad.
As the Big 10 Freshman of the Year, Clarett rushed for 1,237 yards. Assuming he would pick up the pace as he matured, number 13 would have became one of the leading rushers in Ohio State history had he played for four seasons.
Who's to say Clarett wouldn't have been a Heisman contender at some point in his career?
With Urban Meyer's up-tempo spread offense, dual-threat quarterback Troy Smith would have had tremendous success.
Being the first Buckeye quarterback to ever take home the Heisman trophy, Smith is the most accurate passer in the history of Ohio State football.
Accompanying Troy Smith at Ohio State was speedster Ted Ginn, Jr. I imagine Urban Meyer would have used him just like he used Percy Harvin at Florida. Guys like that are very dangerous when they get out in space.
How would Urban Meyer have utilized these two guys on offense?
God bless and GO BUCKS!