It's a new era in Columbus. Sure, we've been hearing that mantra from the moment Urban Meyer was announced as a future head coach, to say nothing of when he actually took control of the Ohio State Buckeyes program or coached his first game.
But we're five weeks into the season now. We know some things we didn't know a month ago, much less almost a year ago. We've seen this Buckeye team play cupcakes, and we've seen them play a fierce conference opponent. We've seen how they deal with success and adversity.
And now we have to ask: Is this even Ohio State anymore?
Don't get us wrong, it's all right if Ohio State is a lot different than it used to be. The details of tradition are generally overrated. Winning is what matters, and the "how" is only a concern from a sportsmanship standpoint. So, there's little to complain about with Urban Meyer's Ohio State. It's just something that can be a little hard to recognize.
And that unfamiliarity begins with the part of football most people pay the most attention to: the offense.
The top rushing tailback on the team is Jordan Hall, and he's got all of 40 rushes and 218 yards to his name for the season. Granted, he has played for roughly half the year, but in his stead, Carlos Hyde has all of 158 yards on 35 rushes of his own. The odds of a Buckeye tailback getting to 1,000 yards this year are rather remote.
Oh, but any Buckeye getting 1,000 yards rushing this year? Odds are pretty darn good, and that's because it's Braxton Miller, the best and most important player on the Big Ten's best team, leading the charge in the rushing game.
This notion of a quarterback leading Ohio State in rushing isn't entirely foreign. Miller did it just last year, after all, and Terrelle Pryor did it in 2009.
But Miller was only 37 yards ahead of Dan Herron last year (and Herron missed the first six games), while Pryor outpaced running back Brandon Saine by all of 40 yards in '09.
This year, though? Forget the injury woes, because even if you combine Hall and Hyde's numbers (and they've played about the same amount of healthy quarters as Miller has so far), Miller still dominates.
|Hyde + Hall||75||376||75.2||3|
Nobody else on the team has more than 12 rushes or 60 yards in those five games, by the way. Miller's in great control of the Buckeye rushing game.
Oh, and once you get past Pryor leading the team in rushing as a QB, you'll probably have to go back a long, long time to find another. We say "probably" because Ohio State only lists starters by position back to 1960 (.PDF warning)—and cross-checking with the season-by-season leaders (.PDF warning again), there isn't another single QB that led the team in rushing.
Then there's this oddity. It's cool and fun, yes, and it would never ever happen under Jim Tressel, John Cooper or Woody Hayes. We can say that with authority because it never ever did happen.
Yes, the Quick Cals. Imagine what one of the old-school coaches would have said about starting a new tradition like this to try to attract students into their seats early? Probably something like, "They get to watch football at Ohio Stadium. How is that not enough?"
But it's Urban Meyer's team, and that's how things are going to go around here. If that means the strength and conditioning coach is going to yell at Brutus Buckeye at a student meeting for not having thigh pads (jokingly) That was a joke, right? We can never tell with S&C coaches.), then yell away, Coach Marotti.
But speaking of "how things are going to go around here," there was also this from after the Michigan State game. Before the athletic directors intervened and said there was no need to involve the conference, Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi told the Detroit Free Press that the Spartans were actually filing a complaint to the Big Ten over what they believed was doctoring of game footage by Ohio State. Here's more:
MSU defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi confirmed to the Free Press that MSU contacted the Big Ten and said Ohio State cut off pre-snap motions and shifts before plays on film of its four games before today's 17-16 OSU win at Spartan Stadium.
“We had tape cut off all week, where they changed the tape, I’m not gonna lie to you,” Narduzzi said outside the MSU locker room. “They send you tape and they’ve got it all cut off and you don’t get to see shifts or motions or anything else.”
Big Ten teams are required to provide game film to each other before they play, with footage shot by their respective video staffs. Narduzzi said MSU contacted Ohio State’s non-league opponents and got film from them.
“A few other teams we talked to that they played, and we compared what they were looking at on tape to what we were looking at,” he said. “We’re like ‘We don’t see any of that. We see it on their tape but not on our tape.’ So that’s something I’m sure the Big Ten office will hopefully take care of.”
Now, we're not putting that one directly on Urban Meyer. Not yet. He said he doesn't deal with video and that he didn't know anything about it. While that's something a liar might say, it's also something someone who isn't lying might say, too. Plus, we know some video folks. They really don't interact with the head coach often.
And yet Urban Meyer's the man in charge there. So let's assume for the sake of discussion the allegations are true—and if Michigan State's trying to go to the Big Ten and Narduzzi's talking openly about confirming the unusual nature of the edits with Ohio State's other opponents, odds are pretty good they are.
So since we're postulating that fact, even if Meyer had completely zero to do with the decision to take the pre-snap movements out of the Michigan State tape, someone somewhere on the chain of command—either the video editor himself or someone above him/her—evidently thought it was a good idea. They not only thought they could, they thought they should.
Doesn't exactly seem like a John Cooper regime kind of thing to happen, does it?
But this is the Urban Meyer version of Ohio State. And while we don't expect any more video shenanigans—that got handled in-house, which, fine—there's a lot Buckeye fans haven't expected to see from their program that Meyer's already installed, and probably more to come.
And that's fine! Seriously, that's not a veiled shot. That's because the one thing Ohio State fans have expected of this team, long before Urban Meyer showed up and long after he'll leave, is that the team just wins.
And wouldn't you know it, these Buckeyes are 5-0.
OK, so Meyer's not that unusual.