Ohio State is halfway through its 2010 season. They sit atop both the AP and the Coaches' polls at 6-0.
The Buckeyes' closest game has been 11 points against Illinois, and against Eastern Michigan they scored the most points an Ohio State team has scored since 1950 with 70.
This team should pass the midseason exam with flying colors, right?
Well, at closer inspection, it appears that the old saying of "nobody's perfect" holds true here. The Buckeyes have their flaws.
So what exactly are those flaws?
Take a look at Ohio State's midseason report card.
Halfway through the 2010 season, Ohio State is averaging 43.2 points per game with a Heisman Trophy candidate at the helm of its offense.
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor is having a tremendous year so far, and the Buckeyes have scored 35 points or more in five of their six games. The only game they didn’t was against Illinois when Pryor, who left the game because of injury for three series, and company could only muster up 24.
Ohio State is averaging 465.8 yards of offense per game, and Pryor has had a hand in 19 of Ohio State’s 32 touchdowns—15 passing, three rushing and one receiving. Only Auburn’s Cameron Newton has been involved in more touchdowns with, 21.
Pryor has certainly matured from last year and is making good decisions with the football. He has thrown only three interceptions and has completed 68 percent of his attempts. His quarterback rating of 170.46 is sixth best in the nation, better than Ryan Mallett, Andrew Luck, Greg McElroy and Denard Robinson.
Six different receivers, including Pryor, have caught a touchdown pass for the Buckeyes. Dane Sanzenbacher’s seven touchdown receptions rank fifth nationally.
Here are some of Ohio State’s major offensive statistics with its rank nationally in parentheses:
Scoring Offense 43.2 pts/game (sixth)
Passing 248.5 yds/game (37th)
Rushing 217.3 yds/game (20th)
Total Offense 465.8 yds/game (18th)
Third Downs 40.74 percent (53rd)
Red-Zone Efficiency 91.43percent (12th)
TDs in Red Zone 65.71 percent (41st)
While the Buckeyes have been able to put points up at ease, they’ve struggled scoring six in the red zone and converting on third downs. They have also struggled to consistently run the ball, especially from the running back position.
However, with a talent like Pryor controlling the offense, weaknesses tend to be masked.
Offensive Grade: B to B+
Ohio State’s defense is a perennial force. It’s always one of the best defenses in the country.
In fact, in four out of the last five seasons, the Buckeyes have yielded a top five defense. The only year they didn’t have one was in 2008, when their defense ranked sixth.
This year’s defense is on pace to be in the top five, yet again, at season’s end.
The 2010 “Silver Bullets” have given up only 81 points in six games. Technically, the defense has given up only 60 points because Ohio State’s special teams are directly responsible for three touchdowns, but statistically it goes against the defense.
The Buckeyes have forced 17 turnovers and are giving up only 12.3 first downs per game. Both are second-best in the nation.
In six games, Ohio State’s defense has given up only three plays of 30 or more yards, also ranked second nationally.
Major defensive statistics:
Scoring 13.5 pts/game (sixth)
Rushing 78 yds/game (fourth)
Passing 158.3 yds/game (13th)
Total Defense 236.3 yds/game (third)
Turnovers 17 (second)
Sacks 1.33 sacks/game (92nd)
No doubt the Buckeyes have one of the better defenses in the nation; just take a look at what they did to Indiana’s senior quarterback Ben Chappell. This season Chappell is seventh in completion percentage, 70.2 percent, and ninth in passing yards per game, 295.2. He’s no slouch.
Against Ohio State, he threw for 106 yards and completed a little over 60 percent of his passes. He also threw two interceptions. Before facing the Buckeyes, he had thrown only one pick all year.
Ohio State’s defense could go toe-to-toe with any other defense in the nation, but because of their inability to get pressure on the quarterback, their grade suffers.
Defensive grade: A-
Ohio State’s special teams have been scrutinized throughout the season. They have given up a kickoff return for a touchdown, a punt return for a touchdown and a blocked field goal return for a touchdown.
Each week it seems like there is a different problem. One week it is the return coverage, the next week it is the punt protection and the following week it is punting in general.
Although as a whole the Ohio State special teams have been criticized, one bright spot has been kicker Devin Barclay. He has made 11 of 12 field goal attempts and is a perfect 32-of-32 on PATs.
Major special teams statistics:
Kickoffs 62.71 yds/kickoff (77th)
Punting 39.1 yds/punt (92nd)
Net Punting 33.0 yds/punt (106th)
Punt Returns 7.1 yds/return (81st)
Kickoff Returns 26.8 yds/return (10th)
Opp. Punt Returns 16.13 yds/return (107th)
Opp. Kickoff Returns 21.62 yds/return (64th)
Returners Jordan Hall and Jaamal Berry have been doing a good job on kickoff returns. It seems like they are so close to breaking one; all they need is to make one more guy miss.
The Buckeyes’ return coverage has been awful through six games. It is definitely improving, as they have not had a big return the last two weeks, but work still needs to be done.
At times, Ben Buchanan’s punts have been atrocious, and Drew Basil’s kickoffs are not going as deep as past Ohio State kickoffs have. Former kickoff specialist Aaron Pettrey had 57 touchbacks in his career. Basil has only five.
Until the special teams, as a whole, become a strength and not a weakness, all the good things such as Hall and Berry’s returns and Barclay’s kicking are brought down.
Special Teams: C+
It does not get much better than Jim Tressel. He is 100-21 in his career at Ohio State and has been to seven BCS bowls.
This season he has had to deal with the fact that his special teams, normally a strength on his teams, are a weakness. Overall, he has done a good job at addressing it. While they are not perfect, the Buckeyes’ special teams are getting better week by week.
An area where Tressel and his coaching staff have absolutely excelled is in the development of Terrelle Pryor, who has made huge strides as a passer from last season.
A year ago, Pryor completed only 56 percent of his passes and had a quarterback rating of 128.81. He threw 11 interceptions and had a ton of “no, no, no” moments.
This season, Pryor is near the top of the Heisman list and tearing through Ohio State’s record books, and the coaching staff has a lot to do with it.
One area of concern with the coaching staff is the inability to produce any kind of consistent running game. The Buckeyes have always been a team capable of running the ball when everyone in the stadium knows that they are running.
This year, they have not been able to do that on a consistent basis. Woody Hayes must be rolling in his grave. What happened to three yards and a cloud of dust?
If the coaching staff cannot figure out a solution to the problem, it could be the downfall of Ohio State. With the talent and size that the Buckeyes have, they should be able to run with no problem, but this year that has not been the case.
Ohio State is the No. 1 team in the country with a top 10 scoring offense and a top 10 scoring defense. The Buckeyes have one of the best coaches in all of college football and a Heisman Trophy candidate leading them. It is no surprise they are 6-0.
There are only two major areas of concerns for them: special teams and running the ball.
The problem is that “Tressel-ball” requires both of those phases of the game to be strengths and not weaknesses.
Ohio State is almost a complete team, but they are not there yet. Therefore, their overall grade suffers a little.
Overall: B+ to A-