Most games, especially those between well-matched opponents, have several keys to victory.
While I don't want to oversimplify this Saturday's important contest at Iowa City against the Hawkeyes, I really believe that there is one component that is most important for the Buckeyes: getting off to a good start!
It has been well documented that Ohio State has not been fast out of the gates in the "bigger" games this season, having trailed in the first half against Miami, Illinois, Wisconsin and Penn State, with the latter two being large margins.
Why this year's squad seems to be a sluggish starter is anyone's guess, but it could spell doom this week if not fixed.
On the other hand, Ohio State has been a very strong second half team, outscoring opponents 159-46 in the final two quarters. That includes some games that were sealed at halftime, when Jim Tressel took his foot off the accelerator, at least offensively, late in the game.
While they have scored a lot more points in the first half, they have also surrendered a tremendous number more in the first two quarters (90-46).
Obviously a big reason for this late game success has been the fact that Ohio State's offensive line tends to wear teams down. Apparently the coaches have also done a pretty good job of making adjustments, which hasn't always been Tressel's strength in past seasons. For whatever reason the team comes out breathing fire in the second half, and they have given up a meager 12 third quarter points all season!
Of course, the $64,000 question is how to get the Buckeyes off to a good start this Saturday. I don't claim to have any answers, but I might try some of the following:
1) Have Tress give his inspirational halftime speech before the game.
2) Fly in Usain Bolt to give some tips on getting out of the blocks quickly.
3) Get the team out of bed earlier on Saturday so they are wide awake by game time.
4) Decide to kick the ball off if we win the coin toss to allow the offense more time to get mentally prepared.
5) Convince the team they are down 14-0 before they leave the locker room.
6) Consult Dr. Lou for some psychological observation as well as a motivational pep talk.
Seriously, I don't know what the deal is with starting slowly in big games, but it has seemed to curse the 2010 OSU squad. It has happened when they have been scheduled for the early game (Illinois), the mid-afternoon kickoff (Penn State) and the night game (Wisconsin). It has occurred at home and on the road. Baffling indeed!
I am sure JT and the staff are trying to figure it out this week, and I, for one, hope they get to the bottom of it. Here's dreaming of a fast start in Iowa Saturday.