As the Big Ten media days kick off, talks center on the new Big Ten.
For the first time in a while, Ohio State is not the favorite to win the conference. In fact, they’re not even favored to win their division.
The media are in love with Nebraska, picking them to win the Big Ten. In the Leaders Division, they have the Buckeyes finishing second behind Wisconsin.
It’s hard to argue with the media’s pick. In the Buckeyes’ case, it’s easy to see them slipping several spots.
Ohio State’s program is undergoing a transition. In the course of one offseason, they saw Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor depart from the program. They lost their starting running back, wide receiver and offensive tackle for the first five games due to suspension.
Losing those key components makes it tough for any program to recover offensively. The fact Ohio State doesn’t have a proven starter at quarterback, will be using a very inexperienced wide receiving corps and doesn’t have time to implement a new offensive system further illustrates this.
Then again, this could also play to their advantage.
No one knows what type of offense Ohio State will roll out this season. I doubt they even know at this point. This means the Buckeyes will constantly try to determine what they have.
There’s only one way to do this, by experimenting.
This forces them to be creative. If the Buckeyes really want an accurate depiction of what they have, they’re not going to run between the tackles on first and second downs. They’re going to want to run timing routes with the new receivers, get the tight ends involved to take some of the pressure off the wideouts and evenly distribute the ball to the running backs to determine who should get the most carries. Now add to these four quarterbacks, each of whom brings something different to the table.
When you add all of these up, suddenly there are many factors in play.
Now picture what’s going through the minds of the defensive coordinators of Ohio State’s opponents, primarily their first four or five. They have no clue what the Buckeyes are going to throw at them. How can you prepare for an opponent who doesn’t even know what they have yet?
At least for the first part of the season, Ohio State’s uncertainty on offense could play in their favor. Granted, the trial and error process could result in some ugly football early, but their first two games afford them that luxury.
However, it also puts them in a position to do whatever they want. If they really want to find out which players work best, they need to try many different things. It doesn’t mean their offense is going to be complex; in fact, it doesn’t have to be. All it means is they must be willing to put their players in the best possible position to win, and in order to do that, they’re going to have to mix it up.
If they do, they may unleash a simple, yet unpredictable offensive style, which could be much more dangerous.
It’s clear Ohio State has many questions to answer on the offensive side of the ball; their opponents must answer these questions too. If the Buckeyes use this time to experiment with what they have, they could be unpredictable and throw off their first few opponents. This could help them build the momentum they need for the crucial stretch once conference play begins.
The transition could be ugly at first, but may end up providing them the same result: another Big Ten title.