The Buckeyes, Five Games In

After five games, Ohio State is undefeated and ranks second in the polls.  If you had asked most Buckeye fans before the beginning of the season whether they would accept a 5-0 record and a pretty convincing win over Miami at this point in the campaign, virtually all would have said, “yes.”  Nevertheless, having watched the five victories, there is some unrest in Buckeye Nation.  You will hear people say that the win over Illinois was not as definitive as it should have been, that the running game is not up to par, that the special teams have been hair-raising at times, and that Ohio State coaches were too conservative in their play-calling on the road in Champaign. If your standard is perfection — and that is the case for many Ohio State faithful — you are not going to be satisfied no matter how many games are put in the win column.

What do I think?  I think Ohio State has a solid defense that is too banged up in the secondary for much comfort.  The injuries to the defensive backs are going to make it especially important for the OSU defensive line to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks and force hurried throws.  With the talent and depth on the defensive line, that assignment should be doable.  The team also looks strong against the run, and the tackling has been pretty good.  It is an opportunistic, athletic defense that has forced a lot of turnovers and made some big, game-turning plays.  Based on what we have seen so far, this appears to be a defense that should match up pretty well against the remaining teams on the conference schedule.

On offense, Terrelle Pryor has been wonderful, but his recent injury has left him gimped up and left the coaches wondering how to proceed.  Pryor’s pocket mobility, strength, and great running skills are huge parts of his game.  I expect Coach Tressel has suggested that his star quarterback be content with playing a more conventional game until he gets closer to 100 percent physically.  That means dropback passes, looking for quick routes from the receivers and running backs, and throwing the ball out of bounds if the coverage is good.  It also means heavy reliance on the running backs to carry the ball and move the chains.  I think Boom Herron will be the Buckeyes’ bread-and-butter back during this “rehabilitation” period because he clearly runs with more pop than Brandon Saine.  I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Jordan Hall and Jaamal Berry, both of whom have looked elusive and explosive in limited action, get more carries.

The special teams were better against Illinois than they were against Miami, but that isn’t saying a whole lot.  They remain an area of concern, and the concern applies to all facets of the special teams, from punting to kickoffs to field goal attempt blocking to kick coverage.  Improvement in this area is crucial because a special teams breakdown can allow an otherwise overmatched team to stay in the game.

I’m not one of those fans who expect perfection.  I’m more interested in seeing continuing improvement, and that is what I will be watching for in the next few games.


The Politics of Jogging

It seems to me that many of our country’s problems, from internet drama to political superultrapartisanship, come from people having too much energy and too little purpose in their lives. Without a constructive outlet to channel their energy into, they relieve their frustration by, for example, posting comments on the internet casting their political opponents as communist/fascist/Maoist/Nazi/dadaist devils.

Turn on the TV and, unless you are tuned to the Weather Channel, you will bear witness to America’s embarrassing hyperactivity disorder. All TV news stations have embraced the format of having talking heads yell at each other all day about irrelevant comments made by a shameless politicians. When the talking heads pause to take a breath, there is a “breaking news” ticker at the bottom of the scream – er, screen – to keep your adrenaline up. The non-news networks are no better, filling their programming schedules with low-content, high-drama reality TV.

Ideally, the internet would act as a forum for discussion outside the frenzied media, where people with different beliefs could exchange views with civility. If there’s somewhere like that on the internet, could you send me a link? Even at the more “intelligent” websites I visit, the posts that get the most interest are trivial but inflammatory ones that confirm the views of the website’s typical reader – for example, a report on Sarah Palin’s latest blunder. And that’s the “better” part of the internet. On most websites, the comments are often racist, sexist, and homophobic as well as grammatically incomprehensible.

While taking my daily jog yesterday, I started wondering if jogging might be the answer to America’s other energy problem.

I will testify to the fact that a daily jog releases stress and raises goodwill in a person. After a jog, I may look like I just crawled up from the depths of Hell in an old cross-country sweatshirt, but I am actually experiencing euphoria so intense that I have to calm myself down to keep from acting like a fool. If you need a favor from me, this is the time to ask. The euphoria ends after a few hours, but I remain unusually calm, happy, and generous. The excess energy that would otherwise be ricocheting off the walls of my skull was released during the jog.

A long jog is also good for getting away from the acid teat of the media for a while. This is one of the reasons I prefer jogging outside to working out in a gym – I can’t remember ever being in a gym without TVs on the walls. Jogging allows you to spend an hour or so with only your own thoughts, and maybe some of your favorite music. You come back from the jog with a more clearly defined sense of yourself and a better perspective on the world.

As you force yourself to keep up the habit and as you mark your progress, you learn to concentrate on self-improvement, which is something many people could benefit from in a time when we devote so much of our energy to criticizing and mocking others. This mission of self-improvement is the purpose so many people seem to be lacking today.

Could jogging really cut through the Gordian knot of religious, cultural, political, and socioeconomic factors that has made such a bickering mess of modern America? Probably not, but it wouldn’t hurt. At the very least, it would calm people down a little bit, giving a much-needed break to our ringing ears.