From signing JaMarcus Russell to a $61 million contract to using a third-round pick on Terrelle Pryor, former Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis made plenty of questionable decisions while running his franchise. Despite all of his mistakes, the Ohio State football team would be wise to adopt his personal motto: “Just win, baby.”
Unlike in past years, where style points could’ve meant the difference between playing in a national championship game or just a regular bowl game, this Buckeye squad doesn’t need to worry about doing anything more than making sure that at the end of each game, they’ve scored more points than their opponents.
Assuming (and you know what happens when we assume) that a Penn State squad that now finds itself embroiled in controversy will lose to either Nebraska or Wisconsin in the coming weeks, three more wins by the Buckeyes means they’ll find themselves in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game. Considering the trouble that this program has found itself over the course of the past 11 months, it would be hard to consider just playing for the right to go to the Rose Bowl in January as anything less than a success.
And that’s why the Buckeyes’ closer-than-expected 34-20 win shouldn’t be considered anything less than a success, either. Sure, the Hoosiers jumped out to a 10-point lead and hung around until the middle of the fourth quarter, but margin of victory and not covering the spread isn’t what determines who will be representing the Big Ten Leaders division on Dec. 3 in Indianapolis — winning is.
As we’ve seen in this season of surprises for OSU, there’s been little-to-no carry over in each Buckeye performance from week-to-week or even from half-to-half. The Buckeyes have followed up a dominant win over Akron with a near-loss to Toledo, and they followed their best offensive half of the season against Nebraska with one of the biggest collapses in program history.
Just like last week’s OSU victory over Wisconsin didn’t mean that the Buckeyes were guaranteed to win the remaining games on their schedule, Saturday’s lackluster showing against the lowly Hoosiers doesn’t mean that OSU will find itself in trouble when it faces more respected opponents such as Penn State and Michigan. Anybody who expects to see both the Buckeyes players and their coaching staff completely replicate their respective performances from week-to-week clearly hasn’t been paying much attention to the 2011 Buckeyes.
What has been carrying over lately, however, is the improving play of freshman quarterback Braxton Miller.
For the second consecutive week, Miller carried the offense on his back, as he rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns — including a key 20-yard touchdown run on a third down in the fourth quarter to help seal the game. Miller might not be as fast as Pryor was when he was OSU’s quarterback, but he’s currently running with an elusiveness that hasn’t been seen in Scarlet and Gray since Chris “Beanie” Wells was running the ball in 2008.
Whether Miller can be as effective with his arm as he has been with his feet remains to be seen and a lot of that has to do with an OSU rushing attack that gained 346 yards on the ground. But as long as the Buckeyes keep putting up “W’s,” that’s all that matters.