Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Navy Was a Bad Choice

Ohio State Head Coach Jim Tressel says all the right things, and most of the time he and his program do the right things. But the decision to play Navy – one that may have come from the athletic department as much as Tressel himself – in the season opener did not create the ideal situation for the Buckeyes.

Obviously hindsight is 20/20 and it’s easy to second-guess after a 31-27 win, which was sealed with an interception return on a potential game-tying two-point conversion, but the problems with the Navy matchup started the day camp opened in Columbus – and could spell trouble come Saturday night.

Navy’s triple-option attack is a rarity in college football, much less the Big 10. It’s a running attack that can beat you up the middle, on the flank and every so often through the air, forcing your defensive ends into no-win commits as Navy churns up time and yards. Have the Midshipmen fared well against top-notch competition like Ohio State? No, but they can be dangerous and are far from a team that can be overlooked. They don’t have the same caliber of athletes that former coach Paul Johnson now has at Georgia Tech, but they have made six consecutive bowl games.

If we’re to take Tressel’s coach-speak at its word, then it’s safe to say that a good portion of camp was spent preparing for the Navy attack. While it’s easy to write the option off as a gimmicky offense, Navy runs it to perfection and can give teams trouble. Credit definitely goes to Ohio State for being willing to face them instead of a lesser team. The problem is that instead of preparing for a pro-style offense much like this week’s opponent USC and other conference opponents, the Buckeyes were worrying about their defenseive end taking the pitchman while the outside linebackers filled in on the back. While not necessarily a bad habit to get into, it’s probably a fair assessment to say that Matt Barkley won’t be running much option Saturday night.

Granted, with a month of preparation there was plenty of time to slip in scout sessions against USC’s offensive sets. Tressel runs plenty of pro sets of his own, despite his embrace of a spread-oriented offense, meaning intra-squad scrimmages could have seen some USC-type looks. We’d have to think though that someone as meticulous as Tressel didn’t throw too much USC out there during practice, keeping to the adage that you take it one game at a time.

So what should be taken from Navy’s near win on Saturday?

One can easily look at that game, in which Terrelle Pryor never looked better than decent, and say that Ohio State didn’t follow the adage. No matter the coach, it’s never going to be easy to get 18- and 19-year-olds to focus when you have that large Trojan horse looming in the distance. It would be wrong to sell Navy short though.

That was a tough Navy team, which has a new wrinkle to the triple option: a legitimate passing threat. Ricky Dobbs’ nine completions were nearly 20 percent of what the Mids had all of last season, and more than they had in any single game. Plus, it was against an Ohio State defense that is deep and talented in the trenches.

That’s the thing: Ohio State is a very good football team. The intangibles might have to go to the Buckeyes when looking ahead to Saturday night. They’ll have a home crowd geared up and ready to rattle the freshman Barkley, while their quarterback has nearly a full season under his belt – though his post-game comments about Michael Vick last week sure didn’t show it – and plenty of talent to boot. Their defense may not have the big names like last year, but there is definitely plenty of ability on the field.

In fact, a lot of signs might lead one to think that Ohio State can avenge last year’s embarrassment on Saturday night. It’s just hard not to wonder whether scheduling a team as unique as Navy for the opener was misguided. In the end what happens after 8 p.m. Saturday will decide the outcome, but a scheduling decision in the backrooms many moons ago may have dictated the Buckeyes’ preparation and put them a step behind.

We’ll see Saturday, but there had to have been a better option than to face Navy.

Ryan Travers is a senior in the College. He can be reached at Illegal Procedure appears in every Friday issue of Hoya Sports. “

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