Jan. 2
1 p.m.
ESPN2                              Ohio State vs Florida

Tyler Thomas, of Along The Olentangy, a blog devoted to Ohio State sports, answered some questions for us.



BS: The Buckeyes are used to BCS bowls. They finished 6-6, 3-5 in the Big Ten. Considering all the distractions, how would you rate this season overall and how would you assess Luke Fickell's job as interim head coach?

Tyler Thomas: It was a disappointing season, even considering all the distractions that precluded it.Fickell blundered many times, foremost of which was his decision to start Joe Bauserman to begin the season. Bauserman and Braxton Miller split time during fall camp—time that should have gone to developing Miller, Ohio State’s future. Fickell also had trouble with many in-game decisions, including time management and end-game strategy. He botched a few situations, but that was to be expected given his inexperienced as head coach. He should not have had to experience these errors at Ohio State, but at a MAC school.

I had the final record pegged at 8-4, so my disappointment was not as high as many others’, but it was still jarring to see Ohio State struggle so much. Fans had begun complaining about 10-2 records before Jim Tressel’s departure, and this was a good reminder that success should not be taken for granted, but savored like a good whiskey.


BS: Urban Meyer was recently hired as head coach. What's your take on the hiring?

Tyler Thomas: It was the best hire possible. Replacing Tressel was an almost impossible task, but Ohio State found a way to do it. Meyer’s achievements in the past are well known—two BCS Championships, four BCS victories, a Heisman Trophy winner—yet there are even more reasons to think highly of the hire. Meyer’s connections to Ohio State and the state of Ohio will help recruiting and alumni approval, and raise the odds that he’s here to stay.

The only question concerning Meyer is his health and long-term dedication to the job. These are legitimate concerns, but not pressing enough to warrant hiring someone else. He was the perfect candidate, and Ohio State hired him.


BS: Freshman QB Braxton Miller was the leading rusher and passer for the Buckeyes. What can you say about his season and who are his top weapons?

Tyler Thomas: Miller exceeded expectations—at least, my expectations—even with a straitjacket placed on his ability by the Ohio State coaching staff. He should have begun the season as the starter, but took over following the Miami debacle in week three. His performances were so-so until playing Nebraska, where the staff finally let him pass on first down. The offense opened like a flower blooming, and Ohio State jumped out to a big halftime lead before Miller’s injury sunk the second-half offense and the Buckeyes lost.

We saw similarly strong performances from him against Wisconsin and Michigan, and there’s no reason not to expect another strong performance in the Gator Bowl against Florida. His future is bright in the spread-option offense.


BS: The defense was still solid, giving up just under 21 points a game. What does this group have to do to be successful in the bowl game and who are the key players?

Tyler Thomas: Solid, and inconsistent. Against faster, more athletic offenses, the defense has struggled to keep up. Michigan and Nebraska had great success with their rushing quarterbacks, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw some Wildcat from Florida, since John Brantley is a statue.

Defensive end Johnny Simon is the best defensive player, and perhaps the best overall player, on the team, and he will have a big game against the Gators. Simon is most effective against pocket-passers like Brantley, and I expect him to be a constant pass-rushing force, especially with the Gators’ struggling offensive line.

It’s cliché, but Ohio State will need to stop the rush and force Brantley to beat them through the air. Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey are the biggest threats, and if they can be contained, so too can Florida’s offense.


BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?

Tyler Thomas: I’ll cheat and give two: Braxton Miller and Corey Brown. One could argue that Miller has already had his breakout games, but I sure wouldn’t turn down another. Wide receiver Corey Brown has been unfortunate in his time at Ohio State, playing a bit role with Terrelle Pryor at quarterback as a true freshman and then walking into this horrid offensive situation in 2011, where the Buckeyes had one of the worst passing games in the country. Brown has the ability, and I hope he can become a noteworthy player in his final two years here. The Buckeyes could use a true number one receiver after DeVier Posey graduates


Thanks a lot to Tyler Thomas. Check his work out at http://alongtheolentangy.com and follow @TheOlentangy .



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