Thursday, June 01, 2006

Nothing good happens during prime-time football

As you've probably heard, the Iowa and Texas games this year are night games. As this Plain Dealer article points out, this is generally viewed as a bad thing. Ohio State's last four night games have all been losses, against Wisconsin, Northwestern, Texas, and Penn State. I guarantee you'll hear about this in the week leading up to the Texas game (I predict a brief piece on Gameday with interviews of Buckeye players, followed by Herbstreit saying the time doesn't matter and Corso sputtering through a retort that it does matter, probably mispronouncing a name along the way).

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Thomas Edison and his light bulb: indirectly causing Buckeye defeats?

But do night games really cause a problem for OSU? Probably not. Let's look at the games one by one.

The result of the Wisconsin game was one everyone knew would come eventually. The offense that had been just good enough wasn't good enough for a game, and the defense made one mistake that cost them the game. If this game was played ten times, OSU probably wins 5 or 6 of them. I don't think you can chalk this loss up to the start time.

The Northwestern game seems to be great evidence for the "OSU sucks in night games" argument. It certainly looks like the Buckeyes should have blown the Wildcats out of the water. But then, Ohio State's offense was still anemic, and the defense tended to give up short gains while waiting for the opponents to get greedy or make a mistake, which played right into the hands of the Northwestern offense. These facts, combined with the Buckeyes probably overlooking an opponent, led to a loss that could have come at any time.

The Texas game was lost because of the quarterbacks. OSU played two of them, meaning they basically had none. Texas, meanwhile, played one, and he just happened to be the best player in college football. If Ohio State had stuck with one QB, I think they might have won that game. I must, however, acknowledge the very real possibility that the better team won that game. Either way, the night had nothing to do with this one.

Penn State might be a different story. This was a big game, especially for Penn State, and the Nittany Lions fans had a lot of time to get excited and loud for this one. It's tough to argue that the Buckeyes weren't rattled by the night game crowd. However, I think the bigger issue was that the offense in general, and Troy Smith in particular, hadn't regained the form they had at the end of the previous season. The defense held Penn State to 17 points, and the offense could only muster ten. With an offense that bad, you'll lose whenever you play.

That said, I'm still worried about the whole night-game thing. Here we have four examples of games that were essentially coin-flips or better, and Ohio State lost all four. It certainly looks like the team has a problem with night games. I don't think Tressel has a problem preparing for night games, but the more the evidence mounts, the tougher it is to explain it away. If Tressel wins both of the night games this season, all the talk of "Ohio State can't win at night" will disappear. If not, it will get louder than ever.

1 comment:

O-FACE said...

I don't know why people are making a big deal out the night games. We had probably one of the worst offensive spells the last 3 years. Finally Tress took the foot off the neck of the offensive coordinator. Seriousily, he lost those games playing so conservative and letting those teams hang around plus we had some marginal tailbacks and offensive linemen during that time period....