November 10, 2010

A November to remember?

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - There may be something to the old saying of 'It is not how you start but how you finish'. Of course Ohio State has started seasons well, played well in the middle of seasons and of course finished up strong since Jim Tressel took the reins of the Ohio State program ten seasons ago. But there seems to be some sort of extra magic that comes out when the calendar rolls from October to November.

The Buckeyes are 26-4 in the month of November and have only lost one game since 2005 after dropping a 28-21 game to Illinois. Only three schools are in the same ballpark with the Buckeyes when it comes to finishing strong in the final month of the season. Is there any sort of extra emphasis put on the stretch run?

"Obviously the games mean more at this time of year," wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said. "It is not just one specific thing that is going to make the difference but there is just an understanding of how much more it is going to take."

But could a lot of this be attributed to how the style of play changes for the Buckeyes in the final month? The Buckeyes have rushed for 200 yards or more eight of the last nine November games with the only exception being that loss to the Illini. During the last three seasons the percentage of yards gained on the ground compared to total yards as steadily increased going from 63-percent in 2007 to 65-percent in 2008 and then topping out at 71-percent in 2009.

The 2010 season has had a different complexion to it however, at least when it comes to how the offense has been run. The Buckeyes are averaging 32 more yards a game via the air than on the ground. In 2009 the Buckeyes averaged 21 more yards on the ground. It was 42 yards in 2008 and less than a yard in 2007.

Run or pass this team is ready to attack the final three opponents of the season with whatever it takes to try and gain no less than a share of a 6th Big Ten championship and then hope for the best when it comes to the BCS.

"I think it all just depends on what they throw at us," offensive guard Justin Boren said. "We have to do what we have to do and our coaches are going to call the plays and we just have to worry about blocking what is called. It is nice to run for 200-300 yards a game but it is not something we have to do to win ball games. We just have to be effective with whatever we are doing, running or passing."

For the sake of the argument though when it comes to play calling you have to take into account that the weather around Labor Day and the weather around Thanksgiving can be dramatically different in the Midwest, the heart of Big Ten play. The Buckeyes have played in wind tunnels, games with a consistent mist in the air and games that would make the most hearty of souls look to add another layer of clothing during that timeframe.

"You get to November the weather gets colder and things like that," running back Brandon Saine said. "But also the games get harder and they start to mean a lot more because it is getting towards the end of the year. We only have three games left and you have to realize other teams are seeing their seasons winding down and they want to give it their all too."

And while Terrelle Pryor may have a robust quarterback rating of 163.5 during the Big Ten season people should not forget that the Buckeyes have always had an affinity to run the ball and Tressel is a stickler for protecting the ball and Ohio State is tied for second in all of Division I-FBS with two fumbles lost.

"We've never been bashful about saying, if you do well with the run game, you've got a chance to win," Tressel said.


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