An answer to Evan's (other) query
Not, not that one.
In case you don't remember, on the day after my birthday, Evan asked of me these questions three:
"1.) Can we officially remove the 'loyal reader/contributor' label from Todd?
2.) Which Ohio State offense was/is more frustrating to watch - 2002 or 2005?
Author's note: I contemplated limiting the comparison to the 2005 offense vs. 2002-without-Clarrett-in-the-line-up offense, but I decided against it. The offense was considerably more effective with Clarrett in the line-up, but I'll leave it to you to make or not make such a distinction as you see fit.
3.) Which Ohio State defense was/is better - 2002 or 2005?"
#1 I believe has been answered: We'd like to, but he shows up just often enough (approximately 1.5 times per month, I'd guess) that we have to still consider him a "reader/contributor."
(Upon further review, here are some more concrete stats:
Number of Todd posts in the last month: 5
Number of Todd posts in the previous 2 1/2 months: 5
So he's coming back, sort of. A little.)
(Also: While scrolling through old Todd posts, I came across this one, which it seems he had only designated as a "draft," and had subsequently forgotten about. It is a chronicling of his favorite Scooter moments, and a few other things. Being the conscientious poster I am, it has now been fully published for all to gawk at. Once again, link is here.)
So, onto the next two:
2.) I think the distinction Evan touched on does have to be made: the 2002 offense without Clarett was significantly more frustrating to watch than the 2005 version (especially now that the unit [huh] seems to be clicking a little better -- shit, even in the Michigan State game that got Evan so frustrated that he felt like making the post, the Bucks put up 394 yards on the Spartans, and since then OSU has put up over 40 in back-to-back road games). They struggled to score points and were bailed out by what was probably the best defense OSU has ever had (more on that later). Although I have to say, in response to something Dids said, that there was no shame in playing a tight game against Illinois in '02: it was a road game, a trap game (Michigan was the next week), and the Illini had turned on the burners and were playing very well late in the season, with Jon Beutjer, Brandon Lloyd, and the rest of the offense really clicking (people forget this, but this was the year after Illinois won the B10 title, and the only friggin' player they lost was Kurt Kittner -- they were the 2002 preseason pick to repeat by MANY prognosticators). In fact, they finished the season winning by 4 out of their last 5 (only loss was to OSU) and were coming off a 37-20 thrashing of Wisconsin up in Madison. No shame in letting that team play us close.
When comparing the '05 offense to the Clarett-included '02 offense, though, things get a little dicier. Clarett was a dominating college running back. He hit the hole hard, he had great vision and patience, and he was deceptively fast. When he was in games (and – and this is yooge – HEALTHY), the offense was completely different. The threat of Clarett busting one up the middle opened up play-action and gave the receivers more room to make plays on WR screens and the like. Everything looked better and more efficient. Better and more efficient than the ‘05 offense? Ugh. I guess I have to say ... no.
On the whole, this year’s offense has done an impressive job of moving the ball on every opponent we’ve played except Penn State. The only mitigating factor is the turnovers. This year’s team turns the ball over much more, and in more crucial situations, than their predecessors. In 14 games, the 2002 team turned the ball over a TOTAL of 17 times, finishing a so-magnificent-it’s-almost-stupid +13 on the season in turnover margin (more on that, you guessed it, later). Conversely, through a mere 8 games this year, the offense has turned the ball over 15 times, including 11 lost fumbles. So the question of "which offense was/is more frustrating to watch?" I think has to be answered thusly, from "most frustrating" to "least frustrating": 1.) 2002 without Clarett, 2.) 2005, 3.) 2002 with Clarett. Now, if you want to argue "effectiveness" or "worth" or something other than "frustration," that list might be different. But that’s my answer.
3.) About the defense: it is my personal opinion that the 2002 defense was the best in OSU history. I don’t know how many of them would make the two-deep on a "best individual defenders in OSU history" roster, but as a whole, it’s difficult-to-impossible to find a unit that stood up to so much adversity and so many good offensive teams, and was still able to truly dominate. Best the question at hand is to compare the ‘02 defense with the ‘05 edition of the Silver Bullets, so ... I’ma gonna do that.
DL: Here’s where I think the biggest difference is, and it’s probably the biggest reason I think the ‘02 D was superior. I love this year’s starters. I really do. But Darrion Scott, Kenny Peterson, Tim Anderson, and Will Smith, with Simon Fraser and David Thompson as the most significant subs ... I mean, that’s a Murderer’s Row. They dominated to the point of legitimately changing games; their dominating performance against the vaunted Miami OL was the single-biggest reason we won that game. Quite frankly, you can’t say enough about that group. So I’m not going to try.
LBs: Yes, this year’s group is probably the best in OSU history. They’re fantastic in all phases. Again, enough can’t be said to do them justice. But they aren’t so much better than the ‘02 LBs that they can overcome comparative deficiencies elsewhere. If given the choice between taking Hawk, Schlegel, and Carpenter or Grant, Wilhelm, and Reynolds, I would take the former. But I would have to think longer about that than I would if given the same Sophie’s Choice between the two DLs. And yes, some of this may be attributable to my semi-unnatural man-love for Grant and Wilhelm. I don’t care. Those guys were AWESOME.
DBs: Ashton Youboty is good, but he’s no Chris Gamble (or, I should say, no MOTIVATED Chris Gamble. Because it’s pretty common knowledge that Gamble dogged it the entire 2003 season), and, despite Dustin Fox’s flaws, we haven’t had a 2nd corner step up and be as solid as he was in ‘02. Malcolm Jenkins may get there, but we haven’t seen enough yet. Similarly, Salley and Whitner are rock-solid, but can they honestly compare favorably with the dynamite safety tandem of Mike Doss and Donnie Nickles? They come close, maybe even REALLY close, but not quite. Throw in Will Allen as the nickel man and, quite frankly, it’s a race that was competitive, but fairly easily won by ‘02.
OVERALL: You can’t argue with how clutch the ‘02 defense was. Those guys had balls of friggin’ steel. Would Texas have scored on those guys with under 5:00 left? No way. That team made stops and made plays at a wildly frequent rate, despite being routinely put in more uncomfortable positions than Shannen Doherty in the back of a Volkswagen. Plus, there’s the turnovers. In those 14 games, they had 30 takeaways. That’s simply obscene, and it helped the offense out immeasurably (actually, it’s probably measurable, but I don’t feel like doing it). I have to go with the ‘02 defense ahead of ‘05. And it was difficult, though not as much as I thought it would be.
(Sidenote: this isn’t even counting special teams in any of these analyses. Huston and Trapasso are good, maybe even very good. But Andy Groom and Mike Nugent were flat-out gamechangers. I’ve never seen a punter have more of a concrete impact on games than The Boom. Case in point: the ‘02 PSU game, when the O was pinned inside the 5 in the fourth quarter, and The Boom bailed everyone out with a punt that traveled 60 yards in the air, with enough hangtime that the coverage team got down there and the returner had to fair-catch it. The man was unreal. And really, nothing needs to be said about The Nuge. He was, was ... NUUUGE!!)