The Cavs are rolling, and JR Smith is having the time of his life.
How things have changed. Several weeks ago we had guys like Colin Cowherd stating that Kevin Love would be leaving Cleveland, that Lebron James had to be reconsidering his decision to return and that David Blatt was a dead man walking.
Bill Simmons seemed to lose all perspective as he questioned whether Lebron was still the same player and whether this team could ever play together. He freely took shots at Love and Kyrie Irving. With Love there were obvious struggles (hardly surprising) while with Irving he was completely ignoring how Kyrie had embraced playing defense along with Blatt’s leadership.
Smart analysts, however, looked at the trades made by David Griffin and realized that they had made some very smart adjustments.
It was a wild game, and the Buckeyes made things interesting with four frustrating turnovers, but Ohio State steamrolled Oregon on its way to the National Championship in the inaugural College Football Playoff season. With a day to let things sink in, here are some observations:
- Many will justifiably cite Ezekiel Elliott and the offensive line when explaining the physical domination Ohio State inflicted on Oregon, but as Urban Meyer stressed after the game the defense was just as impressive. The bottom line is that Oregon hadn’t faced a defense as this physical and fast all year long. We heard a ton about Oregon’s tempo, but this team relies on yards after the catch along with Marcus Mariota using his speed along with his arm. But with Ohio State’s front seven along with defensive backs who can tackle, Oregon wasn’t able to get those easy yards after catch that they got against less talented teams. We’ve seen Ohio State’s defense grow before our eyes, and youngsters like Joey Bosa and Darron Lee were too much for Oregon. The result was an Oregon offense that was frustrated all night long. They couldn’t gain much yardage on first down, and thus ended up with a miserable third down conversation rate as they rarely had third and short. Also, Mariota wasn’t able to break any long runs, and he often got pummeled when he tried to run.
With last night’s 42-35 stunning win over Alabama, the Buckeyes pulled off one of those wins that shook up the balance of power in college football. Just like 12 years ago when Jim Tressel’s Buckeyes ended Miami’s dynasty (they haven’t been the same since!), this year’s squad led by Urban Meyer finally helped knock the mighty SEC off its pedestal.
Here are some observations from the game:
- Finally, we have a real playoff that lets these teams settle the argument on the field. Where are all the BCS defenders today? Had we had the same system this year, we’d be stuck with an overrated Alabama team facing off against Jameis Winston and a very fortunate Florida State team. With the playoff, both Oregon and Ohio State got the opportunity to show that rankings can’t be a substitute for actual games. Eight teams would be even better, as I felt both TCU and Baylor were deserving of a shot as well, but four is much better than two!
- I have to admit I thought the Buckeyes could be done when they fell behind 21-6. The momentum was clearly with Alabama, and the Buckeyes had made critical mistakes in not scoring in the red zone and then coughing up turnovers. But the Buckeyes were moving the ball, and fortunately Cardale Jones came up big right when the Buckeyes needed him. Ohio State was facing a third and long deep in their own end, when Jones stepped up with a great throw for s first down conversion. Once the passing game opened up, then Alabama couldn’t stop the Buckeye offense and everything changed.
- For all the talk about Cardale Jones being a third-string quarterback, he’s frankly one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country with his size and golden arm. The Buckeyes were underdogs for good reason, as Jones’s inexperience was an issue up against Nick Saban’s defense. But smart analysts pointed out that his arm could change things against an Alabama secondary that was vulnerable to big plays. And that’s exactly what happened. Once Alabama had to contend with Cardale Jones throwing downfield, then they had their hands full as Ohio State was also running the ball well with Ezekiel Elliott. Urban Meyer deserves a ton of credit for coaching up Jones and getting him ready, but this Tressel recruit has an NFL-caliber arm, and with him playing like this the Buckeyes may be even better than they were with J.T. Barrett.
- The biggest revelation of the evening may have been the Ohio State defense, with Darron Lee leading the way. The young linebacker was everywhere last night, and that’s the speed that really mattered last night. The Buckeyes are loaded with athletes on defense. They’re young as hell and they’re coming off a disastrous 2013 season when they couldn’t stop anybody, but not the kids are growing up and they came up big last night. It’s this talent on defense that gives Ohio State a real shot against the great Marcus Mariota and the Oregon offense. We know the Buckeyes can score, but they may have the best defense Oregon will have faced all year. That one should be fun!
- Obviously, the Ohio State offensive line played a huge role as well. Those kids are also young, and they were overmatched early in the season. But they grew up quickly and last night they dominated against mighty Alabama.
- Finally, let’s not kid ourlseves – the SEC isn’t going anywhere. Despite their miserable performance during this bowl season, the SEC is still loaded with talent and great coaches. But last night’s win for the Buckeyes coupled with an SEC West meltdown will finally end some of the ridiculous hype where you had idiots like Skip Bayless saying four SEC West teams belonged in the playoff. Urban Meyer is leading a resurgent Big Ten that had huge wins by Wisconsin and Michigan State, and Meyer made sure his players knew about those games heading into last night. With Ohio State’s talent and youth, the Buckeyes will be the team getting the benefit of the doubt in the near future, regardless of what happens against Oregon.
Here’s J.J. Watt sporting some Ohio State gear after he lost a bet with John Simon. Watt destroyed the Buckeyes when he played for Wisconsin and the Badgers sure could have used him last Saturday as the Buckeyes rolled his former team on their way to the College Football Playoff. Nice!