Andy Gottesman / Lantern photographer
Imagine that a year ago, a stranger hopped in a time machine and came back to tell you about Ohio State’s 2011 season-opening game against Akron.
The stranger would warn you that the Buckeyes’ first touchdown of the season would come on an improvised 15-yard run from the quarterback. But it won’t be Terrelle Pryor or highly-touted freshman Braxton Miller scampering into the end zone. Instead, it’d be 25-year-old, 230-pound redshirt senior Joe Bauserman scoring on the broken play.
You’d probably tell that stranger he was crazy, right?
Now imagine that the same stranger told you that an OSU tight end would catch the next score for the Buckeyes. And then the next score. And then the one after that.
You would have taken this as more crazy talk, right? Not only does the OSU offense utilize the tight end position about as often as the Kardashian family exercises its right to privacy, but no Buckeye tight end has ever caught three touchdowns in a single game.
The outrageous claims would keep on coming from the stranger. He would tell you tales of the Buckeyes using the screen pass and play-action fakes. He would tell you that at one point, OSU will go for it on fourth down, and after the game its head coach would be accused of poor sportsmanship by the opposing coach.
You wouldn’t have believed a word.
But you also wouldn’t have believed that the Buckeyes were months away from being the center of the college football world for all of the wrong reasons, or that months worth of scandals would lead to the ousting of former OSU coach Jim Tressel.
But that’s exactly where we are.
Under Tressel, the Buckeyes were the most predictable program in the nation. You not only knew how they’d do against each opponent, but you knew how they’d do it: With special teams and solid defense.
Now? Not so much.
With a variety of players suspended for part of the 2011 season and a new coach with no previous head coaching experience, both the outcomes and the means of achieving these outcomes are far less predictable than they had been in any season under Tressel.
The Buckeyes’ 42-0 win over the Akron Zips on Saturday not only launched the Luke Fickell era at OSU, but it showcased aggressiveness and a modern style of college football that the Buckeyes had lacked for the past decade.
Heading into the 2011 season, the only thing anyone could agree on when it came to the Buckeyes was that you couldn’t agree on anything. Nobody could have predicted that Bauserman would take control of the quarterback battle or that tight end Jake Stoneburner would catch three touchdowns on Saturday.
But that’s exactly what you should be expecting from this year’s Buckeyes squad: The unexpected.