OSU off to great start, but wait for November

Rob Oller
Ohio State coach Ryan Day leads the team onto the field for Saturday night's game against Michigan State. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

My old man offered a younger me valuable advice — he called it the three-month rule — which I have passed on to the flesh of my flesh. It goes like this: You don’t truly know what you have until 12 weeks into the situation.

Three months into a job. Into a relationship. Into any life environment that has ups and downs. It takes that long to reveal the real nature of the layout, so don’t make major decisions or assumptions based on emotion. Allow negative feelings a chance to fade. Don’t get caught up in overly positive vibes, either. Wait for the adrenaline to run out.

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Pops adopted his three-month rule during World War II, when after three days aboard a troop ship bound for the Philippines his stomach requested a burial at sea. Three weeks later, on dry land, he thought he might just survive after all. Three months after that a tanned and shirtless teen was smiling in a black and white photograph, one arm draped around an Army buddy.

“You must practice patience,” he said. And if you knew the man, he needed to practice it a lot.

I think of those words every fall when wondering what Ohio State has going for it. And going against it. It takes three months to know for sure, which means late November, about the time of the Michigan game. Any sooner and speculation enters the equation.

All of that is my way of saying the Buckeyes remain a work in progress. They look nearly unbeatable, but it’s only six weeks into a season that still has Pacific-size swells to navigate.

Given that, what follows is a synopsis of the situation at the halfway mark. My old man would not approve, of course, pointing out the foolishness of predicting the winner of a 400-meter race at the 200-meter mark. To salve his disdain, consider this a midseason snapshot more than the rolling of final credits.

What can be said with certainty is Ohio State has handled its business better than most anticipated. Not that most fans thought the Buckeyes would have a loss by now — 6-0 was expected — but they have shown nary a chink in their scarlet and gray (and black, to my chagrin) armor.

Where are the weaknesses? Maybe the linebackers are not exceptional at pass coverage? Michigan State found some success with crossing patterns on Saturday night. Maybe sophomore quarterback Justin Fields isn’t perfect as a passer? He threw his first interception of the season against the Spartans. Maybe the tackling still has room to grow? It took a small step backward against Sparty.

But those possible messes are like knocking a Kleenex box off the grocery shelf. Easy to clean up.

As far back as the spring, Ohio State coach Ryan Day segmented the season into the first six games followed by the current off week, and then the last six regular-season games. The goal was for a young team, led by a first-year starting quarterback in Fields, to mature enough over the first six weeks that the Buckeyes would come out of the gate rockin’ and rollin’ after resting in Week Seven.

How has it gone?

“The chemistry of the team is very good,” Day said after OSU’s 34-10 win against Michigan State. “The leadership is strong. We’re playing tough. This is a perfect opportunity to sit back and look at these six games, evaluate where we’ve gone, where we are and where we’re headed. I think we can learn a ton from this game, though.”

What I learned is that the Buckeyes manhandled a real Big Ten team in Michigan State. That Wisconsin poses a test in two weeks and that Penn State might be the toughest regular-season opponent remaining.

Get back to me at Thanksgiving, but for now I’ll wager the Buckeyes finish their final 200 meters in first place.


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