January 1, 2014

New Year's Resolutions: Ohio State edition

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COLUMBUS, Ohio-They don't need to vow to go to the gym more often, because they're already there for multiple hours a day.

They don't have to promise to eat better, because most of their meals are selected for them.

The two most popular New Year's resolutions don't really apply to the Ohio State football or men's basketball teams.

So what should the Buckeyes' hoops and gridiron gangs decide to do in 2014?

We made a list.

Football:

1. Star the new year off with a win. Urban Meyer's team lost for the first time under his reign in the Big Ten championship against Michigan State. A victory in the Orange Bowl against Clemson isn't vital to the future success of the program, but it will help. Next season's schedule doesn't include many teams that will likely be ranked. With college football switching to a playoff system in which four teams will be selected by a committee, the perception of a team's prowess is important. Losing another BCS game to a speedy team from the south isn't something the Buckeyes should be interested in doing.

2. Braxton Miller returns for his senior year. There's a sense around the Ohio State beat that Miller is gone for the NFL after the bowl game. That would be the wrong choice. Yes, Miller loses his offensive line and his best running back. And yes, he's already been in Meyer's system for two seasons. How much can he improve? Well, that's not really the point. Miller is probably, at best, a third-or-fourth round selection come April. And if Miller really still has a lot more in him, like he's told us, there's the potential there for him to be selected in the first round. Staying for his senior year could make that happen.

3. Ryan Shazier leaves for the NFL. Unlike Miller, Shazier has probably reached his ceiling in terms of where he could be drafted. Most scouts have him graded as a first or early-second round pick. That's good enough to leave, and it's not like Shazier has anything left to prove, invidually. The option to get his degree will always be there. The guaranteed money that comes with being a top pick in NFL Draft will not.

4. Develop the young defensive talent into on-field talent. Ohio State has recruited as well on the defensive side of the ball as anyone in the country. No school, according to Rivals.com, has more four-stars on defense than the Buckeyes. For Ohio State to be successful in 2014, those young, talented defensive players need to turn into on-the-field stars. Vonn Bell, Mike Mitchell, Cam Burrows, etc. all have the potential to be great players.

Basketball:

1. LaQuinton Ross turns into a consistent go-to player. Ross scored 25 points in the victory against Purdue on Tuesday, so maybe this is a resolution that is already bound to be done. But Ross needs to score 17-plus points on a more consistent basis for me to believe it. As great as Ohio State's defense has been, for the Buckeyes to be successful against elite competition, someone has to score the ball down the stretch in close games. Last year, that was Deshaun Thomas. This year it's been no one regularly. Lenzelle Smith Jr. has led the team in scoring, but Ross is the best option to take over Thomas' role. He needs to do that in 2014.

2. Find another scorer off the bench. Sam Thompson has been as good of a sixth man as any team could ask for this season. But outside of Thompson, no one on the Buckeyes' bench has been very reliable. Amedeo Della Valle is a good shooter, Trey McDonald plays good defense, but neither can be asked to do what Ohio State needs. They need another scorer off the bench. And Marc Loving seems like he could be that guy. The freshman scored eight points in the win against Purdue, including two three-pointers.

3. Become the team Thad Matta's squads usually turn into. Perhaps Matta's best trait as a coach is that his teams always seem to play their best come March. So far this season, Ohio State has played as well as anyone could have predicted. They're undefeated, ranked in the top-five in the country. But there is still room for improvement. And the younger, potentially more talented teams in the Big Ten, and the country, will certainly improve from now until tournament time. Ohio State needs to continue to get better if it is going to compete for a conference, and potentially national, championship.

So that's what Ohio State's football and men's basketball teams need to do in 2014.

Now, put down that chicken wing, and go hit the gym. You're not an Ohio State athlete.




 

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