When it’s game time in Glendale and the fans have begun to make their way into the bleachers; music is playing over the loud speaker, the players are dressed in full pads in the locker room and Coach Meyer has addressed the team for the final time; which Ohio State will we see take the field? The dominant, virtually unbeatable juggernaut that played the school up north or the disengaged often confused Buckeyes that we saw, the week before, against Sparty? I have a great feeling that it will be the former and here’s why.
The Run Game
Zeke Elliott, who is arguably the best tailback in the country, leads the Buckeyes’ run offense with 1,672 yards and 19 touchdowns, this season. The last time we saw Zeke, he put on a clinic against our rivals, where he ran the ball thirty times for 214 yards. Surely, the Buckeyes will be leaning on Zeke to carry a heavy work load tomorrow as well. However E-Z-E isn’t the only work horse when it comes to running the ball for the Buckeyes. Notre Dame’s defense will put emphasis on stopping Zeke, inevitably allowing JT Barrett to run the ball a bunch from the zone read. Barrett was impressively effective runming the ball in OSU’s last game. He had nineteen carries for 139 yards and three touchdowns. This level of run efficiency is going to wear out Notre Dame’s 64th ranked run defense, if they aren’t prepared.
The silver bullets
The one facet of Ohio State, that hasn’t wavered all season, is its silver bullet defense. Game in and game out for the last three months, the bullets have shut down or shut out, almost every one that stepped in their path. Thanks to the exceptional work of our soon-to-be former Defensive Coordinator Chris Ash, the Buckeyes have gone from a mediocre pass defense in 2012, to a top ten secondary in college football, this season. Our growth in the secondary and at the linebacker position is a huge reason why Ohio State is second only to Wisconsin, in the entire country, when it comes to points allowed this season; and is ranked in the top ten in total defense.
There’s a chip on their shoulder
Of course we know that there were huge expectations for OSU this season. They were the unanimous number one ranked team at the beginning of the season. They were the early favorites to win, not only the Big Ten championship but the national championship. Yet, there hasn’t been a lack of interest from the Buckeyes leading up to the Fiesta Bowl. Raekwon McMillan said that he has worked harder in the practices leading up to the bowl game than any of the practices in the regular season. The Buckeyes have been loose yet focused. At every opportunity the players have denied talking about their own futures and have always shifted focus back to this game against Notre Dame.
Ohio State has one of the best defenses in college football as well as one of the best running offenses in college football. This is a hyperfocused and angry football team with a lot to prove. Ohio State is going to be extremely dangerous tomorrow, regardless of who they are playing. This game just happens to be against Notre Dame.