Sugar Bowl X-Factor: Defense by Mike Scharf

There’s no denying Ohio State’s defense had a slow start to this 2020 season, which was predicted due to seven starters taking their talents to the NFL which included two of the top three picks in Chase Young, and Jeff Okudah.

Along with Okudah and Young, the Buckeyes lost Damon Arnette, Jordan Fuller, Malik Harrison, Jashon Cornell and Davon Hamilton to the 2020 NFL draft.

The loss of stars and slow start to the season didn’t stop the Silver Bullets from picking up rhythm and improving as a team through the abnormal 2020-COVID season.

The following is currently the Buckeyes’ defensive stats:

  • Total Defense: 34
  • Scoring Defense: 24 (Tied)
  • Passing Defense: 104
  • Rush Defense: 7
  • 3rd Down Defense: 19
  • Sacks Per Game: 26 (Tied)

In order for a Sugar Bowl victory and appearance in the 2020 National Championship, the Buckeyes defense needs to step up and execute the game plan for Trevor Lawrence’s high-powered Clemson Tiger offense.

Here are a few X-Factors defensively that could lead the Buckeyes’ to victory come Friday night.

Jonathan Cooper – Tommy Togiai – Haskell Garrett (Defensive Line)

Chase Young is dominating on Sunday’s for the Washington Football team and early on the Buckeyes faced problems replacing his 16.5 sacks from last season. That being said, the front seven has been dominate of late and the strong unit for the Buckeyes. (As noted above, they are 7th in the country in rush defense.) The experience and leadership of fifth-year senior Jonathan Cooper has been enormous all season long and will continue into championship season. Cooper has 20 tackles and 2.5 sacks on the season. The dominate-duo of the interior between Tommy Togiai and Haskell Garrett has been the biggest x-factor for the Buckeyes all season long and will cause disruption in the Tigers backfield. Togiai and Garrett have a combined 36 tackles and 5 sacks.

Pete Werner – Tuf Borland (Linebackers)

The Buckeye linebackers are a veteran group led by seniors Pete Werner and Tuf Borland. Werner leads the team with 37 tackles, 2.5 TFL, and one sack. Borland is second with 26 tackles, and 1.5 sacks. Both Werner and Borland are a big reason why the Buckeyes have played well against the run this season. These two, along with Baron Browning face their biggest test of the season Friday with the read option of Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne. Lawrence and Etienne have a combined rushing of 1,103 yards and 20 touchdowns.

The Buckeyes veteran group of linebackers are led by seniors Pete Warner and Tuf Borland. Warner leads the team with 37 tackles along with 2.5 TFL and one sack. Borland is second on the team with 26 tackles along with 1.5 sacks. These two, along with Baron Browning are a substantial reason why the team has played so well against the run this season. The biggest test will be this Friday as they look to contain the read option between Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne. Lawrence and Etienne have a combined rushing of 1,103 yards and 20 touchdowns this season for the Tigers.,,

Shaun Wade (Secondary)

This is a redemation game for Shaun Wade. Although, the talk of this year’s Buckeyes has been the secondary and the struggles they faced at times. The starting corners from last year’s defense were Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette as they were both drafted in the first round last April. Along with those two the Buckeyes lost, Jordan Fuller, who was a dominate force at safety for last year’s secondary. The struggles have been apparent for the secondary, but the Buckeyes have picked it up led behind the fifth-year senior and future first-rounder Shaun Wade. Wade will be coming into this game LASER focused as he is looking for his redemption against the Tigers. Last year, during the Fiesta Bowl, Wade was called for a controversial targeting call on Trevor Lawrence which led to be the turning point of the game in favor for the Tigers. Wade has 20 tackles and 2 interceptions on the season.

Final Analysis

Wade won’t be the only one looking for redemption. This Buckeye defense, along with these X-Factors will come in determined to prove something. Not only have the media questioned the creditability of the Buckeyes due to the fact they only played six games.

Clemson Tigers’ head coach, Dabo Swinney added some fuel to the fire. Swinney ranked the Buckeyes 11th on the coaches’ poll ballot and stood by that decision saying “I didn’t rank anybody who didn’t play nine games or more in the top 10. That’s why they were 11. I have all the respect in the world for Ohio State.” — The Buckeyes will be ready.

Four and Into The Playoff Door

BUCKEYES ARE IN:

Ohio State have been the most talked about team ranked in the top four of the playoff rankings because of its lack of games. Saturday’s Big Ten championship win was the Buckeyes’ sixth game this season. 

No. 5 Texas A&M beat Tennessee on Saturday 34-14 and will finish the season at 8-1, but it’s hard to imagine the Aggies will jump an undefeated, conference champion with this Buckeye team. 

Two components the playoff committee keys in on are the eye test and a conference championship. The Buckeyes are Big Ten Champions and have two quality wins against No. 11 Indiana and No. 14 Northwestern. When looking at Texas A&M, their best win came against a Florida team who fell to 5-5 LSU last weekend. The Aggies also faced No. 1 Alabama early in the season and ended up losing 52-24. 

The Buckeyes controlled the second half of the Big Ten Championship, making a statement as their defense pitched a shutout and Sermon had one of the performances we’ve seen this college football season, breaking Ohio State’s rushing record with 331 yards.

This Buckeye team making a playoff appearance will be a huge victory for the Big Ten as it was one of the first conferences to cancel the season in August, deciding to overrule that and start a season in late October. Ohio State had three games canceled due to COVID-19 (Maryland, Illinois, Michigan). 

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields met with the media after winning the Big Ten title, saying it’s a no brainer the Buckeyes deserve a playoff spot. 

“We’re one of the top four teams in the country,” said Fields.

THE REMATCH:

The Clemson Tigers took control against Notre Dame in the ACC championship winning 34-10 setting up a potential back-to-back playoff meeting with the Buckeyes. Last year the Buckeyes faced off with the Tigers in the Fiesta Bowl and left with a bad taste in their mouths as Justin Fields was picked off in the final moments as Chris Olave fell down in the endzone running a route, leading to a 29-23 victory for the Tigers.

BIG10 Championship Week Preview: Buckeyes-Wildcats Showdown by Mike Scharf

Championship Week 

After a long, abnormal College Football season, championship week is finally here. With the Big Ten Conference changing the six-game qualifying rule, the Buckeyes are seeking a back-to-back College Football Playoff berth as No. 4 Ohio State faces off with No. 14 Northwestern in the 2020 Big Ten Conference championship game.

Ohio State will be heading into their fourth consecutive Big Ten Championship. The Buckeyes have won three straight conference titles and look to continue that trend come Saturday. Last Season Ohio State, led by Heisman finalist Justin Fields defeated Wisconsin, 34-21, earning an appearance in the College Football Playoffs against the Clemson Tigers.

The Wildcats

Northwestern led by head coach Pat Fitzgerald is making its second appearance ever in the Big Ten title game. The Wildcats’ last conference title win came in 2000.

Offense

The offensive spark for the Wildcats is led by quarterback Peyton Ramsey and running back Drake Anderson.

Ramsey has controlled the offense all year for the 6-1 Wildcats throwing for 1,218 yards, and nine touchdowns.

Anderson led the ground game with 256 yards and two touchdowns averaging 4.1 yards per carry.

Defense

The Wildcats seconday has the second-highest rate of interceptions per game this season in the FBS with 12.

Brandon Joseph, a sophomore defensive back has carried the load for the Wildcat secondary with 23 tackles, and 5 interceptions (tied for 1st in the nation). Joseph and the rest of the secondary will have their hands full Saturday with Chris Olave, and Garrett Wilson.

Starting linebackers, Paddy Fisher and Blake Gallagher are experienced and true leaders within this Wildcat defense. Fisher and Gallagher have a combined 65 total tackles this season while Gallagher leads the team with 9.5 tackles for loss.

The Buckeyes

The Buckeyes didn’t get a chance to play in “The Game,” this past weekend but is hungry for a second straight playoff visit. 

Offense

Justin Fields and this high-powered offense have been clicking on all cylinders this season. Fields has been leading the way in the five games played, throwing for 1,407 yards and 15 touchdowns. 

The dynamic duo of Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson has been on full display all year long. Olave and Wilson have a combined 70 receptions, 1,100 yards, and 10 touchdowns in just five games played and look to continue their dominance Saturday.

The running back duo of Trey Sermon and Master Teague is starting to click as Sermon ran for a season-best 112 yards and one touchdown two weeks ago against the Spartans, and Teague having two 100 plus yard games this season against Penn State and Indiana. 

The offensive line will be at full strength as Josh Myers, Nick Petit-Frere, and Thayer Munford are back in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center this week.

Defense

The Silver Bullets looked dominant two weeks ago against Michigan State as they steam rolled to a 52-12 victory.

The secondary, led by Shaun Wade looks to be more in sync and will come prepared for Saturday’s championship showdown with the Wildcats.

The defensive line led by senior Jonathan Cooper has been showing out the past few weeks in the most important time of the year. The Buckeyes have a team total of 14 sacks on the season, with Tommy Togiai leading the way with three. 

The linebacker trio of Tuf Borland, Baron Browning, and Pete Warner has been a force all season. Borland wasn’t able to participate in the game against the Spartans due to COVID but is looking to cap his Buckeye career off with a Big Ten Championship Saturday afternoon.

PERDICTION 

The Buckeyes will be looking for its 39th Big Ten Championship coming out focused showing the committee they are truly deserving of a playoff spot and one of the top four teams in the country even though they only participated in six games this season. 

Buckeyes: 52-20

Buckeyes dominate Spartans on the road: by Mike Scharf

No. 4 Ohio State is back and let everyone know they are the team to beat in the Big Ten and evidently a top four team in the country — even if not eligible to play for the Big Ten championship — after routing Michigan State with a 52-12 victory in East Lansing. 

The Buckeyes played like an angry team, coming out firing, scoring on three of their first four drives to take control of the game early.

Passing Game

Justin Fields didn’t miss a beat even with a diminished offensive line in front of him due to COVID issues (Josh Meyers, Nicholas Petit-Frere, Thayer Munford). Fields was unstoppable through the air and on the ground as he combined for 303 yards, and four touchdowns.

Fields’ main target was wide receiver Chris Olave who recorded a career-high 10 receptions, 139 yards, and a touchdown. Garrett Wilson was second in receiving with 59 yards, and a touchdown.

Running Game 

With Fields having a career day in rushing yards (104), Oklahoma transfer Trey Sermon didn’t bat an eye and had his best game as a Buckeye. Sermon carried the ball 10 times for 112 yards, and a 64-yard touchdown that put the Buckeyes up 35-0 in the third quarter. 

Fellow running back Master Teague had 46 yards on 14 carries, and Freshman quarterback C.J Stroud got into the game late and blasted a 48-yard touchdown run.

Defense

With all the criticism and question marks the Buckeyes defense faced from their play in the second half against Indiana two weeks ago, they dominated the Spartans without captain Tuf Boland. The Buckeyes held Michigan State to 261 total yards and just 81 yards on the ground. Senior Pete Warner led the team with eight tackles. Junior, top NFL prospect Shaun Wade had 3 tackles, and an unbelievable diving interception which came right after a Buckeye turnover.

Buckeye Football Looking Ahead by Mike Scharf

Last Week

After nearly a consistent recording of a 0% positivity rate since August, chaos entered the Buckeye program as their game against Illinois was canceled when additional positive COVID-19 tests were discovered after a round of testing took place Friday afternoon. Head coach Ryan Day was amongst those positive. Ohio State did not disclose the identities of the others who tested positive for privacy reasons. 

The Big Ten requires all programs to suspend organized football activities including practices and games for a minimum of seven days if both their positivity rate exceeds 5% and their population positivity rate surpasses 7.5%. The Buckeyes positivity rate crossed the 7.5% threshold, but had not gone above the 5% test positivity rate.

With the Buckeyes not going above the 5% threshold, Athletic director Gene Smith and head team physician Dr. Jim Borchers believed the best decision for the program going forward was to cancel, slowing down the spread of the virus.

Going Forward

Good news came as the Buckeyes resumed small group workouts on Monday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center according to a Ohio State spokesman — Team meetings will maintain being held virtually.

The noon ABC kickoff against Michigan State this weekend is up in the air as we still don’t know the exact number of positive cases the program is dealing with, but this is an enormous step in the right direction going forward.

#MOTSAGRising Buckeyes-Hoosiers Preview by Mike Scharf

The Buckeyes and Hoosiers are set to clash in a top-10 battle this Saturday in the ‘Shoe.

Buckeye football is back in action, after last week’s game being canceled due to a coronavirus outbreak within the Maryland program. As of now, the Hoosiers are first in the Big East Division because of the extra game and the Buckeyes are ready to attack the objective this weekend and keep their championship hopes alive.

When the Big Ten reinstated the season, and the shortened schedule was announced, no one had eyes on the Hoosiers coming into Columbus. Frankly, this noon kickoff on FOX against the 9th ranked Hoosiers is the biggest regular-season game for the Buckeyes.

THE HOOSIERS

Tom Allen, and his enthusiastic Hoosiers started their season off with a thrilling 36-35 overtime victory against Penn State and have not looked back since. Winning their next three games against Rutgers, Michigan, and Michigan State convincingly with a combined score of 99-41.

The Hoosiers offense is led by Sophomore quarterback Michael Penix Jr. who has looked like a true leader throwing for 1070 yards to go with 9 touchdowns this season. Penix threw for 25-38, 320 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 INTs last weekend vs the Spartans.

The key matchup to watch is how the Buckeye secondary covers star wide receiver Ty Fryfogle. Fryfogle was last week’s Big Ten offensive Player of the Week after having 11 receptions for 200 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Fryfogle also had a monster game against the Wolverines the week before with 7 receptions, 142 yards and 1 touchdown.

Along with the offense, this Hoosiers defense is no joke as they lead the Big Ten in interceptions (10), and sacks (12). The Hoosiers are tied for second nationally in turnover margin at plus-2 per game.

THE BUCKEYES

Fryfogle, and the Indiana receivers have been a huge threat for opposing defenses all year long. The Buckeye secondary has received criticism for their play in this early season, but look for Shaun Wade, Sevyn Banks, and the rest of the Buckeye secondary to respond in a major way with a big task ahead.

As we know, Justin Fields is off to an astonishing start to the 2020 season, having the same number of touchdowns as he has incompletions (11), with a near perfect 87 percent completion. Heisman hopeful Fields looks to improve his resume against a talented Hoosier defense.

The Buckeyes are waiting for a running game to emerge at a high level with both running backs still splitting carries. Master Teague III and Trey Sermon are both averaging a little 5 yards per carry (Teague 4.5, Sermon 4.8), but neither has established as the main back for the Buckeyes.

With that being said, left guard Harry Miller, and the offensive-line look to improve this week from the multiple penalties they were called for against the Scarlet-Knights two weeks ago. Miller was called for holding on multiple occasions but is learning and teammates look for him to bounce back. Center Josh Myers met with the media this week saying. “It’s not an easy thing to do, to be a young guy starting,” Myers said. “It took our offensive even last year a couple weeks to get rolling and looking like a solid unit together.”

THE GAME

The Buckeyes have won 24 straight games over Indiana. The Hoosiers last victory against the Buckeyes came in the year of 1988. The Buckeyes have averaged 42.2 points per game in the past 10 meetings with the Hoosiers. Although this is IU’s highest rank (9) ever facing the Buckeyes look for Ryan Day and his team not to take this game lightly and come out hungry.

PREDICTION

47-24

Buckeyes-Knights Clash

Ohio State will be playing its first game under the lights this 2020 season at Ohio Stadium as the Buckeyes clash with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.

The environment in the Shoe won’t have the fiery, loud atmosphere it usually gets during past prime time games due to the no fan rule. With that being said, the Buckeyes are heavily favored in the matchup.

Since meeting in 2014. Ohio State has won 6 in a row, including all games being won by 35 plus averaging 46.5 points in those matchups.

The Scarlet Knights head coach, Greg Schiano returns to Columbus. Schiano has not faced a Ryan Day coached team, and so far, so good for this Buckeye group to start the 2020 season as it continues their quest for a championship.

This Rutgers team is different than years past. The Scarlet Knights head into Columbus already winning a road game which they haven’t done in years past, beating Michigan State 38-27. The Knights followed that up with a 37-21 loss to No. 17 Indiana but showed flashes of good plays throughout.

The Scarlet Knights are led by Nebraska-transfer dual threat quarterback Noah Vedral, who has 299 yards and 3 touchdowns on the season.

Justin Fields looks to continue his dominance this Saturday. Fields has an incredible QBR of 97.2 (1st in the nation) to go along with 594 yards, and 6 touchdowns. There’s no denying Fields will look to continue his Heisman campaign Saturday night. In company with Fields, wide receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson set an all-time Ohio State record. For the second straight game, each of them accounted for 100+ yards receiving. Olave and Wilson look to keep it rolling come game time.

Since clashing with the Scarlet Knights in 2014, the Buckeyes have only not scored 50 plus points one time. (in 2015, when the score was 49-7). Schiano’s team has improved greatly from years past, look for the Buckeyes to continue their dominance this season.

KEYS:

Ohio State K Blake Haubeil and TE Jake Hausmann will not be active for the game.

PREDICTION:

58-10