Recruiting Targets: Hits & Misses

With the season winding down, we at Men of the Scarlet & Gray have been scrambling to find new and innovative ways to last through the College Football offseason. My colleagues have individually brainstormed and my site content will consist of something that has kept my interest, but it has been exhausting, yet exciting.

Once the season concludes or even sooner, I will be churning out weekly content every Tuesday called Tuesday Targets: Hits & Misses. This would cover recruiting battles that have captured the attention of the nation, that specifically affected Buckeye Nation. I have been paying attention to recruiting for a long time and if you haven’t followed it, you should.

The drama and the suspense can become taxing and it could be pure nirvana–you just don’t know until a decision is made. Doors close and some remain cracked. Some remain open and once the choice has been made, it could shock the nation and rattle some cages in the process. The cult-like feel to recruiting has been a staple and it is the lifeblood of all College Football Programs and we have seen how that could play out.

Let’s start with this years recruiting class and work our way back. The advances and the exposure of recruiting websites is key to a recruits success and with multiple showing at camps and all-star games, it makes the pageantry of college football great and it adds another layer to what catches our intrigue. Here is a small sample of what is on the horizon. Enjoy!

Garrett Wilson. Credit: Ohiostatebuckeyes.com

Hit: Garrett Wilson, WR

The most obvious hit for the 2019 class is already tearing it up this season. A highly touted recruit out of Texas, Wilson was highly sought after by all teams, especially the home state Texas team that was in need of a playmaker at that position. Wilson has been a stud so far this season, but he has made some mistakes that almost cost the Buckeyes against the Wolverines a week ago, but he was resilient. He finished the game with 3 catches for 118 yards and a highlight score during Justin Fields’ Heisman moment.

So far in 2019, Wilson has 24 catches for 368 yards and 5 TD’s and he is averaging 15.3 yards per catch. He is the playmaker and he has been as good as advertised. The special part about this is he broke out during The Game just like Chris Olave did and if the is any indication of his talent, he will be a beast next year alongside Olave. Factor that, along with the incoming freshmen in Scott, Jaxon-Njigba, Cooper, and Fleming, we can safely say that Coach Hartline’s players will try to outshine Olave and Wilson for next years contest.

Harry Miller with the family. Credit: Lettermen Row.

Hit: Harry Miller, T

Harry Miller is another key cog on the offensive line and he looks the part so far this season. Although Miller plays during mop-up duty, he makes the best of it and he earned the role of backup Center behind Josh Myers. He is a true freshmen with loads of potential and he is also a talented prospect that nearly backed off of his commitment to Ohio State when the news broke out where Coach Meyer would step away from the game upon completion of the 2018 season.

Georgia came calling and he did visit, but his commitment to the program won out in the end. He has played sparingly, but he has to wait it out. Waiting for your time has been a yearly tradition for the Slobs, but like a fine wine, it’ll take time to develop and it will be worth the wait.

Jordan Battle at St. Thomas Aquinas. Credit: Hudl

Miss: Jordan Battle, S

To begin, Jordan Battle was one of the biggest names in the nation and at one point, the Buckeyes had him in the bag. Following a drama-filled season where we saw Urban Meyer get suspended for three games after Brett McMurphy dropped a bombshell leveling allegations against a coach on his staff, Zach Smith. This caused friction between the head coach and his leadership, which ultimately resulted in a Buckeye legend him stepping away which directly affected his 2018 class.

A recruit from a well-known pipeline, St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was a should have been an addition to the 2019 class, but the news of Meyer Calling it quits caused him to look around. He was on flip watch from what I can recall and he eventually flipped and signed with Alabama. He is a small cog in the Tide defense and he has played in 11 games this season and he has logged 26 tackles (16 solo, 10 assisted) with one fumble recovery, one interception and a sack. He is young but a playmaker and that is what the Buckeyes saw and tried to keep, but it happens in recruiting.

Miss: Dax Hill, S

The recruitment of Dax Hill, an Oklahoma native at powerhouse Booker T. Washington High School. The Buckeyes lost the battle to their bitter rival, but besides losing out, they had starters with eligibility remaining in Jordan Fuller and Brendan White. This is not to discredit his skills and the need because it was evident that they needed to bolster the depth behind those two. Dax Hill was a heavy favorite to become a silver bullet, but it was not meant to be. The momentum swung in Michigan’s favor and with the uncertainty at head coach looming over the program, the best possible move was to sign with them in the end.

A playmaker in the back-end of a defense, he was and he would have been perfect in Hafley’s system. He is aggressive, but he is also young and the Buckeyes picked on him last week for a little bit of fun. Love it or hate it, he made the move for himself and we shouldn’t blame him or his family. It would’ve been amazing to have him, but it will also be fun seeing if he can develop into a stud and we will look forward to seeing him every year.

Positional Substitutions: Ronnie Hickman (S) and Bryson Shaw (S); Craig Young (Ath)

With Battle and Hill out of the 2019 Class, the Buckeyes scrounged what they could and they have some potential gems in the process. Hickman and Young are dynamic prospects. Shaw has hit a growth spurt and could blossom into a Pete Werner type of play with his frame. The class still has time to develop, but the future is still bright.

Doug Nester Army All-American Game. Credit: 24/7 Sports

Miss: Doug Nester, OT

Doug Nester, another longtime Buckeye commit was also in the bag and once Urban Meyer announced his retirement, a few commitments began to unravel and they found themselves looking around. Like Battle, ditto for Nester. Urban’s last class had potential and Nester was another staple to the future, but it was not meant to be and he ended up signing with Virginia Tech, which is close to home and not too far away.

Nester has not played this season and a redshirt may be in effect or it will be in his future. He was most likely behind the eight ball or he suffered an injury, but blessings to him and his future as a Hokie.

Positional Substitutions: Ryan Jacoby (T) and Dawand Jones (T); Enokk Vimahi (OG)

Both Jacoby and Jones have potential as big-bodied shields for the Buckeye signal-callers. After losing out on Nester, they stocked up on Slobs. Jacoby is 6-5, 270 and Jones is 6-8, 360. The Buckeyes came in late and snagged Vimahi to fill the class. Vimahi is 6-4.5, 263 and he could be a key cog in the offensive trenches in the future.

Ohio State vs Wisconsin II

Two conference heavyweights will square up one against each other one more time and this game will be another good one to watch. This is another high stakes contest that will garner a lot of attention with so much on the line. Wisconsin’s pride after being shut down in Columbus a few weeks ago against Ohio State’s streak and their dream of winning rings. Not to mention, the Big Ten conference crown being up for grabs too. This contest will be a fun one to watch and the nation will be curious to see if Wisconsin can redeem themselves OR they will tune-in to watch Ohio State roll another opponent into obscurity in another Top 10 battle.

Taylor breaking away from the Wolverine defense.

It is sort of a dream scenario for the Badgers who suffered a loss in Columbus and they got trolled with the “jump around” song right as the game was put away by the home team Buckeyes. A few Badgers had expressed their desire for a rematch and they got their wish. For Ohio State, they will try to beat Wisconsin again, but this time at Indianapolis. The Buckeye fans travel well and this might potentially be another home game with the best fans in the land.

Chase Young with one of his three strip-sacks.

Ohio State versus Wisconsin will be exciting. The last contest was 38-7 and the Buckeyes shut it down early and often. Jonathan Taylor was also shut down and he finished with 20 carries for 52 yards and no touchdowns. Jack Coan was also harassed a lot by Young and company as he was sacked five times and he was strip sacked three separate times. He had 17 attempts and only mustered 108 yards and one score. The defense will also be looking to rebound because they had made a few plays and they did get to Fields quite a bit, but they need to show up to make it interesting.

Justin Fields reading the Badger defense.

For Fields, he had a game and he left after the first half was over. He finished with three scores, two through the air and one on the ground. He had 195 total yards before leaving the game. For Dobbins, he had 20 rushes and he finished with 163 yards and two scores. He also added 3 catches for 58 yards as well. Wisconsin’s mission will be to keep the game close and shut down this dynamic duo in the backfield. With Fields a little banged-up, they will look to pressure him and keep him off his game.

Dobbins celebrating another touchdown through the ground.

Many folks are assuming this game will be closer, but I don’t think Coach Day would settle for a loss at this point of the season. He will have them ready to work for what they’ve been vying for and this is the time to show the nation that they are indeed, for real. It’ll be another close game, but with Wade being cleared, he will help the Buckeyes once again shut down and pressure Coan into mistakes. The defense is getting healthier again and what better opportunity to show out in front of the nation, while everyone watches. Another well-rounded performance and potentially another beatdown would keep the Buckeyes at #1 for the big dance, but barring a blowout of Georgia, we will have to see how it shakes out. The committee has been consistent so far, but we will see what ensues on Saturday evening.

Match-Ups To Watch:

  • Jack Coan versus Justin Fields
  • Jonathan Taylor versus J.K. Dobbins
  • A.J. Taylor and Quintez Cephus versus Jeff Okudah and Shaun Wade
  • Garrett Groshek and Jake Ferguson versus Tuf Borland and Pete Werner
  • Slobs versus Baun and Orr
  • Olave versus Jim Leonhard and his defense
  • Rushmen and Young versus Badger O-Line

Prediction: This is high-stakes drama and the Badgers will start ready and fast. This is Fields’ Heisman dash toward the end of the season and he has Young and Dobbins nipping at his heels as well. A trio of Buckeyes will look to put the finishing touches on an astounding season and what better pretense than earning another conference crown before securing a spot in the big dance? They cannot overlook the Badgers, but it may go in their favor again in what is an audition for the top spot in the playoffs. LSU will have theirs against UGA. Let’s see if the magic can return for another run into history.

Buckeyes defeat the Badgers 48-21

#GoBucks

Rumble In C’Bus

A collision course between Ohio State and Penn State will be in Columbus this year.

The Ohio State Buckeyes are on the home-stretch of an amazing season and with two games remaining, an old foe will arrive to stand in the way of a College Football Playoff bid. Penn State will visit The Shoe to attempt to de-rail the Buckeyes’ plans to end a two-year drought where they suffered terrible road losses to Iowa in 2017 and to Purdue in 2018. Will the Nittany Lions continue the trend? Will another conference foe, with this particular one being in the same division as the Buckeyes be able to pull it off?

This game is often decided by splash plays from any phase of the game. Penn State has won on a special teams play with a blocked field goal with little to no time left that resulted in a touchdown three seasons ago. Ohio State has won the last two and four of the last five contests. The last two were won by a single point, 39-38 at Columbus and 27-26 during a White Out, where Haskins brought the team back from a three-score hole. This contest will be in Columbus and although the team has yet to play in the second half, specifically the 4th quarter, Penn State will attempt to score early and often, all while leaning on their defense to keep the Buckeyes at bay.

Justin Fields scanning the field pre-snap.

Fields Impending Heisman Push

With a few precious weeks left of the 2019 season, everything the Buckeyes have accomplished is all part of the grander scheme of playing for another National Championship. Penn State is in the way this weekend and the last three-game stretch will most likely be Top 10 contests between CFB Playoff hopefuls that could add a bit of intrigue to the Buckeyes path back to the big dance. They have to fend off #8 Penn State this week, #13 or better TTUN at Ann Arbor in week 14, and #10 or better Minnesota or #12 or better Wisconsin in the Conference Championship Game before the final playoff rankings are released.

Justin Fields has the skills and the platforms these next three weeks to surge up the Heisman rankings if he continues to light up the scoreboard and against this type of competition. 31 passing scores and 10 rushing scores against one single interception is crazy and he could potentially be unleashed in the second half and in crunch-time during the 4th quarter. He is unproven, but if the moment comes, he will be ready. He has a chance to prove why he is Heisman-worthy and if everything goes well, he can overtake former Buckeye and now LSU QB, Joe Burrow for the lead by the seasons’ end. He has the weapons to make a run, but it all depends on his poise during the final stretch.

Young hunting for another strip-sack against Jack Coan.

The Predator’s Return

Chase Young has been the talk of Buckeye Nation and he has ended his two-game suspension for taking money to fly his girlfriend to the Rose Bowl. He is now back with a massive boulder of a chip on his shoulder and he has returned to haunt every offensive opponent that he has left on his schedule. James Franklin was sarcastic during a press-conference stating that “Chase Young is back for good-old Penn State”, and he might have been the source that got Young in the weeds, but we will never know and it is all in the past now.

Big boy football in the Big Ten will continue and the chase for rings is still on-going. Young’s addition will add more juice to the defense and they will try to punish Penn State. They will have their hands full with Hamler and Friemuth, but I can see their assigned defenders coming out with an edge. Hamler will be matched up with Wade, who he beat for 90+ yards and a score on a slant route. Borland and/or Harrison will be guarding the seams, where Friemuth has hurt defenses. This defense has not given up many splash plays, but this will be a test against Hamler and company. The opposing running backs are good too, so we will see how or if the Buckeyes can negate the playmakers and the young opposing quarterback.

Penn State defense after a key play.

Defensive Firepower

The Penn State defense has been a stellar group up until being upended by Minnesota. They have a top defense highlighted by a former recruiting target, Micah Parsons. I am not 100% on what happened, but he approached the college gameday staff and something happened that affected his status, and I am assuming it was illegal. He quickly fell out of the short-list of defensive targets before heading to Penn State. Now, two years later, he is leading this defense and he will be looking to ruin the Buckeyes’ dream season. He plays in an aggressive defense that matches up in talent with the Buckeyes, but do they have the depth?

The Buckeyes have loads of depth players on offense and on defense. They will look to flex their muscles with it in order to wear down this defensive group. This group of Slobs has a chip on their shoulder and they have been great so far. This will be another great test to see where they are at and I am planning on them being ready. They have already proved it against Wisconsin and Michigan State. They have a rough road ahead, but the focus will be on Penn State.

Dobbins continuing his domination on the ground for the score.

Running Wild With Depth

The Penn State message boards were on something this week, and they called Dobbins a one-trick pony and they called out the Cadillac position for its “lack of depth”. One thing that Dobbins isn’t, is a one-trick pony. He plays and runs hard, and he can catch the ball when necessary. He is a key cog in this offense and he has been amazing when leaned upon. He is certainly aware of the comments and I think he will punish this defense.

He also has a couple of partners that accompany him in the backfield in Master Teague and Steele Chambers. DeMario McCall is there and he is a change-of-pace back that plays in garbage-time. Marcus Crowley got hurt a couple of weeks ago, but the walk-on backs can be valuable cogs as well, but this game will be centered on Dobbins and Teague. This will be a bloodbath and we can only hope that the line opens up a bunch of holes for team Stiff Arm and Harm.

An overhead of The Shoe in Columbus, Ohio.

Buckeye Bonus

This weekend is homecoming week and it marks the last game for the Buckeye upperclassmen. With a big-time opponent on the schedule in Penn State, this is where the Buckeyes use their magic to re-load to take over those who are graduating and those who might leave early for the NFL. They have been on one of the best runs and it can only help their needs to restock the cupboard and what better platform than against one of your rivals in Penn State? This week will have a large group of potential targets and a few current commits will be on-hand to seal the deal. With or without them, the Buckeyes have been successful on the recruiting trail with Ryan Day and his staff, and I do not see that changing. This week is a recruiting milestone and with a big win, they can potentially flip and snag a few before the early signing day period.

Matchups To Watch

  • Fields versus Clifford
  • Zone 6 versus Penn State Back Seven
  • Hamler and Friemuth versus Ohio State Back Seven
  • Chase Young and The Rushmen versus Penn State O-Line
  • The Slobs versus Parsons and Gross-Matos

Prediction:

I want to predict this close, but I feel that the talent and depth would put the game out of reach. The last two games have been close between both teams, but this might be the year where the close games cease to exist. I think with the potential narc on Penn State’s sidelines and with Young returning, I think of TTUN beatdown in 2018.

The Ohio State Buckeyes defeat The Penn State Nittany Lions 48-17.

#GoBucks

Buckeyes Take A Business Trip To Piscataway

The Ohio State Buckeyes are taking a trip to Piscataway without their star player, Chase Young, who will be sitting out for a second game after the NCAA determined that missing those along with paying off the loan would be sufficient enough punishment and that matter is now officially resolved.

Looking ahead, the Buckeyes will travel to New Jersey and they will face a struggling team before Young officially returns for a pair of rivalry games, with Penn State at home and afterwards, it will be rivalry week with a contest against their most bitter rival at Ann Arbor against The Team Up North, but lets focus on the task at hand against the Scarlet Knights.

The Rutgers fired former Buckeyes secondary coach Chris Ash after a four-year run, finishing with an 8-32 overall record. Nunzio Campanile will be the Interim Head Coach for the time being and he will attempt to lead his 2-6 team against a red-hot Ohio State team and it might be more than what they bargained for, but that cannot be helped at the moment.

Buckeye Chase Young in pursuit of Jack Coan.

Young Bucks

With a couple of key starters missing due to a combination of injury and a suspension, Zach Harrison, Javonte Jean-Baptiste, Tyreke Smith, and Tyler Friday will be primed for some valuable playing in the absence of a few starters in Chase Young, Baron Browning, and Jonathon Cooper. As we all witnessed last week against Maryland, the impending loss of Chase Young won’t be as bad as we all think because the future is in capable hands with this new group. The current level of talented personnel on this defense is amazing, but the reserves are proving their worth and they will once again jockey in the absence of starters to earn praise and a leg-up on next year’s positional competition. This defense has been playing well and they will look to take this tune-up game against a bad Rutgers team.

Fields getting the ball off before getting hit by a Bearcat defender.

Torrid Offensive Output

The Buckeyes offense runs through Justin Fields and with him at the helm this game against Rutgers could be a breeze in the eyes of a casual fan. I applaud confidence but that brings bad things, but this year’s team is focused and on a mission and I believe they will not play down to their opponents level. I do it believe that, but I will let things work itself out. Justin Fields has a total of 37 touchdowns this season and he has 27 through the air and 10 on the ground. He does tend to hold the ball too long and that has been 18 times this season, but he makes good decisions on the fly so it isn’t too bad. This game will most likely end with him playing a half, but we will see how it shakes out. Back-up Chugs will have his time to shine in front of his family and friends and he could be in line for a half to do so.

Dobbins celebrating after another score.

Dobbins Road To Immortality

J.K. Dobbins is the lone #2 standing at he also has been a threat to the opposing defenses for this entire season. After calling his 2018 season a failure while sharing the load with Mike Weber, Dobbins had 1,053 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. This season through nine games, he has 1,200 yards and 11 scores with a little under 100 yards and another score. He is just entered the top ten in the Buckeyes all-time list and he will continue to climb as he encroaches into the top five in school history. If he is used in close games, if there is ever a close game, he can potentially get into the top four, but even if he doesn’t play a full game, he is still in great company. Like Fields, stats don’t matter and that is fine. A group of shiny trophies has been the goal and I don’t see him jeopardizing their mission for selfish reasons.

Jonah Jackson, former Rutgers Captain and current Buckeye Slob.

The Return of Jonah Jackson

The former Rutgers All-American is coming back in a new uniform and he has carved out a role on this nasty offensive line squad that has been abusing opposing defenses so far this season. He has been reliable even after it seemed as he would be the penalty scapegoat, but he has fixed the issues and as a unit, they have punished teams and imposed their will on them in the process. This will be a homecoming of sorts, but they will be ready to do what they always do. Barring the 18 sacks that were surrendered, they will continue to be the barrier between Fields and Dobbins and the opposing defense.

Match-Ups To Watch

  • Fields, Dobbins, and Receivers versus The Rutgers Defense
  • Jackson and the Slobs versus The Rutgers front seven
  • Chugs and the Backups versus The Rutgers starters and reserves

Prediction

Buckeyes defeat Rutgers 62-0.

The Maryland Terrapins VS The Ohio State Buckeyes

Friday morning could have been better, but we are a day away until game time! What seems like to be a constant thing when considering Ohio State, there is always something that comes up to snuff out the momentum and it is usually is accompanied by something negative and whats are the words I am searching for… a conspiracy-laden narrative that will at least attempt to bring them back down to Earth. It what seems to be another strategically timed “article” where it was reported that Chase Young accepted money and that he is suspended for this contest as a minimum pending investigation from the Ohio State Compliance Office. Yay and boo, but all we have to do is wait for the process to wind down and just hope they get it right this time. Whatever happens, does so and I will not waste my breath with the situation.

This game is all about continuing the momentum into the last half of the season and against a once-promising Maryland squad will be the obstacle for the Buckeyes this week. Their opponent was leading the nation in scoring through the first two weeks of the season, but they have faded into obscurity and have limped forward to a 3-6 record through this point of the season. With the Buckeyes being without their defensive stalwart, Chase Young, the Buckeyes will look toward this contest without him, but they have the depth to survive without him. This defense has been stellar with him and without him–I think they’ll be fine, but we will have to see for now.

Buckeyes swarming defense.

Young Bucks Golden Opportunity

As we stated before, Chase Young is out and it will be up to a few younger players to step up and earn their keep for the foreseeable future until Young gets back from his recent suspension. With the Next man up mantra enter Zach Harrison and Tyreke Smith to fill the void for the time being. As we have seen after the game has been put away, the aforementioned two along with Javonte Jean-Baptiste and Tyler Friday have been key members among the Rushmen and they can get some playing time and be disruptive. Defensive Captain Jonathan Cooper will lead this group and he has Davon Hamilton and BB Landers will also help along with their reserves Tommy Togiai and Garrett Haskel too. These younger players have the benefit of learning behind such a talented group of upperclassmen and a great group of leaders on the defensive side of the ball. It is an opportunity to see what the future will look like, but I have a feeling it’ll be good. The once fast offense will have a hard time blocking so many talented players, but I know they’ll be ready for the challenge.

Malik Harrison breaking through.

Defensive Effort

Malik Harrison will have to provide the same spark that Darron Lee created during his breakout season at Ohio State. The Linebackers have willed recent teams to success and he needs to be more of a dog from here on out. He needs to blitz, cover and be disruptive enough while directing his forces to fill the void against a once lethal and fast Terps offense. Communication will be key with the defensive linemen and the defensive back, and my gut tells me they’ll be ready to silence the critics without their star players. The Wisconsin game proved what the team could be with Young and this game will prove that they’ll be fine without them for however long it’ll be or take for the investigation to be over. Best case scenario, he’s out for a single game. Worst case, it’ll be two with Rutgers on the schedule, but I think the compliance department will mess it up again. I am a pessimist, but I can see it going south, but the defense will continue to shine during his absence. The last contest between the two ended in a double-overtime contest where the Buckeyes nearly took the L with an errant throw on a two-point, game-clinching pass to a wide-open receiver that sailed out of reach. The Buckeyes will look to redeem themselves and further prove that they are legit, even without Young.

Fields dodging a would-be tackler.

Field Of Dreams

Justin Fields has been on a tear lately, but after last week’s destruction of Wisconsin, he gave the team and their fans a scare when he came up hobbled after scoring a rushing touchdown. Luckily it wasn’t serious, but Fields is definitely capable of leading the charge on the offensive side of the ball. With another great group of wide receivers and the recent inclusion of their tight ends, they can put the game out of reach and give the defense some juice in the process. In another great year for a quarterback, Fields brings a lot for this offense and he leads them in a calmly and with his play. He will be ready for this contest to show his value to this offense. This is another noon game, but the Buckeyes will pour it on Maryland and former player Keiondre Jones. Welcome back to the Shoe, but buckle up.

Dobbins rumbling through the Spartan defense.

Boom Boom Room

Ohio State has had quite a few playmakers at running back and the “boom, boom room” is always capable of causing fireworks during the perfect time on gamedays. This week is no different and this porous defense is no exception. This defense is bad and without a consistent defense, they will most likely get tore up against this stable of backs that features a young muscle hamster, J.K. Dobbins, a young beast mode clone, Master Teague and mystery man, Marcus Crowley, who gets carries late but has flashed brilliance in limited action. They also have a speedy back Demario McCall, who is also used sparingly but he could be used as a weapon. There is a lot and there is also Jaelin Gill, who is the backup H-Back, who might be used, but I think is en-route to a redshirt. This room is stacked and with the recent misses in the running back position, the future is still bright despite the lack of a 2020 recruit.

Match-Ups To Watch

  • Fields vs Maryland Secondary
  • Buckeyes Linebackers vs Terrapin Playmakers
  • Buckeyes Backs vs Maryland Defense

Prediction

The Ohio State Buckeyes defeat the Maryland Terrapins 45-6.

Rumble In The ‘Bus: Badgers vs. Buckeyes

We are midway through the 2019 season, this game was circled in red from the beginning it will still be a good old slobber knocker of a contest. Although the game has lost the interest of the nation after Wisconsin went down in Champagne, this game will still generate the hype and the fireworks to make it another instant classic between two powers of the Big Ten. An undefeated Buckeye squad against an angry or wounded Badger team, but if someone said that it has lost its luster, they have it all wrong. Every occurrence has been close ever since the inaugural College Football Playoffs run, but this has all the inner makings of another classic clash between two conference powerhouses. Will we see a reeling Wisconsin team still at a loss for the after falling from the undefeated ranks or will they be a grounded, angry team vying for an upset? This is the line in the sand and if the Buckeyes are looking for a CFB Playoff berth, they need to play disciplined to come out of this clash still undefeated.

J.K. Dobbins bursting through the Cincinnati for the score

Ground Wars: J.K. Dobbins

This will be a battle of will in the trenches and Dobbins is one of the warriors on this team that has to show up. He has to be effective and he has to punish the Badger defenders in such poor conditions with the weather potentially being a factor. Dobbins has been on a tear as of late and he has to shine early and often against this stingy Badger defense that surrenders just 2.3 yards per rush. So far, Dobbins has 134 carries for 947 yards and 7 TDs. He also chipped in 8 grabs for 55 yards and 2 TDs, but this game should be a battle for ground supremacy. The Buckeyes have been balanced and it will be a key part of the gameplan. They can’t afford to play scared and it will be up to Fields along with Dobbins to bring the team to victory.

Jonathan Taylor turning on the jets for a score

Ground Wars: Jonathan Taylor

Jonathan Taylor is the other side of the ground war and he has been quite the player for the Badgers. They have relied on him to produce and he racked up 157 carries for 15 scores and he chipped in 11 catches for 73 yards and a score. He accounts for the majority of offense and the Buckeyes have to play the gaps while being mindful of the play-action pass to stop Taylor and the Badgers. Coan and Taylor play well together, but they will look to run first to pound the Buckeyes into submission. They both got beat up pretty bad against a lowly Illini team, but they will look to expose the back seven in this matchup. With Arnette dealing with a broken bone on his hand and with Borland in tow, they could look to soften up the zone with a mix of run and pass, and a steady dose of it. Like the Badger defense, the Buckeyes are also stingy on the ground averaging 2.6 yards per rush–which is literally .3 more than Wisconsin’s average. This game could turn out to be another Big Ten signature game with both if not a single team pounding the rock relentlessly.

Justin Fields weaving through the trenches

Soaked Fields Day

Justin Fields has also been on a tear and he has been one of the stars of this offensive attack. A humble leader with no ego has launched the Buckeyes into another stratosphere and with the impending weather, the Buckeyes could face a huge test with a stiff defense. He will look to flash his arm when necessary, but he will play a factor on the ground. He has 1,492 yards and 22 TDs through the air and 63 carries for 291 yards and 8 more TDs and he has done it with just two turnovers. One interception and one lost fumble are all that have blemished his stellar play and with the weather concerns, it looks to be a conservative approach to secure a win. Either way, I think he will find a way to spark this offense even though if it continues to take the ball out of his hands via Dobbins and Teague to soften up and tire the Wisconsin defense. He hasn’t faced a defense like this, but he will approach it like any other game, but if he wanted to make a statement, he would need to show the nation that they are real and that they are a force to be reckoned with this year. This might be his shot to impress and make a statement.

Young Guns

Chase Young and his team have been stingy and he will look to battle this stout Badger line. The big uglies versus the Rushmen and the Linebackers will be the focus and it will be electric with the weather. The advantage is being the home team, but against Wisconsin, it might get rough. They rank 3rd in the nation in sacks per game with 4.14 and 29 total for the year. It’ll be tough against a team that ranks tied for 30th in the nation with 1.43 sacks allowed per game, but they’ll be game to see where they stand. They need to play disciplined and with Taylor, they need to shut him down and force Coan to beat them through the air in order to have their way this game.

Pesky Badgers Defense

On the other side, the Badgers have also been stingy and they rank in the Top 10 in defense this season. Besides the upset loss in Champagne, they have been playing lights out and they have been disruptive and they force takeaways. They need to do both of these to see if Fields will fight or if he will crumble under pressure. The Ohio State line has surrenders 2 sacks per game that puts them tied for 64th in the nation which could be a problem, but we will have to see how much the weather plays a factor. If it pours, running will be the primary weapon, but if not, they need to stop an explosive and shift Fields and his receivers. This may be a cliche, but this game feels like an old-school Big Ten type of game.

Match-Ups To Watch:

  • Quarterbacks versus Opposing Defenses
  • Running Backs versus The Trenches
  • Offensive Lines versus Defensive Lines
  • Buckeye DB’s versus Badger WR’s
  • Wisconsin WR’s versus Buckeye DB’s

Prediction:

The Ohio State Buckeyes defeat The Wisconsin Badgers 38-21.

The Ohio State Buckeyes @ The Northwestern Wildcats

Ohio State Buckeyes (6-0, Big 10 3-0) vs Northwestern Wildcats (1-4, Big 10 0-3)

The Ohio State Buckeyes will travel to Evanston, Illinois in a rematch of the 2018 Big Ten Championship from a season ago. Both teams clawed and fought, but the two teams that will face-off on Friday as two re-built teams on two different paths with Ohio State having success under a new coach and a Northwestern team that is limping through the season.

The success was evitable for Ohio State under Coach Day and the rebuilt offense along with his new players have meshed well and had consistently beat up on every opponent up until this point. With a new quarterback, new batch of receivers and a semi-new offensive line, many questioned if they can succeed under new management. So far so good for the Buckeyes.

After the conference title game, the hangover with the Wildcats has been evident and after Thorson departed for the NFL, their offense has been less explosive and their defense has been average at best. With just a single win, the Wildcats have pulled out all the stops to ensure this is a close, hard-fought game in a night game and with an alternate uniform to spice things up a bit. It is awesome, but they need to come out swinging to derail this Buckeye train.

Justin Fields shedding defender.

Another Field-s Day?

Justin Fields has been as good as advertised, but he still has untapped potential when he is dialed in. In the passing game, he has 1,298 passing yards and 18 TDs for the year. He has completed 70% of his passes and he has a 94 QBR through six games. He also chipped in 57 rushes for a respectable 283 yards with 8 TDs. He has been shouldering the offensive load when called to do so, but he has that game-breaking knack to swing the momentum at a moment’s notice which should and will concern Coach Fitz and his team. Can they find a way to disrupt the offense and stop the offensive attack? Or will they fight until he puts the game away early?

J.K. Dobbins in the 2018 Big Ten Championship Game.

Ground Game Dominance

Like Fields, Dobbins has also been on a tear on the ground and he has yet to play meaningful snaps in the second half of a game this year, and it doesn’t look like it’ll change with this porous Northwestern defense. With 116 rushes, he has amassed 826 yards on the ground and 6 TDs and he added 6 catches for 44 yards and a score. The Wildcat defense needs to play better than they have been in order to stop Dobbins and his stablemates in the backfield. As stated above, Dobbins hasn’t played in a close game in the second half, but if they show some fight, he may get a shot to pad his stats and grind the defense into the ground.

Big Ten Championship Game.

Trench Warfare 2.0

The Buckeye offensive line has been more consistent in recent years and with this installment, they will be looking to find a way to stop Joe Gaziano. Gaziano, along with the Northwestern defense made it a game and kept it close, but with this season’s offensive line, he’ll need to be more relentless to disrupt this group who found their swagger as a unit. They have been burying teams in the trenches and this game could be another blowout if they can get things going early and often. This defense really needs to work on their gameplan, but they have to pick their poison.

Northwestern Wildcats QB Hunter Johnson.

Fallen Five-Star

The former five-star Quarterback Hunter Johnson transferred to Northwestern after the departure of Clayton Thorston and the transition hasn’t been as smooth as another fellow five-star signal-caller, Justin Fields. Justin Fields has been on a tear and is having a breakthrough season. Johnson has had the opposite and his offense has been struggling. They haven’t been as crisp and as good as before, but all players, regardless of high school rankings are different in their growth within their offense and in the way they develop. He is still rough around the edges, but the potential is certainly there and it hasn’t clicked yet.

The Great Defensive Chase

Chase Young has been keying in on the hapless offensive players on opposing teams and this game, he should be feasting on Hunter Johnson and the running backs. Young has accounted for 8 of the 28 and the Northwestern line has surrendered 12 total sacks and they have been giving up 2.40 per game. This number could be higher with the caliber of Rushmen available with Young leading the way. Not to mention the Linebackers, they will also be another tough matchup for this offensive line. The defense has been stout and they are one of the best in the nation. It will be a tough sell, but we will have to see if they can stop Young and company.

Key Matchups To Watch

  • Fields versus Johnson In The Battle of Former Five-Stars
  • The Trenches For Both Teams
  • BIA versus Northwestern Receivers
  • Linebackers versus Receivers In The Seams
  • Special Teams and Field Position

Prediction:

The Ohio State Buckeyes defeat The Northwestern Wildcats 45-13.

Michigan State (4-1, Big Ten 1-0) at Ohio State (5-0, Big Ten 2-0)

Ohio State versus Michigan State for another heavyweight bout between intra-conference rivals. This game has a lot on the line, beginning with the Big Ten Conference East crown. This game usually has a lot of twists and turns and the Buckeyes have fallen in losses to Michigan State more often at home than at East Lansing.

Jacolbe Cowan high school photo. Credit: 24/7 Sports Database.

This game looks to be the stiffest test to date and with their game at home and during a Blackout, this game has a lot on the line with it becoming another big recruiting weekend. Speaking of recruiting, the Buckeyes received good news last night and got another commitment from Jacolbe Cowan from North Carolina. He will play along the line and he is a stud that adds more depth and talent to the class. He will be attending the game to link up with the other recruits to try to close out the class and get future teammates.

Battle In The Trenches

The battle in the trenches will be my primary concern with this game because the Buckeyes can easily fall into the trap that saw Zeke barely touch the ball and a walk-off FG later, we end up losing the game at home and we were all devastated. This year’s Buckeye team with the steady string of performances that this line has had, I will look for them with a now healthy Brandon Bowen to assert their will on this stout Spartan D-Line and we will have to see when they begin. They could start out slow and they will eventually turn it on, but it is all up for interpretation until a rhythm is set and established.

Can the Offensive Line continue the effort against a bigger and more stingy Michigan State defense? Joe Bachi and his buddies will attempt to make it hard for this offense to do so, but it is within the realm of possibility to potentially. The Spartans and Coach Dantonio always seem to play the Buckeyes tightly and this could be another classic between the two teams.

Defensive Battle Looming

The Silver Bullets are back and I cannot understate the importance of defending against two mobile quarterbacks for this game. Discipline is a must and with Lewerke and Lombardi, they have options in the running game if the passing game is inept and shut down. With the way the defense has been playing, the improvement is obvious and Chase Young will look to continue his sack streak that has spanned seven games with at least one sack. He is on quite the streak and he could continue it with an atrocious line that lost against a true freshman quarterback from Arizona State.

The DB’s have been playing with the swagger that was missed a season ago, and this time they could lock down the Spartan receivers. The only problem is that the passing game has been off and the offense is having a down year. The Buckeyes can take advantage and they could force a ton of turnovers.

The Justin and J.K. Show On Turf

The greatest show on college turf includes a pair of stellar offensive players that both don the scarlet and gray. Justin Fields has been on a tear after enrolling and he has accounted for a ton of the Buckeye offense. The other half runs through J.K. Dobbins and he also has been on a similar atmosphere when using his legs. It is a pair made in heaven and with Dobbins running through people and tackles and with Fields doing damage with both his legs and his arm, defensive coordinator are searching for weaknesses.

The points come in bunches and a resounding blowout win against a familiar for and fellow conference eastern power can send shockwaves throughout the nation. Beating Michigan State is a major plus, but if they could run them out of Columbus after dark, the nation will be put on notice.

Match-Ups To Watch:

  • Buckeye Offense vs Spartan Defense
  • Fields/Dobbins vs The Front Seven
  • Lewerke vs The Back Seven
  • The Trenches
  • Special Teams and Field Position

Prediction:

The Ohio State Buckeyes defeat The Michigan State Spartans 42-13.

I just have a feeling that Ohio State plus the adrenaline of a Black Out with recruiting implications will not leave them as vulnerable as people think. The O-Line has been fiery and with the return of Bowen, the extra juice will be there to help them suffocate Lewerke and shut down the noise. I could be wrong, but a let down this far into the season would be a tragedy, but they will start slow at first, but blow-by once the momentum gets in their favor. This feels like a turnover-prone contest and with Michigan States’ struggles, this could be a good display of power and poise for the Buckeyes. Go Bucks!

MOTSAG Conference Rankings: Week Five

After five weeks of action, our Big Ten rankings have shifted slightly and the contests will be more competitive with the bulk of the conference schedule being the only thing left on the docket for each team.  Week five answered a ton of questions for some and the rest, there are more questions left than answers.  Let’s take a stab at how the conference represented itself.

  1.  Ohio State:  The Buckeyes played on the road at Lincoln, which is usually a nightmare for opposing teams.  The Buckeyes puffed out their chests and dominated the home team and did so by showing their prowess in every phase of the game.  The offense dazzled and the defense shut down the offense and the performance broke the proverbial tie with Wisconsin to be the best team in the conference and possibly one of the best in the nation.  [Next Game:  Michigan State at home]
  2. Wisconsin:  Wisconsin’s defense scored twice against a scrappy Evanston crowd before pulling away.  Northwestern is normally a great team at home, but the offense is virtually broken right now, but hats off to them for giving the Badgers a contest.  Either way, the Badgers fall one spot, but they have a tune-up match with Kent State before traveling to the Shoe, so they can gain a head of steam for the eventual clash for conference supremacy [Next game:  Kent State at home]
  3. Penn State:  Penn State looked dangerous once again after they traveled to Maryland to throttle them 59-0.  Their quarterback nearly had 400 yards passing, but he was pulled to give the second unit some time.  The defense looked fresh after the bye and the Terrapins stood no chance to compete in this game.  [Next game:  Purdue at home]
  4. Iowa:  Iowa was their normal self as they handled a mismatched Middle Tennessee State team 48-3 at home.  A tune-up game that is used to work out the kinks before traveling to Ann Arbor where it pits two conference heavyweights against each other in a knock-out bout.  Iowa has yet to be tested, but this could be it.  [Next game:  Michigan at Ann Arbor]
  5. Michigan:  Speaking of the Wolverines, they handed Rutgers a beatdown to get back on track with a 52-0 throttling against a struggling team.  A tune-up before Iowa, the Wolverines looked bad before this display of what they can be.  Was it another mirage?  Either way, they have some momentum coming into the next game.  Are they legit or pretenders?  [Next game:  Iowa at home]
  6. Michigan State:  The Spartans fought a tightly contested game against an upset-minded Indiana team at home.  The final score showed that their offense is average, but it also proved their defense is legit.  The 40-31 score does not change my mind, but if they want to be successful, their offense must be as consistent as their defense.  [Next game:  Ohio State at Columbus]
  7. Minnesota:  They look dangerous after they escaped West Lafayette with a single-digit win against Purdue.  Their offense looks crazy good with two game-changing receivers that this young quarterback relies heavily on upon.  Their defense played well and they need to keep the momentum in order to climb the charts.  [Next game:  Illinois at home]
  8. Indiana:  They took Michigan State to the limit and gave it all in the upset bid.  This is what I was talking about because they are a 50/50 type of team.  You never know what team will suit up and if they will punch you in the mouth with their offense.  They showed fight up until the end and they can always surprise teams.  [Next game:  Bye week]
  9. Northwestern:  They also put up a fight at home against a good Wisconsin team that relied on its defense to put points on the board.  The only issue is their offense needs to be better.  Their defense is always disciplined and good, but consistency is what bites them.  [Next game:  Nebraska at Lincoln]
  10. Nebraska:  They were throttled at home against a great Ohio State team, but they showed enough fight to not plummet in the rankings.  They negated the shutout with a great drive against the second-team defense, but they need to rebound at home against another team that suffered a loss in week five.  Turnover have killed the momentum, but another home game in front of their home crowd will help in what could be another sloppy game.  [Next game:  Northwestern at home]
  11. Illinois:  They were on a bye week, but they needed it after collapsing at home against Nebraska.  They had a double-digit lead that disappeared before the Cornhuskers stole the game from them.  Their offense looked good early on, but they got too cute with the playcalling opting to pass more instead of running out the clock.  They had two weeks to prepare for their next game, hope it works out.  [Next game:  Minnesota at Minneapolis]
  12. Maryland:  The hype train has been derailed five weeks into the season.  They were demolished at home at the hands of Penn State and they need to search for their identity.  59-0 was another bad omen to humble the Terrapins that were in the top 2 in scoring in the nation after two weeks.  This week they can regain their footing to right the ship.  [Next game:  Rutgers at Piscataway]
  13. Purdue:  Purdue fought, but in a close loss, they lost two of their best playmakers in Sindelar and Moore.  Their best quarterback along with the best playmaker went down on a single play and it was a bad time to be a Boilermaker fan.  It’ll get worse this week before it gets better because they will travel to Happy Valley to go against a peaking Penn State team.  [Next game:  Penn State at Happy Valley]
  14. Rutgers:  They lost big to a rejuvenated Michigan squad that found their offense again and they lost 52-0.  Their head coach Chris Ash and their offensive coordinator got the pink slip and they have an interim head coach in place to pick up the pieces.  Good thing they have a struggling Maryland team to play at home, but bad news, none of them scored points in week five.  Who will be able to score enough and who will play inspired football?  [Next game:  Maryland at home]

The Ohio State Buckeyes (5-0, Big Ten 2-0) defeated The Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-2, Big Ten 1-1)

Justin Fields takes his team away from the confines of Columbus and journeys to Lincoln, Nebraska for just their second road game of the season and on paper, the Cornhuskers looked to make it a contest, but it was not meant to be.  The Buckeyes began with electing to receive the ball in the second half and during Nebraska’s first drive, Jeffrey Okudah set the tone by picking off Martinez during their first drive of the game.  Wan’dale Robinson, the talent equivalent to Rondale Moore was the intended target but the ultra-athletic Okudah lunged in front of his blanketed assignment and made a momentum-swinging play.

Prior to last week, Okudah has not had an interception but last week against Miami (OH) he got the first of his career.  Flash forward into week five, he added two more with the aforementioned pick on the first drive of the game and the last one on the third Nebraska possession of the game, where Robinson was targeted once again, but his outstretched hands tipped the pass to a lying Okudah, who was on his back waiting for another gift from Martinez.  Okudah had two of the three picks of the game and the third pick came because of the pressure from Chase Young and Jonathan Cooper, who forced an errant pass that ended up in Jordan Fuller’s hands.

The Rushmen played well and generated a lot of pressure that forced Frost to travel back in time to use a few of his mid-90’s power running plays to mix it up.  It was successful at first, but once the Buckeyes buckled down, there was no chance for them to get rid of the constant pressure.  This was by far the worst O-Line that they’ve gone against and the Silver Bullets wreaked havoc all game long.  Chase Young notched another sack to his season and it was another strip-sack that nearly resulted in another turnover, but the writing was on the wall from an opening couple of drives.

Justin Fields and his playmakers looked like a well-oiled machine and they accounted for six total touchdowns, three through the air and another three on the ground and it was another display of great preparation.  Fields starting the onslaught with a 15-yard rushing touchdown he hit K.J. Hill for a short passing touchdown on two drives later after one of two Blake Haubiel field goals.  Master Teague churned out some scores as he scored on the next two possessions.  Fields ended his night when he engineered three scoring drives where he hit Mack in traffic, a second Haubiel field goal, and another corner catch from Garrett Wilson before his night ended.

Although Dobbins failed to score, he had another impactful game as he racked up 24 carries for 177 yards and a healthy 7.4 average and a long of 26.  Teague spelled Dobbins and had 12 carries for 77 yards and a 6.4 average and a long of 26.  Not to be outdone, Fields finished 15/21 for 212 yards and three scores and he had 12 rushes for 72 yards and another score with a long of 41 yards.  This offense can put up video game numbers, but they have not been tested yet through five weeks, but that could change against a stout and stingy Spartan defense next week.  Actually, the next four weeks have the Buckeyes at home against Sparty, a bye week before traveling to Evanston in a conference championship rematch with Northwestern, before clashing with a potent Wisconsin team in Columbus.

The road ahead will surely be prove-it games, but let’s take it a week at a time.  So far the Buckeyes have exceeded expectations and so far they have been nearly unstoppable.  The defense has been stellar as well, but Nebraska and Indiana are fringe offenses that are not as consistent.  The same thing can be said for Michigan State, but their defense is legit and they could give the Slobs issues.  They are physical and aggressive, but next week will be used to make another statement to the conference and the nation.