For The Roses

Photo Credit: Ohiostatebuckeyes.com

Keanu Reeves played a role as a former Ohio State Quarterback in The Replacements. In Shane Falco’s words: Pain heals. Chicks dog scars. Glory lasts forever. After being on the rare receiving end of a trashing from their arch rival Michigan, the Buckeyes find themselves outside of the big dance, without a conference title and wounded in the aftermath.

The wounds are still fresh but they’ve scabbed over. Now, in the form of a New Years Six bid, the Buckeyes will represent the BIG 10 in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl and they will square off against a gritty PAC 12 champ Utah team that had obliterated Oregon twice this season.

As it stands, the intentions of both Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson are unknown. If they play, it would most likely be their last appearance in the scarlet and gray. Although it is a huge “if”, I’ll keep hope that they’ll suit up one more time for their brothers to wash away the salt from a let down in Ann Arbor.

Currently, the Buckeyes are the slight favorites to win in what should be a great, competitive game. The Utes have their stout, stingy defense and the Buckeyes have their dynamic, explosive offense. These two teams combine the right ingredients to create an everlasting, memorable game for all the Roses.

According to the most reviewed sportsbooks at SportsBettingDime.com, the Buckeyes are 6.5 point favorites in this game. If they beat the Utes, the damage will likely be dealt with their passing prowess. With their trio of the nations best wideouts in Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba look to finish the season with a win.

This will be a stiff test, but the Buckeyes seem angry. They are sure talking like they’re taking this seriously as well but we will see. Again, this is a battle of wills, in the trenches. Utah has a similar play style to TTUN and they are also just as physical.

All in all, I am rolling with the Buckeyes in a close one. I am predicting Stroud to play out of his mind with or without Olave and Wilson. I am also predicting Henderson to make a splash with the O-Line reverting back to their early season form. As much as I love predicting blowout, I’ll predict a closer than expected score.

Prediction: Buckeyes over Utes 42-31

Buckeyes Humbled In Ann Arbor

Credit: ESPN.com

Shudder. Gag. The Wolverines finally broke two prominent streaks and they did it in dominating fashion. Ryan Day’s undefeated regular season conference streak and the 2nd longest win streak against TTUN are up in smoke.

Like a nightmare, the Buckeyes folded in what was essentially a playoff play-in game within The Game. All they had to do was win, but the Wolverines game plan was too sound and the Buckeyes let them play their brand of football.

With parallels and shades of the early season loss to Oregon, the Buckeyes were exposed once again on the big stage. Poor/questionable offensive play-calling, poor defensive effort, getting mauled at the line of scrimmage, settling for field goals in the red zone, and penalties ultimately killed any playoff and conference game hopes. Those all died in Ann Arbor.

At best, a New Years Six Game is in the cards. At worst a non-New Years Six game where every draft eligible player probably sits out. It is also very doubtful that sure-fire first rounders stay for another shot at revenge. I am crushed. The pipe dream is effectively snuffed out.

What could’ve been done better? Be better with play-calling on offense. They were playing too cautiously on both sides of the ball. They couldn’t do anything on offense and they couldn’t stop the run to save their lives. Discipline. It was not there either cause the penalties killed them.

One team did not come to have a war. The other one did. They executed and won. Simple. I cannot express the disgust right now, but I won’t compound things with more negatives. I have no other way to spin this disaster of a game plan, but what are the positives?

Stroud showed flashes but he still has room to grow. Henderson will build as well. Despite the looming losses of Olave and Wilson, Smith-Njigba will be very good for the Buckeyes. The offensive and defensive lines will have to retool, but they also have young talent inbound.

I will not congratulate them, but they earned it. They seized the moment and snatched everything away from us. This will sting for a year but we will be back. Always, Go Bucks.

The Game, For The Big 10 East Division Crown

The 2021 installment of The Game is just a few days away and like a child waiting patiently to open up his or her presents on Christmas Day—the anticipation and the suspense is killing me! Let me set the stage.

Here are two rivals pitted against each other, filled with hatred for one another, for a division crown and a trip to Indy. It doesn’t get any better than that during rivalry week. Yes, you still have The Iron Bowl, but the stakes aren’t as hazardous as The Game—especially this years.

This year will likely pit two top 5 teams against each other. In a battle against #7 team in the nation, the Buckeyes trampled the visiting Spartans to the tune 56-7. The Buckeyes held Heisman candidate Kenneth Walker III to a paltry 25 yard total with a 4.2 average per rush. The #6 Wolverines thrashed the Terrapins in a lopsided 59-18 victory—effectively setting the stage for this high stakes war of attrition.

This could be a mini preview of how well Ohio State’s explosive offense against a stout, active defense that features two book ends in Hutchinson and Ojabo and athletes at just about every position on defense. Must. See. TV.

Rolling into the game, Ohio State brought it this past Saturday and won convincingly and they did it by scoring at will to put the game out of reach by halftime. They come in with the best offense in the nation and a test is on the horizon against TTUN. They easily defeated Maryland and it should be interesting once the game begins as both teams try to establish their game plans. Here’s my things to watch for.

Battle Of The Trenches

The trench game will be a game within a game. Ohio State and their offensive line versus the TTUN front seven. Gone are the days where TTUN plays their defensive ends with their hand in the dirt as they usher in a new stand up pass rush that could give the Buckeyes fits.

NPF and Jones versus Hutchinson and Ojabo will all be fighting for pride and auditioning for their NFL futures. The TTUN duo accounts for 19 total sacks and 7 forced fumbles. According to NCAA.com, The Buckeyes are tied for 13th in the nation in sacks allowed and they give up 1.18 per game. TTUN is tied for 5th least giving up .82 per game, but they stick to the ground game and they don’t air it out as much as the Buckeyes do, so take that however you want.

The trench game will ultimately decide the contest. Can the Buckeyes offensive line give CJ Stroud enough time in the pocket? Will the Wolverine front seven be a disruptive force?

The Offensive Talent Clashes

The wideouts and the defensive backs in this contest will duel each other and it’s going to be a hell of a show. On one side you have Olave, Wilson, Smith-Njigba at wideout and Ruckert at Tight End. On the other, Johnson, Sainristil, Baldwin, Wilson and All at Tight End.

You have Henderson, Williams and Teague for the Buckeyes and Haskins, Corum and Edwards at Running Back for Ohio State and TTUN respectively. This will be a battle of wills with the talent on the field.

A vertical passing game will go against a power running game—and each side will try to stop the other from scoring points. Who will establish their game plan first? And who will weather the initial flurry at the early stages of the game?

Diamonds On Defense

Will the Buckeye defense continue to improve and can they make the Wolverines a one-dimensional team? I think they can and here’s why. After suffering a home loss to Oregon, it took a couple weeks to regain confidence and play with that swagger at every level.

Gone are the days where the Linebackers get lost behind screens. Gone are the days where they don’t stick their noses into gaps on defense. And gone are the days where they give up untimely splash plays. They are the most imported units and I know they’ll be ready to go this week.

The lure of Gold Pants, a trip to Indianapolis and a CFB Playoff berth is obtainable—and I know they’ll be ready for war. I have a feeling that this game will be a grinder and the Buckeye defense will continue to show the nation that they are big time!

Breakout Star(s) Alert

It always seems like every year of The Game, someone breaks out and becomes legendary. Chris Olave did it in 2018 scoring twice and in 2019, reaching the end zone once. Garrett Wilson had 118 yards in 2019 and a score. So who will be next?

I have seven in mind. CJ Stroud, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Treveyon Henderson and Miyan Williams on offense. Steele Chambers, Denzel Burke and Ronnie Hickman on defense.

Technically Stroud is a rising star, but he hasn’t formally introduced himself to the Wolverines—and what better time than now with all that’s at stake? He should be routinely target his receivers and tight ends, while simultaneously leaning on the running game to keep the defense honest and control the flow of the game. It will turn into a “pick your offensive poison” type of game for the Wolverine defense.

For the defense, I’m picking the trio of Chambers, Burke and Hickman. With the dark horses being Tyliek Williams, JT Tuimoloao and Jack Sawyer. Stuffing the run and coverage will be the name of the game and each player mentioned could ultimately break out.

There are so many to choose from but final answer from breakout stars? On offense it’ll be Henderson and Steele Chambers on defense. Think Zach Boren photo. Someone will make a play and shine among the chaos. So many possibilities but let’s see who seizes the opportunity.

My Prediction: 59-28 Buckeyes

#GoBucks

For The East: Sparty vs Brutus

This weekend will signal the final home game for our Ohio State Buckeyes and Senior day for our seniors and the players that are draft eligible. The Buckeyes will be tested as they face another dynamic offense at homecoming because the #7 Michigan State Spartans will be rolling into town to rumble.

This contest has all the makings of a barnburner and I’d like to thing that my article will be the tinder to light the fire for fans just like me. Both teams are poised for a shootout and the anticipation is spiraling out of control, but this is why we all love CFB!

Let’s Get Offensive
Offense, offense, offense! The Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan State Spartans possess two of the most prolific offenses and boast playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. This will likely be a high scoring game, a barnburner, a shootout, or whatever you call it—the anticipation off that alone, is enough.

The Buckeyes operate like one of the best offenses in the nation and average the most points per game to boot. They’re are equipped with a standout at quarterback in CJ Stroud that is paired with a talented group of wideouts in Olave, Wilson and Smith-Njigba. Oh, and a pair of beasts at running back in Henderson and Williams in the backfield.

On the other hand, the Spartans have a beast of a Heisman hopeful Kenneth Walker III and a pair of wideouts in Reed and Nailor that tend to give opposing defenses fits. They also have a sneaky good quarterback in Thorne to lead the team.

Expect fireworks and a lot of chunky plays. This game will be wild, they’ll be points, it’ll be a rollercoaster of emotions on every play.

Stonewall Time?

The defense has been performing better as of late, but these next two weeks is go time. The defense has made timely plays on defense, but more consistency and poise will be needed against Michigan State.

Having a leaky defense can be frustrating, but I believe the defense will play lights out from here on out. No sacks were had against Purdue, but the turnover battle was won. I feel like the Buckeyes will open up the playbook a bit and get some pressure on Thorne.

They won’t completely shut down this offense, but if they get enough pressure, sacks and interceptions will come—and I’m certain that is the game plan this week. Play soundly in the gaps and cover on the boundaries is the name of the game this week. Can the defense play that way the full 60 minutes? Stay tuned!

Chess Match

Coach Day versus Coach Tucker will be interesting. An offensive minded coach versus a defensive minded one will be fun to see and I think it’ll be a chess match for both coaches.

Will Coach Day give fans and get their teams a sneak peek of his full playbook? Will he dazzle you with perfectly called chunk plays? Or will he conceal everything and just run a vanilla offense to keep TTUN guessing? Will his defense step up and turn it up a notch?

Will Coach Tucker bring the heat? Will his offense light up the scoreboard? Can he bring kicker air guitars back into style with a signature win against a team that he used to coach at?

The game within the game will be interesting and fun to watch!

Prediction: 48-35 Buckeyes

#GoBucks

Stroud Leads Offensive Onslaught, Defensive Identity Crisis Continues

Credit: msn.com

The Buckeyes ousted the Purdue Boilermakers at home and it’s awesome seeing the offense operate at a high level for an entire game. The last two games definitely left more to be desired offensively and this game had a lot riding on it looking ahead to, but now it’s time to prepare for Michigan State.

The impressive part was the near perfect execution and balance of the offense and play-calling. The offensive line also came to play and showed why they are considered one of the best groups—if not the best in the nation in 2021. They did not allow a sack or get flagged for a penalty, so it was a good day for them.

Stroud was equally as impressive, slinging it for 361 yards and 5 scores, but his receivers—namely Garrett Wilson stole the show in his return after missing last weeks contest against Nebraska. He tallied 10 grabs for 126 yards and 3 scores. He also took an end around for 51 yards and a TD. Chris Olave and Jaxon Smith-Njigba also had 9 grabs and a score a piece.

The ground game came back to focus as Henderson and Williams rumbled through some tiny holes to rush for 215 yards combined and 2 scores. Williams went over 100 yards in garbage time, and as much as I wanted him to score—he looked good.

Defensively, it was another strong start but weak finish type of game. Despite the two turnovers, there was little to no pressure on O’Connell and they were nickeled and dimed the entire game with curls and swing passes along the perimeter. Yes, Bell was held to zero score but he went over 100 yards, but they need to generate more pressure along the edges and they need to stop biting on play action passes at safety.

Special teams wise, they balled out despite the limited amount of opportunities given. One FG and one punt inside of the 20 is plenty good enough for Ruggles and Mirco. The offensive game plan just flourished. But don’t discount the skills of these two specialists because when they’re needed, they’ll come through.

All in all, good performance from the Buckeyes. A well needed rekindling of our offensive potential, but an underwhelming performance from the defense for the third straight week. Coverage and block shedding should be worked on this week because Michigan State is another potent team offensively. Onto Beat Sparty week!

MOTSAG Game Grades:

  • QB: A (Efficient and on target with throws)
  • RB: A (Both hit the holes with reckless intent)
  • WR: A+ (YAC/CIT all game. Cerberus of WR’s)
  • TE: B (Blocked well despite bogus holding call)
  • OL: A- (Executed well and we’re not penalized)
  • DL: C (No block shedding/pressure/sacks)
  • LB: C (No block shedding on swing passes)
  • CB: C (Nickeled and dimed all game)
  • S: C- (Bit too much on backend coverage)
  • K: B (Limited but did not miss)
  • P: B (Limited but the offense didn’t get stalled)

#GoBucks

Clash in Columbus!

There aren’t that many Saturday’s left for us to enjoy, but despite being late to the party (from a creative and mental hiatus), I am back for the rest of the season. That isn’t to say that I haven’t been paying attention, but this year work has been keeping me busy and on my toes!

To kick things off, this is a trap game! This weeks contest is slotted prior games with a pair of division foes from up north, so this game definitely has me on high alert. This late into the season, you have to bring your “A” game every week but as we have witnessed over the last two contests, there is a lot left to improve with so little time left.

Purdue The Giant Slayer

When it comes down to it in 2021, Purdue is a monster in underdog games. The de facto agent of chaos, Purdue has two chaos-inducing upsets against #2 Iowa in Kinnick Stadium and #3 Michigan State in West Lafayette. This weeks contest is located in Columbus, but Iowa lost big at home.

To put this into perspective, they are really good on offense and they trail Ohio State in passing yards/TD total by 183 yards and 8 TD’s. Ohio State is ranked 6th in the nation according to NCAA.com and Purdue sits at 8th. Ohio State is averaging 352.8 yards per game and Purdue is averaging 332.4 (20.4 yard difference), but Purdue has been surgical with a .705 completion percentage which is good for 5th in the nation, while the Buckeyes sit at 22nd with .666.

If the Buckeyes can make them one-dimensional and neutralize the passing game, they will surely win. On the ground, Purdue is 128th out of 130 FBS teams in rushing yards. In 9 games, they have rushed for 694 yards and 5 scores, with a 2.40 yards per rush attempt. They are also averaging 77.1 yards per contest. It is just a matter of playing sound defense.

Now defensively, this is a stout and active defense. They are ranked 28th in 3rd down defensive percentage (.347%), passing yards allowed (185.3), and a red zone defense (.724%). The only weakness is their run defense (60th, 144.4 yards per game), and what a perfect opportunity to correct errors from the last two weeks?

Jekyll and Hyde

It is no secret that this team has gutted it out in close contests against and they have depended heavily on the foot of Noah Ruggles. The heavy passing attack has lost some explosiveness and the running game hasn’t been what it was earlier in the season—the Buckeyes have to get it together.

The offensive line has to revert to what they were earlier on and the running game needs to be executed properly to balance out and keep their opponents on their heels. The line play has been atrocious and a lot of penalties and bad execution have stunted this offensive attack. Injuries have also been a factor, but on offense, they should get Wilson back this week.

On defense, it’s been rough. Besides the pressure (and constant holds) the Buckeyes are tied for first in sacks with 34 and in defensive TD’s with 6. So there is potential, but with the constant moving parts on defense, it is nearly impossible to know what actual defense this team possesses. They were carved up by Penn State and and Nebraska, but I have faith that they’ll right the ship.

The pieces are there but to win, they need a complete team effort. Stroud cannot stare down his intended receivers and he cannot take pot shots into tight windows. He’s been a treat to watch but he needs to protect the ball. The run blocking also needs a tweak. Those massive holes from before aren’t there and the execution is suspect.

Prediction: 34-24 Buckeyes

The Clash In C’bus

Photo Credit: @CFBONFOX

After a Covid ravaged season in 2020, the Buckeyes will host their first home game of the season against an Oregon team that squeaked by Fresno State in week 1. The Buckeyes on the other hand utilized Coach Days’ knack for engineering second half adjustments to defeat Minnesota on the road by double-digits. This game was supposed to be the second leg of a home-and-home but with Covid, both parties were restricted to only conference games during the regular season.

In a showdown between two of Nike’s favorites teams in terms of uniform combinations, the 3rd ranked Buckeyes will face the 12th ranked Ducks at home. Will there be a special jersey combination for this week? While it is doubtful, one could hope but this game will be a spectacle to see from start to finish.

Both teams are 1-0 and are looking to make it to 2-0, but both are young and are unproven at this post of the 2021 season. Both teams must figure it out quickly on defense because both offenses have talent that could put up points in a hurry.

Ohio State has a new toy at QB in CJ Stroud, a redshirt freshman. They have stars that share the backfield with him in Miyann “Chop” Williams, Master Teague III, Treyveon Henderson, and Evan Pryor (who we didn’t see yet). They have a wall of pancake with Petit-Frere, Munford, Miller or Wypler (if Miller cannot go), Johnson Jr and Jones. Beyond the line, WR’s Olave, Wilson, Smith-Njigba, and TE Ruckert are the available pass catchers.

For Oregon, Anthony Johnson is their starting QB and he has CJ Verdell and Travis Dye to form a trio of game breaking speedsters in the backfield. On the perimeter he has Johnny Johnson and Micah Pittman to throw to. Oregon has a three new starters along the offensive line and with Penei Sewell departing for the draft, they sit 52nd overall in sacks allowed per NCAA.com, giving up 3 sacks for a total loss of 11 yards.

On defense, the Buckeyes started slow but the defense is young and inexperienced, and we’re also without a few starters at cornerback. No excuses but they’re still green. Linebacker is the same but the trenches contain the difference-makers. Smith, Harrison, Vincent, and Garrett are the disrupters that have yet to make it to the opposing quarterback consistently. They have one sack from the group but they could feast in week two.

Oregon will return their two players at corner in DJ James and Jamal Hill. They have McKinley and Stephens and that adds more depth to the secondary. The talent in the front seven is young but there are questions and rumors about who is available and who isn’t. Kayvon Thibodeaux, a presumptive first round talent and #1 overall NFL prospect siffeeed a sprained ankle and might now suit up in week two. Justin Flowe has fans panicking over rumors that he broke his foot and is out for the season.

Here are my five bold prediction for Saturday:

  1. CJ Stroud will have at least 210 yards passing with at least 3 TD’s.
  2. Williams has another 100 yard rushing game with other backs chipping in for a 190+ yard 2 TD day.
  3. Defense shuts Oregon down on offense and holds them to under 20 points.
  4. Buckeyes gather a fumble, an interception, at least 2 sacks, and a defensive score.
  5. Ruckert-focused game plan with at least 4 catches, 45 yards and a score.

Final Score: 45-17

#GoBucks

So You Drafted A Buckeye: Josh Myers

The second Buckeye drafted in the second round, Myers was taken 62nd overall and he was drafted by the Packers. After Corey Linsley left for the Chargers, the Packers have replaced him with another Buckeye in Myers. Myers is a tough one and is very durable. We saw the impact of him being lost for a short time and it wasn’t pretty. Being like the rock on the offensive line, he brings experience that could translate instantly in the NFL.

Making calls at the next level would be tough for a rookie who is unfamiliar with the system but Bakhtiari will welcome him in and mentor him along the way. Like in Werner’s situation, he goes into an ideal situation to where he could also contribute right away. He has the tools and the knowledge to succeed but he would need to study the playbook and get stronger. Either way, his potential speaks for itself. He finds himself in an ideal situation that could blossom into a long career.

So You Drafted A Buckeye: Pete Werner

Pete Werner was the first Buckeye defender taken in the second round. Werner was taken 60th overall by the New Orleans Saints joining former Buckeye Marshon Lattimore. Werner, a four star recruit according to 24/7 was an Inside Linebacker prospect that bloomed into a Swiss Army knife on defense. A linebacker with good coverage skills that could also blitz when called upon. Let’s say he’s in good company with him lining up alongside Demario Davis.

Werner is a gamer that will be asked to cover TE’s and if needed receivers. He won’t be asked to start but the current group aside from Davis leaves a lot to be desired. Werner is a sure tackler, but he does try to get that big hit in from time to time but when he makes contact, he shifts momentum fast. He sometimes takes risks on defense as well as bad angles but under the tutelage of Cameron, Davis and Lattimore, he will get right. Either way, he is a competitor and he should be able to secure a decent role on this aging defense.

So You Drafted A Buckeye: Justin Fields

After an unceremonious pre-draft thrashing, Justin Fields slipped past QB-needy teams like the Panthers and the Broncos, and found himself donning a Bears hat. From being the clear-cut QB2, to getting drafted QB4, he lands in Chicago and behind newly signed Andy Dalton to begin his career. Dalton is on his third team after beginning his career in Cincinnati, a single season in Dallas, and now Chicago. Can Fields come in and contribute immediately? Or will he have to grind it out and wait for his time like Mahomes?

All the talk and the doubt have fueled him up to this point. He will let his play do the talking and I personally think he will reverse the QB trend in the NFL. Fields brings immediate competition for Dalton. Enough to be worried about but not until he dissects the playbook and learns the system. He brings toughness and that feistiness you like to see in a quarterback that coincidentally slipped in the draft. A huge chip lays squarely on his shoulders and he wouldn’t want it any other way. Beware. For the teams that passed on him, I feel like this gem will make teams regret it.