Ohio State Football: Best Player of 2018

 

With the 2017 season behind us and the 2018 season still months away, I have decided that today is a day for wild speculation.  As I foresee that there may, in fact, be many of these days over the coming months, I will be asking and answering questions that are impossible to answer (unless your name is Urban) and will be fiercely defending my completely baseless findings.  In pursuit of this goal, today’s question is a biggie: “Who will be the best player on the field for the Buckeyes next season?”

 

To answer this question, we must first establish what I mean by “best.”  Am I asking what player will be the most talented on the field at any given time?  Or is it more about who excels the most at their position relative to the rest of the country?  Perhaps the question would best be answered by choosing the player that most positively affects the gameplay of the team, like an MVP award?

 

I don’t know.  If I had known that I wouldn’t be able to get past the specifying stage of my question, perhaps I wouldn’t have even started writing this article (more wild speculation), but now I’ve begun, so I must finish.  And since I am incapable of making decisions, I’m just going to answer all three questions.

 

 

 

Who is the Most Talented Player on the 2018 Ohio State Roster?

 

There are a lot of players to choose from when asking this question.  Nick Bosa, Chase Young, Jeffrey Okudah and Baron Browning are all in the Top 10 of recruits in Ohio State History.  The Buckeyes will have 9 247sports consensus 5-star prospects on their roster next year and will boast perhaps their greatest recruiting class of all time.  Choosing the most talented player on this roster is like choosing the best of all of the bars of gold, or the tastiest of all of the Chipotle Mexican Grills, but I have to choose one and so I will choose the one that has proven it.

 

Winner:  Nick Bosa

 

Austin Mack has made some crazy catches. Isaiah Prince has stepped up on the offensive line.  Dwayne Haskins, Tate Martell, and JK Dobbins all have a shot at winning the Heisman next year, but I chose the fourth highest rated prospect in OSU history.  Nick Bosa is the highest rated prospect on the team this year and the one that has most proven what a Top 10 prospect can do.  He spent last year fighting through double- and triple-teams, freeing up the other monsters on the defensive line, and making huge plays in the backfield.  With Chase Young showing flashes of brilliance in his limited time on-field in 2018, the Little Bear might just have even more opportunities to shine this coming season.

 

Who is going to win an individual award next year?

 

This category is not quite as easy to deliberate on. Many of OSU’s best players come at positions that are stacked on the national stage.  JK Dobbins could win the Heisman, but he also might not be the best running back in the Big Ten with his counterpart at Wisconsin, Jonathan Taylor, putting up huge numbers on the ground.  All of this is without even mentioning the reigning Doak Walker award-winner, Bryce Love.

 

Nick Bosa, Chase Young, and Dre’Mont Jones are all enormously talented on the defensive line.  However, with players like Ed Oliver of Houston or Austin Bryant, Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins, Clemson’s talented trio of All-Americans also back on the field, the odds of getting an individual award on the defensive line are not so great.

 

Winner:  Austin Mack

 

His path to the Biletnikoff Award does seem a little bit… well, impossible, but watching the catches he made in 2017 and listening to the way his coaches talk about him, it really is impossible… to dislike him.  Austin Mack will have to fight off upperclassmen trying to stay on the field, stand out in Urban Meyer’s run-first offense and catch passes from a brand new starting quarterback, but he has the talent and the upward mobility to be a first-round pick.  Hopefully, though, he will have a more pass-heavy offense to work with, as Dwayne Haskins looks to be the front-runner for the starting job and Ryan Day has been elevated to offensive coordinator.

 

Fingers crossed.

 

Who will be the 2018 Ohio State MVP?

 

I only have one answer to this question, and it’s at the same position as it would be on any other team: QB.  JK Dobbins will probably have a great year next year.  The offensive line should be good. The defensive line will be unstoppable and Alex Grinch and Greg Schiano are going to figure out the rest of the defense.  With all of that being said, the Most Valuable Player on this team next year is going to have to be the master and commander.

 

Winner:  Dwayne Haskins

 

I understand that we don’t know who the starting quarterback is going to be next year, but I do know that Dwayne Haskins looked the closest to being ready.  I also know that, in Urban’s Power Spread offensive philosophy, the offense runs through the quarterback.  The Buckeyes success (or failure) next year is going to hinge on the quarterback’s ability to do what the coaches need him to do and how well he can develop as the season progresses.  If Dwayne trots out there against Oregon State on September 1st, he has to be the MVP.

Offseason Blues: The Signal Callers

From the time the clock hit zeroes at the Cotton Bowl, the reality began to set in after JT Barrett’s last game in the scarlet and gray.  The end was inevitable and you could see it on his face.  Coach Meyer will be starting over in his quest for Barrett’s successor at the Quarterback position to run his offense to his liking and to the standard of previous starters.

The age-old argument, of who should and shouldn’t be starting will die down, but for how long will the silence last?  Barrett started due to his ability to flatly win ball games, no matter how pretty or ugly the win was achieved, he won them with his style of play.

Now, we are looking at a changing of the guard that places four new hopefuls that are looking to succeed Barrett and catch Coach Meyer’s eye.  It will surely be a battle and it will be fierce, but may the best man win.

Dwayne Haskins

Haskins has the inside track in this quarterback battle, often spelling JT Barrett and earning the primary backup spot for the entirety of the year.  He did pretty well and opened some eyes during both, mop up duty and during the TTUN game where he rocketed a pass through defenders, for a sorely needed first down conversion while Barrett sat out with an injury.

Haskins has the arm strength, which is why I’d say half Buckeye Nation fans were adamant and just downright negative about Barrett remaining the starter.  He is a decent runner, but he isn’t as fleet-footed as JT, but there will be no need for that many QB runs this season because Haskins can fling it with accuracy and velocity.  Barrett is now out of the picture (God bless his heart) and now hopefully Haskins learned from him during his time there.

The offense under Haskins will be scary if he figures it out early and with a full complement of Zone 6 returning for one more go, along with both Tote Nation stars, the balance will return to Ohio State.  It will only be a matter of time.

Joe Burrow

Burrow is a bit of a wildcard in this equation.  He led early as for backup duties, but an injury to his hand cost him in the end.  There have been rumors about a potential transfer, but nothing has been confirmed, yet.

Like Haskins, he can throw and is just as accurate, but during spot duty, he was up and down during those games.  He isn’t terrible, but this spring game will be fun and it will tell a lot about both competitors.

Personally, I don’t think a transfer is in the cards just yet, and even if he becomes the backup, he will stay until he graduates, then becoming a graduate transfer would be in the cards.  This is just my opinion, so don’t shoot the messenger and I have no inside knowledge, just thinking logically.

Tate Martell

Martell is another wildcard in the quarterback competition.  His skill set is pretty similar to JT, being a dual-threat, but he can throw better.  Tate is shifty and he is deadly accurate when he is set or on the run, which makes him the dark horse this spring.

Martell went out on a limb and pretty much guaranteed a CFB Championship game berth next season.  I think if the teams gels quickly, it is definitely possible, but with CFB, you never truly know what will happen.  They all just need to focus and play hard every single game, and whatever happens, happens.  The goals are set and it is up to the team to put their nose on the grindstone and work for what they want to achieve.

Matthew Baldwin

Baldwin will be the new kid on the block and he will most likely see a redshirt year, to be honest.  He suffered a major injury during the playoffs, and I am positive that the injury would not be completely healed.

After viewing his Hudl footage, this kid is a beastly addition to a talented quarterback room.  He can throw from everywhere on the field and is deadly accurate.  I was in awe and I was pleased that the coaches took him over Emory Jones, who was committed until things happened.  Things happen for a reason, but we got another gem in the rough.

Conclusion

This battle is far from over, but this year’s competition will be one to watch because the future of the program is at stake.  You cannot go wrong with any name in this talented quarterback room, but one will win out in the end.

Each signal-caller brings an arm and accuracy, with decent mobility with the exception of Martell and Baldwin.  The passing game and balance will be the focus this year, with fewer quarterback runs.  It will be an exciting change for the team that is looking for a new leader.

 

Ohio State Football: The Sinister Six?

Parris Campbell

Terry McLaurin

Johnnie Dixon

KJ Hill

Binjimen Victor

Austin Mack

 

Six names. Six pass catchers.  Six young men that spent all of last year running around the field decked in Scarlet and Gray, waiting for passes that would never come.  Not one of them was in the Top 80 in receptions last year, or in the Top 100 in receiving yardage or yards per game.  On an Ohio State team that was tied for third in the country in Passing Touchdowns, there was not one receiver that a generic college football fan would recognize, not one receiver that would be worth a look until at least the 4th round of the NFL Draft.  So today, I am going to examine our beloved “Zone 6” from recruitment until now and see if it isn’t more of a Sinister 6 (for those of you who don’t know, the Sinister Six are a group of Spiderman bad guys that teamed up and then got their butts whooped one-by-one).

 

Parris Campbell
RS Senior – 4 Star, 22nd WR (class of 2014)
H-Back – 6’1″, 208 lbs.
2017 – 40 rec, 584 yds, 3 TDs (10 car, 132 yds, 1 TD; 9 kick ret, 329 yds)
Career – 53 rec, 704 yds, 3 TDs (14 car, 186 yds, 2 TDs; 30 kick ret, 913 yds)

 

Terry McLaurin
RS Senior – 4 Star, 36th WR (class of 2014)
WR-Z – 6’1″, 204 lbs.
2017 – 29 rec, 436 yds, 6 TDs
Career – 40 rec, 550 yds, 8 TDs

 

Johnnie Dixon
RS Senior – 4 Star, 9th WR (class of 2014)
WR-Z – 5’11”, 195 lbs.
2017 – 18 rec, 422 yds, 8 TDs
Career – 25 rec , 477 yds, 8 TDs

 

KJ Hill
RS Junior – 4 Star, 16th WR (class of 2015)
H-Back – 6’0″, 198
2017 – 56 rec, 549 yds, 3 TDs (6 kick ret, 150 yds; 26 punt ret, 144 yds)
Career – 74 rec, 811 yds, 4 TDs (7 kick ret, 156 yds; 26 punt ret, 144 yds)

 

Binjimen Victor
Junior – 4 Star, 12th WR (class of 2016)
WR-X – 6’4″, 195
2017 – 23 rec, 349 yds, 7 TDs
Career – 27 rec, 413 yds, 8 TDs

 

Austin Mack
Junior – 4 Star, 9th WR (class of 2016)
WR-X – 6’2″, 215
2017 – 24 rec, 343 yds, 2 TDs
Career – 26 rec, 358 yds, 2 TDs

 

Scarlet Letter: Saying Goodbye To A Legend

Dec 29, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) celebrates after the game against the USC Trojans in the 2017 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

As the clock reaches zeroes and the confetti pours down from above, an Ohio State legend gallops into the sunset after his final game donning the scarlet and gray.  It is surely, a bittersweet moment amid an average performance by JT Barrett, but the emotions of this final moment will vary among the fan base.

Two sides of the same coin, the intensity of the arguments can be felt across the nation, and it suddenly turns Buckeye fans against each other, when we should be celebrating his accomplishments and what he has done for the team–instead of nitpicking at his flaws.

JT Barrett has done so much for the university, and yes, while championships are the goal, sometimes the season just plays out differently, leading to the team underachieving, but that is football for you.  Sometimes it does not go your way.  Do not let the lack of championships obstruct your view of JT and his accomplishments because he has done more in his five-year stint at Ohio State than most players that played the position.

He has more wins than any other Buckeye signal caller, after besting Art Schlicter’s age-old record for wins with his 44th win as a starter against 6 losses, and he was the only Buckeye to go 4-0 against TTUN.  As mind-boggling as it has been through the years with his ups and his downs, his strengths and his weaknesses, he still managed to win.  It wasn’t always pretty, and he always took over when he had to, but he flat out played to win.

Unfortunately, a small portion of the fanbase is unwilling to appreciate his efforts often pointing to the Iowa game, where the offense under Barrett struggled mightily as they were blown out by 31 points.  This 31 point loss was the deciding factor that put eventual Champion Alabama in over Ohio State.  Ever since that loss, the appreciation was not the same for Barrett or the team.

This is what is so frustrating about our fanbase–they are too spoiled and they expect too much to the point to where it is unrealistic and unattainable.  You cannot expect Ohio State to win every game, you cannot expect the home teams to just lay down just because your Ohio State, and you cannot expect them not to give you their best shot when you come around because you are a brand name in CFB–a blueblood program.  Iowa definitely dished out the haymaker or knockout punch in the beginning, and it all just went downhill from there, but the team fought tirelessly until the end.

Yes, the playcalling caters to Barrett’s strengths and they are semi-conservative.  There is no pop or explosiveness to the offense.  He was inaccurate and inconsistent, the playcalling was limited and uninspiring, they forgot about their RB’s, and they often called nothing but short passes and RPO’s that often lead to Barrett rushes for the rest of the season.

I get it, I fell in love with the Buckeyes in 2006 during my first enlistment in the Air Force coming in from Guam, during the Troy Smith era.  They had so much excitement and explosiveness on offense, it was always a treat to watch them shred teams with their unpredictability.  I miss it, but it is a different era, different Quarterback.  Hopefully, the next man up will provide the same spark on offense, but we need to take the time to appreciate his accomplishments and achievements during his time as a Buckeye.

There is no more need for slander because he is gone.  He has done too much for us to go out with negativity like I have seen.  He is a Buckeye, he was a great leader, a competitor, a winner, and a legend.  Let JT Barrett ride off into the sunset in peace.  Send him off on a high note and let his memory bring you joy instead of pure vitriol for what he failed to do and just focus on the positives.

I know that this won’t change the overall perception or view of Barrett, but I have had enough of the negativity.  It was fun while it lasted, but the next man up will take over another deep and talented offense.  Thank you JT for all you have done, God bless you and I hope that you succeed at the next level, whether it is as a player or a coach.  Go Bucks!

J.T. BARRETT RECORDS 
Big Ten
45 – Touchdowns responsible for, season
7 – Freshman of the week awards, season                                                                                      9423 – Total Yardage, career

Ohio State
233 – Completions, season (2016)
529 – Completions, career
6 – Touchdown passes, games (2 times)
34 – Touchdown passes, season (2014)
69 – Touchdown passes, career
177.2 – Passing Yards per game, career
18 – 200-yard passing games, career
169.8 – Passing efficiency, season (2014)
3,772 – Total yards, season (2014)
314.3 – Average total offensive yards, season (2014)
245.7 – Average total offensive yards, career
7 – Touchdowns responsible for, game (BGSU, 2016)
45 – Touchdowns responsible for, season (2014)
100 – Touchdowns responsible for, career
11 – Games gaining 200 yards total offense, season (2 times)
26 – Games gaining 200 yards total offense, career
7 – Games gaining 300 yards total offense, season (2014)
14 – Games gaining 300 yards total offense, career
1 – Games gaining 400 or more yards total offense, season
11 – Most wins by first-year starting QB
189 – Rushing yards by a QB, game (Minnesota, 2014)
86 – Longest rush by a QB (Minnesota, 2014)

BARRETT’S CAREER TOTAL OFFENSE STATS

YEAR G-GS Rush Pass TOT AVG
2014 12-12 938 2834 3772 314.3
2015 11-5 682 992 1674 152.2
2016 12-12 847 2428 3275 272.9
Totals 35-29 2467 6254 8721 249.2

CAREER BESTS
Completions……………………… 28 at Penn State (10/22/16)
Attempts…………………………… 43 at Penn State (10/22/16)
Yards Passing……………………. 349 vs. Bowling Green (9/3/16)
TD passes…………………………. *6 (2x) last vs. Bowling Green (9/3/16)
Longest Completion……………. 80 vs. Navy (8/30/14)
Yards Rushing…………………… *189 at Minnesota (11/25/14)
Rushing Attempts………………. 30 vs. Michigan (11/26/16)
Longest Rush…………………….. *86/TD at Minnesota (11/25/14)
Rushing TDs……………………… 2 (6x) last at Wisconsin (10/15/16)
Total Offense…………………….. 409 vs. Cincinnati (9/27/14)
Total Touchdowns……………… *7 vs. Bowling Green (9/3/16)
*Indicates school records; ^School QB records

 

Urban’s Two Car Garage

With Mike Weber hinting at a return for one more year with the Scarlet and Gray, we can now officially continue one of the most interesting debates of the 2017 season: can Mike Weber and JK Dobbins co-exist in Ohio State’s offense or will 2018 turn into a Fast and Furious style race to the finish? Conventional wisdom tells us that a team can never have too much talent, however, as we saw with the JT vs. Cardale debacle in 2015, the outcome of games is not based on how much talent is on the roster, but on how that talent is managed.

Over the course of the last 6 months, we have all been witness to the unfolding of a new saga. On one end of this story, we had the grisly veteran with a growling v8 under the hood. Here was a guy who had replaced an all-time great and was fresh off a somehow under-the-radar 1000 yard freshman season, but who was battling a preseason injury. On the other, we had an untested, yet highly rated true freshman powered by an imported prototype hybrid V12 engine, who had fought his own injury troubles to get onto the field. It was under these circumstances that Ohio State’s season began, with JK Dobbins thrust into the limelight, an inexperienced starter with no veteran backup options. Dobbins exploded onto the scene, with 29 carries and 181 yards in his first ever start. This freshman revelation led many to wonder what the coaches were going to do with Weber when he returned from injury. Was he going to lose his starting job or would he be slotted back in and pick up where he left off in 2016?

When Mike Weber returned to the lineup, it was immediately apparent that he was not being used in his former role. He still wasn’t 100%. And so, as the weeks continued along and the games in which he didn’t play (or was severely underused) piled up, a lot of fans forgot about Mike Weber as we were being wowed by this young, prancing colt in JK Dobbins who was galloping up and down the field. What we were seeing in Weber was a young man with a rugged and classic style of running who had been outshone in his first year as a starter by the versatility and game-breaking ability of Curtis Samuel and now in his second was being overshadowed by a true freshman that seemed like he had electronic traction control and lightning in his shoes.

Of course, the season didn’t end after the UNLV game, and Weber returned during the cupcake section of the Buckeye’s schedule.  In these games, it seemed like Urban, Kevin Wilson and Tony Alford were content to use the two backs in the exact same role, just trading them out every quarter to make sure they both had fresh legs in the 4th.  However, they were still growing into their own roles in the offense. Dobbins was able to create plays in the run game, and opening up holes for quarterback JT Barrett while in scoring position. Weber found his yards in between the tackles and in short yardage situations, including on the goal line. These new roles showed in the statistics, as Dobbins averaged 85 yards per game and had 4 touchdowns over the first 3 games of the Big Ten Schedule. In the same time frame, Weber averaged 61.7 YPG and added 4 touchdowns of his own. Bam! Ohio State had found its offense on the backs of two horses at tailback, one that could weave and one that could roar, and a quarterback that would take anything the defense would give him. What we thought we were seeing was a clearer definition of roles, however, both the Penn State and the Iowa game proved that no one really had any idea what this Ohio State team was. What these games did seem to show, each in their own way, was that Dobbins was becoming the clear number one tailback and Weber was once again fading into the background. This all lasted about a week until we were all once again proven wrong.

In the Michigan State game, the entire country saw what this Ohio State offense was supposed to look like under Urban Meyer and Kevin Wilson: a three-headed rushing attack with JT Barrett, JK Dobbins and Mike Weber pounding the front seven of opposing defenses along with weapons on the outside to keep the defensive front honest. It was an offense in which you could try to reign in the horses, but one would always break free. The Spartans could attempt to stop Dobbins, and so they were gashed by JT. Then they tried to stop JT, and Weber was able to run free like a stallion down the middle of the field, breaking touchdown runs of 47- and 82-yards. Both Dobbins and Weber had a great game, Dobbins as an every down type of back and Weber as a change of pace battering ram with surprising, yet elite top end speed. All Ohio State got out of it was a 48-3 victory over a Top-15 team. This was the team everyone was expecting when Kevin Wilson was hired in the offseason.

The Illinois game saw Mike Weber take another step forward in production, once again outgaining Dobbins in a blowout, however, after playing reasonably well against Michigan, something seemed to change for the coaches. After averaging 10+ carries and 100+ yards as well as more than 1.5 TDs per game over the last 3 games of the regular season, Weber had 4 carries for 6 yards in the Big Ten Championship and 5 carries for 18 yards in the Cotton Bowl. Granted, Wisconsin had one of the best defenses in the country in 2017 and USC sold out to stop the run game, but even so, JK Dobbins had 17 carries for 174 yards against Wisconsin and 13 carries for 39 yards against USC. The coaches had apparently made up their mind about what Mike Weber was and is.

Basically what we’re talking about are two completely different runners, like two different sports cars. JK Dobbins is an Italian import– a Ferrari– agile with some freakish off the line get-up-and-go. Like the Ferrari, he takes the corners extremely well and can excite you every time he fires that engine up. Mike Weber is a classic American muscle car– a Mustang– powerful and gritty, but when you open it up, fast as the wind. He was built for the quarter mile and he’ll fly if he’s got room to go, but he’s not as fancy as the Ferrari in the corners. And now, with Demario McCall and the newest model, Jaelen Gill, looking like they’ll be pushing for touches, along with Antonio Williams and the highly touted freshman tailback class that the coaches brought in for 2018, Urban’s garage is getting smaller and smaller. The problem is, Ferraris are made by a racecar manufacturer with racing technology, while Mustangs are made by a truck manufacturer. Unfortunately for Mike Webber, it looks like Urban is going to try to ride his Scarlet Ferrari to a National Championship in 2018.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: Position Battles (Part III)

With this matchup being approximately a week away the focus will be on the defensive position battles between Ohio State and USC.  This matchup will feature Ohio State and their Top 10 defensive unit against a reinvigorated defense that has won 5 straight.

Defensive Line:

The Rushmen package that Coach Johnson has installed has worked tremendously well for the Silver Bullets.  The combination of Bosa, Lewis, Holmes, and Hubbard will be used to solely to disrupt Sam Darnold and cause chaos.  It has worked for most of the season, and why not go back to the well.

The depth and talent of the players on Ohio State’s bench are ridiculous, and most, if not all of them are starters at any other school in the nation.  That is the best part about having such a coach like Coach Johnson on to mentor them.

In the interior, Sprinkle and Jones will start the game with Hill and Landers relieving them when they get tired, and they are a pretty talented group of individuals who could all wreak havoc on the trenches.

They are 20th in the nation in total sacks and 13th in team tackles for loss.  They are averaging 2.85 sacks per game and 7.7 in total yards lost.  USC needs to control the trenches to succeed in this matchup because if the floodgates open, it’ll be a long day for Darnold.

Rasheem Green was once an Ohio State target when he was coming out of high school, but things did not work out.  Unlike Ohio State, who runs a 4-3, USC runs the opposite, a 3-4.  Rasheem Green, Josh Fatu, and Christian Rector all start for the Trojans, and they all are space eaters in the trenches.

USC is 6th in the nation in team sacks edging out the Ohio State’s unit with 3.31 sacks per game.  Running a different scheme has its advantages, but the Ohio State Offensive Linemen are one of the most talented groups that USC has faced, so it will have to be determined come gameday.

Linebackers:

Both teams have an embarrassment of riches at the LB positions.  Ohio State has Baker, Borland, and Worley as starters, with Jones, Harrison, and Booker in the wings.  Together, they make a formidable trio for defenses and they are the second level behind the Rushmen.

Baker is a potential first rounder that can do it all.  In coverage, as a spy, even as a blitzer, he will do everything he can to make an impact.  Worley and Borland play well at their new positions.  Worley moved back outside while Borland took Worley’s spot in the middle, and it has worked out pretty good.

USC has quite a formidable combination at LB, and I think they are the reason why their defense has so many sacks.  The USC linemen occupy blockers while the LB’s knife through to seek out the Quarterback.

Led by Iosefa and Smith, this unit is scary good and they could give the right side of the line fits.  They are ranked as the 56th best team in the nation in tackles for loss, but I have a feeling that they will get to Barrett a lot this game due to the inconsistency of the right side, but I do not think it will be as bad as two years ago.

They will do enough to disrupt Barrett and his decision-making process, and they will most likely take the Buckeyes backs down a couple of times in the backfield.  This matchup will be between NFL Linebackers prospects, who are trying to make it to the next level.

Defensive Backs:

Denzel Ward leads another talented group of DB’s at Ohio State, along with Damon Arnette and Kendall Sheffield at Cornerback.  The definition of a shutdown corner in a long line produced by Coach Coombs, he will look to stop USC’s best playmaker on offense like he has done all season.

At Safety Damon Webb, a hard-hitting safety will patrol the top quarters along with Jordan Fuller to prevent the big plays downfield.

Collectively, BIA will be looking to prove once again that they are the Best In America by locking up USC, but Arnette and Sheffield must avoid the costly penalties that have been a problem for them this season to be successful.

Jack Jones, Iman Marshall, and Chris Hawkins lead the DB’s, and they will look to stop the Buckeye speed.  A lot of teams outside of Oklahoma and Iowa were unsuccessful in preventing the speedy WR’s from getting behind them, but they have the talent in the secondary to do so.

Like Ohio State’s starters, they will be tasked to stop a talented offense and they have the skills and the talent to certainly do so, but it is easier said then done.  Ohio State loves those crossing routes, but I feel like in order for this unit to succeed, they must stop Dobbins and Weber, and Barrett too from establishing a balance and establishing the run.

If they successfully make Ohio State one-dimensional, they will most likely have success.  If not, I think it’ll be a long day.

Position Battles:

DL:  Due to the different defensive schemes, this matchup is close.  From a talent standpoint, I will give the edge to the Buckeyes, but the production edge goes to USC.  The biggest factor will depend on which offensive line shows up.  If 2016 Ohio State shows up, USC wins easily.  If this seasons team does, Ohio State wins.  I am counting on the 2017 team to show up so I will give the slight edge to Ohio State.

LB:  Both units have a lot of talent that is starting and on the bench.  With Ohio State, they have been good, but inconsistent.  Baker tends to gamble and run himself out of position and Borland is good, but young.  USC will blitz like crazy and they have a lot of former Buckeye targets on their roster that will show up in the game.  With that, I declare this draw because there are too many variables that could swing either way.

DB:  This matchup features NFL prospects on both sides.  Ward is a lock in the 1st Round and everyone else is looking to get drafted.  Ohio State suffers from inconsistency outside of Ward, and when Arnette and Sheffield struggle, the game is almost unwatchable.  On USC’s side, Marshall and Marvell are looking to improve their draft position with a great performance against a Top 5 team and fellow conference champion.  I will give the Buckeyes the slight edge.

Special Teams:  I did not forget about this unit, but it will be an important part of the game in regards to the field position battle.  Ohio State has improved a lot over the course of the season, but USC’s unit is better in my opinion.  If USC can dominate this phase, they will be in line for an 8th straight win over the Buckeyes, but I think they finally break the streak.

Prediction:  Ohio State defeats USC 31-20

All things considered, I think the Buckeyes earn a victory in this contest.  The 7 wins in a row comment on Twitter, kind of gave the “Basic Defense” vibe and the last thing the Buckeyes need is more bulletin board material after being left out of the playoffs in favor of Bama.  I would love to see a decisive victory over USC, but I think both teams come out swinging with NFL draft positions being up for grabs.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: Position Battles (Part II)

The positions battles that I will be focusing on this week are WR, TE and the OL.  Each side has their fair share of talent and weapons.  In order to be effective, the skill positions must make plays to move the chains and keep drives alive.  In the trenches, each team needs to be flawless and they must execute to establish the run.  Quarterback play will also be a key to victory for either team.

Playmakers Galore

Deontay Burnett, Tyler Vaughns, Steven Mitchell Jr, and Michael Pittman Jr are all ballers at WR, and they will be tasked to battle Ohio State’s BIA, with Denzel Ward leading the secondary.

On the next level at TE, Tyler Petite leads the charge with former Buckeye targets Josh Falo and Daniel Imatorbhebhe are athletic enough to utilize the invisibility codes against the Buckeyes since they seem to have trouble keeping tabs on both the RB’s and the TE’s this season (a la Iowa).

Together, all the players mentioned above account for 3,133 yards and 25 TD’s, which is crazy considering who they have at the Quarterback position.  If they get lose or open, it will be a long day for the Silver Bullets for sure.

K.J. Hill will be the key Zone 6 member as he goes up against this USC team that features another set of former targets, Iman Marshall and Porter Gustin.  Hill will be the go-to receiver on third downs and Johnnie Dixon, Terry McLaurin, Binjimen Victor, Austin Mack, and Parris Campbell will be looking to make an impact as well.

At TE, Marcus Baugh will be a multipurpose threat in the passing game and the blocking game along with Rashod Berry.  Baugh was a good player coming out of high school, but injuries and being underutilized during his time here has hurt his numbers, but the last two drafts we saw Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett drafted by NFL teams, so the dream is alive and well.

Collectively, they account for 2989 yards and 36 TD’s, which is surprising.  Barrett won’t take that many chances, but if the play is there, they are gone!  Speed kills and with most of Zone 6 being speedy and dynamic, it will be interesting.  Victor, Berry, and Baugh are the big, strong threats, but sometimes being big and strong is all for naught because dropped balls have been a problem as of late.

Road Graders

Billy Price leads this year’s Offensive Line at Center in his last season at Ohio State.  He moved on from Guard, but the move was seamless.  Coming out of high school, Price was actually a DT for all of you who don’t follow recruiting, and with a background in wrestling, it was natural for him to thrive in the trenches.

This line is big, strong and nasty at every position, with the smallest members being Price at 6’4″, 312 lbs and next man up, Demetrious Knox, who replaced Bowen, being 6’4″, 308 lbs.  The others are 6’5″ and over, which should help in the trenches.  A season ago, the right side of the line was a major issue, but this season, they improved drastically.  Prince and Knox will be targeted more often on blitzes than Jones and Jordan, but we will have to wait to see how they respond to the pressure.

Nico Falah leads the Trojan trench warfare effort against the Rushmen.  Freshman RG Andrew Vorhees will go up against a combination of linemen that will target him because of his youth.

The average height for this line is 6’5″ with Toa Lobendahn being the shortest at 6’3″ and the tallest being Vorhees at 6’6″.  The average weight is around 300 lbs, which might be enough to at least slow down the defense.

I could not find a statistic for USC in sacks allowed, but I don’t know whether that is good or bad news for the defense.  I guess we will have to find out.

Position Battles

WR:  This battle is production versus talent.  Both teams are dead even in both categories, with slight differences in their approaches.  Ohio State has less overall yardage, but more TD’s and USC has more yards, but fewer TDs.  Both groups are going against good DB’s, but I will declare this a draw.

TE:  Baugh and Berry versus Petite, Falo, and Imatorbhebhe.  Like the WR matchup, it is a dead heat.  Both teams have athleticism in the back 7 which will be another toss-up when both teams show up.  Draw.

OL:  This matchup, in particular, will tell you a lot.  The battle in the trenches will be one to watch with all the NFL prospects participating.  Price, Jones, and Prince are eligible to improve their draft stock and the same goes for all but Vorhees on USC’s side.  The Buckeyes have seasoned members but will be going up against their first 3-4 defense of the season.  USC will go up against a 4-3 defense that has NFL prospects at all levels.  This will be the most depth and talent to date this season, and I will give the edge to Ohio State.

 

Illibuck stays in Columbus

In Columbus, on their last home game for the season, J.T. Barrett and the other seniors on the roster looked for a perfect send-off from friends, families, and coaches before heading to Ann Arbor to cap off their rollercoaster regular season.

The game began with Ohio State taking the first possession of the game and it really did not take long for the Buckeyes to impose their will against the Illini.  Their main objective was to run into the defenses teeth and they definitely made that happen.  By the time the game ended, after all the smoke, the Buckeyes ran all over the defense and registered 325 rushing yards for 4 TDs.

Mike Weber proved that he is healthy once again and for the second consecutive game, he went over the 100-yard mark again after busting through for a 43-yarder to essentially put the game further out of reach.  Weber also notched another game where he scored multiple times.

Dobbins and Barrett combined for 84 yards, with a TD a piece.  After their day was done Antonio Williams came in for relief duty and he ran with determination and power before finishing the game with 19 carries and 74 yards.

Barrett did not have a turnover this game, but he was an effective passer as he reached 101 total passing TDs in his career.  He was 11 for 19 with 2 TDs hitting Victor and Baugh for touchdowns.  Once the game had been decided, the backups Dwayne Haskins and Joe Burrow got their chance for a few reps, and Buckeye nation got a snapshot at what should be one hell of a QB battle next season along with Tate Martell for the starting QB spot.

On the initial Haskins drive, he tried to take it past the first down marker, but he was hit hard and he fumbled the football and it was returned for Illinois’ first score of the game, effectively breaking the shutout.  He was quickly benched in favor of Barrett for one last drive and after he finished the drive, Burrow was put in and he also fumbled but was able to recover before punting the ball.

Illinois score with a younger QB after Crouch went down with an injury and he made the most of his shot because, on the first play, he rushed for a 9-yard score.  The backups got a lot of work, but they showed a lot of promise.

With the Buckeyes rolling, the game ended with a 52-14 victory as they have retained the trophy for another year.  Another bit of good news is with TTUN losing to Wisconsin, Ohio State have secured the BIG 10 East division spot for the Conference Championship Game, but the next opponent on the docket is TTUN, which should be interesting, to say the least.  For now, enjoy the win.  Go Bucks.

Battleground Columbus: The Battle for Illibuck

This matchup pits #9 Ohio State and Illinois on Senior Day, which will obviously be their last game at the Shoe and it has the makings of another emotional game.  Ohio State will be facing a team that is struggling to find their identity and also a team that still has not gotten a conference win this season, that is sitting at 2-8 overall.  The Buckeyes will not overlook this Illini team because besides this being their last home game, the Illibuck trophy is up for grabs again.

Since 2001, Illibuck has been stashed away at Ohio State, but a baller named Juice Williams upset the Buckeyes and took it away for a short vacation to Champagne.  There are many players that will ensure that chaos does not happen.  From J.T. Barrett to Damon Webb, each Senior will play their hearts out.  The underclassmen and potential early entries for the draft will also ensure that their Seniors are not disappointed in their last game at home, especially before the Game.

Ball Security Dilemma:

One thing of concern will be J.T. Barrett and turnovers.  In the last two games, he has thrown 6, yes 6 interceptions.  He has difficulties with accuracy and ball placement, but this game will present an opportunity to fix and adjust prior to traveling to Ann Arbor for the Game.

Last week, Barrett was all over the place in the passing attack, but he rarely needed to air it out because the run game was unstoppable against a normally stout Spartan defense.  The Buckeyes beat the snot out of them and routed them, and with their playoff hopes on life support, they cannot afford any more hiccups and they must win out and win the conference, but that is not what is important.  The important thing for them is staying focused and taking care of the ball, and that starts with Barrett at the helm.

This Lovie Smith led defense is surrendering 204.1 passing yards and 198.9 rushing yards per game, but they have not faced the caliber and types of athletes that the Buckeyes have on their roster.  Look for Meyer to establish the run early and often to soften the coverage for play action passes.  This will be a confidence booster and they will need all they can get.

Defenses Last Stand:

The question on everyone’s mind, and mine especially, is who will get a targeting penalty this time?  Ward, Bosa, Jones, and Arnette have been ejected for targeting and it has been a trend for this team this year.  The Buckeyes cannot afford any stupid targeting penalties, especially in the second half because another pair of gold pants will be on the line against the TTUN.

Jaylin Holmes, Tracy Sprinkle, Dante Booker, Chris Worley, Tyquan Lewis, Michael Hill, and Erick Smith will play their last game and they would love to finish the season with a conference championship, their only goal right now.  There are others like Bosa, Baker, Ward, Arnette, and Hubbard, who may leave after this season, but a lot is on the line in this game, even with an overmatched team in your way.

Illinois will have a new QB after Dudek went down with an injury, and may not be back next year. George has thrown 10 INT’s so far during his time in the fire and I am sure that the defense will force a few due to his inexperience.

Ground and Pound:

The duo of Weber and Dobbins will be featured in this contest a lot.  They ran all over Michigan State and will look to add to their momentum just in time for the game.  They all do not want to let their Seniors down in their last game at the Shoe, especially when Weber might potentially leave after this season.

Billy Price and Jamarco Jones, along with Barrett will fight alongside both RB’s for Illibuck and for bragging rights and Zone 6 will also try to explode onto the scene to put the game away early to rest for the Game.  This game is their last chance to correct any and all quirks on the offensive side of the ball to walk into Ann Arbor with added momentum and focus because the Game is always exciting and unpredictable.

Prediction:

Ohio State picks up where they left off in the running game and finely tunes the passing attack to prepare for TTUN.  Barrett throws at least one pick in the game, but has 3 TD’s to Zone 6 and a rushing TD.  The RB’s run wild and salt the game away and combine for 180 yards and 4 scores en route to a 56-6 thrashing of Illinois.

Ohio State defeats Illinois 56-6.

Buckeye’s Rebound, Rout Spartans

Urban Meyer and his team rebounded after blowing it against Iowa.  After abandoning the running game, the Buckeyes got back to what they do best and they ran down Michigan State’s throats for 335 yards and 4 scores.

The Running Backs had a field day, along with J.T. Barrett as Weber finished the game with just 9 carries but bulled his way for 162 yards and 2 scores.  Dobbins was not to be outdone as he finished with 18 carries for 124 yards and a receiving TD.  Both Dobbins and Weber found success but Weber had the better day after bursting through the defense with an 82-yard score.  Weber also averaged 18 YPC while Dobbins was averaging 6.9 YPC, which isn’t bad at all.

Barrett had another off, but efficient day throwing for 183 yards and 2 TD’s but he also made a few bad throws that ended up failing to convert on 3rd down or adding to his interception count.  This was another game that added more questions to the fire, but the coaches will continue to work with his decision-making process to prevent more interceptions.  Barrett also added 2 rushing TD’s to his stat line along with 55 rushing yards.

The defense played to their potential and now it is too late for the what ifs.  The Silver Bullets played without two starting LB’s, Dante Booker and Jerome Baker, but they showed no lack of talent or dropoff.  Tuf Borland and Malik Harrison played their tails off and Chris Worley played well when put back into his OLB spot.

The Rushmen came in with a fire in their belly, and they were disruptive and they harrassed Lewerke the entire game.  They sacked him and back-up Messiah Weaver adding to the legend of Coach Johnson.  The DB’s also came up big as they secured 2 picks as they held the Spartans best WR to zero catches.

Now all Ohio State can do and should focus on, is the BIG 10 Championship and put all the CFB Playoff talk on the backburner.  They control their destiny within the conference and if it all falls into place and if teams ahead stumble, you never know.  Onward to the Battle for Illibuck at home before traveling up north for the game.  Go Bucks!