National Championship X-Factors: Offense by Mike Scharf

Over the past century, whether it’s been on the field or in recruiting, the Buckeyes and Crimson Tide have been two of the most dominant programs in the sport. 

Ohio State has won 931 games to go along with 8 national championships. Alabama has won 928 games while claiming 15 national championships.

On. Jan 11. The two programs meet for only the fifth time in history — Ohio State has a record of 1-3 against Alabama — the last meeting coming in the first ever College Football playoffs in 2015, where the No. 4 Buckeyes defeated the No. 1 Crimson Tide 42-35 in the semifinals. 

The Buckeyes were heavy underdogs against Clemson, but showed the world even though only six games were played, they indeed deserved a playoff spot after dominating the Tigers 49-28 in New Orleans.

The Buckeyes get another chance to prove the doubters wrong as they square off with the Crimson Tide.

In order to win, the Buckeyes need to execute the game plan and come in with that underdog mentality. Not many will choose the Buckeyes in this one as Alabama has been clicking on all cylinders this season, but as we saw in New Orleans, don’t count this talented Buckeye team out.

Here are a few x-factors offensively that could prevail the Buckeyes’ to victory:

Justin Fields

There’s not much needed to be said about QB1. Fields proved all the critics from previous weeks wrong as he BALLED out against the Tigers in the semifinals throwing for 385 yards and breaking the Sugar Bowl record with six touchdowns. Ball security and decision making will be key in this matchup for Fields — one turnover could be a substantial changing point in the game — After taking a huge hit to the ribs, one of the biggest things to keep an eye on is how the injury will affect Fields’ play. Everytime Fields followed through on his throws he was in pain and was limited in the run game. Fields will need to use his legs in this one. Keeping the Crimson Tides defense guessing will be key. When it’s said and done there’s no other quarterback Buckeye nation wants heading into this one. Fields is a baller, competitor and has all the swagger to win a big time game.

Trey Sermon and the Slobs

The Buckeyes are averaging 545 yards per game this year, and poured 639-yards on the Tigers. Sermon and the front seven have a lot to do with that, especially the past two games (Northwestern/Clemson). Sermon has the most rushing yards in a 2-game span in Ohio State history with 524 yards. The front seven led by Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis are looking for blood, they have been dominating the line of scrimmage and look to continue that trend. Some big keys to the game are managing the penalties and controlling the line of scrimmage on both passing and running plays. Holding penalties can kill momentum and be a changing factor in this game. Every drive matters. As for controlling the line, pass protecting Fields and opening up holes for Sermon will lead to big plays as we saw in the past two games.

Garrett Wilson

The duo of Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave have been one of, if not the best duo in college football. Wilson and Olave have been causing havoc for secondaries all season, but Alabama’s SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Patrick Surtain II has been locked down all season long for the Tide. Surtain II has 20 tackles, 1 INT, and 11 PD (tied-3rd). It’s more than likely Surtain II will be assigned to Chris Olave which will open plenty of opportunities for Garrett Wilson to make a statement championship game for Zone 6. Alabama’s team defense has been dominant of late, but containing both Wilson and Olave is a task many teams find trouble doing. The Crimson Tide has one of the best in Surtain II, which may limit Olave in some aspects, but Wilson will be ready on the opposite side of the field.

The Tight Ends

As we saw in the semifinals against the Tigers, the play of the tight ends can be an enormous x-factor in how the Buckeyes play and attack the defense. The use of tight ends seemed to be limited all season for the Buckeye offense, but in this year’s Sugar Bowl, Luke Farrell and Jeremy Ruckert made game changing plays for the offense. In a 14-7 game led by the Tigers, 3rd and goal, Farrell caught a 8-yard bullet touchdown from Fields. While, Ruckert had himself a game with 3 receptions, 55 yards, and 2 touchdowns. These two will be a key in Fields’ passing game against a stout Crimson Tide defense.

This offense seems to have found it’s rhyme and If all these x-factors on the offensive side of the ball come to play and execute the game plan ahead we could see a similar result to the 2015 Sugar Bowl game — Ohio versus the world.

Freshman Ransom, a star in the making

Ohio State has found a gem with true freshman Lathan Ransom.

Ransom, a former 4 star out of Arizona quietly gained more snaps for the Buckeyes as the season progressed, but has been making a name for himself this postseason, delivering the biggest hits, and plays at key moments.

As a true freshman Ransom earned his first grade as a champion in the Sugar Bowl against Clemson.

Ransom saw a season high 28 snaps in the Sugar Bowl victory and made plays for the Buckeye defense. Most notably, Trevor Lawrence’s last throw in the end zone targeted for Amari Rodgers was contested and batted by Ransom right into Sevyn Banks’ hands leading to an interception.

Although Ransom has appeared in three games for the Buckeyes he has made his presence known these past two post season games (Northwestern, Clemson). In the Big Ten Championship, on 4th down Ransom made a huge hit on Northwestern’s John Raine causing an incompletion and icing the game leading to a Buckeyes fourth straight Big Ten Championship. 

Meeting with the media ahead of the national championship, defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs and senior Shaun Wade had high praise for the freshman.

Coombs said Ransom has improved everyday this season. “He showed up and played big when we needed him to,” said Coombs. “He continues to improve and develop and we’re excited for his future.”

Wade told the media that Ransom is going to be a great player and he even reached out to Wade ahead of the Clemson game to go over things in the slot corner position where they both went over to the WHAC to work on techniques before game time.

Ransom has 4 tackles and 1 PD on the season. 

The future is bright.

All the tools Ransom has shown dominating high school and translating it to the college game has future All American written all over it and is going to be a problem for offenses years to come.

#11 Ohio State Buckeyes Silences #2 Clemson Tigers in the Big Easy

Yes, you read that right and it was intentional. With all the chatter and all the slights sent their way, the Buckeyes have finally defeated the Clemson Tigers. The risk of falling 0-5 to Clemson was possible, but with all the motivation in the world the Buckeyes trounced the Tigers and silenced the doubters for now—and oh, how sweet it is?!

The build up to this moment was heavy. Two elite teams with two distinct paths to the CFB Playoffs. Two budding rivals that always seem to meet. Two elite head coaches with loaded rosters that could compete to become the next dynasty in college football. Both sides had their motives and their wills tested up to this moment.

One team, Ohio State went through adversity to play this season. They fought for a chance to play and they defeated the odds to do so. They had a nine-game season that turned to six with Maryland and TTUN cancelling, and the Illinois game being cancelled due to COVID concerns.

Clemson looked good but suffered an early loss at the hands of Notre Dame without Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence returns and throttles Notre Dame and avenged the loss to set the table for another head-to-head with the Buckeyes.

The chatter was immense and extremely disrespectful toward the Buckeyes leading up to the game—no one gave them a shot to advance. Coaches, Clemson head coach Dabo Sweeney ranked the Buckeyes 11th (11th!) in his final coaches poll and the media was forecasting another Bama versus Clemson game.

With their demons on the field, the Buckeyes looked great in this game. They played with poise and balance—and they really dominated all phases of the game. Constant pressure by the defense stifled Lawrence while Fields’ grit shined through with the help of Trey Sermon in the ground game. The game was never really that close after the 14-14 tie but the job is not done with the #1 Crimson Tide on the horizon.

Yes, savor the win—do it! But we all know if you want to win a championship, you have to run through Alabama and Clemson. The Buckeyes demolished the latter and now they must be laser focused on the Crimson Tide and their arsenal of weapons at their disposal.

For what it’s worth: Even the Bama head coach, Nick Saban and their future opponent had them out at 5th overall behind Texas A&M and while the slight is less severe—we can all assume that it’ll be used again to sharpen their edge. Focus on the win and enjoy it, the Tide are not to be taken lightly especially with the issues we saw tonight with the secondary.

MOTSAG Heroes of the Game

Offense: Justin Fields, QB

Defense: Haskell Garrett, DT

Special Teams: Drue Chrisman, P

#GoBucks

Battered Justin Fields out shines Lawrence, setting up clash with Crimson Tide

Some players use criticism and comparisons to fuel their performance. Justin Fields did just so in Ohio State’s dominant 49-28 victory over the Clemson Tigers in the Sugar Bowl.

The comparisons and competition between Fields and Trevor Lawrence has been on display since the two were the best prospects in the 2018 recruiting class.

Lawrence has been the consensus number one pick for this upcoming NFL draft after Fields showed some weaknesses against ranked Indiana and Northwestern as he threw a combined 5 interceptions which was more then he had all of last season.

This, last year’s Fiesta Bowl clash, and Dabo’s ranking of Ohio State was more than enough fuel Fields needed for this CFB semifinal Friday night.

If he wasn’t already for his 19-1 record as a Buckeye heading into this game, Fields officially locked himself as a Buckeye legend for this gutsy performance.

Fields took off scrambling and took a big hit to the ribs from linebacker James Skalski that left him in a lot of pain through the course of the game. Fields missed one play before coming back in continuing to dominate.

Fields ended the night throwing 22-for-28 with 385 yards and Sugar Bowl record-six touchdowns.

Fields-Lawrence Battle

The first competition between Fields and Lawrence took place in high school at the Elite 11, where Fields was crowned MVP.

Lawrence took advantage of the second round after beating Fields and the Buckeyes in last year’s Fiesta Bowl.

Fields broke the 1-1 tie breaker in dominating fashion between the two Friday night as the Buckeyes advanced to the national title game against the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Olave’s anticipated Tiger rematch: By Mike Scharf

December 28, 2019… State Farm Stadium… 29-23. 29-23. 29-23:

That final score has been entrenched throughout Woody Hayes Athletic Center. On the walls in the locker room, in the weight room. 

Everywhere. 

This score hasn’t left the Buckeyes team’s eyes since a last-minute interception in last year’s Fiesta Bowl ended their national championship hopes. 

This Buckeye team seeks redemption after having a bad taste in their mouth from last season’s clash with the Clemson Tigers, and none other than star wide receiver Chris Olave seeks it more than most.

Last season, Olave spoke up that he broke his route in last year’s Fiesta Bowl as he turned left instead of continuing his route thinking his quarterback took off to scramble which led to a Justin Fields’ interception right in the hands of Clemson’s defensive back Nolan Turner in the endzone securing a Tigers victory and national championship appearance.

As the NFL draft was looming, there was no denying in the mind of Olave what he was going to do—he came back to Ohio State to show everyone what he can do.

Olave met with the media ahead of the 2020 season expressing his love for Ohio State and the chip he has from last season’s disheartening loss:

“I care so much about this team, this university,” Olave said, “I don’t think I’ve gotten over it still (Fiesta Bowl loss), and I still got that chip on my shoulder and I want to show the world”.

Olave explained he found himself working out 2-3 times a day, trying to take his mind off things.

This Buckeye team knows who the underdog is and relishes it. The odds have been stacked against this group all season and they are ready to prove the world wrong.

In the Sugar Bowl trailer, narrated by Chris Olave, he acknowledge the team embraces the underdog narrative.

“We know you don’t want to see us here, and we know you don’t give us a chance. That’s fine,” said Olave. “After all we fought through, we just need one chance. A second chance.”

CO2 is ready.

Sugar Bowl X-Factor: Defense by Mike Scharf

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

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

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

The following is currently the Buckeyes’ defensive stats:

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Werner – Tuf Borland (Linebackers)

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

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

Shaun Wade (Secondary)

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

Final Analysis

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

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

Sugar Bowl X-Factors: Offense

Game week is here people! As we inch closer, the anxiety levels begin to rise. With how the Fiesta Bowl ended, there was that feeling of being robbed, feelings of anger, feelings of utter despair—that have bled into this turbulent COVID season.

The grudge and that unsatisfied feeling has come to a head and the time to release is just a few days away. We will have the chance to prove things to ourselves and to the nation. To silence the doubters and the haters.

In order to win, the Buckeyes need to put in the work and put on their hard hats. The preparation needs to be perfect and the game plan must be pristine from the execution to the play calling. Here a few X-Factors offensively that could tip the scales in the Buckeyes’ favor come Friday.

Justin Fields, QB

To be blunt, Justin Fields must show up in order to have a shot to take out Clemson. Ball security is a must and the execution must be perfect. Do not make bonehead throws into traffic and don’t hold the ball too long in the pocket. Sacks and interceptions are two things that he should avoid. Yes, making plays is needed but if it’s not there—throw it away or take the check down. Olave and Wilson will eventually get open, but he must trust do what he needs to do to control the game. If it consists of a steady dose of Sermon and Teague, so be it. It also doesn’t hurt that he will face backup safety since Nolan Turner was charged with targeting and he will be unavailable until the second half.

Trey Sermon, HB

Speaking of a steady dose of running it down their throats—Sermon needs to capitalize on the momentum after winning the Conference Championship Game MVP honors. Not to mention eating up the yardage to finish with a BIG 10 record 331 rushing yards—beating Ezekiel Elliott’s mark. It’s safe to say that balance is key, but running the ball will need to be at the forefront. Clemson will blitz heavily and what better counter is there than running the rock until they can show that they can stop it?

The Slobs and The Tight Ends

Blitzing will be an all game affair and one of the better blitzing teams is Clemson. The objective for these two units would be to block them enough to slow them down and to limit sacks. The slobs are solid but the weak link would be at Left Guard in Harry Miller (not a knock!). Holding penalties and allowing penetration are to be avoided and he has been consistently at fault for either of these. Miller has the potential but he has to has to play with little to no errors for either quarters. The big guys mauled the Wildcats in the second half and they need to do the same for the entire game to win it.

The Tight Ends must be ready for check downs or passes under duress. Blocking is also key but I think this group will get the majority of the work in the passing game. It’s pick your poison with Olave and Wilson but do not count out the tight ends.

If all these X-Factors play well, redemption is attainable. If they play out of sync, they will have a hard time and they may very well lose. Odds are with the amount of chatter about being worthy of a playoff spot—I’d say this is the quiet before the storm. Ohio versus the world. Redemption.

#GoBucks

Earned! Buckeyes Selected For Playoff Matchup Against A Familiar Foe Clemson

We made it Buckeye Nation! We got the matchup against the team that we wanted and in an odd COVID season, we can say we earned this spot after running past and shutting down a surprisingly potent Northwestern offense to zero points in the second half en-route to a 22-10 win.

Flash forward to January 1st and the matchup against Clemson and remembering the loss from a season ago, you know that final score is still around the weight room. The circumstances and the end result was tragic and what better way to slay your demons than this? Another shot at the demon is needed and it could have a cascading effect and it could propel this team toward greater things.

This year has been crazy, but the committee definitely got things right. I’m not just saying that cause of my affinity for the Buckeyes, I am saying it from an objective viewpoint. Why penalize a team for playing less? Why perceive our players having fresher bodies with the mental and sometimes physical toll while dealing with such odd circumstances? Everyone dealt with things different but let’s be real, the season wouldn’t have started without the fight our team showed. Yes, we were late to the party but this year has been incredibly hard for all team in the big dance.

This seeding has an eerie feel to it and think about the 2014 run. Ohio State became the only #4 seed to win it all. They find themselves at the #3 seed and history could repeat itself but they definitely need to take care of business. Winning it all in a COVID-ridden year would be a testament to the coaching staff and the players for Ohio State—the ultimate comeback/success story in the making. It’ll come down to implementing a good plan moving forward against Clemson and executing, being intensely interested in winning at all costs.

To be intensely driven and motivated is key for an Ohio State miracle run at a championship and a win against top-tier teams in Clemson and Alabama. Not saying that they aren’t but they need to be more driven than ever to accomplish what they want to and this team is built to do just that.

Save all the hate and anger for January first Buckeye coaches and players, Buckeye Nation hope and pray a sharp, motivated team shows up from start to finish, and let’s get ready to take care of business in the Sugar Bowl.

#GoBucks

Buckeye Football Looking Ahead by Mike Scharf

Last Week

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

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

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

Going Forward

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

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

#MOTSAGRising Buckeyes-Hoosiers Preview by Mike Scharf

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

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

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

THE HOOSIERS

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

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

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

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

THE BUCKEYES

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

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

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

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

THE GAME

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

PREDICTION

47-24