2018 NFL Draft: Sam Hubbard, DE

Sam Hubbard, a former Safety that blossomed into a DE while at Ohio State.  His projections are all over the place and he is certainly being slept on.  At 6’5″, 270 lbs he is a load on the edge, and he will certainly make a team happy after the draft.  Nimble for his size, he uses his speed to get past slower Tackles with ease.  The draft is unpredictable, but a team is likely to take a chance on him.

Draft Projection:  1st-2nd Round

2018 NFL Draft: Billy Price, C

Billy Price continues another streak, the Buckeyes ability to send NFL ready O-Linemen to the NFL.  Price was next in line at Center after Elflein’s departure, but what increases his value is his leadership qualities and his versatility.  Non-Ohio State fans may not know that he was the RG the year before taking over the starting Center duties, so he is able to move around if needed.  Price was injured during the combine, but he recently received a doctor’s note that stated that he will be ready for camp with no limitations, which could improve his draft stock, but you never know.  He is a born leader with a mean streak.  Whichever team takes a chance on him, won’t be disappointed.

Draft Projection:  1st-2nd Round

2018 NFL Draft: Denzel Ward, CB

Denzel Ward is looking to continue the streak of sending another talented prospect into the NFL, and with Ward, he certainly fits the bill with his skill set.  Measuring at 5’11, 183 lbs Ward is going to be a terror at the next level.  He moves with fluidity and he can shadow opposing WR’s with his athleticism.  He could be a day one starter, but in the right situation, he can thrive in the slot before eventually moving to the outside.  Ward is projected to be the first Buckeye off the board in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Draft Projection:  1st Round

Spring Game: What We Learned

It is now 24 hours ahead of the annual Scarlet versus Gray Spring Game and man–there are a lot of difficult decisions that need to be made by Coach Meyer and his staff regarding the many open spots for his team on both sides of the field.

This is the annual reloading period where the coaches evaluate their players to reload and to identify the best player for the job.  A batch of forgotten, but talented unknowns will take their shot to earn a starting gig and blossom into the next Buckeye superstar.  Here are three things that stood out.

Burrow VS Haskins VS Martell:

This battle was everything that we thought it would be and it looks like it is a two-way competition between Burrow and Haskins with Martell trailing as the third Quarterback in the pecking order.

In no way am I saying that Martell lacks the talent, but Burrow and Haskins just separated themselves with a more balanced and efficient display during the game.  Tate showed that he can run the QB Option with ease and his elusiveness and speed will be another valuable weapon for the team this season if the coaches create a package of plays for him.

Burrow and Haskins made a lot of noise in the passing game this spring.  Burrow finished 15 for 22 for 238 and 2 TD’s while Haskins finished 9 for 19 for 120 yards and 2 TD’s.  Both signal-callers showed their fans what the future could look like, further adding to the fierce debate on who should be the heir to the QB Throne.

Burrow is accurate with a little less zip on the football when comparing his game to Haskins.  Haskins has the wow factor and the arm strength, but he is slightly less accurate than Burrow.  Both QB’s did a lot of switching between the first and second team offenses, but they showed that once they get into a rhythm, they can be unstoppable.  Both have poise in the pocket, but it is looking like their ability to run the offense and their leadership qualities will look like it will be the deciding factor in this battle.

A difficult choice needs to be made and it will be interesting to see what develops within the QB room.  Every one of the Quarterbacks on the roster can be a starter on another team, but we will see what happens and who gets the job.

Playmakers Paradise At Skill Positions:

The wealth of talent at just about every level on this team on offense is evident.  From the Running Back position all the way to the O-Line, they have enough baller for a three-deep depth chart.

At Running Back, they have Dobbins and Weber, the returning 1,000-yard rushers from a season ago.  Behind them, they have three stablemates in Williams, Teague, and Snead, who will join the team in the summer.  Not to mention, they have a talented bunch of walk-ons to boot.  Deep is an understatement at this position and with what we saw with Weber on that long TD run, and what Teague was able to accomplish, carries will be scarce, but the Brotherhood will continue to push each other until the fall comes.

Wide Receiver is also deep.  They returned all of their starters from last season and with the prospect of a more pass-friendly offense, they will look to make an immediate impact.  Hill, Campbell, Mack, Dixon, and Victor will be dangerous weapons this season.  Their backups also pose a threat to defenses.  Demario McCall had a game and is the projected to be the third H-Back on the depth chart.  Harris and Gardiner are huge targets that showed promise as well.

At Tight End Rashod Berry will be slotted to return as the starter, but he didn’t participate in the game due to injury.  Behind him, Hausmann, Farrell and the number one TE in last years class Jeremy Ruckert will be vying for playing time this season.

DBU Reloads Again:

Marcus Williamson has secured his spot in the rotation at Cornerback.  Aside from the TD catch by Harris, he locked him down and was disruptive for most of the game.  With Okudah out with an injury, he along with Wade, Banks, and Davis were given snaps to see what they can do, but from what I saw from Williamson, he gained traction in this battle.

Pryor and Johnson showed promise as both are fighting for the starting Safety spot opposite of Fuller.  Johnson nearly stopped Weber on his long TD run, showing the determination to not take any plays off, and he is a true freshman.

Ohio State has become DBU as of late and the tradition of having a DB getting drafted in the first round has been a trend.  With that, Ohio State has yet another loaded depth chart, but they will all find a way to earn playing time.

 

 

 

 

 

Battleground: Scarlet VS. Gray Spring Game 2018

It is about that time again Buckeye Nation–it is time to see what the future has in store for us.  The last year of the Barrett Era will usher in a new signal-caller to lead the team and boy, they are loaded at the position this year and the competition will be fierce.

In the new era, we will see what a trifecta of talented quarterbacks can do to help the team and more importantly, lead the offense during crucial moments this season.  From there most of the Wide Receivers from last season have returned for depending on whichever quarterback wins the job, for a chance to thrive in what could be a more pass-heavy or balanced offensive attack–along with a new starter at Tight End.  The O-Line retained all but two starters from last season, but the competition along the line has been another dominant storyline as well.

There are many directions that I can go, so let us get down to it.

Quarterback Proving Grounds:

The central focus and one of the most covered stories have been the pending decision for Coach Meyer when choosing J.T. Barrett’s heir.  He has a cupboard full of talent and a difficult decision is on the horizon.  Each player on the depth chart, minus incoming freshman Matthew Baldwin adds a different dimension to the offense, but they are all talented in their own way.

Dwayne Haskins is viewed by many as the obvious choice to lead the team this season after leading Ohio State to another victory against TTUN, and he did it after Barrett left the game with an injury–playing in front of a rowdy Ann Arbor crowd.  He iced the game going 6-7 for 94 yards and three rushes for 24 yards, showing that he is ready if they need him and showing his talent to get a leg up on the competition at Quarterback.

Joe Burrow was the backup to Barrett, but an unfortunate injury to his hand gave Haskins the nod as the backup while he recovered.  Burrow has been on the team a year longer than Haskins, but he is fighting to live out his childhood dream of being the starting Quarterback at Ohio State.  While he doesn’t have the arm strength like Haskins does, he is as accurate with his passes.  He isn’t as shifty as Martell, but he can move when he needs to do so.

Finally, Tate Martell is a bit of a dark horse in this competition because he possesses most of the traits of the previous two players, but he is definitely faster and more shifty runner that is similar to J.T. Barrett.  He is also accurate and throws accurate passes downfield.

All in all, whoever wins helps the team the most.  During the game, they will give the audience a show despite the potential for bad weather, but it will be fun.  Either way Coach Meyer goes, the offense will become more balanced.

Trench Warfare:

Opposing defenses beware, the Buckeye Offensive Line is developing a mean streak that will serve up pancakes and extra-curricular activity if needed in between plays.  The Buckeyes returned three starters from last season but lost two key players in Jamarco Jones and Billy Price.

These losses hurt, but the depth of talent at Ohio State’s disposal cannot be overlooked and the competition is making everyone better.  Iron sharpens iron, and there are two starting spots available and 5 for the two-deep.  Which two will separate themselves from the rest of the pack and which five will serve as game-ready backups on the depth chart this season?  Even though it is just the Spring Game, it will be exciting to see these guys in action.

Defensive Turnover:

Defensive players, especially at Ohio State lie and wait for their chance to help the team and earn a starting role and this year is no different.  This year the Buckeyes lost starters at every level.  Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes, Tracy Sprinkle, Michael Hill, Jerome Baker, Chris Worley, Denzel Ward, Damon Webb and Erick Smith–also featuring a few former walk-on standouts.

That is a boatload of positions to replace, but they have the talent to go unscathed.  DE’s Nick Bosa and Chase Young along with DT’s B.B. Landers and Dre’Mont Jones will give opposing lines fits.  With a talented group of younger players coming in, you will see depth along the defensive line.

Linebacker has the most questions, especially after the injury to Tuf Borland.  Upperclassmen and the younger players also will make things interesting this Spring and into the Fall.  Everyone plays fast at this position, and it is only a matter of time until someone shines like Baker did.

Cornerback is pretty much set with Kendall Sheffield, Damon Arnette, and Jeffrey Okudah, but they are searching for a fourth this Spring.  With Okudah out with an injury, Marcus Williamson has a chance to get more reps.  Shaun Wade is now healthy, and he too will be in the conversation.

Safety returns Jordan Fuller but lost Damon Webb to graduation.  Isaiah Pryor and Jahsen Wint will compete along with the other underclassmen, which like every position at Ohio State will be a dogfight, but necessary to push each other to get better.

For the time being, all we can do is predict until tomorrow morning, but until I see it for myself, it is difficult to get a good feel for what could and could not happen so I will wait until tomorrow to do so.  For now, as a fan, I will enjoy it with the rest of you and give my projections based on what I have seen.  Go Bucks!

 

 

What If Former Michigan And Ohio State Players Joined Forces To Make Their Own NFL Team?

What has 19 national championships, ten Heisman trophy winners, 80 Big Ten titles, bitter hatred yet mutual respect, and 1,841 total wins? That, my friend, is the Ohio State-Michigan college football rivalry, which has produced a ton of NFL talent. In fact, as of the 2017-2018 season, 33 former Michigan Wolverines players and 42 former Ohio State players were on NFL rosters. Well, what would happen if all 75 of those players joined forces and created their own NFL team? Let’s find out, shall we? Without further ado, below I have constructed the best two-deep roster possible for former participants in ‘The Game’

Quarterback: Tom Brady, Cardale Jones

The Game features Tom Brady, arguably the greatest quarterback of all time under center. Brady is widely recognized as being one of the most clutch quarterbacks of all time and has a ton of accolades to back that up, being a five-time Super Bowl champion, four-time Super Bowl MVP, three-time NFL Most Valuable Player, and thirteen-time Pro Bowler etc.

Behind him is Cardale Jones who has proven throughout his career that he is a reliable backup.

Running back: Ezekiel Elliott, Carlos Hyde

At running back, The Game features two former Ohio State stars in Ezekiel Elliott and Carlos Hyde. Despite the fact that Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was suspended for the first six games of the year, he and Hyde rushed for a combined 157.1 rushing yards per game in 2017. To put that in perspective, the Jacksonville Jaguarsled the NFL in 2017 with 140.2 rushing yards per game as an entire TEAM!

Wide Receiver: Michael Thomas, Devin Funchess, Ted Ginn Jr, Jalin Marshall, and Braxton Miller

In Michael Thomas, The Game has arguably the NFL’s best possession receiver who was sixth in the league with 1,245 receiving yards. It also has big-bodied Devin Funchess (840 receiving yards) and speedster Tedd Ginn Jr. (787 receiving yards) – both of which present big problems for secondaries.

Tight EndNick Vannett, Jeff Heuerman

Although Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman provide solid blocking and are legit receiving threats, their 21 combined receptions for 266 yards and three touchdowns last season weren’t all that impressive. However, you better believe that those numbers would increase with Tom Brady under center. 

Offensive Tackle: Taylor Lewan, Taylor Decker, Darryl Baldwin, Chase Farris, Erik Magnuson

Led by rookie Pro-Bowl Selection Taylor Lewan, The Game has a respectable set of offensive tackles. Taylor Decker started in all 16 games as a rookie in 2016, but due to him undergoing shoulder surgery had to sit out for 2017. Nevertheless, the talent’s still there.

Offensive Guard: Andrew Norwell, Kyle Kalis, Patrick Omameh, Ben Braden

Anchored by All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell and an ultra-reliable Patrick Omameh, who started in all 13 games he saw action in last year, The Games guards aren’t so shabby. Kyle Kalis would make a solid option, too.

CenterPat Elflein, Corey Linsley,  

Pat Elflein started in every game of his rookie season for the Vikings, making the 2017 PFWA All-Rookie Team. Ironically, three years earlier, Corey Linsley made the PFWA All-Rookie Team as well and is the proven leader for the Packers up front. 

Defensive EndJoey Bosa, Cameron Heyward, Brandon Graham, Frank Clark 

I don’t know if there’s a rivalry in all of college football that has produced a better collection of defensive ends than ‘The Game’. Highlighted by pro-bowlers Joey Bosa and Cameron Heyward, the combination of those two and Michigan alumn Brandon Graham and Frank Clark recorded a combined total of 194 tackles and 44 sacks last year. 

To put that in perspective, only four out of the 32 NFL TEAMS AS A WHOLE produced more sacks in the 2017-2018 season!

Defensive TackleAdolphus Washington, Michael Bennett, Ryan Glasgow, Willie Henry 

Defensive tackle is by far the weakest of all positions for The Game. Adolphus Washington, Michael Bennett, Ryan Glasgow, and Willie Henry started in just 15 games combined in the 2017-2018 season.

But you better believe that with four stud defensive ends, the two that weren’t starting at their normal position could fill that void. 

LinebackerRyan Shazier, Darron Lee, John Simon, Joshua Perry, Raekwon McMillan, Curtis Grant

Despite Ryan Shazier’s late-season injury, he is included on this list because he played throughout the entire regular season, having a solid, 89-tackle season, and putting up similar numbers to fellow Ohio State alumn Darren Lee. John Simon and Raekwon McMillan would also provide respectable skillsets at that position. 

SafetyMalcolm Jenkins, Malik Hooker, Vonn Bell, Kurt Coleman

With veterans, Malcolm Jenkins and Kurt Coleman coupled with younger rising stars like Malik Hooker and Vonn Bell, The Game has a pretty good group of safeties. Ohio State has become defensive back-U over the last decade or so. 

Cornerback: Marshon Lattimore, Bradley Roby, Doran Grant, Gareon Conley, Eli Apple, Channing Stribling, Jourdan Lewis, Jeremy Clark

Having two cornerbacks like Marshon Lattimore and Bradley Roby on your roster would be an NFL coach’s dream come true. Veteran Bradley Roby could teach a younger and arguably more talented Lattimore a lot, and Lattimore – who led all rookies in interceptions – could put some wide receivers in check.

The verdict: 

I imagine that with Tom Brady, Ezekiel Elliott and Carlos Hyde, the stable of wide receivers, the dominance on the defensive line, and all of the play-makers in the secondary, not only would The Game win in dominant fashion versus most teams in the NFL, it would produce a team that could easily win the Super Bowl.

The NFL talent produced by The Game is by far the best of any and every other rivalry, which further iterates the fact that there’s no better rivalry in college football.

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.

 

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: Position Battles (Part I)

Bowl Season is inching closer, the 2017 College Football season regrettably is coming to an end.  The last game of the season will feature two conference champions who were not voted into this seasons College Football Playoffs in favor of non-conference champion Alabama.  Even though neither team isn’t a part of the big dance, it does not mean that this game will lack the drama, the intensity, and the sizzle of the teams that made it.

The BIG 10 Champions, the Ohio State Buckeyes finished their regular season at 11-2, with losses against Oklahoma at home by 15 and at Iowa, by a whopping 31 points to an above average team.  The Iowa loss was the Buckeyes worst conference losses to date, that I could recall, but that was the factor that eliminated them from the conversation.

The 11-2 USC Trojans were never really in the conversation even though they were crowned as the PAC 12 Champions.  They suffered both of their losses on the road, to Washington State and Notre Dame.  Their losses were not as bad as Ohio State’s, losing to Washington State late, by a FG and a 35-point throttling at the hands of the Irish.

Both teams have a lot to prove, and with an abundance of NFL talent on each team, this is a must watch.  Both teams were pre-season favorites to make the playoffs, but things happen as both are aiming to finish this season on a high note with a victory in Dallas.

Head-to-head, USC has won 13 out of 23 contests against Ohio State’s 9 and a single tie.  USC has won 7 straight and is looking to add an 8th consecutive win at the Rose Bowl.  Ohio State’s last win against the Trojans was back in 1974 under Woody Hayes.

Dynamic Duo’s

Both Ohio State and USC have a playmaker at every single level, but both teams have studs at the QB and RB positions, which will most likely attract scouts to the game.

On one side you have a surefire first round pick in Sam Darnold, a RS Sophomore and Junior Ronald Jones II competing against Fifth Year Senior, J.T. Barrett and RS Sophomore Mike Weber, with J.K. Dobbins, a talented True Freshman in the rotation.

In Darnold, you have a talented QB capable of making plays on the fly with his arm.  For the season he is 277-435 and has thrown for 3787 yards, 26 TD’s against 12 INT’s, with 100 yards on the ground and 5 TD’s.  He has a lot of talent around him at WR and TE that could give the Silver Bullets fits.

With Barrett, he is a dual-threat that tends to take over during crunch time.  He is 229-354 for 2939 yards with 35 TD’s and 9 INT’s.  He also has rushed for 732 and 10 TD’s.  He holds a variety of BIG and NCAA records, but he is a long shot in this years draft to make in on an NFL roster.  Barrett has weapons at WR and TE, but they aren’t as established as USC’s is, but they can flat out fly past defenders and make people miss for yards after the catch.

In the backfield, Ronald Jones is a load at running back with 1486 yards and 18 TD’s for the season.  Ohio State has a two-headed monster in Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins, who combined for 1972 total yards rushing and 17 TD’s, with Dobbins becoming the the 4th Freshman at Ohio State to break the 1,000 yard mark and surpassing Weber’s mark from a season ago.

Both teams will try to impose their will against each others defenses and it will start with these two positions.  Neither team can afford to start out sloppy because the game could get out of hand quickly.  Turnovers will give the other team the edge.

Position Advantages

QB:  Objectively, I will give the slight edge at this position to USC.  Yes, Darnold is prone to turnovers, but like we saw against Washington, he is elusive in the pocket and has the awareness and accuracy and arm strength to get out of trouble.  I love Barrett, but his accuracy has been an issue this season and throwing just isn’t his strength.

RB:  Ronald Jones II is a beast, but the depth isn’t there.  Carr is a good player, but I will give Ohio State the edge at RB.  J.K. Dobbins has been a pleasant surprise this season and leads the Buckeyes in rushing, but Mike Weber has also come on as of late.  Together, they make up one of the best duo’s in College Football, and they are both looking to tear up this USC defense.  Jones is an all-purpose back, but so is Dobbins.  The deciding factor is Weber’s ability to run north and south.

 

 

 

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.