The Ohio State Buckeyes @ The Northwestern Wildcats

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

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

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

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

Justin Fields shedding defender.

Another Field-s Day?

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

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

Ground Game Dominance

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

Big Ten Championship Game.

Trench Warfare 2.0

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

Northwestern Wildcats QB Hunter Johnson.

Fallen Five-Star

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

The Great Defensive Chase

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

Key Matchups To Watch

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

Prediction:

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

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

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

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

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

Battle In The Trenches

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

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

Defensive Battle Looming

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

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

The Justin and J.K. Show On Turf

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

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

Match-Ups To Watch:

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

Prediction:

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

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

MOTSAG Conference Rankings: Week Five

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ohio State Buckeyes (4-0, Big Ten 1-0) VS The Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-1, Big Ten 1-0)

This Saturday, in prime time, the Buckeyes will travel to Lincoln to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers in what could become a high scoring affair.  Both teams are more than capable of lighting up the scoreboard and tomorrow night they will square off under the lights in a conference matchup.  A dominant Ohio State team that has played at home in three out of the four past games and they are playing lights out with few, if any weaknesses.  Nebraska has split home and away games, winning two of the three contests, with the lone loss coming at Colorado in an overtime heartbreaker.

Prime Time:  Day vs Frost

Two up-and-comers in the coaching realm that plunged into a leadership role as their respective teams Head Coach.  Scott Frost is in his second season in Lincoln after rebuilding UCF to a fringe competitor and potential Playoff Darkhorse.  In two seasons he holds a 7-9 record.  In 2018 he finished 4-8 and in 2019 he claims a 3-1 with the lone loss coming on the road against the Colorado Buffaloes in a hard-fought overtime thriller.

On the other side of the field, Ryan Day is the heir to the Ohio State throne and in his first four games, he has his team motivated and they look dangerous early on.  He is 4-0 and he is looking to forward to a big-time night road game against Nebraska.  Up to this point, he has his team looking unbeatable, but this feels like another statement-making type of game in primetime with the nation watching.

This is the first contest between these young coaches but Ohio State holds a 6-1 series lead and they have won four straight against Nebraska.  The lone loss to Nebraska was in 2011 against Taylor Martinez in a 34-27 loss.  This should be an easy game, but with a target on Ohio State’s and in a hostile environment, it might get interesting.

Kentucky Curse 2.0

For whoever follows recruiting closely, there are two types of players have always come back to hurt the Buckeyes in the past two.  Ohio kids that could not get that coveted home team offer and the ones that could not fit into a crowded and talent-laden recruiting class.  Two out of the three bad losses to Big Ten West teams have been painful and the only knock against the Buckeyes that have kept them out of the College Football Playoffs, at least for the last two years against less-than-stellar teams with one of these players.

Against Iowa, it was a night game at Iowa with emotion running high and they handled Ohio State in front of the whole crowd and the nation.  At Purdue, a combination of an Ohio kid who never got that coveted offer and an electric playmaker from Kentucky in Rondale Moore that could not secure a spot in the 2018 class.  Flash forward to the 2019 class, where another kid from Kentucky couldn’t get in the class either and goes to a Big Ten West school and gets to play against the Buckeyes at home.

In last weeks come from behind victory against Illinois, he racked up 186 all-purpose yards and scored three times.  He looks electric and he showed that he can be that Rondale Moore type of gadget player that could explode at any moment to shift the momentum.  The Buckeyes can put this curse to rest by bottling up Robinson and staying disciplined.  They need to come out strong and if needed, weather the storm keep him in check.

Dual-Threat Quarterback With Weapons

Nothing scares Ohio State fans like a quarterback that can do it all.  Whether it is with his arm or his leg, the dual-threat signal-callers have been able to squeak by the defense.  Adrian Martinez was recruited by Day and the Buckeyes but was never offered.  He joins Nebraska in his second year as the starter and he has the weapons to give the new-look defense fits while they are on the field.

Martinez is joined by JD Spielman and a dinged-up Maurice Washington and together they will look to test the improved Buckeye defense.  Shifty playmakers and speedy quarterbacks have always been trouble, but in the game at Illinois, they have an obvious weakness that the Buckeyes defense could exploit, the trenches.  The offense has been explosive, but they have to perfect against the Buckeyes to be competitive.  Martinez never got that offer from the Buckeyes out of high school due to an injury, so could this slight be a chip on his shoulder to will his team into a victory or to be competitive in this contest?

Silver Bullet Trench Warfare

There is no doubt that the 2019 defense has vastly improved and they have been playing lights out.  They are 4th in the nation in 3rd down defense with a stout front led by Chase Young.  They are holding opponents to a measly .231% conversion rate on 3rd downs.  They are 3rd in the nation in redzone defense allowing .545%.  The overall defense has also improved where they are 7th in the nation in rushing defense and 18th in the nation in passing defense.

They have also racked up the sack count and they have 20 total through four games and they are averaging 5 per game.  The younger Rushmen have also contributed and shined during mop-up duty showing their depth.  This Cornhusker O-Line looked average against Illinois so they could expose them early and often.  Ohio State ranks 2nd in the nation in total defense allowing 3.42 yards per play while giving up 222 yards per game.  Special Teams have also been a factor for this team, they are 1st in the nation in blocked kicks and 2nd blocked punts.  The game-changing plays have come from both the defense and the Special Teams units and they will continue to swing the momentum in their favor.

Fields’ Second Road Test

Balance has been at the forefront in this offensive attack and it seems to be working in their favor.  Justin Fields has had one of the most meteoric rises as a starter and he has compiled one heck of a season so far, but he can still improve as the season ages.   He has a combined 19 touchdowns with 13 through the air and 6 with his legs and he has looked good so far with a few things to fix.

He has leaned on his coaches and he has led his team with a killer instinct that could still be improved.  He has a few things to clean up, one would be his ability to read defenses under duress or pressure.  We saw against FAU and Indiana, when he was pressured, he overthrew his intended receivers.  He certainly could have a day, but he cannot forget about his workhorse, JK Dobbins.

Dobbins has had a heck of a season with 68 carries and 477 yards and 5 scores.  He has also chipped in for 5 receptions and 42 yards and another score.  He cannot be underutilized and I think the combination of the two, along with the playmakers at receiver and tight end can give the once feared Blackshirt defense fits and grind them down or wear them out.  The O-Line might get tested, but if they could hold up, the game may get out of hand fast.

PREDICTION

5 Match-Ups To Watch:

  • Fields vs The Secondary
  • Slobs vs The Blackshirts
  • Rushmen vs The Cornhusker O-Line
  • BIA/Linebackers vs Spielman/Robinson/TE’s In The Seams
  • Dobbins/Teague vs Blackshirts

49-17 Ohio State defeats Nebraska.

The Ohio State Buckeyes (4-0) Defeated The Miami (OH) Redhawks (1-3)

The Ohio State Buckeyes have been on a tear as of late, but early on it looked bleak as they fell behind early 5-0.  A strip-sack that resulted in a safety and on the ensuing possession, the Redhawks drove into the red zone before kicking a field goal to give them the lead and their last points of the contest.  It certainly looked ugly and they started off slow, but they picked up steam after that wakeup call and they rattled off 76 straight points.

The Redhawks came into Columbus juiced and they played hard for nearly the entirety of the first quarter, but when the Buckeyes found their stride, there was no stopping the offensive onslaught.  Slow starts have bitten the Buckeyes on the road and to start this slow, they need to clean that up with a trip to Lincoln on the horizon and it is also their first night game of the season and their first prime time game to boot.  With road losses at night to Iowa in 2017 and to Purdue in 2018, they cannot afford to have an off start.

This game was lost after the 5-0 start and it was utter dominance at every phase of the game.  This contest was like an audition for the young and inexperienced, but the future looks pretty bright, even against a team like Miami (OH).  The starters made sure that this team will not be denied, especially at home and they dominated the rest of the first half.

Chase Young and the defense struggled for the first two drives, occasionally giving up some yardage, but they eventually shut the door on the opposing team.  He finished the game with two key strip-sack fumbles that resulted in turnovers.  Okudah also benefitted from the constant pressure and he came away with an easy first interception of the season.  After regaining the momentum, the offensive attack was relentless.  The defense played relentlessly as well and they shut out the Redhawks for the rest of the game.

The starters eventually were pulled out of the game at halftime and the reserves lit it up.  At halftime, it remained 49-5.  By the end of the contest, after the game was called, the Buckeyes finished the game 76-5, a 25-point addition courtesy of the second and third stringers.  Chugunov and Hoak combined for three passing scores and Steele Chambers had his first touchdown as a Buckeye.  Garrett Wilson and Jameson Williams lit it up at wide receiver and Marcus Crowley got into the action with his first receiving score in his young career.

The depth showed that there is no drop-off between the starting and the reserve units, and even a few of the offensive walk-ons got into the action and made a difference.  The back-up defenders also showed out as they continued to shut down the opposing offense.  Zaid Hamadan, a reserve defensive tackle along with Jarron Cage gutted the interior and stopped the run.  Dallas Gant shot through and got himself on the board with the first sack of his Buckeye career, joining Zach Harrison, Javonte Jean-Baptiste, and the aforementioned Gant.

The back-ups had their shot and they didn’t disappoint.  The momentum by the starters and with the reserve players keeping it for the rest of the game was what we all wanted to see.  There will be a battle next week and a night game, on the road, hasn’t been kind to the Buckeyes, but will this bring the juice to prevent another mid-season letdown?  After an undefeated non-conference slate, the conference slate remains.  They cannot afford to start slow once again, but this 70-burger can help with the confidence coming into the game.

For the time being, let us enjoy the game and the eventual turnaround.  We all know that it wasn’t perfect, but it was a dominating performance.  There are some things that Coach Day needs to address, but it’ll get there.  Go Bucks.

Miami (OH) Redhawks (1-2) VS Ohio State Buckeyes (3-0)

With another week to hone their skills, the Buckeyes square off against a wounded Redhawk team that has lost two out of the last three games early in the young 2019 season.  On the other side of the field, the Buckeyes have won three straight, in convincing fashion with one road game to open up the Big Ten season and two games against inferior competition from the Group of Five conferences.  Two teams with different situations, but its looking like another tune-up for the home team against a team that is struggling to stay afloat.

Road Woes

Life on the road hasn’t been kind to the Miami (OH) Redhawks.  This season, have not been able to break through and secure a road win in three games, going 0-2 with losses against Iowa and Cincinnati.  They have been outscored by a lot and so far it has been a whopping 73-17 scoring margin.  In 2018, they split the difference and finished 6-6, with a 101-75 margin on the road while losing to Minnesota, Army, and Buffalo.  It hasn’t been too bad on the road because the three that they managed to win came against Bowling Green, Northern Illinois, and Akron and they outscored them 92-47.  It hasn’t been easy, but going into Columbus will be hard and so far a 6-8 road record isn’t going to make things easier.

At home, the Redhawks are alright.  In 2018 they finished 3-3 and in 2019 they started 1-0.  They beat an out-manned FCS team, but the Buckeyes will be a stiff test to beat at home.  The odds aren’t in favor of the away team and I don’t think they stand a chance.  Brett Gabbert will have a stifling defense to contend with and we will see if he is ready for the big lights.

Dobbins and His Running Back Stable

J.K. Dobbins has been on a tear lately and why shouldn’t he continue his dominant streak?  Against FAU, he toted the ball 21 times and ran for 91 total yards and a TD.  Against Cincinnati, he carried the ball 17 times for 141 yards with a long of 60 and two more scores.  In the most recent game on the road against Indiana, Dobbins has 22 and he nearly went for 200 yards, but he finished with 193 yards and a healthy 8.8 average, he displayed his physical prowess while dashing for 56 yards before bowling over and bouncing his way for one of his two scores of the game.    Dobbins also had two catches for 14 yards and a score, but it should’ve been two, he will get some work with the JUGs machine, but he is doing damage on the ground and is currently sitting at 4th in the nation in rushing yards.

Dobbins eventually gave way to Master Teague and Crowley got some reps to put out minds at ease regarding the future of that position.  Teague is a bigger Dobbins, but he loves contact as he finished with 10 carries with 106 yards and a score.  He capitalized it with another physical 40 yarder–and he had a healthier 10.6 average.  Crowley and McCall eventually spelled the two and combined for 4 carries and 11 yards before the game ended.  This game will get out of hand quick and eventually they will get valuable reps to gain more game time experience.

The Return of BIA, The Rushmen and The Silver Bullets

So far in three games, Buckeyes have been playing with a huge chip on their shoulder.  Senior and 2019 captain Damon Arnette took the advice of Buckeye Great Chris Carter and stayed for his last ride in the scarlet and gray.  He, along with Okudah and Wade at his position has been a nuisance for opposing offensive players.  Behind them, fellow Senior Jordan Fuller and Brendon White have held it down so far this season, but the little dump offs in the seams sometimes get the best of them, but they have improved so far early on in the season and Arnette made a statement with the first pick-six of the season in a dazzling display of patience and athleticism.

The Rushmen have also been a nuisance and their depth is one of the strengths of this team.  With BB Landers, Tyreke Smith, and Jonathan Cooper missing the game, the reserve unit will grab some reps before continuing their conference slate.  They are averaging 4.67 sacks per game and through four games they have 14 sacks for the season which is good for being tied for 2nd in the nation.

The Linebackers have also improved in their play and this season, they are tearing it up.  Improved tackling and a more aggressive approach, the Silver Bullets are back!  Tackling was a sore subject and they would give up splash plays consistently.  The penalties were also a weakness, but the 2019 team has cleaned a lot of that up.  They currently sit 8th in the nation in third-down stops allowing a conversion in 0.229% per game.  The zone scheme with man-to-man sprinkled in seems to work right now, but we will see how far they’ve come when they get to the meaty part of their schedule.

Fields Day and His Zone 6 Weapons

Fields had an off game in his first true road test at Ohio State, but he was still lethal.  He missed his receivers while being pressured, he often threw too high or away from his targets frame or catch radius, but he finished with 199 yards and four total TD’s.  It was a more inconsistent day of his young Buckeye career, but he still put the points on the board and he executed to keep this team humming.

Zone 6 has benefited from the play of Fields, but they lean on each other.  The Legend of Olave is alive and well–he even managed to make key catches, he caught a TD, and he also blocked a punt that resulted in a safety.  He surely has helped swing the momentum in each game and he continues to amaze me.  K.J. Hill finally got on the board with the receiving score and Dobbins also had a one too.

The Tight Ends, although they haven’t been utilized still play hard and they certainly are a key cog in the offensive attack.  We saw it against FAU, but it sort of fizzled as of late.  They certainly can be used at any moment, but they play hard even though they are used in the blocking game.  Either way, they all play for their brothers, but we will see how they’ll be used later during the season.

PREDICTION

56-6, the Ohio State Buckeyes defeat the Miami(OH) Redhawks.

Yes, I am predicting a 50-burger, but the Redhawk offense is bad this year.  They can possibly get some pity points, but it is doubtful and this defense is preparing for a clash with a Big Ten West foe, Nebraska.  Without looking ahead, the Buckeyes will have their focus solely on Miami (OH).  In another routine throttling, look for the game to get out of hand by the winding minutes of the 3rd quarter before the reserves come in to get some playing time once again.  The goal would be to flex their muscle, get a win, and give your starters a well-deserved rest before traveling to Lincoln.

MOTSAG Conference Progress Rep

I will be trying something new, but I think it’ll be another fun way to take the MOTSAG faithful into a whole new stratosphere with our new Conference Progress Report.  Here we will take a look at the Big 10 Conference as a whole and grade each team from week to week.  I may or may not take a stab at teams outside of the Big 10 and grade other conferences as well, but let’s focus on the Big 10 first.

#1:  Wisconsin Badgers (2-0)

The Wisconsin Badgers have been a force to be reckoned with and in two games they have outscored opponents 110-0.  In week 3 they are on a bye, but I will still have them ahead of our beloved Buckeyes for the time being at least.  As much as I want to place them ahead, I cannot overlook the fact that they have yet to give up any points.

They look like a well-oiled machine and until someone knocks them off of their perch, I feel the need to leave them because technically they are perfect in the sense that they haven’t given up a point and they haven’t shown any weakness up to this point.  They have the weapons to give other teams fits so for now, they sit as the top team in the Big 10.  They also have Michigan at home so things could change.

#2:  Ohio State Buckeyes (3-0)

As much as I want to put them at the top, I am not prepared to at this point.  It’s not that I am doubting them, I am pretty proud of this team so far, but they are sort of an unfinished product at this point.  Yes, they have outscored opponents 138-31, but they need more time to develop.

The defense is terrific and they are very disruptive, and the tackling is definitely better, but I like they could improve a little bit more.  Sacks are always going to be a thing for this years team, but I want consistency with getting turnovers.  The pick-six from Arnette was a sight for sore eyes, but if they can become a little more consistent with takeaways, I will move them up accordingly.

#3:  Penn State Nittany Lions (3-0)

Okay, they barely skimmed by Pitt in a rivalry game, but they managed to pull it off.  No harm, no foul on their part and I won’t penalize them for being tested.  They have been a terror on offense and they have outscored opponents 141-30.

They showed their grit in week three and their defense answered the call to stop Pitt.  They are disruptive, but if challenged with the right pressure, they looked somewhat beatable.  Penn State always has weapons on offense, so they cannot be taken lightly, but they’re a solid team that could make noise.

#4:  Iowa Hawkeyes (3-0)

The Iowa Hawkeyes were also tested against a feisty Iowa State team, but luck played its hand at the end of this one with one of the most dreadful punt return sequences I’ve seen in a while.

Lady luck certainly favored the Hawkeyes in this battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy, but they too were tested.  Their offense took a step back and only managed 18 points, but a win is a win and they’ve been outscoring opponents 86-31.  They aren’t as flashy as the top three but their system grinds teams down and they just win.

#5:  Michigan Wolverines (2-0)

The hype train ran rampant throughout the and guess who started feeling themselves a little too early on into the season?  Yup, you guessed it, the Team Up North definitely thought they would destroy teams cause of their talent alone, but no one got the memo that your Offensive Coordinator would need some time to adjust to the team as well.

Yes, he came from Alabama but come on it won’t work out that fast.  They showed their potential against Middle Tennessee, but against Army, they barely escaped at home.  They too are on a bye week, but with a trip to Madison on the horizon, we will see exactly what this team can do.

#6:  Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-1)

Okay, some might feel like they are too high, but they can be that Big 10 West team that comes out of nowhere at home and guess who the Buckeyes play in week 5?  I think highly of them because they have everything I need in a team.  A speedy quarterback and a Blackshirt defense that should pose a challenge, especially since it’s a home game.

An explosive offense and a good defense are enough to keep me anxious, but since a lowly Colorado team could squeak out a win against this team, who knows.  They travel to Illinois but they took it on the chin, so they may use them as a tune-up to prepare for Ohio State.

#7:  Michigan State Spartans (2-1)

Michigan State appeared to have it all in the bag, but another bad loss to a young Arizona State team, this time at home, I cannot help but feel robbed at this point.  They have a stifling defense, but the offense looks a bit outdated and boring.

They have been the thorn on Ohio State’s side for a little bit and this gets me pumped for the upcoming clash in Columbus, but they must defeat Northwestern in Evansville.  They seem to be getting into their usual groove so we may see another good win for the Spartans or another tough loss.

#8:  Northwestern Wildcats (1-1)

The Northwestern Wildcats took an early loss to Stanford and they looked like they had regressed.  They beat UNLV and looked better offensively.  They play a Spartans team that took a bad loss to Arizona State and even they are at home, they could get taken out.

Their defense is still the same disciplined team, but their offense is inconsistent.  With Thorson leaving for the NFL, they look confused and they are not as explosive as the Cardiac Cats of old.  They need to find an identity soon, but we will see if they can survive a clash with the Spartans.

#9:  Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-0)

Don’t let the undefeated tag fool you, this team is very inconsistent and they have barely managed to avoid losses to South Dakota State, Fresno State, and wait for it…  Georgia Southern.  The common denominator is they won by the skin of their teeth, by a single score.

Sure, a win is a win and they managed to skim by, but come on.  They should be able to be more consistent, but the talent is still trying to gel together.  I get that, but I cannot help but feel like they should be a little bit better than what they are showing.

#10:  Maryland Terrapins (2-1)

Fools gold!  What was a high-octane offense, but they just flopped against Temple in a rivalry game in Philadelphia.  Their offense was fine, but their defense has been atrocious.  If they can run teams out of the stadium. they’ll be fine.  If not, then they look completely beatable.

This team is improved and they did take the Buckeyes to the absolute limit a season ago.  So they did they just run out of steam or have they peaked as a team too early into the season?  Either way, they have a bye to figure it out before hosting Penn State.

#11:  Indiana Hoosiers (2-1)

So the Hoosiers ran into a buzzsaw and they were trounced at home.  They had two convincing wins against lesser teams, but it is evident that they aren’t ready for big boy football against more elite teams.

They stood no chance against a gritty Buckeye squad who is on a mission.  Looking ahead, they need to refocus their efforts and recover against UConn.  The jury is still out, but I believe Indiana can turn it around.

 

#12:  Purdue Boilermakers (1-2)

The last team to upset the Buckeyes has struggled to produce wins against Nevada and TCU, but the most recent loss isn’t a bad one in my opinion.  They could certainly rebound against a lowly Minnesota team that has managed to skim by.

Up to this point, the Boilermakers have been off and the jury is still out on this team.  Their schedule looks pretty tough and they could have a bad season if things don’t change soon.  For now, they are underachieving and they could sneak up on a few teams.

#13:  Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-1)

Well, the Scarlet Knights have been a tad bit better this season before they played Iowa.  Either way, they look to be an improved team so far, but they very well might be the same old Rutgers team.

They have a tough schedule as well and they could struggle to make a bowl game once again.  Unless they can sneak up on a couple of unsuspecting teams, but at this point, it is very doubtful.  This team has some moxie and they can be explosive against the right opponent.

#14:  Illinois Fighting Illini (2-1)

So Lovie Smith will have a hard time coming back from a bad loss against Eastern Michigan.  Sure, he is 2-1 but he has to get his team back after such a devastating loss.  It won’t be easy against Nebraska, but like the previous three or four, it might not be easy in the Big 10 schedule.

In what could be his last season, Smith would need a miracle to save his job.  He would have to beat a good team or win all of his rivalry games before the end of the season.  They should be relieved that Illibuck isn’t on the docket, but they could still mess it up for themselves.

The Ohio State Buckeyes (3-0, BIG 1-0)defeat The Indiana Hoosiers (2-1, BIG 0-1)

In Justin Fields’ first true road game in the Big 10, he did well enough to help his team secure another win for the Buckeyes.  Sure, he left some throws on the field, but at this point, we need to give him time as fans to adjust to the speed in just his third start.  In the first three games, he has flashed and he continues to learn as the season ages, but we all have to love what he has flashed so far.  He has yet to throw a pick and he has been efficient racking up 657 yards through the air and 9 scores.  He is also pretty darn fast, but with Dobbins sharing the backfield, he doesn’t feel pressured to take off, but he has a respectable 114 yards and 4 rushing scores on the ground.

Against the Hoosiers, it was evidently an off game.  He had a good performance, but he openly admitted that it wasn’t on par of what he expects of himself and what he is capable of.  He was accurate when he had time, but when the Hoosiers brought the pressure and mix of his throwing mechanics caused the ball to sail high or he would miss the frame of the open receiver, but it is all about growing more comfortable when pressured in the pocket.  Let’s not kid ourselves by saying that he is not having a productive season because he certainly is lighting it up and doing so in a perfectly balanced offense.

His backfield partner J.K. Dobbins also had himself a game against this Hoosier defense.  He broke their will and also seemed to be breaking tackles at will while en route to a season-high 193-yard rushing performance highlighted by the 56-yard score as he bounced off of would-be defenders before finding the endzone.  Even Dobbins’ backup Master Teague had himself a game as well.  He played well while spelling Dobbins and he finished with 10 rushes for 106 yards and a touchdown.  He too broke off a long 40-yard run toward the endzone.

One of the more underrated groups that have played well beyond anyone’s expectations to me would be the Slobs on the offensive line.  They have been the glue that sparks this potent offensive attack and it is nice to see this group dominate up to this point.  Thayer Munford has been playing lights out, the trio of internal linemen in Jackson, Myers, and Davis have been aggressive and have been mauling opposing defensive players, and my favorite out of the bunch Brandon Bowen is picking up where he left off before being lost for the season due to a leg injury two seasons ago.  He is a lead by example type of leader and he has been showing it this season.

The Buckeye defense has been lights out as well and what an exciting time to be a Buckeye fan?  They have been dominant and the coaches have found an identity and it is showing this season.  In one of the worst defensive display in 2018, they would constantly get gashed with trick plays, splash plays, and even with swing passes, slants, and screens, but this defense is really playing with a swagger that we all have craved for.  Better tackling, very few big plays, constant pressure on the opposing quarterbacks, sacks, and they are stuffing the run have been a sight for sore eyes and what better exclamation point that the pick-six in the red zone by Damon Arnette?  He took it back and it brought us all back to the times where the team thrived and excelled at turning defense to offense.

Yes, all is well in the Buckeye Kingdom and it has been one hell of a ride, but Indiana, Cincinnati, and FAU are small samples of the teams potential.  Up next is Miami (OH) and yes, they will be another small sample and I think it’ll be another stellar offensive show, but at this point, Ohio State’s depth and talent are showing up and beating these teams up.  Don’t get me wrong, I love everything I have seen so far, they were a little inconsistent in week 1, they look motivated and earned that shutout in week 2, and week three, they exploited the talent gap and in week 4 it looks to be the same.

For now, we should enjoy the balance and the early part of the schedule.  The fireworks have given us a glimpse of what they are capable of and they can definitely use the momentum before returning to the conference games.  The non-conference slate hasn’t been that competitive, but since TCU backed out, they need to make sure they do not play to the opponents level and just impose your will against these other teams and just enjoy the ride.  The goals for this team will always remain high, but let us take it a single game at a time.

 

Ohio State Buckeyes (2-0) VS Indiana Hoosiers (2-0)

This Saturday will be Ohio State’s first true road game and what better way celebrate that with it being their first conference game of the season?  Justin Fields has been more impactful at home, in front of the home fans, but we have never seen him away from the confines of the shoe–at least not up to this point of the season.  Both teams stand at 2-0 with dominant wins against mediocre teams, but this is a step up in competition and talent for both teams and not to understate things, it looks to be another exciting game.

Michael Penix Jr, Game Time Decision

The heart and soul of this Hoosier offense lay squarely on the shoulders of Penix, but will he be available for the game against Ohio State?  Penix carries a lot of the responsibilities and he accounts for a lot of the offense and its production.  In two games, he is 38-40 for 523 yards and 3 touchdowns against 2 interceptions.  He also has 79 yards rushing, which has been a problem for the Ohio State defense of old.  Will they suffer from the same problems with a faster, in conference team?  Or will they put the clamps on and win convincingly once again?

Depending on his health, Penix should get the starting nod, but just in case Peyton Ramsey will be asked to step in once again, in a familiar role as a starter.  He was the guy in the last two season and he is a baller.  A dual-threat QB that has gone 442-666, for 4,353 passing yards and 31 touchdowns against 18 interceptions.  He also has 580 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground.  He is more than capable of giving the Buckeyes fits, but that is if he can take care of the ball.

Fields/Dobbins Hot Streak

Justin Fields has been on quite a tear and the trail could heat up a bit more.  38-50 with 6 scores through the air.  He also has 21 rushes for 103 yards and 3 more scores.  Can he continue to light teams up and will he bring the explosive offense to Bloomington?  Will he get his entire offense more involved and can they maintain the momentum against a Big 10 foe?  Justin Fields is certainly up for the challenge, but will Indiana throw everything at Ohio State to confuse the young quarterback?

J.K. Dobbins ignited last weeks onslaught against the Cincinnati Bearcats and he too is looking to help his team during the current hot-streak.  Although he hasn’t been a consistent part of this offense, when he gets his chance, he doesn’t disappoint.  Dobbins has racked up 232 yards with three scores on the ground.  He ripped his season-long of 60 yards against Cincinnati before leaving to give his stablemates some reps.  Will he continue to terrorize defenses with his blend of speed and power?

The Chase Young Show

Let’s be real, the Indiana Offensive Line has a chance to stop one of the most dominant defensive forces and Ohio State’s Chase Young can certainly be that game-breaker to break past often.  This defense led by Young is allowing 186 passing yards and 64.5 rushing yards and they say that they haven’t even scratched the surface or reached their stride.  This version of the Buckeye defense has lived up to the hype and they have vastly improved over the tutelage of the new defensive coaching hires.

They play fast and aggressive, and more importantly, they are playing with a chip on their shoulder.  Can this new-look defense get to and affect this quarterback?  This line still hasn’t given up a sack and this will be a good test to gauge their progress.  I can see Young and his teammates making Penix or Ramsey miserable, but we will have to see how it develops.  The linebackers and defensive backs have improved, but against a conference foe, it’ll be the measuring stick before the meat of their schedules.

Zone 6 Machine

Zone 6 has been one of the best position groups on the team and they are deep at that position for the third year in a row.  They aren’t as quick as last years group, but they still manage to break away and make splash plays happen for Fields and the offense.  Victor, Hill, and Olave have been terrors.  They have been consistent through two games, but I feel that they have been underutilized and it’ll change soon.  They have been the focal point, but once they start clicking, watch out.  Balance is the name of the game and so far, the Buckeyes have done well to mix in the run and the pass.  Once the offense gets comfortable and once the passing game is leaned upon, it’ll be crazy.

The Tight End room has also been targeted more often compared to the recent years at Ohio State, and Ohio State has joined the party.  In the first week, Ruckert had a couple of scores and it showed another dimension to the Buckeye offense.  Not only will they be used to block defenders, but they also flash their skills in limited action.  It acts as another piece to the puzzle for defenses to decipher.  Teams are having trouble, but let’s be real, we relish the productivity of this offense.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

  • Fields VS Secondary
  • Defensive Front VS O-Line
  • Back Seven VS Speedy WR’s
  • Linebackers VS Penix/Ramsey/Scott
  • Slobs VS Hoosier D-Line

PREDICTION

Ohio State Buckeyes defeat Indiana Hoosiers 48-20

Indiana seems to always shock the Buckeyes enough to hinder their offense and that streak looks to continue.  It’ll be tough, but once the Buckeyes get it going, it’ll be hard to stop.  I can see the starters putting the game out of hand by the 3rd quarter and I expect the backups to gain more valuable reps against Indiana’s first and second teams.