Avoiding A Repeat
After the emotional roller coaster we went through last Saturday in Happy Valley against Penn State, it is hard for any of us to get to get too awful excited about playing anyone other than Michigan, or Wisconsin, or maybe even Michigan State. I’m sure it is the same way for the players as well. The challenge for Urban Meyer and his staff this week is to get their team ready to play Indiana. We all know what happened last season after a similar comeback win over the Nittany Lions. The Buckeyes went to Iowa looking like they thought outcome was a foregone conclusion, and had their lunch handed to them in a 55-24 loss. That can’t happen again and I’m guessing all involved learned their lesson.
Is Indiana really a threat? On paper, no they’re not. But, that doesn’t mean the Buckeyes can toss their helmets on the field and expect to walk all over the Hoosiers. I expect the Indiana defense to pin their ears back and come after Dwayne Haskins. He struggled most of the night against Penn State’s pressure, so I expect every team OSU faces to try the same thing. It’s the only strategy that has worked so far against Haskins. I think Indiana’s defensive line can be pushed around by Ohio State, especially their defensive tackles. But, their linebackers and defensive backs are solid. Marcelino Ball (pictured) plays their “Husky” position, another of those hybrid linebacker/safety types, who is extremely active. According to Meyer, Ball makes their defense go. Although they mostly blitz on third down, I expect Indiana to bring him early and often. Meyer feels the Buckeye offense is going to have to earn every yard passing. The Hoosiers are ranked 14th nationally in passing yards allowed with 163.6 per game. Jonathan Crawford is an experienced safety and the team’s best NFL prospect. Indiana’s defense is just good enough to disrupt what their opponent wants to do. But, this is easily their biggest challenge yet.
Indiana’s offense begins with quarterback Peyton Ramsey. He’s another dual threat quarterback, but isn’t nearly as dangerous as Trace McSorley of Penn State. He completes a high percentage of throws, but averages less than 6 ½ yards per attempt. This is not a big play offense and many think it is a far too conservative one. I think Ramsey will be able to hit quick throws, but won’t be able to do it enough to move the team consistently. The offensive line has struggled the last two weeks. In the Hoosiers’ only loss, Michigan State held them to just 29 yards rushing. They’re not giving up a lot of sacks thanks to Ramsey’s legs and his ability to get the ball out of his hand quickly when throwing. The Buckeyes’ may not be able to come up with many sacks, but I think they’ll be able to harass Ramsey into a lot of bad throws. True freshman Stevie Scott is the main running back. He’s a bruiser at 6’2” and 236 pounds, but he, like the offensive line, has struggled the last two weeks. Last year’s leading rusher, Morgan Ellison, is back from suspension, but it is not known if he will play this week. Against Penn State, Ohio State’s linebackers did an excellent job helping to slow Miles Sanders. Indiana’s backs aren’t as much of a threat as Sanders, but the linebackers will have to be solid in their alignment and filling gaps again this week. The Hoosiers are very close to a 50/50 split between running and passing.
Head Coach Tom Allen’s team is currently 4-1, and just two wins away from bowl eligibility. But, of their remaining seven games, there isn’t one you can look at as a sure win.
Ramsey is connecting on 71% of his passes and leads the Big Ten in that category. He’s thrown for 1,039 yards, eight touchdowns, and five interceptions. Scott is their leading rusher with 464 yards and a 4.7 yards per carry average, but has fumbled twice. Whop Philyor is their leading receiver with 18 catches.
Crawford is the team’s leading tackler with 26. Ball has four tackles-for-loss, two sacks, and a quarterback hurry. Linebackers Raekwon Jones and Dameon Willis, Jr., have combined for 39 tackles, five tackles-for-loss, and a sack. As a unit they give up just 321 yards per game.
What Do I Think?
While the Hoosiers may be able to jam up things at the line of scrimmage and slow Ohio State’s run game, I don’t think they have enough to hold the Buckeyes in check for sixty minutes. Their defensive linemen just aren’t that good, so they’ll have to use linebackers or a safety to cause problems when OSU tries to run the ball. This is going to open things up for Dwayne Haskins, who I expect to have a big day. If Indiana blitzes as much as expected, look for offensive coordinator Ryan Day to take advantage to that with bubble screens like he did against Penn State.
A good Buckeye defensive line going against a struggling Hoosier offensive line means it could be a long day for Indiana’s offense. This defense has been racking up tackles-for-loss at an astonishing rate (11 against Penn State) and I don’t expect that to be any different this week. I think the Buckeyes’ front seven will spend a lot of time in the Hoosier backfield. The only concern I have is if Ramsey drops back, sees the backs of OSU defenders turned because they are in man-to-man coverage, and takes off running. If this happens, it won’t take long for defensive coordinator Greg Schiano to assign a spy to the IU quarterback. That slowed down McSorley, it will work on Ramsey as well. The Buckeyes have given up their share of big plays, but Indiana is not a big play offense. I don’t see the Hoosier offense being able to consistently move the ball.
J-Shun Harris II is an outstanding punt returner and provides another challenge for OSU punter Drue Chrisman (more on him in a minute), and superstar “gunners” Jeffrey Okudah and Terry McLaurin. Those three have managed to limit some pretty good returners to next to nothing.
This game shouldn’t be close. The only way I see it staying close is if the Buckeyes come out and stumble around like they did against Iowa last year. Ohio State is just far more talented and deep than the Hoosiers. They should be in control by halftime and pull away to win by a sizeable margin.
Some Random Things
Everyone is well aware of the block Terry McLaurin threw that took out three Penn State defenders on K.J. Hill’s game-winning touchdown last week. But, he also did a great job on a screen earlier in that drive as well. On the first play of that drive, Dwayne Haskins dropped off a screen to J.K. Dobbins, who weaved his way for a 35-yard gain, and got the Buckeyes out of a hole at their own 3-yard line. McLaurin, who lined up in a tight slot to the right of the formation, came down inside, blocked a linebacker, and created a seal to help spring Dobbins. He then hustled downfield and put a Nittany Lion defender on the ground with another block. But, he’s not the only Buckeye who got two blocks on a key play. On Binjimen Victor’s touchdown catch, tight end Rashod Berry was kept in to help pass block in what Meyer called “max protect.” When Haskins threw the pass, Berry was at his own 46-yard line. After Victor made the catch, Berry hustled down the field and threw another block at the Penn State 20-yard line. That’s 34 yards away from where he was when Haskins threw the pass. These are the kind of little things that help you win tight games. This isn't the greatest video of the play, but it was all I could find
Speaking of the tight ends, that’s just what co-offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Kevin Wilson did on 97.1 The Fan on Thursday. He said Luke Farrell has been a bit gimpy with an ankle injury lately. Rashod Berry has loads of athletic ability and the coaches are trying to harness it. He feels highly touted freshman Jeremy Ruckert is improving daily and should play more. Ruckert did see action on a couple of third downs against Penn State.
Meyer said the team had what he described as a “call to arms” meeting earlier this week. He wants to see guys who are not getting playing time working harder to see the field and contribute. He also said he wants more from the freshman who are playing right now, and mentioned safety Josh Proctor specifically.
Still no word on who will start at field safety in place of Isaiah Pryor, who must sit out the first half this week. Pryor was called for targeting and ejected in the second half of the Penn State game. Jahsen Wint replaced him and probably had his best game yet at the position. Brendan White and Shaun Wade, who has been the nickel cornerback for most of the season are being considered as well. However, Wint is listed as the starter on the depth chart and that’s who I expect to take the field with the first team defense on Saturday.
Defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones and cornerback Damon Arnette will both play this week. Jones rolled his ankle last week, while Arnette took a shot to the head. Meyer said nose tackle Robert Landers has been battling an arm injury and should be better this week. Mike Weber has had a foot strain, but has improved.
J.K. Dobbins needs just 217 yards to reach 2,000 career rushing yards and join teammate Mike Weber. The Buckeyes have never had two players with 2,000 yards at the same time.
K.J. Hill has caught a pass in 25 straight games. He has at least four receptions in each game this season. He was named recently by Pro Football Focus as the top-rated receiver in college football so far this season.
Kicker Sean Nuernberger’s 314 career points puts him fourth on Ohio State’s all-time list. At his current scoring rate, Mike Nugent’s school record of 356 points is certainly well within reach. I really like Nuernberger because he’s a bit of a character and doesn’t take himself all that serious. He goes by “sean4heisman” on Twitter. Gotta love a sense of humor like that.
A total of 17 true freshman have played so far this season. Meyer said Marcus Hooker, who had been serving a team suspension, will play this week. He’s the brother of former OSU All-American safety Malik Hooker, who is currently with the Indianapolis Colts.
A few changes to the depth chart. As mentioned, Jahsen Wint is listed as the starter at strong (or field) safety. Running back Brian Snead, who has not been listed the last few weeks because of a disciplinary matter, returns. Tuf Borland is now listed as the starter at middle linebacker. He had been listed as a co-starter with Baron Browning.
So, yes, I actually heard someone use the word “honorifications” once. Following a great win over Penn State, some took notice and gave some “honorifications” to the Buckeyes.
The Football Writers Association of America named the Buckeyes as their Reveal Suits National Team of the Week. They are the second Big Ten team to claim the honor this season. Maryland was chosen for their upset of Texas the opening week of the season. I’m happy to say I’m a member of the FWAA.
For his dominating performance, Chase Young is the Bednarik Award Player of the Week. Young had six tackles, three tackles-for-loss, two sacks, and batted down two passes against the Nittany Lions. The Bednarik Award is given to the national defensive player of the year by the Maxwell Football Club of Philadephia. Nick Bosa was a player of the week earlier in the season.
Punter Drue Chrisman is the Ray Guy Award Punter of the Week. He averaged almost 48 yards per kick on nine punts and had three downed inside the 20-yard line. He, along with “gunners” Jeffrey Okudah and Terry McLaurin, are responsible for making life miserable for opposing returners. Twice they’ve gone against players with some gaudy return stats and held them to next to nothing. I’ve said this before, Chrisman is a weapon. The Ray Guy Award is given to the nation’s outstanding punter.
Don’t Look Now
So, guess who is back at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center? Nick Bosa was at the Buckeyes’ practice on Tuesday and has been rehabbing since last week. He had surgery on September 17th to repair a core muscle injury suffered against TCU. He is to be re-evaluated by his doctor in November and will be out until then.
There has been a lot of speculation as to whether or not Bosa will return to the Buckeyes this season. Because many experts have him currently listed as being the number one overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, a lot of people think he is finished for the season. While I’ve gone on record as saying I don’t think his parents want him to play again, I’m not convinced he agrees with them. Seeing video of him working with the agility ladder and visiting with his teammates at practice tell me this is a guy who has intentions of not just returning if the Buckeyes earn a spot in the College Football Playoff but returning as soon as he’s medically cleared to play. Maybe I’m reading too much into what I’ve seen, that’s altogether possible. But, it is well known how much he loves playing for the Buckeyes, and Bosa doesn’t strike me as a guy ready to move on from his teammates just yet.
The Monkey Wrench
Almost from the opening kickoff of the first game of the college football season, we’re bombarded with who are the supposed frontrunners for the College Football Playoff. There are charts for not just the teams, but for the conferences as well. Which conference will be left out? Which has the best chance to have two teams chosen? All of this is great for discussion, and that discussion is everywhere and endless. But, in the middle of all of those teams from the Power 5 conferences (SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Big XII, and Pac 12) is an independent that could be The Monkey Wrench in everyone’s grand playoff plans.
The Monkey Wrench is currently ranked 6th in one poll and 7th in another. It has defeated teams ranked 14th and 7th, so far, and will play number 24 this Saturday. The remainder of The Monkey Wrench’s schedule does not include a ranked team as of right now, and could well be undefeated at the end of the season. It is a traditional football power with a huge following and a true heavyweight. If you haven’t figured it out by now, The Monkey Wrench is Notre Dame.
If they remain undefeated, the Fighting Irish will throw a big, ole’ monkey wrench into the entire College Football Playoff Committee process. I’m going to be very interested to see the committee’s initial rankings in a few weeks since they hold wins over three ranked teams and Clemson has one. Their schedules don’t compare. Notre Dame’s is far more impressive. They do play some common opponents, but there aren’t any Furman’s on the Irish’s schedule. I don’t want to get too far ahead of things because so much can happen, but if the Irish remain undefeated, things are going to get real interesting for that committee.
Jeff Heuerman caught four passes for 57 yards in the Broncos’ loss to the Chiefs Monday night. The four catches is a career high for him in a single game. He now has nine receptions for the season.
Defensive lineman Michael Bennett has been signed by the Falcons. He made the Jaguars’ opening day roster, but was released the following week. No word on if he’ll be active against the Steelers on Sunday. Also, center Billy price is still in a walking boot and will not return to the Bengals until week 7.
Malik Hooker had twelve tackles in the Colts loss to the Patriots last night.
A couple of former Buckeyes have signed with teams in the new Alliance of American Football (AAF):
Chase Farris (offensive line)-Atlanta
Christian Bryant (defensive back)-Birmingham
Jalin Marshall (wide receiver)-Orlando
Michael Hill (defensive tackle)-San Diego
The brand new league will open its season on February 9th.
This One Is Personal
This game against Indiana is a bit personal for me. Hoosier tight end Austin Dorris is a former youth hockey teammate of my son, Caleb. The two played together for a few seasons when they were a part of the Wheeling Amateur Nailers. They won a championship together at the Squirt level (9-10 year olds) for the 2006-07 season. When I look back on that team, it isn’t surprising they won a championship banner. Two players (Parker Henry and my son, Caleb) went on to play junior level hockey; my son ascended all the way to Canadian Junior A. The team’s only girl, Jackie Gellner, is currently playing Division I women’s hockey for Holy Cross. Others went on to Division I soccer at Robert Morris (Mason George) and Division II lacrosse at Wheeling Jesuit (Michael Tighe). Michael Grove was a pitcher at WVU until being drafted in the second round by the Dodgers in June and, of course, Austin is playing Division I football. Yeah, there were just a few athletes on that team.
That’s my son, Caleb, with the goalie equipment just to the left of the trophy, and Austin on the far right in the front row.
Walks down memory lane are fun, but it is a reminder of how I miss watching my goalie play. The kid was really good. The Buckeyes are really good, also. Hopefully they make some memories against the Hoosiers. Enjoy the game everyone.