The Turmoil Bowl
Welcome to the Turmoil Bowl. On one side we have Ohio State, whose head coach was made a target by a vengeful ex-wife of a former assistant coach and an unethical writer. On the other side we have the Maryland Terrapins, who had a player die during a workout in June that led to the dismissal of their head coach. There is not another program in college football that has gone through more turmoil than these two in the last five months. We all know what Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes have been through, but although the Terps tragedy was not covered as extensively by the national media (and that’s all I’m going to say about that) I think it is safe to say their entire university has been shaken to its core. I give Maryland offensive coordinator/interim head coach Matt Canada a lot of credit for holding his team together, and getting five wins from them.
When you look at Maryland’s defense, the first thing that jumps out at you is they are number one in the country in interceptions with 17. They are most certainly ball hawks. Linebacker Tre Watson and safety Darnell Savage have combined for nine of those INT’s. But, Maryland native Dwayne Haskins will easily be the best quarterback they’ve faced all season. Haskins was committed to the Terrapins before the Buckeyes came calling. Don’t think for a second there isn’t a little extra incentive for those guys to make life miserable for him. The Terrapin pass rush is not scary, and that may be bad news for the 30th ranked pass defense. If they are unable to pressure Haskins, he will pick them apart. The more comfortable he is in the pocket, the more accurate he is. He needs his receivers to be productive, and not be plagued with drops like last week.
The Buckeyes should be able to run the ball against Maryland. They don’t give up as many yards as Nebraska, but they aren’t all that far from them. OSU gashed Nebraska, so I’m expecting they should be able to do similar damage to the Terrapins. I’m sure they’re going to do everything they can to stop the run and make the Buckeyes one-dimensional. Savage and hybrid Antoine Brooks, Jr. have combined for fourteen tackles-for-loss. They will switch between a 3 and 4-man front, and move Brooks around a lot, along with bringing Savage down near the line of scrimmage in run support. If Maryland tries to jam up things in the middle of the line, look for the Buckeyes to use the jet sweep action with Parris Campbell to stretch the defense, and slow down those linebackers from flying towards J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber at their first step. Look to see Tate Martell again in situations this week. Considering Michigan is coming up, I’m not sure how much variety we’ll see with how they use Martell. The Buckeye offensive line did a good enough job run blocking against Michigan State last week for Weber to rush for over 100 second half yards. I’ll be very surprised if they can’t shove around the Terrapins, and wear them down.
Maryland’s offense can be very productive, but they’re rather beaten up right now. For the second consecutive year starting quarterback Kasim Hill has had his season ended with a knee injury. He tore his ACL last week against Indiana. Second leading rusher Ty Johnson (fifth on the
school’s all-time rushing list) and Javon Leake (14.4 yards per carry) are game-time decisions. Tyrrell Pigrone will start in place of Hill. He’s more of a runner than Hill, so don’t be surprised if the Buckeyes employ a spy to keep him from scrambling all over the place. He has a strong arm, but hasn’t thrown it much this year. He was 10 of 13 last week in relief of Hill. The Terrapins don’t throw the ball that well as a team, and average just 130 yards per game; one of the worst averages in the country. Pigrone has completed just over 50% of his throws for his career. He isn’t your typical backup quarterback. He’s seen a lot of action in his three years with the program, and was the starter last year before being injured in the opening game. Don’t expect him to be awed about playing against the Buckeyes. While they aren’t great throwing the ball, they’ve shown they can certainly run it. Four times this year they’ve rushed for over 300 yards, and are 19th nationally in rushing yards per game. Leading rusher Anthony McFarland averages over seven yards per carry, and went for 210 yards last week against Indiana. If Johnson and Leake aren’t able to play, expect “F” receiver Tayon Fleet-Davis to get more carries. He’s rushed the ball 66 times so far this year; the same amount as Johnson. The Buckeyes front four are going to have to control the line of scrimmage again this week. The Terrapins obviously have a better and more explosive offense than Michigan State, and are 24 for 24 in the red zone; 17 of those scores are touchdowns. They’re tied for first in the country in this category. They like to shift and motion a lot before the snap, so it is vitally important for the Buckeyes to get lined up properly. The linebackers must be strong in getting to the correct gaps. I feel better about facing an offense like this with Brendan White at the field safety rather than Isaiah Pryor. White is aggressive, and a much more sure tackler than Pryor.
Maryland’s kick return game is outstanding. They don’t fair catch often, and have returned two for TD’s this year. Meyer said the Buckeyes need to get numbers down the field and tackle. Blake Haubeil’s placement of his kicks will be critical.
Tyrrell Pigrone is just 17 for 31 with a touchdown and an interception this season. For his career he has hit on 55% of his 114 attempts with five touchdowns and four interceptions. Anthony McFarland has rushed for 724 yards on just 104 carries. Ty Johnson has added 506 yards with a 7.7 yards per carry average. Leading receiver Taivon Jacobs has just 21 catches. The Terrapin passing offense is ranked 125th out of 130 FBS schools.
Tre Watson is the team’s leading tackler with 98. His five interceptions leads the Big Ten, and has him second in the country. He’s a graduate transfer from Illinois. Linebacker Isaiah Davis has 74 tackles, and two sacks. Cornerbacks Tino Ellis and RaVon Davis have broken up eleven and seven passes respectively.
They are one of the most penalized teams in the country, and average over 80 yards per game.
The Terps may have the best true freshman kicker in the country. Joseph Petrino has been successful on all ten of his field goal attempts. However, he’s not attempted one of over 40 yards.
What Do I think?
For all the athletes and skill they have there is a reason Maryland is 5-5. Other than their annual win over Texas to open the season, they haven’t beaten a good team. I don’t doubt Maryland will make a few plays here and there, but I don’t see it being nearly enough. The Buckeyes just have better players, and more overall depth. The challenge for the Buckeyes is to not look ahead to Michigan, and fight off the distraction of another attack article targeting the Ohio State program (more on that soon). Michigan State’s offense scored 24 on the Terrapins two weeks ago. I think the Buckeyes nearly double that, and get their tenth win of the season.
The Buckeyes are 4-0 against Maryland, and have not scored less than 49 points in any of the meetings.
Dwayne Haskins needs just 51 yards to break Joe Germaine’s 20-year old single season school passing record. Haskins has been named as a semi-finalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award.
Some have questioned why Meyer would remove Haskins in the red zone, and replace him with Tate Martell. Meyer thinks it helps his offense combat the defense outnumbering the amount of blockers available. By having two potential ball carriers the defense can’t attack the running back on his first step. With Haskins not being much of a threat to run, defenses have focused on the running back, and are flying to him immediately. With Martell in the game they can’t do that, and it creates opportunities for yardage.
The Buckeyes have done a good job of developing some depth along the defensive line. Haskell Garrett, Tommy Togiai, and Taron Vincent have gotten more playing time the last two weeks. Garrett has been asserting himself more as the backup to Dre’mont Jones. Togiai, a true freshman, is behind both Robert Landers and Davon Hamilton at nose tackles. As a result he’s not seeing the field as much as Garrett, but has shown improvement, and is not getting moved off the ball as he was early in the season. Vincent, another true freshman, was used as the nose tackle last week when the Buckeyes went to a 3-3-5 look. Defensive end Tyreke Smith keeps getting closer and closer to recording his first sack. He’s shown versatility by being able to play inside at the 3-technique tackle spot earlier in the season, and has had more playing time than any other true freshman.
With linebacker Baron Browning out last week, Justin Hilliard replaced Tuf Borland in some passing situations. Borland had a very good day against a Spartan offense more suited to his skill set. Maryland is much more dynamic and faster on offense than Michigan State. My concern is what the Buckeyes are going to do in those passing situations. Hilliard is an experienced player, but he’s still seen limited time with the number one defense. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Borland play the bulk of the game as he did last week.
Cornerback Shaun Wade is beginning to show more flashes of what he can be. He certainly isn’t a shutdown cornerback just yet. But, you can see he’s quietly improved. I thought the play he made against Michigan State to hold a bubble screen that appeared poised for big yardage to no gain was outstanding. He showed his speed by coming a long way, and closing the gap to the receiver in a hurry.
After starting at the X receiver against Nebraska in place of the injured Austin Mack, Binjimen Victor was replaced by Terry McLaurin last week. I keep waiting for Victor to put it all together, and live up to the potential he flashes every now and then. But, he must be more consistent catching the ball. I don’t think he’s the same receiver he was early in the season, and the Buckeyes need him to regain that form far sooner rather than later.
Meyer is very excited about what he is seeing from true freshman receiver Chris Olave. Last week against Michigan State he had two catches, and showed good hands and awareness. Olave is why you don’t get too excited about recruiting rankings. He was rated as only a three-star prospect when he signed with the Buckeyes. It’s obvious the recruiting experts missed on that one. Meyer thinks he is going to be very good, and is ahead of schedule.
On his Thursday radio show Meyer was asked about having a receiver take their pattern a little deeper to the first down marker on third down pass plays. He said they don’t do it that way, “…a pattern is a pattern.” He laughingly said his advice to offensive coaches is to stay out of third and long situations.
Punter Drue Chrisman is one of ten semi-finalists for the Ray Guy Award. You can help him become one of the five finalists by clicking here to vote.
Theirs and Mine
The College Football Playoff rankings remained unchanged this week. Alabama sits at the top while Clemson, Notre Dame, and Michigan round out the top four. Georgia is fifth followed by Oklahoma, LSU, Washington State, WVU, and Ohio State in tenth. Unless Michigan or Notre Dame
lose, I don’t see those four at the top changing. The various scenarios for others making it are so numerous I’m not going to get into them now other than to say Alabama and Clemson even if they lose once.
After an ugly win against Michigan State I didn’t expect Ohio State to move up. But, let’s take a closer look at that win compared to what a few teams in front of them did. Over the first few weeks of rankings the committee put a lot of weight on wins over ranked teams. We’ve been told this is why two-loss LSU is still placed so high. The Buckeyes went on the road and got a win over the 18th ranked team. They didn’t just get a win, they held the 18th ranked team to just two field goals. Ninth-ranked WVU easily defeated TCU, losers of three of their last four entering last week. The committee has acknowledged TCU was a much better team when the Buckeyes played them because the Horned Frogs were healthy at that time. The Mountaineers played TCU at home; the Buckeyes played a “neutral site” game within a few miles of the Horned Frog campus. Eighth-ranked Washington State went to Colorado and beat a team who had lost four straight games. Both TCU and Colorado were unranked, but the committee thought highly enough of Michigan State to have them in the top-20 of their rankings.
Why were the Buckeyes not moved ahead of these two as they should have been? The answer is simple: it is still a beauty contest. The committee puts a lot of weight on how pretty did you look in winning. Washington State won 31-7; WVU put up 47 points on TCU. They don’t seem to care much if you can play defense, they’re looking at who has an exciting offense. Oklahoma allowed 47 points to rival Oklahoma State, but the committee kept them in sixth. Just like in the days of determining national champions through the polls, the College Football Playoff committee’s rankings are still a beauty contest. What started off as a great idea has devolved into almost the same thing as we had before. It seemed in the first three years of the playoff, the committee made clear their criteria, and the type of wins they valued. But, starting with last year I feel like all of that has changed. Far too often questions are met with explanations on who the committee thinks looks good. I thought that’s what we were getting rid of? I know the contract calls for a four-team playoff for the next few years, but I’m not going to be surprised if we see a real outcry from the heavy hitters to expand.
After reading the comments from committee chair Rob Mullens, I don’t think there is any way the Buckeyes make it into the playoff. He’s made it clear the committee isn’t that impressed with them. Regardless if they beat Michigan and Northwestern, I don’t think they’re going to make it. Best case scenario is going to be win out, and go to the Rose Bowl. Some have speculated a win over Maryland puts them into position for the Rose Bowl even if they lose to Michigan; provided Michigan beats Northwestern in the Bug Ten Championship game. I’m far more in favor of winning out. What Buckeye fan isn’t?
My rankings saw a bit of a shuffle near the top. For those who are first-time readers I do my own ratings, but in a far different way than the committee. It is simply who have you beaten, and who have they beaten. It is based on the Harbin system the OHSAA uses. No opinions, strictly numbers. Here’s this week’s:
1. Notre Dame
7. Ohio State
9. Washington State
Michigan drops a spot because their win over Rutgers did almost nothing for them. The Buckeyes jump four places thanks to the win over Michigan State. Expect a shakeup with Georgia and Alabama next week because both play FCS teams, and I’m not kind to those who practice that kind of scheduling. My rankings are simply a different way of looking at things.
Scumbag reporter Brett McMurphy has surfaced again with another report attempting to smear Urban Meyer. This time he’s claiming the OSU head coach covered up an alleged racial incident between former assistant Zach Smith and receiver Trevon Grimes. I’m not going to go in depth because it is another example of his shoddy journalism.
McMurphy claims Grimes transferred to Florida not because his mother was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, but because of the altercation with Smith at a practice, and the now ex-OSU assistant used a racial slur. McMurphy got this story from Grimes’ estranged father, but admits in the article Trevon has never confirmed it. He also cites the usual dubious anonymous sources. The father, Lebron Grimes, is not exactly a credible source, but this is typical of McMurphy.
The backlash from the Ohio State program was swift and harsh. The university, Urban Meyer, and athletic director Gene Smith all emphatically denied the report. But, the biggest reaction came from Ohio State players themselves. Receivers Johnnie Dixon, Austin Mack, and Parris Campbell said they saw the incident, and it was nothing like what is being reported. They all pointed out that they as African-Americans would never stand by while something like that happened. I’m going to believe players who attach a name to their statements rather than an anonymous source. But, McMurphy wants us to believe the claims of his questionable source, while a university, athletic department, football program, head coach, and numerous African-American players are covering up the incident for the good of the football program. Yeah, that’s a bit of a reach.
How poorly thought of is this story by the national media? ESPN barely mentioned it. You know it’s bad when those guys won’t do much with it. A lot of people now firmly believe McMurphy is simply carrying out a vendetta against Meyer. His credibility really took a hit with this one.
I don’t make many predictions, but I’m going to this week. Look for Luke Fickell’s Cincinnati Bearcats to go down to Orlando Saturday night and end UCF’s 21-game win streak. Take it to the bank. The Buckeyes are at noon, so you’ll have plenty of time to recover, and get ready to watch UC turn the Golden Knights into the Black Knight from that Monty Python movie (one of the greatest films in cinematic history).