After Ohio State’s 10-point loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game this past Saturday, the Buckeyes will face the Clemson Tigers in the Orange Bowl on January 3rd. Looking both back and ahead a bit, here are some of my thoughts on the scarlet and gray.
- The Buckeye defense, much maligned all season, finally caught up to the Buckeyes. People point to the offense scoring just 24 points as to the reason that the Buckeyes lost the Big Ten Championship game. I can understand that, but giving up 34 points to Michigan State’s offense is not an acceptable outcome. They made Connor Cook look like an elite quarterback, throwing for 300 yards. Sure, he made the throws the downfield, but it was again a product of the Buckeyes (minus Joey Bosa, who played one hell of a game) not getting enough pressure with their front four. It’s also goes back to scheme a bit too. Having your safeties covering wide receivers deep is not a recipe for success, and it seemed like Cook was able to find Barnett or Brown in moments of coverage weakness.
- So, what’s the real problem with the defense? I think people forget to mention that the Buckeyes lost one of the most important players on the unit early in the season when senior safety Christian Bryant broke his leg. In 5 games, he had 22 tackles, and last season, he was second on the defense in tackles (71), pass breakups (12), passes defended (13), and forced fumbles (2). The losses of Jonathon Hankins and John Simon to the NFL still sting, but I think they’ve been effected more by the loss of a guy like Zach Boren, who converted over from fullback to linebacker to be a solid complement to Ryan Shazier.
- I think some of this may fall on Meyer too, however. He brought in recruits in the defensive secondary ranked in the Top 75 with corner Eli Apple (11th), corner Gareon Conley (43rd), safety Vonn Bell (50th), and corner Cam Burrows (62nd) that barely sniffed the field. Yes, I understand that a couple of these guys will end up being redshirted (Conley and Apple have not played to my knowledge, while Bell and Burrows have combined for 23 tackles mostly on special teams), but you could’ve had these worked in all year and potentially used them more by season’s end with less of Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown, Doran Grant, and Armani Reeves. It’s just a tough pill to swallow when you see Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, and Dontre Wilson making an impact on this team in other units.
- You seldom spot a team 17 points and comeback from it, but the Buckeyes surprisingly did. Once they got to even in the early second half, I figured that they had taken Sparty’s best punch and would hold on to win. They were close to doing so, but the fourth down that Braxton Miller was unable to pick up really sealed the deal, given the way the defense was playing. I don’t have any problem with the specific play that was called. Honestly, on almost any key third down, I’m clamoring for them to get Braxton out in space and let him have the option of throwing or running. What I do have a problem with is not riding Carlos Hyde more. At nearly 7 yards per carry, Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Hyde as they seemed to key in on stopping Miller from beating them on the ground. Once the Buckeyes got back to even, I felt like the offense went away from what got them back to even and carried them all season. The deep passes were there, and connecting on one of those could’ve turned things around, but systematically chopping them down a few yards at a time might have worked too.
- Ohio State was probably going to get beat by Florida State. The likelihood that they would be able to stop Jameis Winston from having his signature performance on the biggest stage was pretty low in my opinion. It would have probably been another BCS bowl loss for the Big Ten, and ESPN and the rest would’ve had their field day at the continued image problem that the Big Ten currently has. What the current matchups now do is give both Michigan State and Ohio State a chance to win their BCS bowl game. If anyone can stop Stanford’s bruising running attack, it’s the Spartans. Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins are sure to give the Buckeyes fits, but I think the Buckeyes can and will win a shootout in the Orange Bowl.
- It’s unfortunate to me that neither Braxton Miller nor Carlos Hyde are going to New York City as one of the six finalists for the Heisman. In the end, it was the three games that both missed, Miller due to injury and Hyde due to suspension, that prevented them from getting the nod. Had Saturday night turned out better, Miller may have still overcome it and made the trip, considering A.J. McCarron got selected, which is an absolute joke when you look at the numbers. There was some talk about Miller leaving OSU after three seasons. If he’s looking to be a running back, I’d say he should. But, if he wants to give quarterback a shot at the next level, he needs that extra year of development. Braxton’s come so far with his throwing in two seasons under Urban and Tom Herman, but one more might polish him off and give him a real chance.
- I’ve heard many people talking about how amazing it is that the last loss the Buckeyes had before this past weekend was on January 2nd, 2012. I mentioned it a bit about how it’s unbelievable what Urban Meyer and his staff has done transforming a 6-7 team two years ago into a team headed to the Orange Bowl and with just one loss in two years. With another year or two of recruiting, the hope would be that Urban holding back highly-recruited freshman won’t be as big of a deal if the freshman and sophomore being brought along slower right now have a greater impact then. I expect the Buckeyes to send Carlos Hyde, Bradley Roby, Jack Mewhort, Andrew Norwell, Corey Linsley, and the rest out on a positive note against the Tigers.
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