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Monday, September 21, 2015

Everything Ohio State after 20-13 WIN over NIU

great article from elevenwarriors.com



FIVE THINGS: OFFENSIVE WOES AGAIN OVERSHADOW STRONG OUTING FROM SILVER BULLETS

By Chris Lauderback on September 20, 2015 
Vonn Bell logged a team-high 10 tackles with a PBU.
57 COMMENTS
For the second week in a row Ohio State's struggling offense overshadowed a stellar effort by the defense as the Buckeyes held on to defeat Northern Illinois, 20-13, improving to 3-0 on the young season. 
The win left Urban Meyer scratching his head over his quarterback situation as both Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett looked awful as the Buckeyes turned it over five times and put up just 298 yards of offense no thanks to continued struggles from the Slobs. 
It will certainly be an interesting week in Columbus as Meyer deals with the reality that he'll likely have to pick one quarterback, give that guy 95% of the reps in practice, and stick with it for the betterment of the team if not for the psyche of the odd QB out. 
Ahead of all that drama and next Saturday's tilt against Western Michigan, we look back at Five Things from the underwhelming win over the Huskies. 

SECONDARY TO NONE

While the entire defense has done a great job carrying over its post-season success into the 2015 slate, the secondary is shaping up to be one of the best in school history led by safety Vonn Bell. 
Bell, a true junior likely playing his last season of college ball, has been Ohio State's best defender and chief playmaker since the middle of last season and is unquestionably the school's surest tackler since Mike Doss.
Last week, Bell was all over the field with three PBU, an interception (with a couple other drops) and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. He picked up where he left off yesterday with 10 tackles – many of which came in the open field to stifle potential big gainers – along with another PBU as the secondary dominated NIU quarterback Drew Hare. 
Though not quite at his level, the rest of the secondary has carried its weight. Eli Apple is barely being targeted and still managed an interception yesterday. Gareon Conley has been the breakout player on defense showcasing both an ability to defend the run (eight stops versus Va. Tech) and shut down the pass while safety Tyvis Powell has been steady. 
Through three games, the back four has five interceptions. Over the last two games, the group has helped hold opposing quarterbacks to a ridiculous 34% completion rate (21/55) for just 147 yards with the noted four picks. 

BALL OF CONFUSION

It's hard to quantify just how badly Ohio State misses former offensive coordinator Tom Herman but there's no question the 2015 offense looks like a shell of itself compared to its 2014 counterpart. 
After struggling last week with little time to prepare for Hawai'i following a physical battle against Virginia Tech, much was expected of the offense after a full week to recover and get things right. Instead, the Buckeyes put forth their worst effort to date. 
Braxton Miller had just four carries for seven yards versus Northern Illinois.
A sampling of the ugly numbers include:
  •  The Buckeyes was just 2/13 on 3rd down conversion tries including just 1/5 on short yardage 3rd down attempts. They rushed it three times on 3rd down for just 10 yards and one conversion. Through the air, they were 4/10 passing for 33 yards and one conversion. One of the five turnovers came on 3rd down. 
  •  Out of 16 total possessions (not counting the knees taken to end both the 2nd and 4th quarters), the offense turned it over 5 times and went 3-and-out five times. 
  •  Twelve of 16 possessions failed to generate at least 20 yards. 
The offensive line continues to be a huge reason why the Buckeyes can't seem to get anything going but the lack of stability at quarterback is now front and center. 
The quarterback flip-flopping has contributed to fielding an offense with no true leader and no identity. Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett are simply different personalities with different strengths and weaknesses and the lack of continuity is an issue. Jones is the pro-style guy running at a slower tempo then Barrett comes in and Meyer/Warriner immediately try to speed up the offense. The result has been a ton of penalties and and a unit looking unsure of exactly what they are trying to do. Plus, it's easy to wonder how much better one of the quarterbacks would be performing if they were getting 95% of the practice reps. 
I continue to believe it's a good problem to have but with Urban even finally saying there might be truth to the notion Ohio State needs to pick one guy and go all in, this is going to be a critical week of practice for Jones and Barrett. 
Compounding the concerns, Ohio State's bevy of talent at the non-tailback skill positions and the lack of clarity around how to utilize Braxton Miller is contributing to the lack of continuity. It feels like Warriner/Meyer are still trying to figure out exactly what they have and who should play which, when combined with playing two quarterbacks plus employing the wildcat is making it difficult to develop the chemistry that comes with personnel and playbook familiarity. 

SEEING RED

One of the few areas of opportunity for last year's offense was the lack of dominance inside the red zone. The 2014 team scored just over 85% of the time it reached the red zone (63/74) which was good for only 55th in the nation. Of those 63 scores, 53 were touchdowns (72%). 
Last week, the Buckeyes scored four touchdowns in five trips inside the red zone as part of a 38-0 win. Yesterday, they technically reached the red zone three times but one occurred as they took a knee on the last two plays of the game to run out the clock. On the two legit trips, things weren't pretty with both resulting in field goals. 
The wildcat formation paid zero dividends versus NIU.
The first occurrence saw the offense set up shop with 1st and 10 at the NIU 18-yard line with Braxton in the wildcat. After a 3-yard pop-pass to Jalin Marshall, Miller bobbled a direct snap right into his chest upsetting the timing of the 2nd and 7 play to force 3rd and 6. From there, Urban reinserted Jones at quarterback and after Taylor Decker's man flushed Jones from the pocket, he appeared to miss a wide open Marshall what would have been a 1st down, forcing a field goal cutting NIU's lead to 7-3. Continuity, anyone? 
The next red zone visit occurred on Ohio State's first possession of the 2nd half with Barrett under center and the game tied at 10 apiece. Things were looking good as the offense had 1st and 10 at the NIU 14 evolve into 2nd and 5 at the NIU 9 after sweep left from Curtis Samuel. 
Rolling right, Barrett attempted to find Corey Smith in heavy traffic in the right front corner of the end zone. The play was awkward in that Smith didn't appear ready for the football and tight end Nick Vannett – and his defender – were in the immediate vicinity making the pass a dangerous one that luckily fell incomplete instead of resulting in Ohio State's third interception of the day. On the ensuing 3rd down call, Ezekiel Elliott couldn't reach the second level as Nick Vannett, in motion on the play, didn't get over to his man fast enough resulting in an easy tackle following a modest two-yard gain up the gut.
Yet to possess the lead and facing 4th and 3, Urban couldn't pass up 24-yard field goal putting OSU in front 13-10 (despite announcer Ed Cunningham thinking every team should go for every 4th down ever).

FRONT FOUR PLAY

Though the secondary stole the show, Ohio State's defensive line had a solid day helping hold the Huskies to 2.6 yards per rush and 2.6 yards per play. 
With Joey Bosa back from suspension, the staff has settled on a starting four, from left to right, of Tyquan Lewis, Tommy Schutt, Adolphus Washington and Joey Bosa. That said, Ohio State's best front four would look more like Lewis, Washington, Bosa and Sam Hubbard. 
I'm obviously not expecting Bosa to permanently shift inside but with nose guard easily being the weakest link up front and Hubbard being a worthy starter, reshuffling the deck puts Ohio State's best four on the field especially on anything not resembling a glaringly obvious rushing down. 
Joey Bosa was in beast mode yesterday with six stops, 2.5 TFL and three QB hurries.
Yesterday, the combo of Washington, Lewis, Bosa and Hubbard combined for 20 tackles, four sacks and three hurries.
Lewis was on fire with seven stops and a big sack to help salt the game away. Of note, three of squad's sacks came on 3rd down as the Buckeyes held NIU to 6/20 on 3rd down conversions. 
Washington is playing at an elite level. Yesterday, he triggered Apple's interception drilling Hare as he let go of the ball, smoked Hare on the very next possession and late came up with one of those sacks on 3rd down. When you consider the depth at tackle, Washington is probably Ohio State's most indispensable defensive player. 
Bosa also had his best game so far with six stops, 2.5 TFL, half a sack and three hurries (all of which came on 3rd down). Hubbard saw the least snaps by a wide margin but still chipped in two stops and 1.5 sacks. 

'PEATIN' AIN'T EASY

Meyer isn't going to make excuses but there are a host of reasons why only four programs have repeated as national champions in the last 40 years. 
Large swaths of each team's fanbase during that span including Ohio State's this year surely felt like their team was immune to pitfalls of trying to repeat but the struggle is real. 
Ohio State this year, just like many of the champions before them, finished on a such a high the previous season that maintaining that focus and intensity is easier said than done. For OSU in particular, perspective says they are only roughly eight months removed from the most magical run of wins in school history.
The sheer magnitude of those wins: dumping Wisconsin 59-0 on the heels of a teammate's suicide to even earn a spot in the playoffs, exorcising an SEC demon in a convincing win over Alabama and finally running over Oregon to win the school's first title since 2002, undoubtedly makes it hard to get up for games like Hawai'i and Northern Illinois. 
Throw in the fact the team lost its offensive coordinator, now has two accomplished quarterbacks with contrasting styles to choose from, welcomed back a two-time B1G player of the year to a new position and boasts a ton of talented guys with varying degrees of track records and it makes it a little easier to understand why the offense is off to a rough start. 
No coach in the land is going to feel sorry for Ohio State considering this is their definition of plightbut the reality is that it will take time to figure all these things out and while it has sometimes been painful to watch, the process hasn't cost the Buckeyes a game. 
Other fanbases might think looking at these types of things as "issues" is lamer than Quick Cals (they'd be wrong) but this is probably a good time to remember that even last year's team was a work in progress. 

Who's No. 1? Because it isn't Ohio State -- and doesn't need to be

great article from cbssportsline.com  Dennis Dodd





Who's No. 1? Because it isn't Ohio State.
Not after a wild, wacky week in which there were more statements made than in a Congressional hearing. Ole Miss beats Alabama in consecutive years for the first time ever. Notre Dame looks better with every starter it loses to injury. (There are six now, if you're counting.)
Leonard Fournette, for Heisman. LSU, for goodness sakes.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes looked like they won because they had to, like it was on their to-do list. Someone hit the snooze button too many times. It's become a challenge for them to stay interested.
Northern Illinois is a fine upstanding MAC representative, but those weren't the Huskies who went to the Orange Bowl with Jordan Lynch a couple of years ago.
NIU started a quarterback named Hare. For most of Saturday afternoon, Ohio State was the tortoise.
“They have Big Ten-level talent,” Buckeyes defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis said.
Remember when all we were worried about was Ohio State's schedule?
Ohio State isn't No. 1, but taking a Saturday off beats the situations at Texas and USC at the moment. The heat will be increasing on Steve Sarkisian and Charlie Strong. The state of Alabama must be in a deep depression after seeing what the Crimson Tide and Tigers have to offer.
Urban Meyer's biggest opponent -- until Michigan State -- is motivation.
The coach once explained to me the modern recruiting process. It's one thing to land the talent; it's another to essentially de-program recruits, tell them they're not all that once they get on campus.
That day, Meyer introduced me to the modern definition of “entitlement.” The notion of thinking you've made it is not unique to sports, but it is more public when it happens on the field. There's a reason it's so hard to win … again. There's a reason only 11 teams have ever won back-to-back AP wire service titles.
There's a reason Ohio State's most significant foe going forward may be itself. The Buckeyes might be the most talented. They're certainly the most favored. That's the disappointment at this point. They're not playing like it.
They're not panicking either.

Why should they panick? The College Football Playoff has diminished the value of beingNo. 1. All you have to do is finish in the top four and take your chances. Ohio State proved that last season. The first CFP rankings are still six weeks away.
What's to worry? Cardale Jones threw a couple of picks and was replaced by the 2014 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year (J.T. Barrett).
There's no other program that can do that. Maybe it's OK to lack urgency in Week 3 against a MAC team. There's another one coming to town next week -- Western Michigan. Maybe Urb will be handing out 5-Hour Energy this week at practice.
This is like watching George Clooney do dinner theater when he should be starring in blockbusters. Some of this is a function of conference expansion. It's not Ohio State's fault Western Michigan is followed by Indiana, Maryland, Penn State, Rutgers, Minnesota and Illinois.
These might be more fashion shows than games. Ohio State will be judged snap by snap. Just don't wait for the swimsuit competition. If the Buckeyes think they've arrived, well, they have. Meyer's win Saturday was his 41st in 44 games at Ohio State.
If nothing else, there are more deserving No. 1 teams. Michigan State has beaten a top 10. Who's got a better defense than Ole Miss? TCU can't be stopped.
Then again, when you're this good, sometimes the snooze button comes in every week as a touchdown favorite.


Ohio State is winning but should not be No. 1 playing like this. (USATSI)
Ohio State is winning but should not be No. 1 playing like this. (USATSI)



AP Top 25
1. Ohio State (3-0) -- 42 first-place votes
2. Michigan State (3-0) -- 7 first-place votes
3 (tie). TCU (3-0)
3 (tie). Ole Miss (3-0) -- 11 first-place votes
5. Baylor (2-0)
6. Notre Dame (3-0)
7. Georgia (3-0)
8. LSU (3-0)
9. UCLA (3-0)
10. Florida State (3-0)
11. Clemson (3-0)
12. Alabama (2-1)
13. Oregon (2-1)
14. Texas A&M (3-0)
15. Oklahoma (3-0)
16. Arizona (3-0)
17. Northwestern (3-0)
18. Utah (3-0)
19. USC (2-1)
20. Georgia Tech (2-1)
21. Stanford (2-1)
22. Wisconsin (2-1)
23. BYU (2-1)
24. Oklahoma State (3-0)

25. Missouri (3-0)




COLUMBUS, Ohio -- For a team that seemed to have two great quarterbacks, Ohio State is now searching for one.
Cardale Jones started and threw two interceptions, J.T. Barrett finished and was not much better, but Darron Lee and Ohio State's defense bailed out the struggling offense and the top-ranked Buckeyes beat Northern Illinois 20-13 on Saturday.
For the second straight week neither quarterback was particularly effective against an opponent Ohio State was expected to blow out. So who starts next week?
"Good question. And I don't know that right now," coach Urban Meyer said. "I haven't had time to think about it?"
Jones went to the bench in the second quarter. Barrett threw a touchdown pass and a pick. Ohio State had five turnovers in all and averaged only 4.5 yards per play, but still managed to extend the nation's longest winning streak to 16 games.
"It's discombobulated right now," Meyer said about the offense.
Lee made a spectacular interception and returned it for a 41-yard touchdown in the third quarter to make it 20-10, but unlike last week, when the Buckeyes shook free of Hawaii in the second half, they couldn't ditch Northern Illinois (2-1).



The Huskies cut the lead to 20-13 on a field goal with 7:46 left in the fourth quarter, and got the ball back whenMarlon Moore forced a fumble byCurtis Samuel and Northern Illinois recovered at its 25 with 4:05 left in the game.
The Buckeyes clamped down again with Joey Bosa and Sam Hubbard crunching Drew Hare for a sack on third-and-long. In need of one first down to wrap it up, Ohio State came up short.
Northern Illinois' last drive started at its 20 with 1:34 left, but Hare threw four incomplete passes under duress and Ohio State could finally take a knee.
The big question heading into the season for Ohio State was who would start at quarterback: The Big Ten player of the year (Barrett) or the guy who led the Buckeyes to the national championship (Jones).
The answer turned out to be Jones, but Meyer insisted both guys would play and they did in the first two games.
The next question was: What would happen if Jones struggled? How much patience would Meyer have with his starter?
The answer appears to be: Not all that much.
Jones misfired on his first pass of the game and appeared upset with receiverJalin Marshall. Jones' next throw was too high to an open Braxton Miller and picked off by Shawun Lurry, who returned it to the Buckeyes 22.
Three plays later Aregeros Turner swept around right end for a touchdown that made it 7-0.
Ezekiel Elliott fumbled the ball away on a fourth-and-short on Ohio State's next possession, but Eli Apple intercepted right back for the Buckeyes and they turned it into a field goal.
Lurry snagged another pass from Jones, this time one he was trying to squeeze in between defenders when he had an open receiver underneath, in the second quarter. That led to a Huskies field goal and got Barrett warming up on the sideline.
Barrett's first possession was a three-and-out, but on his second he connected with Michael Thomas on a 23-yeard touchdown pass to tie the game at 10 with 8:21 left in the second quarter.
Northern Illinois had beaten the last three Big Ten teams it has faced. The Buckeyes were a big step up from Iowa, Purdue and Northwestern -- or at least it seemed that way.
The defending Mid-American Conference champion Huskies hung tough with the defending national champions, despite generating only 190 yards and 10 first downs.
Barrett started the second half and led a steady drive that stalled in the red zone, but Jack Willoughby booted a 23-yard field goal to give the Buckeyes their first lead of the day at 13-10.

The Ohio State defense finally took matters upon themselves. Lee jumped a quick pass to the sideline, picked it off, stiff-armed one Huskie and then ran away from another he outweighs by about 60 pounds. The linebacker's touchdown made it 20-10 with 1:44 left in the third. The nervous tension at Ohio State was released -- temporarily.





10 Things we Learned from OSU Win
   Good article from theozone.net     By Tony Gerdeman

1. This secondary is legit.
Saturday was the first time since the first two games of the 2007 season that the Buckeyes have held consecutive opponents under 100 yards passing. It has been a pretty amazing transition for a defense that gave up 300 yards passing to six opponents in 2013. Chris Ash’s presence on this defense has been felt greatly because this is the second year in a row where there Buckeyes have held two of their first three opponents under 100 yards passing.
Luke Fickell said after the game that none of what they do on defense would be possible without cornerbacks Eli Apple and Gareon Conley. I then asked him if they were reminiscent to the cornerbacks that he played with at OSU – guys like Shawn Springs, Ty Howard, Antoine Winfield and Ahmed Plummer – and he said that he played with some really, really good cornerbacks, but if Apple and Conley continue on their current trajectory they will be remembered for a very long time at Ohio State.
Oh, and Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell are no slouches either. Powell has been named a Champion by Urban Meyer in the first two games, and I’m not sure I saw anything to keep him from earning it for a third week. In Bell, the Buckeyes may have the best safety in the nation. Just imagine if he could hold onto every football that has hit his hands this season.
2. There is definitely something wrong with the offense.
Last week we could chalk it up to the quick turnaround combined with the move from preparing for the Bear front to the 3-4 defense, but now the cat is out of the bag and there is no hiding it anymore. So what is the problem? Is it lack of No. 1 practice reps for a particular quarterback? Is it the fact that two quarterback systems have never really worked for a reason? Is it the offensive line? The loss of Devin Smith? Players too worried about the NFL? Complacency? None of it? All of it? Whatever it is, it’s real and it’s not spectacular.
Way before the season began I wondered what kind of attention quarterbacks coach Tim Beck would get if the Buckeye quarterbacks regressed. Well now here we are and it won’t be long until Beck starts feeling some of the wrath that is going being given to Ed Warinner.
3. There is a stunning lack of want-to.
On 4th-and-1 from the OSU 37-yard line with an opportunity to put the ball away, Urban Meyer put the ball in his offensive line’s hands and told them to go end the game. Or, rather, he probably would have in the past. Instead he punted it away and put the game in the hands of the unit that he can actually trust right now, and the Silver Bullets had his back. He has no confidence in his offense right now. He says he does, but his actions don’t show it. Of course, going for it from your own 37-yard line with under two minutes to play is asking a lot, but getting one lousy yard shouldn’t be.
On 4th-and-3 from the Northern Illinois 7-yard line in the third quarter, the Buckeyes chose to kick a field goal to give themselves a 13-10 lead. It was the right decision. It was the smart decision. After the game, however, Meyer said he wanted to go for it. Clearly he didn’t think he could. Players gain confidence when their coaches have confidence in them, and they also lose confidence when a coach loses confidence in them. Perhaps what this offense needs is a shot of confidence, like they got in 2012 against Michigan State when they kept the ball away from the Spartans for the final five minutes of the game by simply pounding the ball with Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller.
4. Michael Thomas needs the ball more. A lot more.
Michael Thomas was Ohio State’s best player on offense in this game and he needs to be force fed the ball to exploit the mismatch that he is. Urban Meyer said they don’t target particular receivers, they target matchups and openings. The problem is that even when Thomas isn’t open, he’s still open. Yes, you have a lot of receivers who are fast and shifty and can make a play after the catch, but Michael Thomas is better than everyone else, so why not get him the ball more? If you make it a point to get your best running back the ball, then why not make it a point to get your best receiver the ball?
Right now Thomas is your best deep threat, your best possession receiver and your best guy after the catch. He is his own spread offense, so use him.
5. Evan Spencer is missed more than Devin Smith.
You can talk about the lack of a deep threat all you want, but if the Buckeye quarterbacks aren’t even looking deep, what does it matter? What Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett are doing, however, is throwing plenty of wide stuff, including the jet sweeps. Urban Meyer said earlier in the week that the perimeter blocking has not been good enough this season, and you can see that in the lack of plays being made out wide. Receivers blocking well is what leads to big plays outside, and that’s what they had last year in Evan Spencer. The Buckeyes have lost Noah Brown, who is a tremendous blocker that could have filled several roles this season, and they also lost Parris Campbell early in the game against Northern Illinois. Campbell should be fine, but receivers need to start stepping up in the blocking game.
6. The defensive line rotation is working.
Talking to Luke Fickell after the game, he couldn’t help but be impressed at the amount of production that they are getting from everybody on the defensive line. He also had some interesting comments about his trust in Larry Johnson’s rotation. I asked him if there was any area on the defense that is exceeding expectations and he said no, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t thrilled with what he is seeing. Tyquan Lewis continues to be tremendous at defensive end, and in the Northern Illinois postgame the Huskies and their head coach couldn’t say enough good things about Joey Bosa. But behind them, Sam Hubbard continues to make plays. His 1.5 sacks against NIU led the team, and his 2.5 sacks this season are tied for the lead with Darron Lee and Lewis.
At defensive tackle Mike Hill has begun to step up, and Donovan Munger continues to get more playing time. Joel Hale was out there a lot, and Tommy Schutt made some plays as well. They would still like to get deeper, but right now they are getting good snaps from pretty much everyone they roll out there.
7. Cardale Jones can’t run tempo.
You know how you’ve been asking where Ohio State’s up-tempo offense is and then when J.T. Barrett comes into the game you finally get to see it? If we’re going to read between the lines, then I think it spells out “We don’t want to go up-tempo with Cardale Jones.” It’s been an interesting few games for the Buckeyes with the de-emphasis on tempo and read option, and the struggles on offense sure don’t seem like a coincidence.
8. None of this is unfamiliar.
Fans can hate the offense all they want right now, as well as the playcalling, but they did the same thing last year as well, so this is nothing new. Tom Herman looks like a football god now, but until about December last year, there were plenty of folks who were tired of his playcalling. And they were tired of it after the loss in the 2013 Big Ten Championship Game as well. The nickname “Mensa” was thrown around derisively and people questioned the amount of carries the Buckeye quarterbacks were getting.
The Ohio State offensive line struggled to start the season last year. They rushed for 302 yards in the first two games last season and it was hardly ever easy. Urban Meyer is saying the same stuff in postgames that he did back when the offense would “struggle” back in 2012. Even though there are things happening on offense that are completely baffling to everyone witnessing it, there is also something quite familiar with the complete lack of cohesion. There were plenty complaints from offensive linemen and coaches about not being prepared for what the opposing defense gave them last year. That happened on Saturday as well. Ohio State’s offense can’t keep falling for this stuff, and history has shown that they won't.
9. It’s time to bring back the read option.
Urban Meyer said this past week that the read option isn’t really a big part of Ohio State’s offense anymore, and now I’m thinking that maybe it should be – especially when he names J.T. Barrett the starting quarterback in a day or three. If an offensive line is having issues blocking, then why not let the quarterback handle one of the defensive linemen himself with the read option?
10. Joshua Perry is exceedingly consistent.
There were three or four tackles by Joshua Perry in this game that kept a small gain from becoming a first down, and he was the only player who was in a position to make a play. All season long that has been his practice. He makes the plays that he is in a position to make, which is all you can ask of any defender. In the past, he may have gotten to a spot, but that didn’t mean the play was going to get made. Now when he’s on his way to the ball, you expect him to do what needs to be done. He is certainly not alone in that description on this defense right now, and it’s a damn good thing for the offense.










Ohio State QB Cardale Jones calls himself '2nd String' on his Twitter page


Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones doesn’t appear to be taking his demotion to second string all that well.
Jones changed the description on his Facebook page to: “3rd String QB @ The Ohio State University Oh Wait, 2nd String.”
Jones was replaced by J.T. Barrett in the 20-13 win against Northern Illinois after throwing two interceptions. Jones completed just 4 of 9 passes for 36 yards before he was pulled. Barrett didn’t fare much better. He was 11 of 19 for 97 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
This was the second consecutive week Jones had been pulled in favor of Barrett. Two weeks ago, coach Urban Meyer declared Jones his starter following the win against Virginia Tech and said Barrett hadn’t challenged Jones for the starting role.
However, he hasn’t really needed to as Jones has opened the door for a quarterback controversy all by himself. Maybe, as early as last week.



View gallery
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Cardale Jones changed his tweet after Twitter ridicule.

Cardale Jones changed his tweet after Twitter ridicule.After facing mass ridicule on Twitter, Jones decided to change his description.


Separating the fact from the fiction with Ohio State's offensive struggles

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
Ohio State was bad on offense against NIU. They were bad on offense against Hawaii. They had spurts of being bad against Virginia Tech. What's true, what's false, and what can be fixed?
This is not the way this season was supposed to start.
I mean, Ohio State is 3-0, so sure, that part has played out according to script, but almost nothing else has. Some bit of struggles on offense against Virginia Tech, a team that still projects to have an elite unit, were expected. But Ohio State's offense has also sputtered against Hawaii, who may not even be a Top 100 team this season, and Northern Illinois, who gave up 30 points to UNLV and 26 to Murray State the week before. Ohio State mustered only 13 offensive points against the Huskies, and while an elite defense saved the day, fans are concerned.
As well they should be. Given Ohio State's speed, their experience along the offensive line, talent at every offensive position and depth and multiple options seemingly everywhere, nobody expected Ohio State's offense to be struggling. And if they continue, it's not hard to see Ohio State's dream of returning to the playoff, or even winning the Big Ten East, falling apart.
You can't check Twitter or Facebook without reading a hundred opinions about what's wrong. What's the truth? Let's try to separate fact from fiction a little bit here.

Ohio State's offense actually has a problem: Fact

Virtually everybody, no matter how talented, is going to have a bad game once in a while, and if say, the Hawaii, or even the NIU game, happened in a vacuum, we could shrug and talk about short weeks, or not wanting to get up for a 35 point spread, or whatever. But the regular season is now 25% over, and we've seen enough similarities in the first three games to be concerned.
By many measures, Ohio State's offense was very successful against Virginia Tech. After all, they put up 42 points and 572 yards, on the road, against what is considered to be a very good defense. But that showing also masked a few problems. Ohio State still turned the ball over three times, and by my count, ran exactly two snaps in Virginia Tech's red zone, and struggled when they needed to string together long, consistent drives. Of course, when you get scoring plays from 80, 54 and 53 yards out, you don't really need to be that efficient. Nobody cares how you score 42 points, if you actually score 42 points.
The trouble is, despite purportedly having the personnel to do so, Ohio State hasn't been explosive since. Ohio State's longest offensive play against Northern Illinois came early in the first quarter, a 25-yard pass to Michael Thomas, a drive that ultimately produced a field goal. Against Hawaii, Ohio State had a 24-yard run from Cardale Jones on their very first play, and then recorded only one other play of more than 20 yards for the rest of the game.
You can win games without explosive plays, but that's very hard, and requires efficiency (staying out of third-and-long), and winning the turnover battle. That hasn't happened.

Ohio State needs to pick a quarterback: Probably Fact

Ohio State being unable to string together any explosive plays or many long drives is a surprise, and part of that is because quarterback play has not been nearly as strong as expected. Cardale Jones got nearly all of the snaps against Virginia Tech, and was solid, even if he wasn't especially efficient (10/19 passing, 187 yards, 2 scores and a pick, while running for 99 more yards), but after struggling a bit with execution and decision-making, he got a quick hook in the Hawaii game, and was benched for most of the Northern Illinois game after throwing two interceptions.
J.T. Barrett has looked like he's regressed from last year as well. He hasn't shown the accuracy displayed from last year, even on completions, which has robbed Buckeye wideouts of possible yards after the catch. Barrett couldn't get to 100 yards passing despite throwing 19 passes against Northern Illinois, throwing a pick and nearly throwing another. Neither QB has had much success going downfield over the last two games, and it sure seems like neither of them are playing with much confidence. Throw in the snaps that Braxton Miller gets in Wildcat-like formations, and it seems to be tough for anybody to get into much of a rhythm.
That's not uncommon for teams that have to regularly employ a two-QB system. I can understand why Ohio State made the decisions they've made with the QB battle so far, but trying to give both a lot of time, or having a quick hook when one struggles, isn't a way to build consistency. Ohio State should name a quarterback, start him, and stick with him. I personally think J.T. Barrett is a better college quarterback and can do more with Ohio State's offense, but if everybody else plays to their potential, Ohio State can win every game with Cardale Jones, too. Who the guy is isn't as important as whether there is a guy. Not nailing this down now could cause even more problems down the road, both on the field, and in the locker room.

Ohio State can't just replace coaches and pretend like nothing happened: Fact

It would be revisionist history to say that Tom Herman's playcalling was universally adored while he was at Ohio State (even in the LGHL newsroom, if we're being honest), but we can't argue with the final results. Now, he's off to his well deserved first head coaching gig at Houston, and is doing very well. Stan Drayton left for the Chicago Bears, and Ohio State brought on Tony Alford, Tim Beck, and shuffled responsibilities for Ed Warinner. Warinner had established himself as one of the finest offensive line coaches in the country, and Alford and Beck had both been successful elsewhere, so given Ohio State's returning talent level, nobody thought too much about a offensive production drop-off.
Turns out, replacing really good assistant coaches instantly is really hard. Urban Meyer has been fairly successful at it, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a learning curve, or that every decision has always been perfect (check out what happened at the end of his Florida tenure). This isn't to say that Beck, Alford and Warinner won't ultimately be very successful at Ohio State, just that right now, Ohio State is missing that continuity on offense.
Last year, Virginia Tech threw a "Bear" front defense that the Buckeyes were not completely prepared for, and they struggled mightily. Right now, it seems the unit hasn't quite figured out how to crack odd-man fronts, which has taken away a lot of what Ohio State wants to do with their interior power running attack. Via Cleveland.com, here's starting left tackle Taylor Decker on why that's been a struggle, especially against NIU:
"You prepare for one defense and they come on another one," left tackle Taylor Decker said. "Obviously everybody is going to play odd against us now, we've showed that we struggle against it. And that kind of takes away our double teams, which is what we like to do and run the ball up the middle. It creates problems for us and we just have to iron out those wrinkles."
Ohio State was able to figure out the Bear, and when teams with even better personnel throw it at Ohio State later in the season, like Michigan State, they were ready. Ohio State will probably figure out the odd-man too, but that may take time, and that slowness could be partly because Ohio State is breaking in a few new faces in the coaching rooms.

Ohio State's offensive problems are systemic and unfixable: False

Ohio State is probably missing Noah Brown right now, but injuries aren't really the big reason for the struggles. Ohio State is missing the deep ball threat of Devin Smith, one that hasn't really been replaced on this team so far. But throwing deep requires strong pass-blocking (which has been hit or miss so far), and given the options Ohio State has at wideout, the odds are still good that somebody from this group will emerge this season. Ohio State's schedule is still manageable over the next few weeks, so they may not need to play a perfect game to stay in playoff contention.
There aren't signs that Ohio State's attitude is poor, or that the players haven't worked hard enough. Any signs of complacency ostensibly would have been stomped out, and there aren't even whispers of locker room discontent at the moment. The concerns seem at least in part schematic, a place where Ohio State has earned the benefit of the doubt, and with confidence and execution. Those are not insignificant problems, but they are fixable.
Ohio State's offense is going to need to score more than 13 points to beat Western Michigan or Indiana -- to say nothing of Michigan and Michigan State -- but Ohio State has the parts to get there. The issues are real, but unmitigated fire-everyone panic isn't remotely justified.
And for what it's worth, Ohio State is still undefeated. For as much as the last two games have been frustrating and unfulfilling, it's still way better to win those games than lose them. Just ask Arkansas.


Yeah, we're happy that you're easily influenced by Twitter, Cardale. And now we'll just have to wait and see if he was actually being prophetic and he finds himself on the bench for next week's game against Western Michigan.

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