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.
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.