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Monday, November 14, 2016

Ohio State - Maryland The Aftermath

Ten Things We Learned From Ohio State's 62-3 Win at Maryland
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS — What can you learn from a 62-3 win over a team that was clearly overmatched, outgunned, and dismantled for four quarters? Enough, if you're paying attention. What can you learn from a second-straight 62-3 win for the Buckeyes? Probably that if you don't learn from history you are doomed to repeat it, and it looks like Maryland didn't learn.
But what did we learn? Let's take a look.
1. Ohio State has the best player in the Big Ten.
I just don't know if that's Curtis Samuel or J.T. Barrett. Barrett is the best quarterback and his control of the offense makes him the most difficult player to defend. However, Samuel is the most versatile player in the Big Ten and the most difficult individual matchup. At least against Barrett you have a defense that you can gear towards stopping him. With Samuel, you're trying to avoid the very matchup that Ohio State is trying to drop on you. This is a tough question. Who is the best player in the B1G? Do you go with Samuel, who can run inside or outside as well as he can run a deep route against press coverage or run a long drag route through a zone and score from anywhere? Or do you go with Barrett who makes the correct decision the vast majority of the time, moves the ball will efficiency, can escape pressure, is completely calm despite being ensconced in havoc, and is the kind of leader that coaches would gladly toss a graduate assistant into a volcano for? I don't know. I do know that there's nobody better in the conference than either of these guys.
2. Freshman linebacker Keandre Jones has all of the makings of a future star.
Keandre Jones is listed at 6-foot-2 and he's probably 225 pounds right now and he's still growing, but he's already got all of the burst and speed you could ever want in a linebacker. He came in when Joe Burger went down with a shoulder injury and was in the backfield a few times. His ability to close ground is Shazier-like. He plays bigger than his frame, which is going to continue to fill out. He appears to be the No. 3 Will linebacker right now, but is that position too full next year with Jerome Baker there? Could Jones be Raekwon McMillan's replacement next season after McMillan leaves early for the NFL? Jones and Jerome Baker on the field together could be as fast and athletic a tandem as there is in the country. Or will Jones be next year's version of Baker -- somebody who is there to compete with the other linebackers and then step in seamlessly should something happen.
3. And don't forget about the other defensive freshmen.
Defensive end Jonathon Cooper showed tremendous speed and athleticism against Maryland. On one play he came crashing in towards the cornerback only to have to backtrack because of a running play to his side, so he chased the ball down and stopped it for no gain on the sideline. A few plays later he did the same thing again. He can cover a lot of ground for a defensive lineman. There's also fellow defensive end Nick Bosa, who has gone a little quiet of late, but I wouldn't worry too much about it. Linebacker Malik Harrison also got some good minutes against the Terps at walk-out linebacker. Physically, he looks like Joshua Perry as a young player. If he can maintain that same kind of athleticism as he grows, then the Buckeyes will again have a good one.
4. There are still plenty of new tricks in this not-so-old dog.
Last week against Nebraska we saw the Buckeyes go under center for a jet sweep with Curtis Samuel, which gained 16 yards. Against Maryland the Buckeyes went under center again, and again ran that jet sweep with Samuel for a nice gain. They also ran a play-action off of it and found Noah Brown for 22 yards on a corner route that was easily open. They also ran a rollout off of it which could lead to even more. There is more to come with this alignment because it immediately puts the defense in an altered state because it's not really what they have prepared for. Yes, they'll prepare for it, but who knows what Ohio State will be doing off of it. And even if they only run jet sweeps out of it, I think they're averaging 16 yards per carry when they do it. It might have been best to save it all for Michigan, but they needed to find more ways to move the ball, and this is certainly one of them.
5. The split back sets are a golden goose.
For my money, when the Buckeyes go with split backs and have Curtis Samuel and Mike Weber in the backfield together, that's the running game that I can dig. The play can go to either side and it can be either back running it inside or being the pitch man on a triple option. The most effective use of it, however, is as a sweep for Samuel with Weber as a lead blocker. This is where big yards come from with the receivers and tight ends blocking downfield. It's also incredibly effective in short yardage. I almost feel like they can't use this too much, but maybe its limited usage is what makes it so effective.
6. The secondary and defensive line are in perfect step.
A great pass defense starts up front and trickles backward. Ohio State has the No. 1 pass efficiency defense in the nation and it starts with the pressure from the defensive line. But this is also one of those instances where the secondary makes the defensive line effective because of how well they cover. Now with Gareon Conley playing nickel, the defensive line becomes even more effective -- and that's already with four defensive ends playing together in the Rushmen package on passing downs. 
7. The offense is not only hitting their stride right now, but they're doing it with balance.
The Buckeyes have put up 590 and 581 yards of total offense the last two weeks, which is the best two-week total for Ohio State since games three and four of the 2014 season. In the past when the Buckeye offense was dominating it has generally been because the running game is dominating and the passing game is doing what it needs to. Now, however, the Buckeye passing game is leading the way. OSU is rushing for 245 yards per game the last two weeks and throwing for 340 yards. Defenses go into games against Ohio State geared up to stop the run, so when the Buckeyes come out of the gates throwing the ball, it can put a defense on its heels. Then when they begin to counter the passing game, there is always the three-headed rushing attack of Weber, Samuel, and Barrett.
8. This was the linebackers' best game.
I don't know if this is actually true since I'm not privy to the actual grades, but Chris Worley started this game by blowing up a wide receiver screen and from that moment Maryland knew that this wasn't Michigan's defense they were facing. Jerome Baker was also active on the blitz and was loud again after being quiet for a couple of weeks. Raekwon McMillan led the team with 10 tackles and a pair of tackles for loss. After weeks of McMillan explaining to reporters that the life of a middle linebacker in this defense is more than just tackles, it had to feel good for him to be as involved as he was in bringing the football to a screeching halt. All three were as present against the run as they were the pass. It was a complete performance.
9. The Buckeyes are rested.
Ohio State is entering the two games that were thought to be the defining points of their season. Michigan State has kind of screwed that up, but the importance has not diminished at all. With those two games coming up, the fact that the Buckeye starters have not seen the fourth quarter in the past two weeks means that they essentially have a half-game's rest under them over the past two games. They are fresher clear across the board, and for a team that had a bye week early in the season that's a huge advantage.
10. And they appear ready.
This is the best Ohio State has played all season, and they've played pretty well at times before this. These are complete performances of late right now. Try to rank the units in order of performance and you're going to have a hell of a time deciding who is playing best, worst, etc, etc, etc. What's the weak spot of the offense right now? The passing game? The Buckeyes are throwing for 340 yards per game in November. This is the first time since those aforementioned games three and four in 2014 (Kent State, Cincinnati) that the Buckeyes have thrown for at least 320 yards in back-to-back games. What's the weak spot on the defense? It can't be the pass defense because there is nobody better in the nation in defending the pass. Is it the rush defense? They are No. 10 in the nation in rush defense. Is that a weakness? The fact that there are so many strengths and so few weaknesses is exactly what a team wants to have in November -- and possibly December, and that's what the Buckeyes are happily dealing with right now.


On a day that saw the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 teams in the most recent College Football Playoff ranking all fall victim to upsets, Ohio State stepped on Maryland's neck early and never looked back in a 62-3 spanking of the Terps in College Park. 
J.T. Barrett amassed 300 yards of offense with four scores and Curtis Samuel kept doing his thing with 112 total yards and three touchdowns on nine touches as the Buckeyes moved the ball at will against an overmatched D.J. Durkin outfit.
The win improved the Buckeyes to 9-1 on the season and likely vaults them to No. 2 in the CFP rankings to be released Tuesday night however with Michigan's loss at Iowa, things got a little murkier in the B1G East. 
Ohio State now needs to win out and have Penn State lose to either Rutgers or Michigan State in order to reach the B1G championship game meaning the Buckeyes might have a better shot of making the College Football Playoff than they do of winning a conference title which in and of itself would be a first in the short history of the playoff era.
Time will tell how everything shakes out in the wake of yesterday's shenanigans and the unknown of what else will happen over the next few weeks. 
For now, we take a look at Five Things from the latest beatdown issued by Urban Meyer's squad before turning focus to Sparty. 


It's no coincidence Ohio State's passing game came to life around the same time redshirt freshman K.J. Hill earned increased playing time.
Hill logged just four receptions through Ohio State's first eight games but his fourth, a 34-yard catch and run setting up the game-winning score in a 24-20 win over Northwestern served a springboard for both Hill and the Buckeye aerial attack. 
Last weekend against Nebraska, Hill posted a career-high five receptions for 66 yards and he was back at it yesterday with another five grabs on seven targets for 62 yards. 
Finally, Barrett has developed confidence in chemistry with a true wideout not named Noah Brown and the result is a passing offense that looks to be gaining momentum.
With those 10 grabs over the last two weeks Hill is now Ohio State's 2nd-most prolific true wide receiver with 14 catches for 230 yards behind Brown's 27 receptions and 345 yards. 
With catches of 34, 26 and 28 yards across the last three games Hill is emerging as a big play guy – his 16.4 yards per catch average leads all Buckeyes with at least five receptions. 
Props to Hill on his development and seizing his opportunity which could not have come at a better time for the Buckeyes. 


Ohio State's rejuvenated offense has received most of the press lately but the defense simply overwhelmed Maryland in the opening half paving the way to a 45-3 halftime lead. 
In eight 1st half possessions preceding the last one in which the Terps ran out the clock so they could escape to the locker room, the Buckeye defense forced four 3-and-outs, a turnover on downs, a pick and a fumble amid one lone scoring drive ending in a 23-yard field goal. 
Raekwon McMillan dominated Maryland in the 1st half with five tackles, two TFL, a sack and a forced fumble.
The D gave up just five 1st downs and seven rushing yards while holding Maryland to zero 3rd down conversions in seven tries. 
It was truly a complete effort as the defensive line owned the line of scrimmage led by Tyquan Lewis, linebackers Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan each tallied five stops with McMillan in particular blowing up adding two TFL, a sack and a forced fumble, extending his recent streak of exceptional play, and the secondary was boosted by another Marshon Lattimore interception. 
Ohio State's defense has now given up a mere 10 touchdowns all year with just three of those coming on the ground, good for the best mark in big boy college football. They've also scored six touchdowns, good for the 2nd-best total in the FBS.


Again focusing only on the 1st half since the rest of the game was a glorified practice, Ohio State's offensive line continued its own recent resurgence with another dominant performance. 
Behind the Slobs, Ohio State's offense went for 45 points – the first time it has eclipsed the 40-point barrier in the 1st half since Kent State in 2014 – and the Buckeyes have now gone for 60+ points in back-to-back games for the first time in Urban Meyer's head coaching career. 
Save for three not-great penalties from veterans Pat Elflein (personal foul) and Billy Price (false start, holding), the Slobs chewed up Maryland racking up 171 rushing yards on 6.3 yards per carry with four touchdowns while giving Barrett all day to throw. 
Barrett took advantage of the time completing 13 of 17 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns. 
On the ground Mike Weber logged all 12 of his carries in the opening half tallying 93 yards on 7.8 per carry behind gaping holes, particularly between Jamarco Jones and Michael Jordan ahead of the also-improving downfield blocking from receivers. 
For the game, the Buckeye offense registered 581 total yards including 253 on the ground via 5.9 yards per carry with five negative yardage plays in 79 snaps. 


One of the most important tasks for any offense is to stay on schedule, e.g. gain positive yardage on 1st down to avoid getting in down and distance holes that make it easier for the defense to scheme. 
Ohio State has enjoyed great success on 1st down the last few weeks and in yesterday's 1st half the trend continued. 
Mike Weber and the rest of the Buckeye skill guys enjoyed success on 1st down behind the Slobs.
What's most exciting about yesterday's 1st down success during the opening half is the balance achieved via the run and pass. On 25 1st down snaps the Buckeyes ran it 14 times and passed it 11 which is the type of spread that keeps opponents on their heels. 
On those 14 rushes Ohio State racked up 93 yards, or 6.6 yards per carry and through the air Barrett completed an outstanding 10 of 11 tosses for 168 yards. In total, those 25 plays on 1st down registered 261 yards on 10.4 yards per play generating 13 1st downs and three touchdowns. 
That seems good. 


Gareon Conley and Malik Hooker seem to get the majority of the hype – and they are absolute studs in their own right – but Marshon Lattimore is the best pure cover guy on the squad and he's no slouch in run support with 31 stops, good for 13 more than Conley. 
Lattimore also leads the squad with nine pass breakups and trails only Hooker after logging his fourth interception of the season against the Terps. 
His latest pick came midway through the 2nd quarter as he flashed nifty footwork and hands along the sideline to reel in an overthrown Caleb Rowe toss. The ensuing OSU possession saw Samuel cruise into the end zone off a slick reverse capping a 54-yard march to put Ohio State in front 35-3. 
With Lattimore, Hooker and Conley all doing work in the secondary, it will be fun to watch how they match up with Michigan's talented receiving corps in two weeks. 
What scares me a little is Harbaugh, while he won't shy completely away from taking on these three, is wise enough to attack Ohio State's final piece of the secondary puzzle, Damon Webb, early and often because the dropoff in pass coverage ability is so pronounced. 
For now though, enjoy Lattimore, Hooker and Conley while you can because they'll all be roaming NFL secondaries next season. The only question is in what order they will go. I'll guess Lattimore goes in the top-15 or so, Hooker is a 1st rounder and Conley isn't too far behind. 

2Ohio State9-16
9Penn State8-210
11West Virginia8-113
12Western Michigan10-012
16Washington State8-217
18Oklahoma State8-223
21Boise State9-124
22San Diego State9-126
23Florida State7-325
24Texas A&M7-311
25Virginia Tech7-318

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