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Monday, November 21, 2016

Rivalry Week 2016 - Ohio State - Michigan St, The Aftermath



5 THINGS

By Chris Lauderback


On a cold and windy day in East Lansing, Urban Meyer's offense largely looked like it had never seen such conditions but put together a key 2nd half touchdown drive and relied on the defense from there in a 17-16 decision over a three-win Michigan State outfit. 
Meyer improved to 18-1 at Ohio State in the month of November thanks to the great escape. More importantly the victory improved Ohio State to 10-1 on the season setting up a showdown with 10-1 Michigan next Saturday in the 113th edition of The Game. 
Because 99.5% of you want to get on with Hate Week while the other 0.5% want to misdirect frustrations over using the word "hate", I'll try to keep Five Things short and sweet so we can all start gearing up for the greatest rivalry in sports. 

CARRY THAT WEIGHT

With the Buckeye offense barely able to crack the 300-yard total offense barrier, Ohio State's defense came to the rescue. 
The Bullets forced a pair of interceptions including the game-sealer by Gareon Conley with under two minutes to play as part of a sturdy effort in shutting down the Sparty passing attack and that doesn't include Malik Hooker's clutch interception of a two-point conversion attempt to save the day with 4:41 left in the 4th quarter.
The quarterback combo of Tyler O'Connor and Damion Terry managed just eight completions in 21 attempts for 127 yards on the day including a 5 for 13 effort for 40 yards in the 2nd half. 
The defense did have some rough moments surrendering big plays of 64 and 61 yards to LJ Scott but on Michigan State's other 54 plays the green and white averaged only 3.9 yards per play and went 3/12 on 3rd down conversion attempts. 
Returning back to his home state, Damon Webb had himself a day with seven stops, a touchdown saving tackle and a PBU while the front four combined for five hurries, three TFL and two sacks. 

MAGIC MIKE

Also returning to his home state, redshirt freshman Mike Weber went off for 111 yards on 14 carries (7.9 per) including a clutch 52-yard jaunt down the right sideline setting up his game-winning 4-yard touchdown plunge putting Ohio State in front 17-10 with 5:33 left in the 3rd quarter. 
Believe it or not, this was Weber's first game with 100+ rushing yards since he went for a career-high 144 on 14 carries against Rutgers way back on October 1st. 
Mike Weber rushed for 111 yards on 14 carries marking the first time he eclipsed the 100-yard mark since October 1st against Rutgers.


Weber's big day pushed his season rushing total to 1,046 yards, making him just the third Ohio State freshman to rush for over 1,000 yards joining Maurice Clarett and Robert Smith. 
Props to Weber for not only joining an exclusive club but also toughing out a shoulder injury for the last few weeks. 
Ohio State needed his grit today and it will no doubt need it again next week in what should be a 60-minute fistfight with the Wolverines. 

AND THE WIND CRIES BARRETT

I'm a J.T. Barrett defender so don't get it twisted but damn is it frustrating to watch him struggle so bad in windy conditions. I get it, no quarterback wants to throw in weather like we saw in East Lansing but Barrett has a tendency to look completely lost in the passing game when faced with an adverse climate. 
As part of a 10/22 passing effort for 86 yards Barrett's struggles included a knuckleball in the direction of Curtis Samuel on a swing pass, a couple of passes tipped at the line of scrimmage as he stared down his target, a missed opportunity to connect with James Clark on a big gainer over the middle and a complete misfire again in Samuel's direction on a key 3rd and 12 in the 2nd half among other poor throws.
Of course, what makes Barrett so special is his ability to overcome the lows and respond in other ways such as rushing for 105 yards on 24 carries including a handful of key 3rd down conversions even as Michigan State knew a quarterback keeper was coming out of Ohio State's repeated empty sets.  
He also avoided turning it over despite having about as much control over his throws as Rick Ankiel, and not all of them were hot garbage as evidenced by the touch he put on a beautiful 22-yard touchdown toss to Samuel in the 1st quarter. 
Bottom line, Barrett needs a better performance next weekend if he wants to direct Ohio State to the winner's circle. Hopefully the weather gods will cooperate and give us a crisp yet calm Saturday afternoon. 

POINT OF NO RETURN

How in the hell did the 2nd-best recruiter on the planet end up with a roster void of a legit, seasoned punt returner? 
In Meyer's defense he thought he had his man as Dontre Wilson returned after handling the duties last year but because he waited too long to pull the plug on Wilson's high wire act, someone like freshman Demario McCall didn't get enough opportunities in blowouts to earn the required amount of trust. 
That scenario forced Samuel into a role he hasn't filled at the collegiate level so in his defense, we shouldn't be shocked act his own troubles trying to fill the role. 
Curtis Samuel returned one punt for 12 yards and nearly lost another on his own 4 yard line.
Samuel dangerously fielded a Jake Hartbarger punt on a line drive bounce and to his credit managed to peel off 12 yards but on his second attempt, Samuel muffed a catch at his own 4 yard line before falling on it to retain possession. 
Muffing a punt is never good but Samuel should've never even tried to catch it. I'm sure he's been counseled to put his heels on the 10 yard line and let anything behind him go but with his inexperience at this level those are the things that can happen. Worse yet, Samuel's lack of reps returning punts could get Ohio State's best player blown up. 
For now, I'd honestly be fine with rushing 11 or going back to the Tressel method of putting two guys back there to at least avoid raw guys trying to catch punts on the run. 
He'll probably end up taking one to the house against Michigan and make me look stupid which hey, sign me up. 

GREAT SCOTT

I love watching LJ Scott play football. He's not overly shifty in space but the dude runs with purpose and since he's an Ohio guy, I wanted to give him a quick shoutout. 
Scott kept Sparty in the game yesterday with 160 rushing yards and another 76 receiving with a pair of touchdowns. 
He also keyed Michigan State's field goal drive with a 61-yard burst giving the Spartans a 10-7 lead early in the 2nd quarter. 
With 236 total yards, Scott accounted for 71% of his team's output against the B1G's 2nd-ranked total defense (279.9 ypg). 



Ten Things We Learned From Ohio State's 17-16 Win at Michigan State

By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS — If nothing easy was ever worth a damn, then that should give you an idea how much darn damn Saturday's win over Michigan State was worth.
Now with Ohio State's 17-16 win in East Lansing in the rear-view mirror, the Buckeyes can again turn their attention where to where it matters most -- Michigan.
The entire season rests on this weekend's game, which is exactly how it should be.
All is right with the world. Embrace it. Be happy. Save your anger for the other guys.
Before we can entirely move on, however, we need to talk about what we learned from OSU's weather-infused win over Michigan State.
1. J.T. Barrett running the ball was the surest way to move the chains.
I know, you don't like J.T. Barrett carrying the ball as many times as he did, especially when it comes to neglecting Curtis Samuel and Mike Weber, but there was a method to Urban Meyer's perceived madness. Running Barrett with a four-wide or five-wide set allowed the Buckeyes to face a defense that wasn't loading the box. In an empty set, the Buckeyes had a much better shot at blocking an MSU defense that knew the weather was negating the passing game.
Michigan State could load the box against the Buckeyes, except for when OSU would spread them out. On 21 carries (not counting scrambles and sacks), Barrett picked up a first down eight times, and picked up the desired yardage (40% on first down, 60% on second down, 100% on third down) 17 of 21 times. Two of the times he "failed" were on third-and-10 and third-and-16. If Meyer thought there was a better way to do it, he would have done it. This is what they do when things are tight, and Meyer's record in one-score games at Ohio State -- 16-3 -- would indicate he knows what he's doing.
2. The run defense wasn't as bad as you think.
Michigan State rushed for 207 yards against Ohio State, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. The 5.9 yards per carry was the best against the Buckeyes this season, and the 207 yards were the second-most this year, next to Wisconsin's 236 yards. Running back LJ Scott was the big reason for that number, rushing for 160 yards on 19 carries (8.4 ypc). However, if you look at how those yards came to be, you'll see that it wasn't a consistent rushing attack at all for the Spartans.
Instead, it was the four "big hits" that did the most damage, and one of those big hits was a 25-yard run by linebacker Chris Frey on a fake punt, which doesn't have anything to do with the run defense. The same can't be said for Scott's three big hits, however. He rushed for 111 of his 160 yards on just three carries. He had runs of 61, 24, and 26 yards. The 61-yarder was great blocking that saw Scott squeeze through a tiny hole. It was a great play. The second run was great scheming by MSU to get the OSU defense to leave the entire left side of the field. The third run was helped by a Jerome Baker missed tackle in the backfield. Those were the three plays by the run defense that cost them 111 yards. The other 16 carries by Scott went for 49 yards (3.1 ypc)
Yeah, 207 yards is a bad number, but there are much worse ways to accumulate those numbers.
3. Jalyn Holmes has played himself into a decision.
Jalyn Holmes rotates constantly at defensive end with Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard, and Nick Bosa, and then also plays on the interior on passing downs. We know this. He is a productive player who has 8.0 tackles for loss, which is second on the defense for the Buckeyes. He had five tackles and a TFL against MSU, and it was the TFL that showed you exactly the kind of player that Holmes has become.
Tapped so often to come in and rush the passer, it was Holmes staying home on an end around for a 1-yard loss that displayed his patience as well as his vision and athleticism to get around a blocker to make the play. So often defensive ends will take themselves out of a play entirely, but Holmes keeps himself involved. He has played very well this year and given his frame and athleticism, he will be one of three OSU defensive ends who have a decision to make regarding the NFL after this season.
4. Mike Weber can't run the ball too much.
Yeah, I know, I can hear you now. "I thought you said running the ball with J.T. Barrett was winning the surest way." That may be true, but if Mike Weber is rushing for 111 yards on 14 carries, he seems like he's a pretty sure way too. Weber has two more carries than Barrett this season and has run for 324 more yards. Obviously, that's a skewed statistic, but it shows that Weber has a certain consistency that can be relied upon.
This season Weber has averaged 6.3 yards per carry, which is what Ezekiel Elliott averaged last year. This was Weber's first 100-yard game since Rutgers to open B1G play. He has only carried the ball 20 times once this season -- at Penn State. I would expect him to be a workhorse this coming week because that's what OSU running backs are supposed to do against Michigan.
5. It's time to side with hands over feet.
There is nothing wrong with having a punt returner who simply catches the ball. The conditions were a pain for everyone yesterday, so I can excuse Curtis Samuel muffing a punt. Still, at this point, returns have done nothing for you, so why not side with safety over any other option? Of course, maybe these are the safest options. If so, just continue to hold your breath as you have done all season long for the last three or four years.
6. Tyler Durbin is [redacted].
Tyler Durbin's 39-yard field goal in that wind was a pretty amazing feat. I was standing in that same end zone late in the fourth quarter and there was no chance anything was going through those goalposts at that point. I watched the TV replay of Durbin's kick and laughed when Holly Rowe said the wind was just 2 mph at that point. Never mind that the camera on the wires was swaying like it was out to sea. The towers holding that camera were swaying a good foot in either direction during the game. Durbin has been a tremendous find for the Buckeyes this season, but you have to be careful when praising kickers because, well, you know.
7. Weather is real and it's silly to deny it.
Judging a quarterback and how he throws in the kind of weather we saw yesterday is like complaining that trapeze artists keep getting dropped in a performance that takes place during an earthquake.
"I don't know why they keep dropping people to their death. It's just a little rumbling."
If the coaching staff thought they had a quarterback that could knife the ball through bad weather, then they'd do it. Instead, Ohio State is saddled with a guy who has put up better numbers than any other Buckeye to ever live. And he still has another 19 games to possibly play. You're just going to have to continue settling for this kind of mediocrity in conditions that very few quarterbacks who have ever lived could excel in.
8. Nobody talks about Darron Lee anymore.
This really has nothing to do with Darron Lee and everything to do with the way Chris Worley is playing right now. He has been a tone setter for the Buckeyes, getting involved in the running game early, and then displaying his ability to defend the pass a little later on. Luke Fickell has talked all season long about the trust and love he has for Worley, and you're seeing why as the season comes to a close. Worley continues to step up and be a leader. He led the Buckeyes with seven tackles and an interception against Michigan State. He's quiet and consistent, and people need to talk about him more.
9. Curtis Samuel is still impacting the game even without the ball.
Curtis Samuel had eight touches on offense for 53 yards, which is well below his average. They tried to get him the ball more with the passing game, but due to the wind, throwing into the flats either gave J.T. Barrett a tailing fastball in one direction or a cutter in the other. Samuel wasn't effective running the ball -- though four carries is a very small sample size. Rather than use Samuel to carry the ball, they used him to occupy a defender or two, which made it easier for Barrett to pick up yards.
They also had Samuel lined up a couple of times in the backfield, but too far in front to take a handoff. On these plays, a linebacker would still go with Samuel, freeing up a little bit of room for Barrett to run the ball. On the plays where the linebacker stayed home, that left Samuel open for a pop pass that we might see taken advantage of this coming week. Yeah, everyone would like to see Samuel get the ball more, but the defense still has to pay attention to him whether he's getting the ball or not.
10. It's officially Michigan Week.
It's time to put this Michigan State game to bed and wake up to a brand new day. It's Michigan Week and there is nothing else in the world like it. If holidays had holidays, they would be Michigan Week. Enjoy the hell out of it, because it only happens once every 52 weeks.



Forde's Fab Four: Rivalry Week awaits

by:  Pat Forde

Each week of the season, I will be a one-man College Football Playoff selection committee, picking the four teams that should be in the bracket if Selection Sunday were today. Call it Forde’s Fab Four, and call it an invitation to debate and discuss. Feel free to disagree.
The only make-or-break result of the weekend was Louisville’s flop at Houston, so the Cardinals are out of the picture. Otherwise there is some rearranging of the deck chairs on the playoff luxury liner, but mostly we are waiting to see what the upcoming huge rivalry weekend of games may produce.
Damien Harris rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown in Alabama's victory over Chattanooga. (Getty)
Damien Harris rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown in Alabama’s victory over Chattanooga. (Getty)
PEACH BOWL: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State
The Crimson Tide (11-0) went through the motions and little more Saturday, muddling past FCS Chattanooga, 31-3. The Mocs actually led after one quarter before order was restored. This is the annual dress rehearsal for the Iron Bowl, a game when the Alabama players are lacking motivation and the game plan is lacking sizzle. But the nation’s most dominant team is long past needing style points. Next for Alabama: Auburn (8-3) comes to Tuscaloosa for the yearly grudge match. Since Gus Malzahn has been the head coach of the Tigers, this game has been a chore for the Tide: They lost the unforgettable Kick Six game of 2013; survived a wild 55-44 shootout in ’14; and last year won more methodically than easily, 29-13.
The Buckeyes (10-1) were perilously close to a third season-ruining loss at the hands of Michigan State in the past four years but held on, 17-16, in East Lansing. A better two-point conversion play with four minutes left might have resulted in a Spartans upset, and who knows what might have happened if Michigan State had tied the game and played for overtime. For the second straight year against the Spartans, weather conditions hampered J.T. Barrett’s passing and the Ohio State offense labored much of the day (the Buckeyes were outgained, 334 yards to 310). Most people doing rankings were willing to overlook a one-point win over a 3-8 team and keep Ohio State No. 2, but I dropped them two spots – just because the jerseys said “Michigan State” does not change the fact that that’s a bad team. Next for Ohio State: a small affair with Michigan (10-1) that figures to be a playoff eliminator for the loser.
Mark Fields celebrates after sacking Wake Forest quarterback Kyle Kearns. (Getty)
Mark Fields celebrates after sacking Wake Forest quarterback Kyle Kearns. (Getty)
FIESTA BOWL: No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Michigan
After finally paying a price for flirting with defeat last week, the Tigers (10-1) quit screwing around and dominated a bowl-bound Wake Forest team on the road, 35-13. Clemson led 21-0 in the first quarter and maintained control throughout. The Tigers had their best running game in a month, pounding out 254 yards and four touchdowns on the ground one week after failing in that area against Pittsburgh. Also of note: Deshaun Watson did not have a turnover, one week after throwing three interceptions (he’s up to 13 for the year) against Pitt. Next for Clemson: home against rival South Carolina (6-5), which would love to do nothing more than destroy the Tigers’ hopes for a second straight CFP bid but probably doesn’t have the horses to do so.
The Wolverines (10-1) exerted control in the second half against Indiana, scoring two touchdowns late in the third quarter to pull away for a 20-10 victory. But the concerns raised about Michigan’s offense in the upset loss at Iowa were by no means alleviated in this game. Backup quarterback John O’Korn passed for just 59 yards (in admittedly poor weather conditions) and his biggest play was a 30-yard scramble that jump-started one scoring drive. Michigan’s passing stats for the past two games combined: 18 of 42 for 162 yards, with no touchdowns. Next for Michigan: at Ohio State (10-1) Saturday, in case you hadn’t heard. The Wolverines have not declared injured starter Wilton Speight out for that brawl, but it will probably be O’Korn under center again for Michigan’s biggest game in years.
Also considered: Washington, Wisconsin, Penn State, USC, Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State. When regarding teams outside the bracket, the challenge for the selection committee will be determining the value of Hot Now vs. Body of Work. Hot Now certainly favors USC, Penn State and Oklahoma; body of work tilts toward Washington and Wisconsin. This will matter, because someone outside the top four right now figures to benefit from the Michigan-Ohio State outcome.

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