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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Ohio State - Michigan The Aftermath



Ten Things We Learned From Ohio State's 30-27 Double-Overtime Win Over Michigan

By Tony Gerdeman

1. The OSU defense was perfectly prepared for Jabrill Peppers.
There is nothing special to defending Michigan linebacker Jabrill Peppers when he is "Michigan offensive player Jabrill Peppers." All the Buckeyes did was maintain their assignments and keys and they held him to four yards on four carries. His first carry went for six yards, but his next one went for a loss of five, then two yards, and he finished his day on offense with a carry of one yard.
The play of the game may have come from defensive end Sam Hubbard, who brought Peppers down for that loss of five yards on third-and-goal from the 5-yard line. It was a great example of players doing their jobs, as Hubbard maintained contain. If he doesn't get him, who knows what happens. Malik Hooker was there as well, but Hooker missed a couple of tackles in this game, so he was no guarantee to bring Peppers down in a one-on-one situation.
2. Isaiah Prince is still too unreliable to be reliable.
It was a rough day for the Buckeye pass protection, including right tackle Isaiah Prince. Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton had 2.5 of the Wolverines' eight sacks and he gave Prince fits all day long. After bouncing back post-Penn State, things were looking good for Prince, but it's clear that he's still too inconsistent to no longer worry about. The next time the Buckeyes play, they'll need to make sure he's got some help. The baseline for a good tackle is there, it's just difficult to get a true sophomore offensive tackle where you want him.
3. Raekwon McMillan lived up to his role as a MLB in this game.
Middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan was everywhere on Saturday. He had six of his 16 tackles in the first quarter alone. Thirteen of his tackles came on running plays, and 10 of those were for gains of three yards or less. Eight went for two yards or less. He helped the Buckeyes hold Michigan to 91 yards rushing on 43 carries (2.1 avg). Despite all of that, his most important play came on a blitz when he pressured and hit quarterback Wilton Speight as he was throwing. The pass was intercepted by Malik Hooker and returned 16 yards for Ohio State's first touchdown.
4. This offense can't take advantage of an aggressive defense as well as others can.
It was a failure on all aspects of offense, from the quarterback to the receivers to the offensive line, and it only got worse when Michigan was blitzing. When Barrett did find the right guy, it wasn't a guaranteed catch. When there was an open receiver in man coverage, Barrett didn't always see him. Then there were other times when nobody was open and the offensive line didn't give Barrett enough time to check his other options.
The offensive line had difficulty handling the blitzing linebackers, who had a pair of sacks. Cornerback Channing Stribling had two tackles for loss. The Buckeyes were never able to take advantage of having a safety playing man coverage against their wideouts while All-American cornerback Jourdan Lewis was lined up in the slot against Curtis Samuel.
At the end of the game Michigan had safety Dymonte Thomas lined up on Noah Brown. I kept expecting a throw into the end zone, but it never happened. That was even in the red zone and the Buckeyes still wouldn't attack Michigan "downfield."
Ohio State's best success came late in the game when Michigan was dropping back into a zone to avoid giving up a big play.
5. Ohio State's defense is a bad matchup for Michigan's offense.
Michigan doesn't necessarily have outstanding talent on offense. They have an okay offensive line, a decent quarterback, two receivers who are Big Ten starters, and running backs who aren't good enough to beat out De'Veon Smith. That's not an offense that is ever going to terrify an opposing coach.
Michigan's best assets are their receivers Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson, and tight end Jake Butt. The receivers fall right in line with Ohio State's cornerbacks, who are as good as you'll find. Darboh caught eight passes for 8.5 yards per reception. Chesson caught two passes for 11 yards. Darboh caught the fourth-down touchdown in overtime, but he was relatively quiet for the most part. Butt caught five passes for 58 yards, which is about three fewer receptions than I expected him to have, and about 40 fewer yards.
The linebackers did a pretty good job on Butt, which is saying a lot.
6. Michigan's defense is a bad matchup for Ohio State's offense.
Man coverage against receivers who have not been able to get open consistently, plus a run defense that allows very little up the middle against an offense that needs to run up the middle. These are two things that don't combine very well when it comes to the Ohio State offense. Can the OSU offense do better in their next game? Absolutely. Should they be expected to? Depends on the opponent.
7. Tyler Durbin is allowed to live in Columbus for at least another month.
If you want to be happy for anybody, be happy for Tyler Durbin for making his third field goal attempt. Had he missed that, he may not have been allowed to continue living in Columbus -- for his own safety. Instead, he hit his third field goal and all is fine now. He doesn't have to worry about having the 2016 battle with Michigan labeled as "The Tyler Durbin Game". 
8. It's time to start talking about Malik Hooker's place in Ohio State history.
Where does Malik Hooker rank in Ohio State history at the safety position? He is now OSU's all-time leader in interceptions returned for touchdowns (3), and he did it in just 12 starts. No, Hooker is not a perfect player, but he's still just a redshirt sophomore. He misses tackles, but makes more than he misses. He can sometimes get caught looking into the backfield, but has the kind of makeup speed to get away with it most of the time.
Hooker's 181 return yards on his six interceptions are second to Derek Ross's 194 in 2001.
So can we start talking about Hooker in the same breath as Mike Doss and Donte Whitner? I don't go back past the late 1980s, but I think it's time to start talking about where Hooker belongs. And you better start doing it quickly before you're referring to him in the past tense.
9. Ohio State was the more disciplined, better prepared team.
wrote about this earlier, but the Buckeyes were the team that didn't let circumstances dictate how things were going to go, and the Wolverines were the complete opposite. When you lose a game you should have won, you have to look at the plays that cost you the game. Michigan simply couldn't hold on and Ohio State simply couldn't stop fighting. And when it came to discipline, it was Michigan's head coach losing his cool and putting the Buckeyes on the UM 4-yard line with a first down. Teams are reflections of their coaches. Sometimes the reflection that comes off of Ohio State's mirror is even better than the Urban Meyer visage standing in front of it. That's a credit to the OSU coaching staff as a whole.
10. This offense as it stands now is not going to score much on Alabama.
Yeah, there's time to come up with some gameplans and figure out what Alabama likes to do, but you still have to block and you still run and you still have to get open, and I just don't see that happening too often. That doesn't mean Ohio State can't beat the Tide if they ever meet up with them, it just means they'll need the same kind of help -- if not more -- from the defense that they got against Michigan.
How does it get fixed? If I tell you now, Urban Meyer won't pay me for my consulting fees.



FIVE THINGS: O-H, HAIL NO!


SEMI-SWEET SIXTEEN

For three quarters J.T. Barrett was largely awful completing just nine of 23 throws for 57 yards and an interception (which was just as much on Samuel as it was Barrett) with another 52 yards on the ground on 12 carries but thanks to a stingy Buckeye defense and three Michigan turnovers, the good guys trailed by only three at 17-14. 
Barrett's shaky passing to that point saw him miss Samuel on what could've been a 95-yard slant pass for six as one of numerous poor throws while a handful of others were batted down at the line of scrimmage. 
But with Ohio State's offense desperate for Barrett to come alive, he did just that completing six of nine throws during the 4th quarter and overtime sessions for 67 yards with another 73 on the ground including a 7-yard touchdown run up the gut giving the Buckeyes a 24-17 lead in the first overtime. 
Barrett was particularly clutch on Ohio State's final drive in regulation as he completed four of five throws for 52 yards including a 13-yard hookup over the middle with Marcus Baugh putting Tyler Durbin in position to force overtime with a 23-yard field goal with six seconds left in regulation. 
For the game, Barrett tallied 249 total yards and a touchdown to help keep Ohio State's playoff hopes intact.
No question about it, Barrett's passing has been woefully inconsistent at times this season but the man continues to come up big when it matters most and it shouldn't be overlooked that he's not always getting much help thanks to leaky pass protection and a lack of competent wide receivers. 

STEPPING UP AND STEPPING OUT

Ohio State's linebacking trio of Raekwon McMillan, Jerome Baker and Chris Worley put on a show yesterday combining for 42 tackles, 1.5 TFL, a sack and a hurry. 
McMillan showed just how made he is to play against pro-style offenses racking up 16 stops repeatedly stepping into holes to meet De'Veon Smith among others. He also triggered Malik Hooker's pick six giving Ohio State a 7-3 lead as he tipped a Wilton Speight pass on a blitz up the gut. 
Raekwon McMillan was all over the field registering 16 tackles and a tipped pass leading to a Malik Hooker pick six.
Baker tallied 15 stops and two huge plays including a sack on a 3rd and 7 play to force a punt and later his interception of a Speight throw and subsequent 22-yard return to the Michigan 13 yard line set up a Mike Weber plunge four plays later cutting the Wolverine lead to 17-14 with less than a minute remaining in the 3rd quarter. 
Worley logged 11 tackles of his own and single-handedly forced a 3-and-out early with back to back stops in run support before tight coverage on Jake Butt forced an incompletion and punt. 
With the trio doing work all day long Ohio State's sputtering offense actually outgained Michigan 330-310 as the Wolverines were held to 91 rushing yards on 2.1 per carry and just five total yards in the 4th quarter. 

CRY BABY CRY

Hat tip to Harbaugh for his in-game and postgame ranting about the officials. 
Harbaugh received an unsportsmanlike conduct flag after Michigan was called for offsides as Ohio State lined up for its first offensive play following Baker's key interception. A Michigan defensive lineman crossed the line of scrimmage and appeared to hit an OSU offensive lineman triggering the flag. Harbaugh went berserk over the call, launching a stack of papers and smashing his headset on the ground prompting the unsportsmanlike hanky, which combined with the offsides, moved Ohio State from the 13 to the 4-yard line without snapping the ball. Ohio State scored two plays later cutting the UM lead to 17-14. 
Post game, Harbaugh cried ad nauseam about the spot of the football following Barrett's 4th and 1 run behind left tackle in the 2nd overtime. It was undoubtedly an awkward landing by Barrett as he bounced into OSU tight end A.J. Alexander but the spot appeared to be legit (or at absolute minimum wasn't the no-brainer Jim claimed it to be) paving the way for Samuel to score the game-winner on the next snap sending Harbaugh sprinting for the press room and Ohio State to victory lane. 
Harbaugh also voiced his displeasure over a pass interference call on Delano Hill who mugged Samuel on a huge 3rd and 7 play extending Ohio State's drive to tie the game at 17 forcing overtime. Jim thought the flag was ridiculous because the ball was uncatchable which was absolutely untrue. The replay showed clear pass interference and that the was most certainly in Samuel's vicinity.
The sting Harbaugh felt as he tried to deflect his team's repeated mistakes allowing Ohio State to remain in a game it had no business winning only sweetened the reality he is now one of just two Michigan coaches (Rich Rod is the other) to lose their first two games to the Buckeyes. 

TROUBLE IN THE TRENCHES

It can be easy to forgive and forget dreadful play if things still break in favor of the local team but the reality is that if Ohio State does earn a bid into the College Football Playoff, its offensive line could ultimately cut the season short. 
After a few solid weeks since the debacle at Penn State, sophomore right tackle Isaiah Prince was beaten like a drum all day by Taco Charlton. 
Charlton is a fine player to be sure but Prince was so outclassed that Barrett seemed unable to consistently focus on receivers because he was wary in anticipation of the heat he knew would soon be coming off the right edge. (Why Ohio State never elects to chip to his side is a question for another day.)
Ohio State's shaky pass protection led to eight Michigan sacks.
Prince was not alone however as who many consider to be an unexpected source was also leaky as hell in pass pro as Pat Elflein had his own share of difficulties keeping heat off the quarterback. 
It's entirely possible Elflein's outing was the worst of his career and though his well-earned reputation will be enough to keep him out of the media's mouth, whoever Ohio State plays, hopefully in the playoff, will no doubt look to see how Michigan exploited the All-American candidate who has had a handful of tough games this year whether it be via blocking issues or penalties.
With true freshman Michael Jordan understandably a little shaky from time to time along with Prince's struggles, the Buckeyes can't afford for Elflein to be anything less than stellar. 
Yesterday, as it has been much of the season, left tackle Jamarco Jones did work at the line's toughest position from a physical standpoint. Also of note, Billy Price looked to have a decent day while Prince, Elflein and Jordan, in that order, left Meyer and staff wanting more. 

IT'S A WALKOFF

In the best walkoff scene since Zoolander versus Hansel, Curtis Samuel strung together 23 yards on two runs in double overtime triggering bedlam in the Shoe. 
His 15-yard jaunt untouched around the left side into the end zone to win the game will be the play seen on future The Game montages but it was his 8-yard zig-zag on 3rd and 9 keeping Ohio State alive was a thing of absolute determination and beauty.
Ohio State looked severely disjointed in that 2nd overtime as Prince yielded another sack on 2nd and 5 setting up Samuel's weaving scamper off a swing pass that started right but was forced to go back left after Jabrill Peppers cut off the sideline. 
Samuel okey-doked near right hash before taking off left and using a block from Terry McLaurin to put Ohio State in the much talked about 4th and 1 converted by Barrett to set up Samuel's winning tote along left end. 
Samuel's athletic maneuvering continues to amaze but what I think is easily overlooked is how he doesn't show any negative body language despite being underutilized on a pretty consistent basis. This week, to be fair, Samuel did have nine touches through the 1st overtime and while that is still too few, he was targeted nine times in the passing game to that point but Barrett's inaccuracy hurt his total touches. 
Salute to Samuel for staying patient and team-focused all year even as virtually everyone around him wondered aloud why he wasn't an even greater piece of the offense. 

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