By Aaron Wannemacher
Today I will be discussing Ohio State’s recent two games that have been played and take an in-depth look into Ohio State and discuss some other teams around college football as well. I couldn’t help but smile as an Ohio State fan to watch Alabama lose and miss the college football playoff for the first time. I honestly thought them having any playoff chances in the first place was garbage and I’ll get into that below and talk about their flaws and what ESPN simply wasn’t talking about.
The reason it’s nice to see Alabama miss the playoffs is that in past years they got a free pass to lose a game, even if they didn’t win their own division. I don’t think any team should be entitled to a playoff spot based on past years, because there is no point in even playing the games. I would also like to bring up the fact that in 2015 Ohio State lost 1 game on a game winning field goal to a playoff team and were left out of the playoffs. Even though everybody knew Ohio State had the best team and returned virtually everybody from a national championship winning team, they were denied that right anyway. I honestly don’t care that Alabama won the national title that year simply because the best team wasn’t even there. I will even say Ohio State didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs any of the last three years, but the real crime is keeping the 2015 team out when everybody knew they had the best team.
This year, had Alabama beaten Auburn and finished 11-1 I think the committee would have put them in the playoff, with 1 good win all season and a team that clearly has a bad defense. It’s good to see them just lose and be eliminated from playoff contention because they shouldn’t have been in the conversation anyway. They lost to the only good teams they played all year and were only ranked 5th based on eye test prior to the loss. To finish my thought, Alabama was never really a top 4 team all year and I’m not even sure what people saw to warrant taking them seriously. This year the SEC is just a glorified Big 12 conference and nobody will say it, where there are good offenses and no defense to speak of. At the end of the day defense still wins championships and teams who have bad defenses simply can’t win championships.
I’ll now get into discussing Ohio State and just how good I think they are. The knock on Ohio State before these last two weeks was that they hadn’t beaten anybody, which I never really agreed with in the first place. I was as surprised as anybody that after the Penn State win the committee moved Ohio State to number 1, but I also believe it was the right decision. I simply don’t trust the committee and didn’t think they would do the right thing, but it’s nice to see them do the smart thing. After this week where they clobbered Michigan, Ohio State is the number 1 team any way you want to slice it. Their strength of schedule is actually number 1 in the country right now and hasn’t struggled to control a game all year. People’s complaint was that Ohio State hadn’t played anybody and even that argument can no longer be used.
They are also winning games pretty easily when these games aren’t supposed to be easy to win. I think people are taking the greatness of this team for granted, because what they are doing is very hard to accomplish and maintain for an entire season. Ohio State now has 4 wins against currently ranked teams (Cincinnati, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan) which is more than anybody else has, and have outscored their 4 ranked opponents 162-51 which is just unheard of. I don’t think people are appreciating this teams greatness enough, because if they go 15-0 and win the national title this might go down as one of the best most dominant football teams ever. Even when Ohio State didn’t play their A game they still beat Penn State by double digits, a top 10 team. Against Penn State, Ohio State allowed them to hang around and get back into the game because of mistakes of their own.
The Buckeyes had 3 turnovers that directly resulted in a 17 point swing. Usually when you do that against a good team it gets you beat, and that’s all there is to it. The fact they still won 28-17 just shows how good they really are. Yes that’s football and we have to look at the reality of what actually happened, but Ohio State would have won 35-7 if not for the three turnovers. It’s not that they just turned it over, they were very costly. Justin Fields fumbled into the end zone for a touch back, and on back to back possessions in the 3rd quarter they fumbled deep in their own territory. I think the most important part of that game was the fact the defense never surrendered the lead. Penn State had the ball around the Ohio State 30 yard line after the turnover with the score at 21-14 and Penn State had all the momentum. With their backs against the wall the defense held them to a field goal, and that’s what championship defenses do. Everything that could have went wrong to start the half did go wrong, and the defense responded and righted the ship. Ohio State had 417 total yards and Penn State 227, and Ohio State’s rush offense on its own had 229. Ohio State ran the ball all over a great rush defense once again, and it happened yet again vs Michigan.
I can honestly say I thought the Michigan game was gonna be a battle, and at the beginning it looked that way too. The Ohio State defense did not look good in the first quarter, as Michigan drove right down the field for an easy touchdown to open the game but missed the extra point. Ohio State responded by scoring twice and then Michigan scored again to make the score 14-13. At that point it looked like the Ohio State defense had no shot at stopping quarterback Shea Patterson and the Michigan pass game and that it was gonna be a shootout, as they had already given up two touchdowns in the first quarter. Even in the 2nd quarter Ohio State was giving up a lot of yards, but the fact of the matter is they only gave up three points. It really was bend and not break for the defense, but they deserve credit for slowing down the scoring. I think the key play that turned the game was Ohio State recovering a fumble when Patterson dropped the snap. The score was 21-13 and Michigan was driving yet again and the turnover really changed the game the rest of the way.
On the ensuing possession, it looked like Michigan had gotten a stop when on 4th down and 4 Michigan got called for a crucial offsides penalty. Ohio State took advantage and scored a touchdown to make the score 28-13 Buckeyes. Another critical point in the game was Ohio State holding Michigan to a field goal before half to make the score 28-16 at half. If not for Michigan turning the ball over and getting called for offsides it could have been a different story, but it also showed that Michigan had already started to unravel. Ohio State made adjustments on defense and it showed in the 2nd half. Ohio State was disrupting the pass game by getting pressure on the Michigan quarterback, who statistically has struggled all year under pressure, as his completion percentage dips dramatically. Patterson had too much time in the pocket in the 1st half to just sit back and pick apart the Ohio State defense, and the 2nd half seemed like a totally different football. The Michigan receivers imploded and had more than a few drops, and the Michigan offense never really had consistent success in the 2nd half. They couldn’t keep up with Ohio State, as the Buckeyes added two scores to make it 42-16. Ohio State then muffed a punt, and again the defense only held them to a field goal. Michigan got within two possessions to make it 42-27, but Ohio State scored two touchdowns and pulled away for good, winning 56-27.
This game never really felt close in the 2nd half and the Buckeyes were in control, moving the ball on the ground and through the air at will against Don Brown’s defense, just like last year. I was nervous going into the game this year, but they’ve been so dominant the last few years in the rivalry that it’s hard to imagine this dominant stretch ending any time soon. For the second straight year the vaunted Michigan defense has had no answers for the Buckeye offense and speed. Ohio State had 577 total yards of offense, including 264 rushing yards. At this point I think Ohio State can run the ball on any defense they go up against until someone proves me otherwise. The rush offense with JK Dobbins and a dominant offensive line in the run game makes them difficult to stop.
The interior linemen of Jonah Jackson, Josh Myers, and Wyatt Davis is as good of a trio as any in the nation. The combination of an elite rushing attach and stout defense make this team very difficult to beat, especially if they fall behind. Once that happens Ohio State is in control of the game and are able to play on their terms, and once that happens the game is over. My only real concern is what happens if they fall behind against a team like Clemson in the playoff and aren’t controlling the game. Actually trailing in the 4th quarter of a game is different than pulling away in the 4th quarter while already having a double digit lead. How Ohio State will respond is simply something that’s an unknown until the situation actually happens. My other concern is the two tackles Thayer Munford and Brandon Bowen in pass protection, as it’s been the only real issue on offense all year. As I previously stated I think the interior linemen together are as good as anybody in the country, and as a whole the offensive line in run blocking is elite. When you play a top team though it’s definitely a concern when both tackles are a liability in pass protection. Justin Fields is able to create more time in the pocket with his feet, but pass protection is the only real glaring weakness on this offense that I can see. I know this was a longer blog post, but I hope you were able to read through it and at least found it interesting. I plan to write another blog later this week previewing the Big Ten title game and the college football playoff rankings, so stay tuned for that!