Countdown To THE GAME 2015

Friday, October 14, 2016

Wisconsin Hopes To Make Ohio State Wince And Weep

October 13, 2003.  Undefeated Ohio State, riding a nineteen game unbeaten streak, comes into Camp Randall to battle the Wisconsin Badgers, led by Barry Alvarez.  Jim Tressel's team battles valiantly, but fall to Ohio native and Wisconsin WR Lee Evans outracing Ohio State's Chris Gamble to the end zone, 17-10.

October 17, 2010. Undefeated and top-ranked Ohio State come into Camp Randall, eager to demonstrate to the nation and the Wisconsin Badgers, led by Bret Bielema, that the Buckeyes are truly worthy of their status as the BCS frontrunner.  Jim Tressel's team again battles valiantly, but fall to one-time Ohio State recruit and Wisconsin RB John Clay's two touchdowns, 31-18.
What did those games from the past have in common with this upcoming contest?
  • Both games were in Camp Randall Stadium
  • Both games were at night
Now that I have your attention, here are three critical areas I will be keeping an eye on when this contest kicks off at 8pm EST on ABC...
  1. Can Ohio State Develop Offensive Balance Against Wisconsin? ~ Ohio State's J.T. Barrett's passing statistics from his game against Indiana were as follows - 9/21 for 93 yards, with 1 touchdown to Dontre Wilson, and 1 interception that glanced off the hands of Marcus Baugh.  Barrett was tremendously successful running the ball against Indiana, leading the Buckeyes with 137 yards on the ground.  Look for Wisconsin to do everything possible to bottle up Ohio State's running game.  Will Ohio State be able to counter effectively through the air against the Badgers?  Something else to be seen - how the Ohio State wide receivers respond, after this story emerged on earlier this week.
  2. Will Curtis Samuel Be Involved Earlier In The Offensive Gameplan Against Wisconsin? ~ Curtis Samuel had a solid game against Indiana, running for 82 yards and a touchdown.  The larger point is that Samuel did not actually touch the ball until the second quarter began, and Ohio State was tied 3-3 with Indiana.  Will the Ohio State offensive coaches involve Samuel sooner, regardless of whether it involves running or passing?
  3. How Will Ohio State Respond To The Camp Randall Challenge? ~  As stated up above, Ohio State has lost to Wisconsin at night on previous occasions.  It must also be noted that Ohio State has defeated Wisconsin in Camp Randall Stadium at night, in 2008, with a true freshman quarterback in Terrelle Pryor.  The larger point is Wisconsin truly revels in the night game atmosphere of Camp Randall Stadium, especially when the Buckeyes come to town.  Yes, Ohio State's young team excelled against Oklahoma at night.  This is another huge test of the maturity and poise of the 2016 Buckeyes.
Prediction:  The player I will keep an eye on throughout is WR Noah Brown.  A physical mismatch, look for Barrett to target Brown repeatedly in this game against Wisconsin.  If Brown can be a consistent possession receiver, especially in the red zone, it will open up opportunities for other offensive weapons within Ohio State's arsenal.  Look for this game to be a typical Ohio State/Wisconsin slugfest, but I see the Buckeyes pulling away in the fourth quarter, with Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 21.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Hoosiers Hoping To Repeat Harsh History Lesson In Ohio Stadium

October 10, 1987.  The Ohio State Buckeyes, ranked 9th in the country with a 3-0-1 record (yes kids, games used to end in ties back in the day…), play host to the 3-1 Indiana Hoosiers.  Most Ohio State fans, yours truly included, looked at this game as an automatic ‘W’, as Ohio State never loses to Indiana.  After all, the last time Indiana defeated Ohio State?  1951, when Indiana beat Ohio State, 32-10.

Maybe someone at Indiana was feeling nostalgic in 1987, and tried to replicate the last Hoosier victory.  The final score in 1987 – Indiana 31, Ohio State 10.

Ohio State’s head coach at the time in 1987?  Earle Bruce.  After the crushing loss, Earle Bruce stated, “I’ve known about Ohio State football since I was a freshman here in 1949.  This is the darkest day in Ohio State football since I have been associated with it.”. 

Remember who was a graduate assistant coach on the 1987 staff?  Urban Meyer.

Saturday’s date for the game is October 8, 2016.  Urban Meyer is now the head coach of Ohio State, and is reveling in the recent Dotting Of The ‘I’ celebration involving former Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce.  Ohio State is undefeated, ranked second in the country, and guess who is coming into Ohio Stadium with a 3-1 record?

Yep.  Indiana.

Fresh off an upset victory over Michigan State, Indiana comes into Ohio Stadium, fully intent on spoiling Ohio State’s dreams of an undefeated season and a shot at a College Football Playoff berth.

I completely agree with Matt Baxendell’s thoughts regarding this game.  Think of it this way ~ Indiana just defeated Michigan State, a team that has crushed Ohio State’s hopes and dreams in 2013 and 2015.  If Ohio State was feeling cocky about their chances with Indiana, chances are that the upset win by the Hoosiers has the Buckeyes coming into this game with better focus.
Below are three critical areas I will be focusing upon as the Ohio State/Indiana game gets underway at 3:30pm EST on ESPN…
  1. Can Ohio State Avoid A Sluggish Start Against Indiana?
Against Tulsa, Ohio State was tied 3-3 before the Buckeyes began capitalizing on turnovers near the end of the second quarter.  Last week versus Rutgers, Ohio State only led the Scarlet Knights 6-0 after the first quarter.  Yes, I know that the Buckeyes eventually overwhelmed their opponents.  It would be very reassuring to see the Buckeyes come out with the same type of intensity and dominance in the first quarter as they have demonstrated in the latter portions of games.
  1. How Well Will Ohio State’s Secondary Play Against Indiana?
Indiana is averaging about 320 yards a game through the air, while the revamped Ohio State secondary is only giving up about 140 yards a game.  Which unit is going to come out ahead in this crucial matchup?
  1. Will Ohio State Control The Clock With The Running Game?
Ohio State ran for 410 yards last weekend against Rutgers.  Mike Weber, Demario McCall, Curtis Samuel, Dontre Wilson…Maybe even Antonio Williams, if the game breaks right.  The best way to keep the Ohio State defense rested is by having them on the sideline, and that all starts with the Ohio State offensive line controlling the line of scrimmage against Indiana.

Prediction:  Indiana has kept it interesting every year against Ohio State, with the exception of 2013.  Urban Meyer is wary of the upset, and wants to see the Buckeyes take care of business at home before two grueling road night games at Wisconsin and at Penn State.  Indiana will keep it close until the fourth quarter, but I like Ohio State to put it away with superior speed and depth.  I am calling it Ohio State 42, Indiana 17.

Friday, September 30, 2016

No Matter The Winner Of Rutgers/OSU, Scarlet Will Reign In The Horseshoe

56-17 in 2014. 49-7 in 2015. Both Ohio State victories over Rutgers. Both by at least 39 points. The Las Vegas oddsmakers certainly remember those victories, as the Buckeyes have been installed as 38.5 point favorites over the visiting Scarlet Knights.

Want to know who else remembers those victories?

Former Ohio State assistant coach and current Rutgers head coach Chris Ash.

Ash makes his first return to Ohio Stadium since becoming the head coach of the Scarlet Knights back in January 2016. Largely and deservedly credited with helping Ohio State’s defense become more physical and aggressive in 2014, Ash is not the only member of the Rutgers coaching staff who has extensive ties to Ohio State. Offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer, special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Vince Okruch, defensive backs coach Bill Busch, running backs coach Zach Kuhr, strength coach Kenny Parker, defensive quality control assistant Adam Weber, and director of recruiting Adam Caltury all have spent time at Ohio State during the Urban Meyer era.

Another reunion takes place as it relates to this game, as this game marks the first time former Rutgers head coach and current associate head coach/co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Greg Schiano will take on his former team.  There are four players on Rutgers’ roster who were spurned by Schiano years ago, only days before National Signing Day in 2012.

Below are three areas I will be keeping an eye on as the game kicks off from Ohio Stadium on The Big Ten Network at 12pm EST on October 1, 2016…

1. How Will Rutgers Respond Without Janarion Grant and Quanzell Lambert? Both Grant and Lambert were lost for the season in the Scarlet Knights’ close 14-7 loss to Iowa last week. Grant accounted for over 35% of Rutgers’ all-purpose offensive yards as a receiving, rushing, and return threat. Lambert was one of the best defensive linemen for Rutgers. Will the Scarlet Knights be able to adequately compensate for their absences?

2.  How Well Will Ohio State Adjust Its Schemes?  Up above in this article are several people who know Ohio State’s offensive and defensive tendencies quite well.  Urban Meyer stated on his call-in show on September 29th that Ohio State has changed its signals, so this looks to be an interesting chess match between two staffs that know each other quite well.

3.  Last Call For Freshmen Involvement:  Several true freshmen have played in Ohio State’s first three games this season.  As such an overwhelming favorite, it will not be surprising if the Buckeyes have a substantial lead heading into the second half.  If a true freshman has not yet played this season, and does not get into the Rutgers game this weekend, chances are that the coaching staff has determined a redshirt season is in the respective player’s best interests.

Prediction:  Urban Meyer has immense respect for Chris Ash and the other members of the Rutgers coaching staff, and does not want to embarrass them.  The difficulty will be in the aforementioned backup time, as these players want to increase their playing time, and will play hard if given an opportunity.  Throw in Rutgers’ injury issues, and I see the Buckeyes blowing out Rutgers with minimal effort.  I am calling it Ohio State 63, Rutgers 10.

Friday, September 23, 2016

After The First Quarter Of 2016, Where Does Ohio State Stand?

Three games into the 2016 college football season, and even though the bye week seems to have arrived early for the Ohio State Buckeyes, the first quarter has come and gone.  Only nine regular season games remain in the season, with the Buckeyes in the conversation as a possible College Football Playoff participant.

As stated up above, there is still lots of football to be played.  Many a college football season has gone awry after a promising start, so it will be up to Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer and his assistant coaches to keep the players intently focused upon finishing strongly.

Below are some random thoughts as to what I have seen so far from the Buckeyes.  As always, please feel free to hit me up on Twitter @ChipMinnich to let me know your thoughts...

Biggest Surprise So Far, Position Group:  The performance of the Ohio State secondary.  If you had told me that Ohio State would lose three starters from its 2015 team, and be able to perform as well as they have so far in 2016, I would have been highly skeptical.  It is still relatively early in 2016, but the pick-six touchdown returns by true freshman Rodjay Burns in the latter portion of the season opener versus Bowling Green, plus the crucial interceptions by Marshon Lattimore and Malik Hooker versus Tulsa in game two, are tremendously reassuring heading into B1G play.

Biggest Surprise So Far, Player:  PK Tyler Durbin.  What can you say about a walk-on who has been 23-23 on PATs and 3-3 on FGs three games into the season?  I believe Durbin has the PK job for the duration of the 2016 season, no matter if Sean Nuernberger comes back healthy.

Withholding Judgment:  The Ohio State defensive line.  This position group has long been a concern of mine going into the 2016 season, and losing Tracy Sprinkle in game one versus Bowling Green only exacerbated those concerns heading into B1G play.  The emergence of players such as Dre'Mont Jones, Robert Landers, and DaVon Hamilton have been reassuring to this point, and the defensive line played well against Oklahoma's running game, but the true tests will arrive when power running teams such as Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Michigan State are going to line up against the Buckeyes.

Early Freshman Of The Year:  Offensive guard Michael Jordan.  There are many freshmen and redshirt freshmen who have contributed to Ohio State's 3-0 start in 2016, and it is entirely possible that other players could emerge, but I have to give the nod to Michael Jordan at this point.  Jordan became the first starter on the Ohio State offensive line since the legendary Orlando Pace did the same back in 1994.  Yes, I know that Mike Weber is the starting tailback - I am going to go with a true freshman for this evaluation.

Send Out The Search Party:  It's not entirely his fault, as he is battling injury, but WR Corey Smith has been a non-factor so far this season.  Best hopes and wishes for Smith to finish up his final season strongly.

Please Clean Up...The penalties.  Ohio State has begun the 2016 season with an alarming penalty rate.  So far, the penalties have not hurt the Buckeyes, but these are the kind of mistakes that can be impactful as the stakes get higher later into the season.

Please Cut Down On...Running QB J.T. Barrett as much as the coaching staff has so far this season.  Barrett has added 159 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, but the visions of Barrett sustaining the season-ending injury versus That Team Up North in 2014 are difficult to shake.  Fewer carries by Barrett will help keep me calm.

The Most Impressive Play So Far...How can I pick anything except this reception from Noah Brown versus Oklahoma?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Buckeyes Get Major Test 'Sooner' In Week 3 Of 2016 Season

Ohio State travels to Norman, Oklahoma, in a game widely anticipated throughout college football.  The contract for this series was signed back in January 2008, when the majority of these players were still in grade school, and Jim Tressel was patrolling the sidelines for Ohio State.  Oklahoma has been fortunate to have the same head coach in 2008 still on the sidelines in Bob Stoops.  Stoops has been Oklahoma’s head coach since 1999 – for those of us able to remember, and I count myself in this category, Stoops quickly resurrected an Oklahoma program that had become utterly despondent under predecessors Gary Gibbs, Howard Schnellenberger, and John Blake.  Oklahoma won the BCS Championship in 2000, and has played for the national championship in 2003, 2005, and 2008.  In 2015, Oklahoma qualified as a College Football Playoff team, playing Clemson in a first-round Orange Bowl game.

You may recall that I had ranked this game at Oklahoma as the toughest game on Ohio State’s 2016 schedule.  In case you have forgotten, here were the words I used to explain my ranking ~ “One of the best advantages Ohio State has going into this game is the fact that Houston, led by former Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman, is facing Oklahoma two weeks prior to this game.  Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer will be able to watch intently as to what worked, and did not work, against the Sooners.  Consequently, Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops is also going to be able to take advantage of this with his squad, being able to prepare the Sooners for whatever offensive wrinkles Ohio State tries to throw at them.”.

Taking away anything that Tom Herman may have shared with Urban Meyer, below are three distinct areas I will be paying close attention to as this one gets underway at 7:30pm EST on Fox…
  1.  Oklahoma’s running game against Ohio State’s rush defense:  Yes, yes, I know all about Baker Mayfield.  I am not taking anything away from the Sooner daredevil quarterback.  I am most concerned about Oklahoma’s formidable trio of Samaje Perine, Joe Mixon, and Abdul Adams being able to pound the ball against Ohio State’s inexperienced interior defensive line.  I will become more than concerned if Oklahoma is able to consistently run the ball on first down, and wind up facing 2nd and 4 or 2nd and 3.  Ohio State needs to shut down the Oklahoma running attack, or at least keep the Sooners in obvious passing situations.
  2. Curtis Samuel is the key to Ohio State’s offense against Oklahoma:  Ohio State will not have the luxury of waiting until the second half to discover that Curtis Samuel has only touched the ball one time in the first half, as the Buckeyes did in their victory over Tulsa in week two.  Regardless of whether Samuel is involved as a checkdown option for J.T. Barrett on passing downs, or used to spell Mike Weber as a running threat, Ohio State must involve Samuel early and often against Oklahoma in order for the Buckeyes to be successful.
  3. Beware The Wounded Animal:  Oklahoma lost its first game of the season to Houston, and knows that with another loss, any possibility of a repeat trip to The College Football Playoff will be lost.  Ohio State needs to be prepared to take Oklahoma’s best shot, as well as prepare for the unexpected on both sides of the ball in this game.
Ohio State won easily in its season opener against Bowling Green, and was able to move past a sluggish first half to defeat Tulsa convincingly in week two.  While Tulsa never truly put a scare into the Buckeyes, the fact that Ohio State had to adjust and overcome some adversity against an opponent is a building block for such a young and inexperienced team.  I think this one will come down to the wire, but I am thinking the hero of this one is going to be Ohio State PK Tyler Durbin, the walk-on of whom Coach Meyer has jokingly suggested that Meyer does not even know his name.  It could be up to Durbin to win it for the Buckeyes, which makes me think Coach Meyer would certainly know him from that point on.  I have it Ohio State 27, Oklahoma 24.