Countdown To THE GAME 2015

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.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Tulsa Hoping To Rock OSU Like A (Golden) Hurricane

Before discussing the upcoming Tulsa/Ohio State game, let me just have a quick moment to elaborate on this week’s post title.  Growing up in the 1980s…let me tell you kids.  There is a reason why people think of MTV nostalgically, and a band like The Scorpions was only a small sliver of what was available on MTV back then.  Enjoy.

My man Shannon Sommers and I discussed Tulsa in greater detail on our latest Men of the Scarlet and Gray Podcast, with our guest Kelly Hines.  If you haven’t listened to the podcast yet, you are missing out, as Kelly provided tremendous insight into Tulsa for this week’s game.

It is difficult to find anything concerning about Ohio State football, especially after a dominant 77-10 victory over Bowling Green.  Below are three areas I will be keeping an eye on, as toe meets leather at 3:30pm EST on ABC…
  1.  Ohio State’s interior defensive line vs the Tulsa running game ~ Sincere condolences go out to Tracy Sprinkle, and best wishes for a speedy recovery.  Ohio State’s interior defensive line depth was already questionable before the season, and now has been even more depleted with the loss of Sprinkle.  Dre’Mont Jones, Robert Landers, DaVon Hamilton, Malik Barrow, Josh Alabi, and Jashon Cornell will all be needed to take over the loss of Sprinkle.
  2. Ohio State’s secondary vs Tulsa’s passing game ~ Malik Hooker continued his knack for big plays that he began in the 2016 Ohio State Spring Game.  Ohio State’s inexperienced secondary played tremendously well against Bowling Green, but were aided with many drops by Falcon receivers.  Both starting Tulsa wide receivers (Keevan Lucas, Josh Atkinson) have big play ability (both averaged over 18 yards a reception against San Jose State), and both are considered legitimate NFL prospects.  The secondary needs to come up big here again.
  3. Curtis Samuel vs Tulsa’s defense ~ Samuel demonstrated why Coach Meyer called him the Ohio State offense’s most explosive player with three touchdowns scored and a terrific game running and receiving.  Is Tulsa going to bring in a nickel defensive back to cover Samuel?  Samuel is such a match-up problem for any opposing defense; I merely want to see what Tulsa defensive coordinator/former Ohio State defensive coordinator Bill Young is going to do.
I agree with Gareon Conley, who stated “We’re not going to talk down on our opponents, but next week I feel like we’re going to get more experienced people because I know a lot of guys left from Bowling Green…Watching some of the film from Tulsa, I know they have an experienced quarterback so we’ve got to get ready for that. It’s also a faster tempo than Bowling Green.”.   Ohio State will get a better game from Tulsa than they did from Bowling Green, but Ohio State’s depth and speed will be too much for Tulsa in the second half.  I have it Ohio State 56, Tulsa 17.

Friday, September 2, 2016

BG Falcons Fly Back To Ohio Stadium For First Time Since 2006

The 2016 season is finally here.  All of the prognostication within the various football preview magazines will be laid to the side.  College football returns in all its glory and splendor in Ohio Stadium at 12pm EST, televised by The Big Ten Network, with Bowling Green taking on the Ohio State Buckeyes.

September 3rd is shaping up to be one of the best in terms of overall quality games ~ Oklahoma takes on Houston.  UCLA travels to Texas A&M.  LSU will venture to the not-so frozen tundra of Lambeau Field to play Wisconsin.  Alabama and USC highlight the prime time contest on Saturday night.

Personally, I believe Ohio State is taking on a perfect opponent in Bowling Green.  Yes, playing a high-profile opponent is appealing, but Bowling Green is a decent team that will challenge this very talented but very inexperienced Ohio State squad.  In my estimation, this is the kind of opponent that is just what the doctor ordered.

Bowling Green is no stranger to Ohio Stadium, having played in 1992, 1997, 2003, and 2006.  While the 1997 and 2006 games were comfortable wins for the Buckeyes, the 1992, and especially the 2003 games, were not.  Urban Meyer left Bowling Green for Utah prior to the 2003 season, but left behind a talented team that outplayed the Buckeyes in every respect except the final score.  Urban Meyer will be preaching that message to every member of his coaching staff and team leading up to this contest.  Bowling Green defeated Indiana in 2014, and won on the road at Maryland and at Purdue in 2015.  Ohio State cannot, and should not, take Bowling Green lightly.

There are three distinct areas I will be focusing upon when toe meets leather in Ohio Stadium at 12pm…

  1.  Ohio State LT Jamarco Jones ~ Jones won the starting left tackle position coming out of spring practice.  A highly-touted recruit, Jones has played sparingly in 2014 and 2015, and was groomed to replace Taylor Decker at this spot.  How will Jones do at protecting quarterback J.T. Barrett's blind side?
  2. Ohio State WR Noah Brown ~ Brown returns to action for the first time since the 2014 season.  While Brown was the talk of fall camp in 2015, Ohio State fans should be excited to see if Brown can live up to the expectations that have built up over the past year.
  3. The rebuilt Ohio State secondary ~ Gareon Conley returns at one cornerback, but all of the other players listed on the depth chart for Bowling Green will be making their first start.  With a Bowling Green offense that will be throwing the football early and often, led by experienced quarterback James Knapke, how well the Ohio State secondary covers and tackles will be of paramount interest.
Ohio State has listed eighteen freshmen on its initial depth chart.  This is a young team, but as former Ohio State head coach John Cooper liked to say, "If a dog is going to bite you, it will bite you as a pup...".  While there may be some mistakes made, look for this team to fly around on the field and to wreak havoc.  Bowling Green will keep it interesting for a while, but Ohio State's superior speed and depth will be too much for the Falcons in the second half.  I have it Ohio State 42, Bowling Green 17.