All posts by msilverman

What Should We Really Expect From Ohio State in 2017?

It’s no secret that Ohio State is reloading once again, both on the field and within the coaching staff. The Buckeyes are two weeks into spring practice with the annual spring game slated for April 15.

The talent exodus isn’t anywhere near the level it was a year ago, but Ohio State still must replace three starters in the secondary for the second consecutive season. So what should we really expect from the Buckeyes this upcoming season? Is a third playoff appearance in four seasons in the cards for 2017?

At this time last year, Ohio State was preparing to replace 16 starters and the Buckeyes ultimately qualified for the College Football Playoff with one of the youngest and most inexperienced teams in the country. Granted, the team looked like it in an uncompetitive 31-0 shutout loss to eventual national champion Clemson, but the season overall was an unexpected success. If Ohio State can pull off an 11-1 record, which included a win over Michigan and a playoff appearance with just six returning starters, 2017 should be a breeze right?

Without question, the Buckeyes will contend for a Big Ten title and be amongst the teams vying for one of the four coveted playoff spots. However, it will be anything but a breeze. Before we start talking playoff or national championship, let’s not forget that Ohio State has failed to even make the Big Ten title game each of the previous two seasons. But Ohio state fans have reason to be extremely optimistic considering head coach Urban Meyer has delivered a national championship every season following a bowl loss, both at Florida and Ohio State.

My honest opinion is that Ohio State makes it a third consecutive season without a conference championship game appearance just because it feels like it’s Michigan and head coach Jim Harbaugh’s time to finally beat their rival, especially with The Game being played in Ann Arbor this season. But that’s a whole different conversation.

Following the Clemson debacle, Meyer promised the media that we would see a vastly improved offense, specifically the passing game, and that a performance like the one Ohio State displayed that night “won’t happen again.” So you can pretty much take that to the bank. New offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson is certainly one of the best. I think it’s fair to expect the Ohio State offense to perform at a level closer to what we saw early in the 2016 season against Oklahoma.

Is Ohio State going to put up over 40 per game and throw the football with ease once the Big Ten schedule gets underway? Of course not, but the consistency will be much more evident. I just can’t see ineffective and sloppy football continue with Meyer at the helm.

And that brings us to fifth-year senior quarterback J.T. Barrett. Will Barrett revert back to the inconsistent and inaccurate passer many Buckeye fans have labeled him or will he return to the Heisman Trophy contender that he was in 2014 prior to a season-ending broken ankle? I believe it will be the latter for Barrett’s final season in Columbus.

The guy is too accomplished and is going to go down as one of the best quarterbacks, at least statistically, in the history of the program. Following a broken ankle, quarterback controversy and inconsistent play, it would be a storybook ending for Barrett to lead to lead and ultimately finish a national championship season for Ohio State. I’m not going to go that far, but I do believe Barrett will find himself in New York as Heisman Trophy candidate. With everything Barrett has been through,  he will most assuredly finish on a high note.

Defensively, losing safety Malik Hooker and cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley will be tough. However, we said the same thing a year ago when Hooker and Lattimore possessed minimal to no experience. Once again, three new starters in the secondary may need a little time to gel, but talent certainly won’t be an issue.

With former co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell now at the University of Cincinnati, Bill Davis steps in to coach the linebackers after 24 years of NFL coaching experience. That makes me feel good. Davis, Meyer’s longtime friend since they went to Cincinnati together, has quite the task since he will not have the services of former stud linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who should be a first-round lock in next month’s NFL Draft.

The 2017 is still five months away but the upcoming spring game will give us a little taste of where the Buckeyes are at. It’s safe to assume that there won’t be much of a drop-off in terms of talent and we can expect another typical season from Ohio State, a season where the Buckeyes once again contends for both a conference and national title. Not because the Buckeyes were able to in 2016 with 16 starters lost, but because it’s Ohio State and it’s Urban Meyer we’re talking about.

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25

Photo: Flickr by Paula R. Lively

Meyer’s Track Record Says Ohio State Due for National Title in 2017

History says Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer will capture what would be his fourth national championship in 2017, his second at Ohio State.

It’s a lot to ask of a program that is once again in the process of change from both a personnel and coaching standpoint. The Buckeyes will have to replace the loss of seven starters from the 2016 group that was exceptionally young. With former co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell now the head coach at Cincinnati and ex-Indiana coach Kevin Wilson replacing co-offensive coordinators Tim Beck and Ed Warinner, it remains to be seen how Meyer’s new-look coaching staff will gel in their new roles.

Ohio State’s 31-0 shutout loss against Clemson in the 2016 College Football Playoff sparked many questions. It was Meyer’s third career loss in a bowl game. After falling to Michigan in the Capital One Bowl following the 2007 season while at Florida, and losing to Clemson in the Orange Bowl to conclude the 2013 campaign, Meyer responded with a national title the following year in both instances.

When it happens once, you don’t think anything of it. When it happens a second time, it definitely raises an eyebrow. Is it viable to automatically include Ohio State in the national championship conversation strictly because Meyer has accomplished this feat twice before or was it just merely a coincidence?

Let’s remember this is Urban Meyer we are talking about. Aside from Alabama coach Nick Saban, Meyer is undoubtedly one of the best at his craft and at the top of the coaching carousel, both past and present. The guy just doesn’t take losing well. Meyer led the 2016 Buckeyes to the playoff, an accomplishment many determined was unlikely after returning just six combined starters. Now imagine what he is capable of in 2017 with 15 starters back.

In 2013, Ohio State was staring an undefeated season and a national championship appearance right in the face. Unfortunately, two consecutive losses to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game and Clemson in the Orange Bowl caused a damper on the 2013 season. Unlike 2016, where the defense was superb and the offense, specifically the passing game, was lackluster at best, the 2013 Buckeyes played defense like a Big 12 program.

So what did Urban Meyer do? He went out and hired former co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash, now the head coach at Rutgers, to help fix the pass defense and that he did. Likewise, if history repeats itself, the hiring of Wilson should improve an offense that couldn’t even muster a legitimate passing attack against an Indiana team with an offensive-minded head coach in Wilson.

Ohio State is a national title contender in 2017 whether the Buckeyes lost to Clemson or not in the 2016 playoff. Ohio State finds itself in this position every year because it is a top-tier program with a coach that only operates at a championship level.

Meyer doesn’t lose often, but when he does it brings out the best in him going forward, especially if he loses the last game of the season. With Meyer landing national titles following both of his previous bowl losses, only time will tell if he can make it a trifecta. In most cases, the numbers don’t lie.

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25.

Photo by David Grant

Way Too Early Ohio State Predictions for 2017

National Signing Day has come and gone and we’re still two months away from the annual spring game, nevertheless, it’s time to make my early predictions for the 2017 Ohio State Buckeyes. Of course, these projections are subject to change.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, who will be entering his sixth season in Columbus, landed what is widely recognized as the nation’s second-ranked recruiting class for 2017. Since Meyer took over in 2012, top-five recruiting classes have become quite routine. The 2017 class is the most heralded in Meyer’s tenure with the Buckeyes and includes five-star prospects Jeffrey Okudah (CB/Grand Prairie, TX), Baron Browning (OLB/Kennedale, TX) and Shaun Wade (CB/Jacksonville, FL).

Meyer has once again put Ohio State in position to compete for a playoff appearance and a national championship in 2017. With the season-opening kickoff still over six months away, here’s my early game-by-game predictions.

8/31 at Indiana

Ohio State’s trip to Bloomington will mark the first time in 41 years that the Buckeyes open the season against a Big Ten opponent (1976 vs. Michigan State). It will also be the third time that Ohio State begins the season on a Thursday night. The Buckeyes previously played Thursday night openers (2-0) in 1997 and 2010 at home against Wyoming and Marshall, respectively.

Ohio State will have no problem cruising to a comfortable victory in front of what should be a pro-Ohio State crowd. Meyer and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson will show off an improved passing offense led by senior quarterback J.T. Barrett. Wilson will be coaching in his first game since he resigned from Indiana last season. Wilson will surely have extra motivation in his return to Bloomington and I suspect there may be a few added wrinkles to the offense in store for his former employer. Ohio State jumps out to an easy 1-0 start.

Ohio State 45, Indiana 17

9/9 Oklahoma

After being embarrassed in their own building a year earlier, quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Sooners will be out for revenge. Unfortunately for Oklahoma, the Sooners will be forced to deal with another September loss. Oklahoma’s pass defense was abysmal in 2016 and it won’t be much better in 2017, at least in the second game of the season. Barrett immediately enters the Heisman conversation and Ohio State wins in a back and forth shootout to improve to 2-0.

Ohio State 41, Oklahoma 34

9/16 Army

We’ve seen Ohio State struggle with Navy twice over the last decade (2009 and 2014) and I think Army will also put up a strong fight. This will be one of those games where the Buckeyes are just happy to get out of Ohio Stadium with a win, especially coming off such an emotional victory over Oklahoma the week before. Ohio State gets the win, but Army makes it interesting.

Ohio State 27, Army 19

9/23 UNLV

If there was ever a game to miss because of the unfortunate circumstance of attending the dreaded wedding during the Ohio State football season, this is it. UNLV will be outmatched in every phase of the game. Buckeyes win big.

Ohio State 63, UNLV 13

9/30 at Rutgers

Rutgers will surprisingly keep the game close in the first half, but then Ohio State’s talent will take over. The scoreboard may not indicate that it was actually a game into the second half.

Ohio State 38, Rutgers 21

10/7 Maryland

The Terps will be looking to avenge the 62-3 pummeling that Ohio State put on them last season in College Park. Maryland will make this a little close, but not by much.

Ohio State 58, Maryland 0

10/14 at Nebraska

Nebraska will also be seeking payback after Ohio State crushed the Cornhuskers by an identical 62-3 score. Barrett and the offense will struggle for much of the game and look more like the unit that regressed in 2016. The Silver Bullets keep Ohio State in the game and the Buckeyes pull out a close one late.

Ohio State 23, Nebraska 17

10/28 Penn State

Following the bye week, Ohio State can’t wait for this one. Other than the Michigan game of course, you can bet that the Buckeyes have Penn State circled on the schedule. The Nittany Lions will keep it competitive on the scoreboard for awhile, but Ohio State dominates the game from start to finish. Penn State played way over their heads in the second half of last season and I just don’t see the Happy Valley “magic” making its way to Columbus.

Ohio State 34, Penn State 16

11/4 at Iowa

In what would normally be a game I would worry about, I think it’s a game Ohio State comes out of unscathed. Kinnick Stadium is a tough place to play. Just ask Michigan. Ohio State dominates physically and the Buckeyes win a fairly tight contest that doesn’t really feel that close.

Ohio State 27, Iowa 23

11/11 Michigan State

Ohio State will look to defeat the Spartans in the Horseshoe for the first time since 2007, which was also the last time the home team was victorious in this series. As is usually the case, Michigan State will play Ohio State down to the wire, but Barrett will prove to be the difference in crunch time. Thankfully, 2017 will not be a year that Michigan State disrupts an undefeated season for Ohio State.

Ohio State 34, Michigan State 30

11/18 Illinois

There will be no looking ahead to The Game in this one. Ohio State will take care of business in their final tune-up prior to Michigan.

Ohio State 52, Illinois 17

11/25 at Michigan

The Buckeyes take a perfect 11-0 record up to the Big House with a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game and the college football playoff on the line. Michigan will enter The Game with one loss, setting up a winner-take-all matchup for the Big Ten East. The Buckeyes and Wolverines play out another classic, but it will be Michigan and coach Jim Harbaugh who exact revenge on the Buckeyes in heartbreak fashion.

It will be a bitter pill to swallow for Buckeye Nation, but it’s almost karma after the way The Game unfolded in Columbus last season. Harbaugh will finally win the last game of the regular season after starting his Michigan tenure 0-2 against Ohio State and enjoy a big glass of milk afterwards.

Michigan 28, Ohio State 27

That’s how I see the 2017 regular season unfolding for Ohio State. The devastating loss to Michigan means there will be no Big Ten title game and no CFP for the Buckeyes. Instead, Ohio State will participate in a quality New Year’s Six Bowl with just the one loss.

These are way too early projections and a lot concerning Ohio State football will probably change between now and then. In any case, Ohio State has reloaded the cupboard and is primed for another legitimate run at the playoff.

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25.

Photo by Paula R. Lively

Barrett a Good Bet for 2017 Heisman

The question has been asked as to whether Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett is good enough to lead Ohio State to a national championship. I personally think the question is absurd considering there is no 2014 national title without the services of Barrett. However, a national championship for Ohio State is anything but a certainty, yet Ohio State fans can bank on Barrett being a part of the Heisman trophy conversation.

Barrett is currently listed as the second favorite at 6-1 odds and only trails Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield at 11-2 odds, according to Bovada Sportsbook. We all know Vegas isn’t stupid. Should Barrett find himself in New York as a Heisman finalist, I’d say Ohio State’s playoff chances and championship aspirations will be looking fairly solid.

It’s fair game to doubt Barrett, especially with how anemic the offense was in the latter portion of the 2016 season. Don’t get me wrong, Barrett was a no-show along with the rest of the offense in the embarrassment that was Ohio State’s CFP semifinal against eventual national champion Clemson. But that was Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer’s mess and he wasted little time in attempting to get it resolved with the hiring of former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson as offensive coordinator.

Normally, it would be difficult to expect improvement from a quarterback who holds just about every passing record at Ohio State, but being on the wrong end of a 31-0 shutout in the biggest game of the season will do that.

If there is any silver lining to the Clemson debacle, it’s that Ohio State has responded well to a Clemson beating before. It was only three years ago when the Tigers and former receiver Sammy Watkins torched Ohio State’s defense and made the secondary look anything but DBU. Meyer vowed that he would get the defense back on track just like he promised to fix the offense this time around. Ohio State rebounded from consecutive losses in the Big Ten title game and Orange Bowl in 2013 to winning the national championship in 2014.

Not a bad turnaround.

Getting back to Barrett, while I fully expect the soon-to-be fifth-year senior to have a championship-caliber final season in Columbus, both from an individual and team perspective, Barrett is not going to look like a future NFL quarterback out there because that’s not what he is. Sure, there is a place for Barrett in the NFL, but most likely not at quarterback. How many of Meyer’s former quarterbacks were stud passers? Other than current Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, can you even name another one? And Smith is widely regarded as one of the NFL’s greatest “game managers” Chris Leak or Tim Tebow? Please.

It’s Meyer’s system, not the quarterback that drives the bus, but Meyer needs the right quarterback and the right coordinator for the necessary results and Ohio State now possesses both with Wilson now aboard.

Former Heisman winner Sam Bradford landed college football’s most coveted award at Oklahoma in 2008, where it was Wilson in control of that powerhouse Sooner offense. The Ohio State offense was never the same after former offensive coordinator and current Texas head coach Tom Herman left for Houston, but the addition of Wilson is the next best thing to getting Herman back.

Meyer doesn’t recruit quarterbacks that can’t get the job done, especially after almost three seasons. He recruits guys that can win football games in his system and the stats come as a byproduct of that. Is Meyer loyal to his players? Of course he is, but I can guarantee you that he isn’t starting Barrett for almost four years if he doesn’t think he can win a national championship.

The two Heisman frontrunners, Mayfield and Barrett according to Bovada, square off in a rematch in the Horseshoe in September. Even with a solid two months left in the season at the game’s conclusion, it is a matchup that will not only have playoff implications, but it could ultimately decide the Heisman.

With Barrett returning for one final season, the current state of the quarterback position at Ohio State is status quo. Whether it’s a conference title, national championship or Heisman Trophy, they’re all within reach with Barrett under center.

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25.

Photo by Flickr

Ohio State in Great Shape With Wilson On-Board

Now that Ohio State’s debacle in the desert in the 2016 College Football Playoff against eventual-national champion Clemson is finally in the rear-view mirror, the 2017 season can’t come soon enough.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer hinted at possible changes after the Buckeyes were shutout for the first time in 23 years. With co-offensive coordinators Ed Warinner and Tim Beck out, you can expect a new identity from the Ohio State offense in 2017. The hiring of former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson and San Francisco 49ers assistant Ryan Day should undoubtedly upstart the offense and establish an identity right away, which is something the 2016 unit sorely lacked by season’s end.

What will be Ohio State’s identity in 2017?

Scoring points.

Ohio State fans should be excited about Wilson’s arrival. This guy made Indiana’s offense more than formidable. Indiana. Imagine what he can do with a bunch of Meyer-recruits destined for the NFL.

With Noah Brown and Curtis Samuel declaring for the 2017 NFL Draft, Wilson will be without the services of Ohio State’s No. 1 receiver and most explosive offensive weapon from 2016, respectively. As is the case every year for Ohio State, it’s next man up once again. The return of quarterback J.T. Barrett and running back Mike Weber, who compiled 1096 yards as a true freshman, will bring much-needed stability for Wilson and the offense next season.

I don’t think it’s even a question that the offense is in good hands with Wilson. Not only did Wilson succeed at Indiana, he turned Oklahoma into the offensive juggernaut it is today while with the Sooners from 2002-2010. Going 6-6 at Indiana is like being undefeated at Ohio State. The Hoosiers weren’t bowl-eligible very often prior to Wilson’s arrival in Bloomington and it started to become the norm before he was relieved of his duties due to reports of mistreating players.

When Oklahoma returned to national prominence after winning the national championship in 2001, it was the defense that carried the team. Wilson arrived in Norman the following year as co-offensive coordinator and was promoted to OC in 2006. Oklahoma boasts one of the top offenses in the country and it was Wilson who got the ball rolling during his tenure.

So, with all of that said, is Wilson going to be able to resolve Barrett’s passing deficiencies? There is no arguing that Barrett’s passing game requires serious improvement and regressed as the 2016 season went on. That’s probably the understatement of the century. However, Wilson working with a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year should be fun to watch. Barrett’s only the Ohio State record-holder for touchdowns responsible for, so the criticism has been a bit farfetched.

By the way, the Ohio State 2017 recruiting class is widely recognized as the second-ranked incoming class in the nation behind Alabama, so that never hurts.

Meyer said that the Buckeyes’ playoff performance in the Fiesta Bowl would never happen again and that he was going to get the offense fixed, specifically the passing game. Meyer has three titles for a reason. He assembles one of the best coaching staffs in the country routinely and the addition of Wilson is no different. Don’t be surprised if Barrett makes a return to the Heisman conversation next season.

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25.

Photo by Fenstermacher Photography

No Excuse For Meyer, Ohio State

Ohio State had over a month to prepare for the highly-anticipated CFP semifinal with Clemson in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl and head coach Urban Meyer managed to deliver a shutout.

Only it was the Buckeyes who were obliterated and embarrassed in 31-0 fashion by Clemson. The extra time to prepare clearly didn’t pay off and resulted in Ohio State’s first shutout since the Buckeyes were defeated 28-0 by that team up north in 1993.

Is anyone really shocked that Ohio State was unable to get the job done against a stacked Clemson team that was built for this season and appears will give Alabama all they can handle in a national title game rematch? No, at least they shouldn’t. Ohio State clearly peaked in September following the blowout of Oklahoma and offensively, has been in a steady decline ever since. Clemson was also primed to get back to the playoff for a second consecutive season and earn another shot at Alabama for all the marbles.

That they did. Hands down, Clemson was the better team however you slice it.

However, I don’t want to hear that Ohio State was “a year away” after all. I mean, clearly, after witnessing that performance Saturday night, it sure seemed more like two or three years away. But when Ohio State earned its way into the playoff, the Buckeyes were no longer a year away.

With that said, I don’t care if Ohio State came into this game as a three-point favorite or a four-touchdown underdog in the eyes of ESPN college football analyst and known Buckeye-hater Mark May, a top-tier program like Ohio State shouldn’t get shutout, ever. When the Buckeyes were blanked by Michigan in 1993, Ohio State was not a program that could be considered among the nation’s elite.

How was it that Ohio State’s offense couldn’t even muster garbage points against a Clemson defense that surrendered 10 points to Boston College? Pittsburgh hung 43 points on the Tigers defense in Death Valley and while Clemson’s defense is extremely talented, especially on the defensive line, it’s no Alabama front.

There is no way to describe Ohio State’s performance in the playoff as anything but pathetic and downright unacceptable. Awhile back, I placed Ohio State on a pedestal as Alabama’s potential replacement as the next college football dynasty. That may have been a reach, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Who knows? Maybe Meyer and the Buckeyes respond with a couple national titles and the Clemson debacle will be an afterthought down the road, but it’s wishful thinking.

A shutout in the biggest game of the year doesn’t change the fact that Meyer is still probably the second-best coach in the country, but if there are still any comparisons to Alabama’s Nick Saban, they need to come to a halt. Aside from possessing twice the amount of championship hardware, Saban is not going to get shutout in a playoff game. Instead, he fires offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin from a job he already quit in a 17-point victory en route to the national championship game.

Meyer would be the first one to admit that Ohio State’s performance was unacceptable and he will get this thing fixed, but he doesn’t get a pass on this. Meyer doesn’t lose often, but when he does, he takes losing to another level. Between Virginia Tech (2014), Michigan State (2015) and Clemson on Saturday, it couldn’t have been uglier.

We can blame quarterback J.T. Barrett for his inaccuracy, a struggling offensive line to put it mildly, a lack of separation by the receivers, running back Mike Weber’s butterfingers or even kicker Tyler Durbin, they all contributed to the loss. The shutout is all on Meyer and the offensive staff. Heck, even Jim Tressel and the Buckeyes managed 14 points in another Glendale fiasco, the 2006 national title game against Meyer and the Florida Gators.

For anyone insinuating that this is a “fire Urban” rant, it’s not and the thought of that is more ridiculous than the shutout itself. It’s simply an unacceptable showing that should not and will not be repeated. Meyer will make the necessary changes and adjustments and everything will be gravy next fall for another championship run.

Unexpectedly for some, 2016 was a year that saw Ohio State make the playoff, its second appearance in three seasons. Meyer and the Buckeyes proceeded to hit rock-bottom and for the majority of programs, it would still be a successful season. But this is Ohio State. The offense is Meyer’s baby and it’s time for him to clean up the mess.

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25

Photo by Wikiwand

The College Football Playoff is a Familiar Place for Ohio State

It’s no secret that Ohio State is faced with a daunting task in its quest to become the first two-time national champions of the playoff era. Defeat last year’s national runner-up in Clemson and barring a major upset by Washington, once again dethrone the dynasty that is Alabama football, that’s all.

However, Ohio State fans have plenty of reasons to be optimistic. The 2016 Buckeyes enter the playoff with a similar feel to the 2014 squad that ultimately secured the inaugural CFP national title. No, Ohio State will not be starting a third-string quarterback and the Buckeyes are not riding the momentum of a 59-0 scarring in the conference championship game. In fact, there wasn’t even a Big Ten title game appearance, thanks to Penn State. Regardless, Ohio State enters the four-team field once again, ahead of schedule.

Just like in 2014, this team wasn’t supposed to make it here. Ohio State never lost starting quarterback  J.T. Barrett or even backup Joe Burrow to season-ending injuries at any point, but the Buckeyes were forced to replace 16 starters due to last season’s talent exodus. Obviously, the cupboard wasn’t bare. A 10-2 season was widely considered a best-case expectation for this group. Young or not, the Buckeyes are one of the four best teams in the country for a reason.

The notion that Clemson’s hunger for a rematch with Alabama in the national championship game outweighs Ohio State’s youth and lack of experience in the playoff setting is a bit farfetched. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has absolutely thrived with young teams his entire career and this time around shouldn’t be any different.

The majority of Ohio State’s roster may not possess experience in the playoff, but the Buckeyes certainly come in with a chip on their shoulder and plenty of motivation, just like in 2014. Two years ago, it was Ohio State that had to prove it belonged in the playoff when TCU was checked out of the top-four, even with a blowout victory over an inferior opponent in Iowa State. There was plenty of controversy surrounding Ohio State’s inclusion to the playoff and the Buckeyes certainly backed it up with a national title.

There was no shortage of controversy when Ohio State finished at No. 3 in the playoff ranking a couple weeks ago. The Buckeyes managed to get the nod over Penn State because of having just one loss and a more impressive resume, even though the Nittany Lions defeated Ohio State earlier this season and were the Big Ten champions. Ohio State proved to be the best of the group in 2014, so why can’t they do it again?

The 2016 Buckeyes were dealt a mysterious loss, which was also the case in 2014 and that alone should make Buckeye Nation feel very comforting heading into the playoff. Whether Meyer was at Florida or in his current position at Ohio State, the three-time national championship coach has never secured college football gold in an undefeated season. Two years ago, it was Virginia Tech that entered the Horseshoe under the lights in early September and unleashed their will on Ohio State.

This year, it was the collapse in Happy Valley that resulted in Ohio State’s lone blemish. Although the loss to Penn State doesn’t look so bad now, it was pretty mindboggling to see the Buckeyes lose as three-touchdown favorites to a team that was defeated 49-7 by that team up north, especially in such fluky fashion.

Want another reason to feel confident? Ohio State will be playing Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, which can be referred to as the Horseshoe of the west. Over the last 14 years, whether the location was Tempe or Glendale, the Buckeyes have won four Fiesta Bowl’s, including the 2002 national championship.

In light of the holiday season, Meyer is certainly a gift that keeps on giving and the 2016 regular season was surely a Meyer-like blueprint for the Buckeyes to make another legitimate run at a second national title in three years. After all, who’s got it better than Ohio State?

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25

Photo by Paula R. Lively

Barrett Gets His Opportunity to Finish the Job

Ohio State is back in the playoff after a one-year hiatus, but this time it will be quarterback J.T. Barrett leading the Buckeyes in their Fiesta Bowl matchup with Clemson and possibly beyond.

We all remember that it was Cardale Jones, filling in for an injured Barrett, who forever became a Buckeye legend in 2014 by delivering both a Big Ten title and national championship to Columbus for the first time in 12 years. It was the “12 Gauge” cannon that stretched opposing defenses, including the vaunted Alabama defense en route to the title. Jones stepped into the national spotlight at the perfect time because Ohio State probably doesn’t win a national championship without their newly formed aerial assault.

But this time, Barrett gets the opportunity to finish what he started. At times, Barrett has been criticized for his inconsistency to throw the football down the field with accuracy and the Ohio State passing game as a whole has been lackluster at best for the latter portion of the 2016 season.

As dominant as the Silver Bullet defense, we know both Clemson and Alabama are going to score their fair share of points against the Buckeyes. No, Washington doesn’t possess a chance to knock off the Crimson Tide and if Ohio State is fortunate enough to get by Clemson, it will be another Urban Meyer vs. Nick Saban matchup, but this time for the national championship.

We can’t expect first-team All-American safety Malik Hooker and the defense to put up a score or two every game, especially against top-notch opponents. Barrett’s passing game will need to evolve in the coming weeks if the Buckeyes are to have a chance at claiming a second national title in three years.

It’s hard to find a fault in Barrett’s game when he is the all-time record holder at Ohio State for touchdowns responsible for. Barrett has used his arm successfully in big games before. Barrett and receiver Noah Brown tore apart the Oklahoma defense early in the season, connecting four different times for touchdowns. The Oklahoma victory is also the sole reason that Ohio State is a member of this year’s playoff. In Ohio State’s memorable 49-37 victory at Michigan State in 2014, which put the Buckeyes back in the national title chase, Barrett was 16/26 for 300 yards with three touchdown passes.

Say what you want about Barrett, but the guy is a flat-out winner. He makes the necessary plays when the game is on the line, whether it’s with his legs or his arm and the Buckeyes win almost every time. In Barrett’s three career losses, the signal-caller could hardly be considered at-fault.

In just his second career game, Barrett and Ohio State got their doors blown off by Virginia Tech early in the 2014 season. Barrett was a sitting duck in the backfield due to some of the most porous offensive line play you will ever see. Barrett could hardly be blamed for the debacle that occurred in the Horseshoe that night.

When it comes to the Michigan State game last year that cost Ohio State a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game and ultimately the playoff, the ultra-conservative approach by the coaching staff cannot be attributed to Barrett. As for Penn State earlier this season, all I will say about that is Barrett doesn’t play on special teams.

There is not a doubt in my mind that if Barrett needs to throw for over 300 yards to win a playoff game, he will do it. You play to your strength and Ohio State thrives at dictating their brand of football. Win or lose going forward, Barrett will do his part.

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25

Photo: Flickr/dviscione

It wasn’t Ohio State’s “Brand” that Earned Playoff Berth

Ohio State was admitted into the 2016 College Football Playoff, the Buckeyes’ second appearance in three years and it wasn’t because of their iconic brand name.

The Buckeyes were simply one of the four best and most deserving teams in the country and boasted the most impressive resume outside of Alabama. Ohio State defeated three top-10 opponents in Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan and recorded the most impressive out of conference victory with their pummeling of Oklahoma in Norman, the defacto Big 12 champion.

With all of that being said, I understand the argument for Penn State to be included in the playoff instead of Ohio State. It’s just incorrect.  For the record, I think Penn State should be in the playoff after winning the toughest conference in the country and coming out of the toughest division in the nation, just not at Ohio State’s expense.

The fact is that Penn State lost two games this season and Ohio State lost one. That’s a big deal. Ohio State has no argument whatsoever if both teams have the same amount of losses. Head-to-head results on the field and conference championships are used to differentiate similar teams when their resumes are comparable.

While Penn State’s non-conference schedule is respectable that includes a close victory over AAC champion Temple and a close defeat to four-loss Pittsburgh, it’s not even comparable to the Buckeyes’ blowout of Oklahoma. Keep in mind this was also the first true road game for 16 of Ohio State’s 22 starters.

Now, some will argue that Penn State’s victory over the Buckeyes was fluky and that Ohio State controlled the majority  of the game. This is all true, but Penn State won the football game. However, that doesn’t make Penn State better or even more deserving of a playoff spot with two losses. Thanks to Penn State’s rise from mediocrity, the Buckeyes possess the best overall loss concerning any of the one-loss teams.

Penn State lost to a mediocre Pitt team and was destroyed by Michigan 49-10. Should that be excusable because it was before Penn State got hot and won nine consecutive games? When Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech in 2014, it was a bad loss, but it was their only loss. I realize Pitt traveled to Death Valley and beat Clemson, but they also lost four games and surrendered 61 points to Syracuse at home.

If you want to say that if the resumes were reversed and Ohio State had two losses with a victory over Penn State and a Big Ten title, it would be the Buckeyes still claiming a spot in the playoff based on their brand, you’re wrong. First of all, if Ohio State lost to Michigan 49-10, that’s an absurd concept and the Buckeyes would surely never get in based on that result alone.

The Penn State argument is that their losses were early in the season so let’s say Ohio State lost to Pitt and Wisconsin and Penn State’s only loss was to the Buckeyes. The Nittany Lions still have the better resume even if Ohio State wins the Big Ten title with two losses and an even better loss because of how highly ranked Ohio State was to begin the season.

The only reason Ohio State leapfrogged TCU in 2014 to make the playoff is because both teams had one loss and the 59-0 victory over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game was used as the deciding factor. Sure, it will always be debatable as to why TCU dropped with a similar margin of victory against Iowa State on the same day, but nevertheless, head-to-head victories and conference championships put a team over the top when overall record and resumes are near identical.

That’s just not the case with Ohio State and Penn State. The selection committee factors in the entire regular season and not just the last nine weeks. Whether it’s Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State or Washington, not one of those teams would have been a home underdog to Maryland at any point during the season and that’s exactly what Penn State was in early October. It’s a moot point now, however it just goes to show you that you cannot earn a playoff appearance in September and October, but you can certainly lose the opportunity.

Last season, Michigan State defeated Iowa in the Big Ten title game with the Spartans going on to get trounced by Alabama in the playoff. Were Michigan State and Iowa truly the best two teams in the Big Ten? With the way everything unfolded, Penn State earned the right to ultimately win the Big Ten championship, but the two best teams in the Big Ten in 2016 were Ohio State and Michigan.

Ohio State is Ohio State because of their excellence on the field and overall body of work on a yearly basis. 2016 was no different as the Buckeyes truly earned their way into the playoff. The committee got it right.

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25

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Meyer-Harbaugh II, Ohio State Will Not Disappoint

It’s finally Michigan week.

Throw the records out and forget about whether Michigan and head coach Jim Harbaugh have closed the talent gap on Ohio State. It’s going to be a battle for the ages on Saturday and will serve as the centerpiece for the 2016 edition of the college football playoff.

The new AP poll has been released and includes three Big Ten teams in the top-five for the first time since 1960. Wisconsin is listed at No. 5 with Ohio State and Michigan slotted at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.

The 113th chapter of The Game clearly has everything on the line and is probably the most pivotal matchup between the storied rivals since their 2006 clash. Ohio State and Michigan were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 and it was a virtual play-in game into the BCS national title game. However, we are now in an era where a postseason playoff exists, so this Ohio State/Michigan game is as good as it gets and the stakes surely don’t get any bigger than this.

The Buckeyes are coming off a nail biting 17-16 victory over Michigan State. I’ve always said that Ohio State is a team that is built for overtime, but head coach Urban Meyer may want to thank Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio later for his failed two-point conversion attempt late in the fourth quarter. At the end of the day, Michigan State has always been a thorn in the side for Ohio State and coach Meyer, so we shouldn’t be surprised that the Spartans presented the Buckeyes quite a challenge, even in a down year.

Michigan State has interrupted and quite possibly prevented three separate national championship seasons for Ohio State (1998, 2013, 2015). In any case, the Buckeyes got through it and in November, you’ll take a win any way you can get it. Ohio State can now return home and think about nothing except that team up north.

Should we be worried about what would be a devastating loss to the Wolverines? Michigan can’t truly declare itself “back” until they beat Ohio State, especially when the stakes are at a level such as this. Whether we want to admit it or not, Michigan is going to win one of these games sooner rather than later, but it’s not going to be this year in the Horseshoe with a playoff spot on the line. No, not with Meyer in the scarlet and gray’s corner. Michigan is not Michigan State and let’s remember that in the championship department, it still reads Meyer 3-0 over Harbaugh.

As for the game itself, is Michigan backup quarterback John O’Korn going to deliver a victory on the road if starter Wilton Speight is unable to play? Boy, doesn’t that sound familiar to Ohio State fans. Cardale Jones worked out, O’Korn will not. I know it was a snow-covered field in less-than desirable conditions in Michigan’s victory over Indiana, but 7/16 for 59 yards just isn’t going to cut it. Something tells me that Speight will find a way to play Saturday because if not, it will be tough for the Wolverines to do much offensively.

Regardless of who lines up under center for Michigan, the Silver Bullets will be ready. When it comes to the Buckeyes offensively, quarterback J.T. Barrett and the combination of Mike Weber and Curtis Samuel should be tough to defend, even for Michigan’s stout defense. Weber is now over 1000 yards on the season as a redshirt freshman and we know Samuel can deliver a house-call any time he touches the football. Most importantly, I like Ohio State’s chances strictly because of Barrett’s experience.

This isn’t going to be Barrett’s first Ohio State/Michigan game like it will be for either Speight or O’Korn. It really does give the Buckeyes the advantage. Now, there have been plenty of times where experience proved to be irrelevant in the rivalry. Former Buckeye Craig Krenzel sure didn’t have a problem delivering a victory in Ann Arbor back in 2001, the day the rivalry swung in Ohio State’s favor. However, with young cats all over the field in their first experience of The Game, Barrett has been here before and should be able to put Ohio State over the top.

This is a game where legends are made and regardless of anything that has happened up to this point in the season, we can be sure that The Game will live up to its billing as it so often does. As it should be, it’s now a one-game season.

Maybe the third try will be the charm for Harbaugh and Michigan in 2017 because this time around, Barrett and the Buckeyes earn a spot in the playoff and provide more happy times in Columbus. Ohio State wins 27-23 with a goal line stand to preserve the victory. Everyone have a happy Thanksgiving!

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25

Photo by Paul Kruse