Tag Archives: Braxton Miller

Less Star Power Means More for Ohio State Offense

The 2015 version of the Ohio State Buckeyes could very well have been one of the most talented rosters ever assembled in Columbus. Fitting all those talented pieces together on one field is the hard part.

With NFL draft picks Ezekiel Elliott, Mike Thomas, and Braxton Miller on one offense, you could see there could be a problem with just one football to go around.

What worked so well for the Ohio State offense in the team’s first game of the season against Bowling Green is exactly what derailed last year’s squad. The Buckeyes would force feed touches to its stars at all cost, specifically Elliott. As good an idea as it seemed at the time, this may have been what caused the Buckeye offense to become so stagnant and predictable.

Albeit against an overmatched Bowling Green squad, the Ohio State offense amassed video game numbers in its first contest of the season.

Ohio State had one of its best offensive performances of the Urban Meyer era, putting up 77 points and a school record 776 yards of total offense. No matter who the opponent is, those numbers are ridiculous and is an indicator this Ohio State team can replace some of its losses.

On the Ground

One of the biggest questions coming into this season is how the Buckeyes would replace the 1,800 rushing yards Ezekiel Elliott took with him to the NFL.

Redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber got the first crack at replacing Elliott in the Ohio State backfield, and the first-time starter impressed. Weber ran for 136 yards on 19 carries in his first career start in Ohio Stadium.

Junior H-back, (and probably  the Buckeyes most talented offensive player) Curtis Samuel also chipped in with the running game adding 84 yards on the ground as well.

The best thing about how Weber looked on Saturday, the young back definitely wasn’t afraid of the moment, running with authority on each and every carry.

With the looks of Weber in his first career start, to go along with the dynamic big play ability of Samuel, the Buckeye running game should be just fine this season.

Through the Air

For the Ohio State offense, or any offense to succeed however, there must be consistent effective play from the quarterback. The problem last season was that Ohio state never got that consistency.

The combination of J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones never gained the traction everyone thought would undoubtedly come with the talent on last year’s Ohio State roster.

Part of those struggles in the passing game may have come from trying to force feed the ball to its playmakers. The Ohio State quarterbacks looked to be trying to get certain players the ball in certain spots instead of taking what the defense gave them.

In J.T. Barrett’s first season as a starter, spreading the ball around to different receivers is what made him the Big Ten quarterback of the year. Against the Falcons, Barrett went back to spreading the wealth.

Barrett completed touchdown passes to four different receivers in just the first half and threw for 6 touchdown passes overall.

With new starters at every position within the receiving core, Barrett can focus on reading the defense and not trying to make sure one of his stars is getting the ball.

Barrett had a historic day on Saturday, and a lot of that can be attributed to the way he led the offense, distributing the ball to near perfection.

As crazy as it may sound, less star power will lead to a better offense for the 2016 Ohio State Buckeyes.

Email Derek at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @D_Woods21.

Photo: Flickr

Smackdown Fridays: Houston Dooms Oklahoma’s Playoff Run Far Sooner than Expected

In the course of human events, when it becomes necessary for one Group of 5 team to assert its dominance over a Power 5 foe, rest assured that team will probably be the Houston Cougars. It’s the circle of life. It’s bound to happen sooner or later.

After Houston’s comfortable 38-24 victory over #12 Florida State in last season’s Peach Bowl, who’s to say the Cougars can’t hang with the big boys? Critics may cherry-pick their easy schedule or a narrow victory here and there to excuse the program’s 2015 success, but Houston has a prime opportunity to prove those critics wrong. To open the season, the Cougars face Oklahoma.

I have some news for you: Oklahoma is overrated as hell.

Don’t worry, it isn’t just Oklahoma. It’s the entire Big 12. After the conference faithful finally finished whining about being (rightfully) excluded from the College Football Playoff, it seems it’s destined to happen again. The Sooners seem to be the conference’s best bet to clinch a berth, but I have serious concerns.  This Saturday, expect those concerns to become realities. Oklahoma is begging for an upset.

Assuredly, there are Sooner die-hards and Big 12 buffs reading this and foaming at the mouth, fuming over my casual dismissal of one of college football’s premier conferences. Well, the truth is, your conference can’t be premier if the Kansas Jayhawks are in it.

The Big 12 hasn’t claimed a national championship since Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns in 2005. These days, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Vince Young waiting on my table at Sizzler. For their part, Oklahoma hasn’t won a national championship since 2000. That was way back when the BCS was actually hip and cool. My point? Picking against the Big 12- or Oklahoma- doesn’t scare me in the slightest.

So I’m taking the Houston Cougars to upset the Oklahoma Sooners this Saturday. And I’m doing so with gusto.

I’ll come out and say something nobody else will say: Tom Herman is currently a better football coach than Bob Stoops. Stoops has seventeen years of head coaching experience and one national championship to show for it. Meanwhile, Herman has been a head coach for all of one season.

Can anybody forget the Ohio State’s offense crumbling after Herman’s departure last season? Second to Urban Meyer, there was nobody more integral to that national championship. Stoops won his championship outright, Herman won his by proxy. Herman also managed to make Braxton Miller, then J.T. Barrett, then Cardale Jones, and now Greg Ward Jr. into Heisman-caliber signal callers. He’s legit. I expect Herman to flash his legit-ness and win the coaching battle in this interstate showdown.

By now, Oklahoma fans are likely loading their muskets and readying their covered wagons to come burn me at the stake, so I’ll go one step further. Greg Ward Jr. will perform better this Saturday than Baker Mayfield. Last season, only two quarterbacks rushed for 1,000 yards and passed for 2,000 yards. One was Greg Ward Jr. The other was Deshaun Watson. You know, the same Deshaun Watson that torched the Sooners 37-17 in the Orange Bowl.

The Sooners will struggle with containing Ward Jr. just as they struggled with containing Watson. The Sooners allowed a ho-hum 161.7 rushing yards per game last season, including 312 yards in the contest against the Tigers. Ward Jr. will be able to make enough big plays to keep momentum in Houston’s favor and the chips in Herman’s hand.

See, Baker Mayfield could throw for 350 yards on the Cougars. And guess what? It wouldn’t matter. Mayfield posted an impressive outing in the Orange Bowl, but even he couldn’t overcome the Sooners’ meager 67 rushing yards. With Houston’s eighth ranked rushing defense returning in full force, don’t expect the Sooners to do much better this time around. Forcing Baker Mayfield to throw might be a major gamble, so they’ll need a fresh secondary to earn their stripes on the largest of stages. Houston proved their resilience thirteen times last season. They can do it again.

Oh, and in case you haven’t heard- the Big 12 is probably expanding. Add yet another chip to the underdog’s shoulder. If Houston wins this game, no further proof of their worthiness should be necessary.

That, unfortunately, doesn’t mean they’ll get in.

You know what? Let Big 12 heavyweights like the Sooners sit back and play politics with the futures of schools like the University of Houston.  Saturday night, Houston has an opportunity to score a larger victory far from the board room: complicate Oklahoma’s playoff bid far Sooner than expected.

E-mail Cole at cole [dot] hankins [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @Cole_Hankins

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Image courtesy of Wikipedia

What the Loss of Bri’onte Dunn means for Ohio State

With less than two months until the start of a new college football season, the Ohio State Buckeyes will enter yet another season with a loss before they even play a snap.

Two summers ago, it was the Braxton Miller shoulder injury during preseason camp. It was Urban Meyer’s worse nightmare, the injury would end Miller’s season and thrust an inexperienced J.T. Barrett into a prominent role as quarterback at Ohio State.

Last offseason, the Buckeyes also entered the season shorthanded, this time however due to self inflicted wounds.

The Buckeyes entered the season without Joey Bosa, Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith, and Dontre Wilson for what the team called “violating athletic department policy.”

Reasons on why the players were actually suspended began to surface soon thereafter.

As the Buckeyes close in on preseason camp for the 2016-17 season, more bad news came on Monday as it was announced that redshirt senior running back Bri’onte Dunn had been dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules.

Dunn, who was about to play his last season as a Buckeye was a four-star recruit (according to 247sports.com) out of Glen Oak high school in Canton, Ohio.

After sitting behind Carlos Hyde and Ezekiel Elliott for his entire career at Ohio State, Dunn finally had an opportunity to fight for the starting job.

But with this latest development, Dunn’s chances of riding out in the sunset in his last year in Columbus came to an end.

A 911 call from an alleged girlfriend of Dunn stated that the former Ohio State football player had choked and hit her.

With Dunn essentially ending his career early, that leaves just a few options for Urban Meyer’s squad.

Without Dunn in the fold, the Buckeyes are down to just two scholarship running backs in redshirt sophomore Michael Weber, and true freshman Antonio Williams who enrolled early in January.

Weber, is a Detroit native who Urban Meyer fought tooth and nail with Jim Harbaugh and Michigan to earn his commitment.

Weber has the talent to the take the starting job and run with it in his second season in Columbus, but after sitting out last season due to injury it remains to be seen just how good Weber can truly be.

What Weber does have as far as talent, he lacks in experience. This is where the loss of Dunn really hurts the Buckeyes. Although he didn’t have much actual game experience, having a player who’s been through it all with the program could certainly help.

Ohio State went through a similar transition at running back two years ago after losing Carlos Hyde to the NFL.

Little did we know back then just how good his successor, Ezekiel Elliott would end up being.

However, Elliott didn’t start strong out of the gates during his first season as the starter as a true sophomore.

During the first three games of that 2014 season, Elliott posted rushing totals of just 44, 32, and 65 yards rushing against Navy, Virginia Tech, and Kent State respectively.

As well as Zeke would go on to play the rest of that national championship season, it didn’t necessarily start that way.

Here lies the dilemma for this season’s Ohio State squad, will Weber be ready to be that feature back from the start, or will he need time to get his feet wet?

Weber won’t be afforded much time to adjust to the college game as the Buckeyes travel to Oklahoma to face Bob Stoops and a very good Sooners squad the third game of the season.

True Freshman Antonio Williams has a bright future at Ohio State, and will battle Weber for carries. But they can’t expect him to grab the starting job and run with it as a first year player.

Junior h-back Curtis Samuel just may be the most intriguing option for Ohio State at running back this season.

Samuel played his first season primarily at running back, rushing for 383 yards and six touchdowns. He spent much of last season splitting time at the h-back position with the aforementioned Braxton Miller.

Samuals made plays when they were there for him, but there weren’t many opportunities to go around with the number of playmakers on last year’s offense.

Samuel has blazing speed, one of the fastest players on the Ohio State roster. Urban Meyer has stressed getting the ball in the hands of his playmaking junior and the loss of Dunn gives him even more opportunity to do so.

Although Samuel stresses that he will do what’s best for the team when it comes playing either receiver or running back, he seems much more comfortable in the backfield and given the opportunity is a candidate for a breakout season.

Losing members of your team is never ideal, whether it be to injury or other. However, it’s next man up for Urban Meyer and company, and the past few seasons have prepared them for this exact moment.

E-Mail Derek at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @D_Woods21.

Five Late Round Picks I Got My Eye On

The draft itself is only one part of the draft season storyline.

With no real games to watch, football fans go mad and cling to what they can.  The combine, pro days, contract signings and training camp all keep the draft and its players relevant in the offseason.  It’s how we get through the long winter, or summer, in this case.

Now that the 2016 NFL Draft is complete, it’s finally time to hypothesize which players will prove to be great picks for their team.  Early picks are n fun so here’s a list of late round picks whose professional prospects intrigue me for one reason or another:

Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State Buckeyes

Round 3, Pick 22 (85 overall) to the Houston Texans

If it weren’t for J.T. Barrett taking his spot when he was injured, Braxton Miller might not have been drafted at all.  His inaccuracy severely limited his quarterbacking potential in the pros.  Moving to receiver has given his career new life.  Even though he had an underwhelming first season at his new position, there’s still a ton of potential here.  The Texans are awful.  If they’re smart, they’ll find ways to get the ball in Miller’s hands and let him do his thing.

Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Georgia Bulldogs

Round 4, Pick 14 (112 overall) to the New England Patriots

Had the Patriots had a reliable receiver last year, they might’ve been able to sneak by the Broncos in the AFC title game.  Mitchell (great name, by the way) is a guy who can step in and vie for that role.  He’s a possession receiver with great speed and elusiveness.  That’s what you ordered, correct Mr. Brady?  Mitchell has torn an ACL in the past and Georgia didn’t have a good season last fall.  Those are the only reasons he wasn’t taken much sooner.  Oh, and apparently he’s not just a dumb jock, either.

Devontae Booker, RB, Utah Utes

Round 4, Pick 38 (136 overall) to the Denver Broncos

This pick was an absolute steal for the defending Super Bowl champs.  Booker’s stock fell drastically because of a torn meniscus suffered in November.  He says he’s at about 90 percent right now and it sounds like he shouldn’t miss much, if any, of camp.  Booker can catch, he can block, and he’s always running downhill, picking up extra yardage.  He can flourish in Denver if given a real chance to chisel out solid chunks of playing time.

Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State Buckeyes

Round 4, Pick 41 (139 overall) to the Buffalo Bills

With such upside why not see what Cardale can turn into?  It’s not like the Bills know who their quarterback will be in five years.  They’ve tried a lot of different guys lately but none have stuck.  Let Cardale learn from the bench, give him some reps to show what he can do, and maybe he evolves into a somewhat reliable gunslinger.  He’s got two things you can’t teach: superior size (6’5”, 250) and a cannon for an arm.  So, the tools are there, he’s just go to learn how to use them to the best of his ability.  Taking a flyer on Jones was a great move for the Bills.

Keenan Reynolds, RB, Navy Midshipmen

Round 6, Pick 7 (182 overall) to the Baltimore Ravens

That’s right, Kenan Reynolds, the running back now.  The old record-breaking Naval Academy quarterback will be making the sensible transition to running back in the offseason.  This will be quite the experiment.  Reynolds didn’t take any handoffs in college and orchestrating a triple threat attack is a much different task than anything he’ll be asked to do in Baltimore.  Even so, his work ethic is unquestionable and his ability to pick up tough yards is unique.  Nobody’s saying it’ll be easy, but it’s hard to bet against this guy.

Photo Courtesy: Erik Drost / Flickr

Five Buckeyes who can Improve Their Draft Stock Against Notre Dame

Ezekiel Elliott- Although Elliott has almost solidified himself as the best running back in this years draft class, (with the closest competition according to http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/prospectrankings/2016/all being this years Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry) Elliott can still further immerse himself in the conversation to be a top 15 pick.

In the 2015 NFL draft, two running backs in Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon were drafted in the top 15 picks of the draft. With the running back position being considered “devalued” in some NFL circles this was an astounding feat for both backs as their talent proved too much to pass up on even that high in the draft.

For Elliott, he has an opportunity to build on his all-time Buckeye running back legacy and his draft stock against a stout Notre Dame defense with expected early first round pick Jaylon Smith and stout defensive tackle Sheldon Day lining up across from him. This will be his chance to once again show why he is the 2016 drafts best available running back and an early first round pick.

Eli Apple– Apple, Ohio State’s number one cornerback who is also expected to enter the draft after the season has all the measurables NFL teams now look for in shut down corners. Standing at 6’1, 200 pounds, Apple has tremendous size for the position to cover some of the taller receivers the NFL has to offer.

I’m not sure what draft grade he would garner if he decided to come out, but the former high school All-American has one last chance to show what he is capable of against Notre Dame. The fighting Irish have one of the nations best deep threats in wide out Will Fuller, and holding him in check would go a long way to improving Apple’s NFL draft stock.

Darron Lee– The former high school quarterback is one of the most athletic linebackers in the country. One of Lee’s best traits is being able to run with slot receivers and running backs out of the backfield.

In today’s NFL this is a trait that will certainly be compelling to teams looking to fill holes at linebacker. Lee stands at 6’2, 235 pounds and can really run. He is tremendous at blitzing off the edge and makes plays all over the field for the Buckeyes.

Against Notre Dame, the redshirt sophomore will most likely be playing his last game for Ohio State against a quality opponent trying to improve his draft stock, which is most likely in the second round range. A good performance against the Irish however could change that.

Vonn Bell– This ball hawking Ohio State safety is likely also playing his last game for Ohio State as a true junior. Right now Bell is listed on http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/prospectrankings/2016/all as a projected 2nd round pick.

Bell is a tremendous playmaker that makes plays in the run game as well as the pass. He is simply a player who has a nose for the ball, and where the ball goes Bell will most likely be around it on each and every play.

One problem for Bell however is his size as he translates to the NFL level. Bell is listed at 5’11, 205 pounds, which may even be generous. For Bell, it will be interesting to see how teams feel he can hold up in the NFL at that size. But hey, one of the leagues best safety’s in Earl Thomas is listed at 5’10, 202 pounds, so it can be done.

Playing in a nationally televised game against a top tier program will go a long way to helping Bell improve his NFL draft stock.

Braxton Miller– The fifth year senior has had an outstanding career as a Buckeye, but with it officially coming to an end after the bowl game Miller has a chance to improve his draft stock with a good game against Notre Dame.

Miller hasn’t been used very effectively during his final season with the Buckeyes. But with plenty of time to figure out different way to get him the ball during bowl preparation, look for a big game from one of the most athletic players on Ohio State’s roster.

Miller is currently listed as a player who will be drafted in the 2nd-3rd round range. With a big game against Notre Dame, followed by a solid performance at the senior bowl, that stock could be drastically improved.

Enjoy This Ohio State Roster for one More Game; Next Season Will Look Much Different

Ohio State returned 15 starters this season from a national championship roster from a year ago.

That talent translated to a twenty-plus game win streak, until a loss at home to Michigan State ended the streak and Ohio State’s chance to repeat. With a number of talented junior’s and a few seniors playing in their last game as a member of the Buckeyes on New Year’s Day against Notre Dame, the Ohio State team that will roll out of fall camp next season will look much different compared to this one.

Ohio State will lose senior starters Taylor Decker, Jacoby Boren, and Chase Farris on the offensive line. It’s tough to lose three senior leaders on the offensive line, and the Buckeyes will look to replace them with talented blue-chip recruits Urban Meyer has lured to Columbus over the past couple years.

Highly recruited players like Matthew Burrell, Demetrius Knox, Isaiah Prince, and Jamarco Jones will receive serious consideration for playing time next season. Although young and inexperienced, each of these potential replacements on the offensive line possess enormous potential to be great.

Braxton Miller will also be playing his last game in a Buckeye uniform after one of the most successful careers in Ohio State history. Although not utilized to his full potential this season, Miller will be remembered as one of the most dynamic players Urban Meyer has ever had at his disposal.

His playmaking abilities will be missed on the Ohio State offense next season. Look for dynamic athletes Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson to fill that void at the hybrid running back/receiver spot with Miller heading to the next level.

Ohio State will also lose senior tight end Nick Vannett, who had somewhat of a disappointing season in his first as the starter. Vannett will be replaced next season by current sophomore Marcus Baugh, who has the size and athletic ability to be a very good tight end for the Buckeyes.

As for the Buckeye defense, Ohio State will lose senior starters Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt on the defensive line, and second leading tackler Joshua Perry at linebacker for next season. Look for current sophomore’s Michael Hill and Donovan Munger to compete to replace Schutt next season.

A replacement for Washington will be more difficult. Robert Landers and Tracy Sprinkle will both receive opportunities to replace the playmaking defensive tackle next season.

As far as Perry’s replacement goes, former five-star prospect Justin Hilliard will get every opportunity to fill that void next season. Dante Booker, and Jerome Baker will also be afforded chances to fill Perry’s outside backer spot. All three are former top recruits Meyer kept in state and are very good players.

The real losses for Ohio State however will come from the redshirt sophomore/junior class.

Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Vonn Bell, Michael Thomas and Pat Elflein headline a tremendous junior class that could all declare for the NFL draft after the season. This also includes redshirt sophomore’s (key components to Ohio State’s success the past two season’s) Darron Lee, Eli Apple, and Jalin Marshall.

Look for Sam Hubbard, who had a tremendous season as a redshirt freshman to replace Bosa at defensive end next season. One of the top running backs in the nation coming out of high school, current freshman and Detroit native Mike Weber will get the first crack replacing Elliott.

Cam Burrows and Erick Smith (both former high school All-Americans) will battle to replace Vonn Bell at the safety spot next season. Michael Thomas’ starting spot will be a battle but will most likely be filled by Noah Brown, who lost his entire 2015 season to injury.

If Elflein decides to declare, look for the aforementioned Demetrius Knox to slide in his guard spot next season. Darron Lee plays a very important position for the Buckeyes, and athletic linebacker Chris Worley will be the man to fill that void next season.

If Apple declares, Gareon Conley will become the number one corner next season. Damon Webb, the nickel corner for the Buckeyes this season will slide into the other starting corner spot alongside Conley in that scenario next season.

Jalin Marshall is a player that should stay put for another collegiate season, but if he does decide to declare early look for current freshman K.J. Hill to get a shot out wide next season.

Bosa, Elliott, and Thomas are all but gone as all three are considered top players at their respective positions. The other players listed are very good players as well and could also very easily throw their name in the hat for the NFL draft.

My guess is that Jalin Marshall and possibly Pat Elflein return and the rest of the underclassman listed will enter the draft. With all of those losses, Ohio State would be looking at replacing over ten starters for next season.

The good news for Urban Meyer and company is that although a number of core players could be gone from this season’s roster, Ohio State has players to reload and avoid a complete rebuild.

That’s the beauty of Meyer recruiting a top ten class every year since his arrival, the talent will always be there for the Buckeyes. Getting players accustomed to their new roles as starters will be the biggest issue for Ohio State next season, not the talent level.

Having an experienced J.T. Barrett as the full-time starter with no distractions behind him next season will be a huge plus. Barrett is a player who as a redshirt freshman finished with 45 total touchdowns and was fifth in Heisman voting. Regardless of how this season finishes for Barrett we know the talent is there, and the outlook is good next season at quarterback for the Buckeyes.

The Buckeyes won’t have much time to prepare their new starters before they are tested next season, as Ohio State will travel to Norman, Oklahoma to face the Sooners in the third game of the season.

Enjoy this current Buckeye roster for one more game. It will look much different come Sept. 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

The Buckeyes Come up Short in the Quest to Defend Their National Title

The Ohio State Buckeyes had a season for the ages in 2014, winning the national championship after playing with not one, but two backup quarterbacks in the most important games of the season.

At the beginning of the season, I wrote a column about just how hard it is to repeat, and now more than ever with the insertion of the playoff method. For Ohio State, (especially under Urban Meyer) the season is judged off of did you win a national title. At the very least, the Buckeye fan base looks for its team to at least make the playoff.

With a heartbreaking loss to Michigan State though, the Buckeyes lost their chance to win the Big Ten championship as well as a chance to defend their championship.

It was a roller coaster ride all season for Ohio State, as their were close games with teams they should have blown out, as well as games where they showed the potential of being one of the nations best teams.

The back and forth at quarterback was there for most of the season with Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett each fighting to be the full-time starter and Urban Meyer not sure which one to choose.

In the end, Meyer probably waited a few weeks to late when deciding to go with J.T. Barrett as the starter with the erratic play of Cardale Jones not getting any better as the season went on.

The loss of offensive coordinator Tom Herman was a much bigger issue this season than first anticipated, even with some of the nations best talent returning on offense. Herman got the best out of the quarterbacks, which helped the Buckeyes win the national title even with the injuries at the position. This season, it was almost as if the quarterback play took a step back with the loss of Herman.

Braxton Miller returned this season as a wide receiver for the Buckeyes, and displayed one of the best moves of the college football season with his spin move against Virginia Tech. But all in all, it was essentially a wasted season for the former two-time Big Ten player of the year.

Miller never had a defined way on how he would be utilized from week to week, and basically just touched the ball a few times a contest for much of the season. For a player with that much talent, it was a shame that the Ohio State coaching staff never fully utilized one of the most dynamic players in college football with the ball in his hands.

There has been two times during Urban Meyer’s head coaching tenure at Ohio State where I thought he was clearly outcoached during a loss. The first time was the 2013 Big Ten championship game against Michigan State where Ohio State blew its chance to play for a national championship. The second, came this season against Michigan State where the Buckeyes once again blew their Big Ten and national championship dreams with a loss to Sparty.

In both instances, Urban Meyer and his offensive staff ran plays on offenses that were totally predictable. While watching the game, you could call out the plays that would be ran before the Buckeyes even lined up in formation. When playing defense, everyone knows it much easier to stop a play when you know what play is coming. Both times Urban Meyer has been outcoached, the vanilla play calling Meyer allowed to go down cost Ohio State a loss to Michigan State. One could now say, that Mark Dantonio officially has Urban Meyers number.

Ohio State will finish its season on Jan. 1 in the Fiesta Bowl against the Notre Dame fighting Irish. It will be a tremendous matchup as two traditional powers will fight to end their season on a high note. But for a team that returned so much talent from a national championship team, the 2015 season will forever be looked at as a lost one for Buckeye faithful.

Ohio State Destroys Michigan, but Playoff Hopes are Slim

One week after the most abysmal offensive performance of the Urban Meyer era, the Ohio State offense put forth a dominant performance, manhandling rival Michigan 42-13.

But for a team that had dreams of repeating as national champions, the win over Michigan doesn’t take away the hurt of losing to Michigan State. The worst part about the lose still resonates the most however, Ohio State’s coaching staff not putting Ohio State in the best position to win.

Against Michigan, the running game worked to perfection. The Buckeyes ran for a whopping 369 yards, 214 coming from Ezekiel Elliott and another 139 from J.T. Barrett. Ohio State couldn’t have asked for much better play from its offensive line and those who ran behind them, as it may have been their best performance of the season.

Something to be considered however, is how Ohio State ran basically exactly the same plays the did a week prior in the lost to MSU when they tallied just 86 rushing yards and five first downs.

The same zone read, option, iso, and power plays that they have run all season long. The difference was, the Ohio State offensive line came to play and the Wolverine front seven was not as stout as Sparty’s.

The play calling was still vanilla, and the passing game was still anemic. In the game against Michigan, the running game was clicking so well Ohio State had no need to even throw other than to give the Michigan defense a break from the pounding it received all game long.

The problems of being too predictable and lacking creativity on offense for Ohio State still remained. Braxton Miller ended his final regular season game as a Buckeye with a three-touch performance. So much talent, so little use. After watching the way Michigan used its versatile playmaker Jabrill Peppers, it made it even more painful to watch the lack of creativity getting Miller involved.

For someone who has done so much for Urban Meyer and his Ohio State program, it’s almost a shame to see how they have returned the favor. It’s not as if Miller is a shell of himself and is no longer the playmaker he once was. He was and still is one of the best with the ball in his hands the country has to offer, and it’s a shame those abilities weren’t further utilized this season.

Meyer admitted he would be more involved with the play calling against Michigan. To me, this was proved Meyer finally realized that what they were doing on offense just hasn’t been good enough this season. I would be surprised to see either Ed Warinner or Tim Beck to be calling plays for the Ohio State offense next season. It’s time for a change if the Buckeyes want to get back to being an explosive offense.

This season, the Buckeyes playoff hopes most likely went out the window with Michigan State’s Michael Geiger’s game winning kick as time expired.

MSU went on to throttle Penn State to clinch the Big Ten East this past weekend, ending Ohio State’s dreams of another Big Ten championship. Without some serious help, the Buckeyes hopes of defending their national title are all but over as well.

But as the old saying goes, “it aint over til it’s over,” and although their chances may be slim, Ohio State does have hope.

Oklahoma all but sealed its spot in the college football playoff with a convincing win over rival Oklahoma State, and not having the risk of a conference championship game. Although the Sooners loss to Texas is much worse than a loss to a top-five Michigan State squad, Oklahoma has played a much tougher schedule overall.

Either Iowa or Michigan State will be eliminated with a loss in the Big Ten title game. But the only real hope for Ohio State is either Clemson blowing the ACC title game to North Carolina, or Alabama going down in the SEC title game to Florida.

Both options seem like a long shot. But in college football, we’ve seen some crazy things happen. If Ohio State fails to get in, the coaching staff and players have no one to blame but themselves.

Monday Morning Breeze: The Murky Waters of Who’s Real and Who’s Not in Football

This week’s frenzied football fun gave us some long-desired insight to certain college teams’ true identities. We saw the surprising-yet-not-surprising Sparty upset of Ohio State, as MSU sent the Buckeyes tumbling to their first loss in the past 23 games, an outcome OSU seemed on the brink of the entire season. The Big 12 pecking order was established a little better, with two huge clashes between four Top 25 foes producing an Oklahoma squad continuing their possible playoff push and Baylor rebounding from last week’s loss in topping previously-undefeated Oklahoma St.

The NFL results have us wondering if anyone can stop Cam Newton (5 TD’s!) and the Panthers as they rolled to their 10th straight win of the season, smashing Washington, while Green Bay let their cheesey faithful “R-E-L-A-X” with a dominant win against division rival Minnesota. Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston continued his rookie ascent with a huge 5 TD day against the disappointing Eagles. Baltimore would love for the Raven of Injuries to be quothed, “Nevermore” as they continued their snake-bitten season losing QB Joe Flacco for the year with a torn ACL along with RB Justin Forsette with a broken arm, while Broncos fans could rest reasonably easy in seeing Peyton’s backup Brock Osweiler steer steadily with a close win over ‘da Bears.

What this all means, for both the NFL and CFB playoff pictures still remains to be settled on future fields, but at least the murky waters of “who’s real” and “who’s not” have begun to clear, as the end (of the regular season) creeps near.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 12 PORTION OF THE PROGRAM

College Football Link Dinks and Dunks of the Week

Very interesting look at Coastal Carolina’s Head Coach Joe Moglia, ex-CEO of TD Ameritrade, $100+ millionaire, potentially in line for big-conference job?…Another great article on Mark Dantonio building a consistent winner at Michigan St…Police investigating rape at Nebraska’s players house….UGA RB Keith Marshall going proDuke boots starting WR, two others…North Dakota drops “Fighting Sioux” nickname for “Fighting Hawks”…Nice look at how OSU’s Miller made the switch from QB to WR…

CFB Game of the Week (Football 3 Ways)

#9 Michigan State @ #3 Ohio State

Ohio State was thought to be the clear front-runner for this year’s College Football Playoff, with their “defending champions” belt and their potential 6 first-round NFL picks and their century-swaying swagger. But this season they’d yet to recover the mojo that led them to the championship last year, buzz-sawing through the playoffs to the crown. They’ve played almost timid, perhaps shackled by the weight of expectations and QB-shuffling and offseason puff pieces getting them fat on the land. Who knows? But they’d manage to escape near-upsets all year and the public was salivating to see the Bucks finally tested this week against the tough Spartans of Michigan State. While MSU seemingly had their playoff hopes smashed with a bad-ref-call-assisted loss to Nebraska earlier in the year, a potential upset of OSU would give them a shiny glimmer of playoff hope.

Once these two B1G beasts met on a drizzly, Saturday afternoon we saw who was who and what was what. Ohio State confirmed their fan’s worst fears in laying an offensive dud, Sparty stayed stout and pulled off the big upset, knocking off the defending champs with a last-second, 41-yard FG to win. Where MSU goes from here is anyone’s guess, and some of OSU’s key players were unsurprisingly apoplectic in the aftermath, with RB Ezekiel Elliot strongly calling out OSU’s coaches for not giving him the rock enough and declaring his intentions to go pro, which Cardale Jones echoed on Twitter shortly thereafter. Overall a huge win for a MSU program this close to establishing itself as a steady behemoth in the CFB hierarchy and an even bigger question mark gets slapped on OSU’s present and future, with their current temp. being TENSE.

Michigan State 17 – Ohio State 14

Three thoughts:

  1. Ohio State’s studs were duds, but who’s to blame? Where OSU’s now incredibly combustible team goes from here with a huge date coming next week versus Michigan is anyone’s guess. Joey Bosa was non-existent against MSU’s sturdy O-line, Ezekiel Elliot was Keyshawn-ing after the game wishing Urban would’ve just given him the damn ball, Braxton Miller was quiet as a tit mouse, and the QB carousel failed to get the Buckeyes offense rolling.. This falls on both coaches and players in the scarlet and gray, as the guys on the field couldn’t get it done and Urban definitely underutilized the beastly Elliot against Sparty on a rainy, cold day built for running the football. Ultimately the MSU offense did just enough with their backup QB filling in for Connor Cook, and their clutch kicker kept them
  2. Where do these teams go from here? Supposedly Elliot’s gone after this year, along with Cardale Jones and a number of the other stud juniors are likely to leave for the NFL as well, putting heavy emphasis on those famous Urban Meyer recruits waiting in the wings for the future of the Buckeye Empire. OSU will have to keep their fiery fellas in line and focused for next week’s game against a Harbaugh-strong Michigan team that would love nothing more than to put a second straight loss on OSU’s record. Meanwhile MSU is right back in the playoff race if they can win out, beat Iowa in the Big Ten championship game and hope their resume stacks up well enough for the CFP committee to consider putting them in the Final 4.
  3. MSU’s Geiger Counted: Turns out the amount of people interested in seeing this game was huge, as this is currently the highest-rated CFB game of the year. That much interest generates a ton of pressure, and having a kick, on a slick field, at the end of the game to potentially take down the defending champs in front of your fellow students and fans generates a ten-fold ton of pressure for a college-aged kicker. That’s exactly the scenario MSU’s Michael Geiger faced this past Saturday, with Sparty Nation’s playoff hopes riding on his right foot from 41-wet yards away, with seconds trickling down to zero in a tie-ball game. How’s he react? He stepped up and nailed the kick, sending Spartans to a rollicking night of playoff-dreaming and all-but dashing OSU’s repeat hopes in one, fell, swoop of the leg.

At the End of the Day: CFB’s Top 25 Went this Way (All Rankings from Official College Football Playoff Poll)

#8 Florida vs. Florida Atlantic U.
FAU puts fear of the Owl in Gators’ heart, UF holds on in OT to survive

#5 Iowa vs. Purdue
Hawkeyes thrash the drunks, clinch Big Ten West title

#21 Memphis @ Temple
Owls smash Tiger cats, continue to amaze in the city of Brotherly Haze

#12 Michigan @ Penn St.
Jimmy’s kids keep rolling, stuff Penn St. and prep for next week’s big-un against OSU

#17 North Carolina @ Virginia Tech
Beamer’s last stand at home saw a thrilling Hokie comeback, only to fall in the end. Bye, Frank.

#14 Florida St. vs. Chattanooga
Seminoles play cornhole with Chatty’s upset hopes, smash n’ grab the win

UCLA @ #13 Utah
Bruins ruin Utes high hopes, as UCLA skies the winning slope

#24 USC @ #23 Oregon
Ducks’ Davis unwraps Trojans’ D, leads Duck to big victory

#19 Houston @ Connecticut
Huskies surprise Coug’s, upset Houston, show UCONN do more than women’s hoops

#20 Northwestern @  #25 Wisconsin
‘Cats put Badger victory caps back on the dusty shelf, Fitzgerald’s Felines rub UW the wrong way

#1 Clemson vs. Wake Forest
Tigers get holy, make mince meat of Demon Deacs’, continue the fun of being #1

#9 Michigan State @ #3 Ohio State
Sparty wins with FG late, knocks that other State from undefeated ranks

#15 LSU @ #22 Ole Miss
Rebels yell, smoke Tigers, and keep LSU in Miles’ hell season

#2 Alabama vs. Charleston Southern
‘Bama blasts FCS “test”, gears up for potential playoff berth

#16 Navy @ Tulsa
Navy painfully shaves Golden Hurricane’s capability, emulsify Tulsa

#4 Notre Dame vs. Boston College
Irish fight the upset bug, give BC’s win valve a plug and keep playoff hopes chugging along

#6 Ok State vs. #10 Baylor
Bears’ 3rd-stringer takes down the cow-pokes, sending Baylor soaring and T. Boone’s ego sore-ing

#18 TCU vs. #7 Oklahoma
Sooners score sooner and later, hanging on for thrilling 1-point victory over the horny frogs

#11 Stanford vs. Cal
No bands on the field, just good feels for the Cardinal as Stanford scolds Bears of gold

NFL WEEK 11 PORTION OF THE PROGRAM

Divisional races are heating up as the season sails toward the final weeks.

NFL Link Dinks and Dunks of the Week

Ravens’ QB Joe Flacco tears ACL, out for season…Great inside look at how the Cardinals and Carson Palmer game prep…Nate Newton’s ex-wife claims the Cowboys supported him despite knowing of his domestic violence issues….Oakland’s Aldon Smith suspended for 1 calendar year….FanDuel bars New Yorkers from playing….Tony Romo’s return sends backup Cowboys’ QB Weeden packingSaints’ struggling D-Coord Rob Ryan finally canned, to return with brother Rex’s Bills?…Lost season for Ravens’ 1st-rounder Perriman, as he goes on IR without playing one snap this year…

NFL Game of the Week

Bengals @ Cardinals

The Sunday night clash between two division-leading teams did not disappoint as Cincy and Arizona traded scores, big plays, and plenty of excitement. Ultimately, the Cards were able to overcome some Carson Palmer miscues and the Bengals were not able to overcome a costly Domata Pekoe 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty late for calling out ‘Zona’s offensive signals, allowing AZ’s kicker Chandler Catanzaro to kick a very manageable 32-yard FG with two seconds remaining, clinching the game for the Cards.

 

Arizona Cardinals 34 – Cincinnati Bengals 31

Three thoughts:

  1. Palmer outduels Dalton: Carson Palmer continues his dominant season, and while he threw 2 interceptions he kept the Cards flying with 4 TD passes, as well as some clutch throws late getting AZ in field goal range to ultimately clinch the game. Though Dalton threw for 310 yards and two scores, it wasn’t enough in the end.
  2. Cincy slide a sign of something larger, or just a blip? After starting the year 8-0, Cincy has lost two games in a row and now has to deal with a potentially-reborn Seattle Seahawk team nipping at their NFC West heels for the division lead. Are the two losses an anomaly (1 bad one, 1 defensible) for an otherwise solid Cincy team that’ll likely right the ship with upcoming games against the Rams and Browns? Or is this a sign of something larger troubling Cincy? Only time will tell, but I’m betting it’s the former, and the Bengals will be booming again soon.
  3. Pivotal Patrick Peterson “shuts down” AJ Green: Dalton kept his connection with TE Tyler Eifert rolling, tossing 2 TD’s his way. However in the matchup between one of the best WR’s in the league and one of the top CB’s, ‘Zona’s Peterson was able to limit Green to 4 grabs for 79 yards and, most importantly, 0 TD’s. Most of Green’s yards came on a single 42-yard reception, and Peterson’s clamp-job on one of the scariest receiver’s in the league helped put Arizona in the win column for this slug-fest.

NFL Results Roundup

Titans @ Jags (Thursday)
Bortles and the ‘Villes of Jackson topple Tennessee’s Titans in game of misery

Colts @ Falcons
Matt H. beats Matty-Ice in back-and-forth matchup, Colts win with Adam V’s FG for victory

Cowboys @ Dolphins
Dallas rolls Dolphins in Romo’s return as Campbell’s interim power continues to fade

Buccaneers @ Eagles
Winston tosses 5 TD’s in Bucs’ win, causing Kelly to seize, sneeze

Raiders @ Lions
Detroit says “see ya later, Raiders” in win at home

Jets @ Texans
Houston has problems, but one less than NY today as Texans best Jets

Rams @ Ravens
Baltimore’s kicker Tucker hits game-winning FG as time expires, busting Rams’ tired gams

Skins @ Panthers
Carolina continues to be finah, smokes Skins in huge Panther win

Broncos @ Bears
Brock’s Broncos bust Bears’ butts, Denver hangs on late to win

Chiefs @ Chargers
Reid’s steeds stomp San Diego, like real, real bad

Packers @ Vikings
Pack get back on track in their division, down Vikes in the Purple-dome

49ers @ Seahawks
Seattle slew 49ers “new” QB Gabbert ‘til he’s blue in the face, ‘Hawks roll

Bengals @ Cardinals
‘Cards cut Bengals stripes to shards, show Cincy it’s a sin to test AZ, see?

Bills @ Patriots (Monday Night Prediction)
GQ’s Man of the Year “Tim Brody” keeps the Patriarchy rolling along, sings Rex’s “10-piece lap-band” a sad song, n’ sends Bills back to soon-snowy Buffalo throngs

My Tip for Fans of Fantasy Football

mr-rodgers-middle-finger-mister-rogers-flips-bird

Anemic Offense Finally Costs the Buckeyes Against Sparty

It’s been said all season, what is wrong with this Ohio State offense that possesses so many weapons?

When you have names such as J.T. Barrett, Ezekiel Elliott, and Braxton Miller to name a few, it would seem as if offense wouldn’t be a problem. But for defending national champion Ohio State, consistency has been an issue all season.

It was a rainy and windy day in Columbus, and it was obvious from early on that both teams had decided they didn’t want to be the team that made the big mistake. Both teams seemed to play conservative, but had completely different reasons for doing so.

Michigan State learned just before kickoff that it would be without its third year starting quarterback Connor Cook. This meant playing with inexperienced backups Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry. With inexperienced quarterbacks, it made sense for MSU to run the ball a majority of the time and not have their quarterback lose it for them. In those conditions, it made gave them even more of a reason.

For Ohio State however, they came in having a quarterback who was 13-1 as a starter coming into the game. Going against a defense who’s weakness is in the backend, you would think they would have played way less conservative.

Instead, they decided to play “Tressel ball” which worked as far as not turning it over but allowed Michigan State to stay in the game. In all my time watching Urban Meyer coached teams, I had never seen such a conservative called game on the offensive side of the football.

There have been two games in Urban Meyer’s tenure at Ohio State where I felt he and his staff were outcoached, and they both came against Michigan State. Once in the Big Ten championship loss two years ago, and again this past Saturday. Both losses ended 20-plus game win streaks for Meyer’s Buckeyes.

For Mark Dantonio and Michigan State, playing conservative was the only shot they had in the world at winning this game. For Meyer and Ohio State, playing conservative allowed for the Michigan State defense to hide their biggest weakness, their secondary.

The Buckeye offense was stymied by the Michigan State defense, racking up a season low 132 total yards on the game. It was the lowest total yards of offense in Urban Meyer’s entire career as a head coach. This outcome was fitting, as the Ohio State offense resembled more a Jim Tressel led team than an Urban Meyer one.

Urban Meyer’s strategy of playing not to lose instead of to win might have cost Ohio State a shot to defend its national championship. Ohio State finished the game with just five first downs, losing the time of possession battle 38 minutes to 22.

The Ohio State defense eventually wore down in the fourth quarter. But with the pathetic display by their offense that ran, ran, ran and punted just about every possession how can you blame them?

The fact that Ezekiel Elliott had just 12 carries, and Braxton Miller touched the ball just three times is another bad look for Urban Meyer. In big games, feed your best players the ball and win and lose on their shoulders. Meyer tried to beat Dantonio at his own game, and he lost.

It has been an entire season, and one of the most explosive playmakers in Braxton Miller has been treated as if he just another guy out there. Michael Thomas hasn’t been utilized well at receiver either.

With just a few games left in the season for Ohio State, Meyer should take a huge look at getting someone else in to call the plays for Ohio State next season. With all of the talent Ohio State returned this season, it could be looked at as a lost season if they do not luck up and make the playoff.

It was the last home game of the season for the Buckeyes, and for the seniors it was an abysmal last game as Ohio State finally loses a game. But with the Michigan game just days away, all the Buckeyes can do now is make the most of what’s left of this season.