Tag Archives: Urban Meyer

J.T. Barrett and Ohio State Are Downright Scary

Coming into the 2017 season, the Ohio State Buckeyes were ranked No. 2 in the polls, which garnered both negative and positive reactions. Some eyebrows were raised due to the fact the Buckeyes had been obliterated 31-0 in the 2016 College Football Playoff and were seemingly rewarded based on their namesake alone, while fans argued that despite their embarrassing loss, they lost to the eventual national champion Clemson. Not even almighty Alabama could defeat them. Also, if it wasn’t for a few fortunate opportunities that went Penn State’s way, they would’ve won that game and advanced to the Big Ten Championship game as the presumed favorites versus Wisconsin. Whatever your position was, it was a fortuitous spot to be ranked ahead of the reigning Big Ten champs Penn State and put the pressure on Ohio State to prove their worth.

In their first battle or “test” of the season against Oklahoma, the Buckeyes, seven-point favorites in Columbus, suffered their biggest loss at home since 1999 (46-20 loss to Illinois) and were mocked as overrated. J.T. Barrett was just 19 of 35 for 183 yards as the passing game was wildly inconsistent and below average. It appeared the naysayers were right and much to their delight, the Nittany Lions leapfrogged the Buckeyes in the rankings.

Since that time heading into last Saturday, Ohio State had been playing very good, fundamentally sound football. Yes, the opposition wasn’t exactly challenging but their offense had looked like a well-oiled machine and the defense hadn’t surrendered many points. Sometimes all you need is a few solid games to build momentum and confidence and regain your swagger.

Last weekend before the epic showdown, I was asked the question several times who was the best team in conference and I said Ohio State. Some gave me interesting looks while others laughed and said good luck versus Penn State. Others said I was a traitor for not saying my alma mater, Wisconsin. However, as hard as it is to support Ohio State, I had predicted much earlier this year, Wisconsin would meet Ohio State in the title game and I had to stay true to my word.

Also, I just had this premonition the Buckeyes would get the job done. The game was in Columbus and it’s not the easiest place to play. It’s like meeting a rabid animal in its very own den – its possible to survive but its no simple task either. Second, these teams were only separated by four spots in the rankings. It seemed everyone was already writing the Silver Bullets off much too soon and media outlets criticized Barrett for failing to show up in big games but you can never count out a Buckeye squad that has been written off too early.

We’ve seen this story before in 2014 when Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech only to come back and win the national title. Just when they appear dead to rights, they come back and shock you. To me, it’s simple: Hell hath no fury like a scorned Urban Meyer. Besides Nick Saban, no one plans, prepares, adjusts and responds in the face of adversity better than Meyer.

Things didn’t look great early on for the Buckeyes as Penn State raced out to a 21-3 advantage and although they closed the gap 28-17 by halftime, the Nittany Lions were in control as they built a 35-20 lead in the fourth quarter and appeared they would knock Ohio State out of playoff contention.

Yet, in spite of the big lead, turnovers, poor special teams, and questionable calls, Barrett rose to the occasion. All the qualities people said he didn’t have, he displayed: leadership, poise, resolve and a strong, accurate arm capable of leading his team to victory. The sign of a great leader is how he reacts and responds to adversity and all Barrett did was calmly throw 13 for 13 in the final quarter for 170 yards and three touchdowns including the game-sealing pass to Marcus Baugh with 1:48 left. It was the most impressive performance of his collegiate career in a classic game and showed once again the power of never giving up.

Yes, the jury is still out on Barrett and the Buckeyes as they are far from the being the top contender but the critics have been silenced, at least for moment. The takeaway here is really quite simple: Barrett vaulted himself back into the Heisman race as a front-runner and cemented Ohio State’s spot in the middle of the playoffs, though the initial rankings surprisingly did not place them in the top four. The Buckeyes are peaking at the right time and Barrett is a dangerous man. If they can fix their special team problems, it could be 2014 all over again and that is downright scary.

E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051

Image courtesy of flickr

Ohio State Lost and It Doesn’t Matter

The Ohio State Buckeyes were served a cold dish of revenge by Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners this past Saturday night.  The offense found the end zone just once.  The defense gave up 28 points in the second half, including 21 unanswered which turned a three-point lead into a three-score deficit.

They were bottled up by a Big 12 defense and exposed by a playmaking quarterback, at home, under the lights, in front of a national audience.  After the game, Mayfield decided to take a victory lap that ended with him planting the OU flag right in the middle of Ohio Stadium.

As a Michigan fan surrounded by Buckeye nuts at the time, I absolutely loved it.  Really though, it’s not going to end up meaning much when it comes to the playoff picture.  Sure, there will be an effect on the team.  Of course, this will go a long way in molding them for the rest of the season.  All of a sudden, the sense of urgency has skyrocketed.  It will feel like every game could be, in essence, the last one that truly matters for this program that sets its bar so high.

Things will seem much different after suffering this crushing blow.  In reality, however, this season started with that heightened sense of urgency for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes.  We know what happened last year.  tOSU snuck into the final four despite not winning its conference (or even its division, for that matter).  It was the first time in the College Football Playoff’s short history that had been done.  Considering the way the Buckeyes rewarded the committee for that decision, it may very well be the last time it happens, too.

So, you come into the 2017 season, if you’re the Buckeyes, knowing that you must win your conference championship game to earn a spot in the top four.  The definition of insanity is yadda, yadda, and you can’t expect the committee to give you the same chance when you squandered it so spectacularly the last go around.  Still, win the Big Ten and you’re virtually guaranteed a spot in the dance.

Here’s the thing: losing to Oklahoma, even if it was by a wide margin, in your own barn, in primetime, in front of the whole country, doesn’t do a damn thing to harm your original goal of winning the Big Ten.  In fact, I would argue that taking such a big L actually motivates, and ends up helping what is still a relatively young squad.

Ohio State fell all the way to number eight in this week’s updated AP Top 25.  That’s still well within striking distance.  Army, UNLV, Rutgers, Maryland, and Nebraska are the competition awaiting the Buckeyes the next five weeks.  Then they have a bye week to prepare a little revenge of their own against Penn State.  Please forgive me for not worrying about where their record will stand when they welcome in the Nittany Lions on October 28.

There are plenty of lessons to be learned from Saturday night’s failure.  If there’s one man who’s going to teach his players how to correct their mistakes, it’s Urban Meyer.  The man’s made a career out of paying special attention to the tiny details and making the necessary adjustments for his team.  I have no doubt he will do the same here, and the Buckeyes will waltz through the next month and a half ahead of the showdown with Penn State.

Ohio State fans are upset.  I get that.  Nobody likes getting beat by two scores on their own turf, at night, with everyone else at home watching.  And they’re really not used to getting bullied in the ‘Shoe.  Still, I don’t see how dropping this game amounts to anything more than a bruised ego and an extra chip on the old shoulder.

Scheduling these massive early season clashes against other national championship contenders does nothing but help nowadays.  Win and you’ve got an impressive, pearly white feather in your cap.  The Buckeyes had just that last fall.  Lose and, really, nothing happens.  You only narrow your focus to what you set out to do anyway, taking home a conference championship.

The rest of the Big Ten had better watch out.  Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners just pissed off the baddest dude on their playground.

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] and follow him on twitter @GreatGatzke.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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

How will the Buckeyes Replace Raekwon McMillan?

Raekwon McMillan has been the heart and soul of the Ohio State defense for the past two-plus seasons, but with the former team captain set to be selected in the 2017 NFL draft after declaring early, who will be the next middle linebacker for the Buckeyes?

McMillan finished his career being named a second team all-American after a solid junior season. The former five-star prospect out of Hinesville, Georgia came to Ohio State with huge expectations as he was the consensus top inside linebacker in the country in the 2014 recruiting class. The expectations were almost impossible to meet, but having number five in the middle of your defense leaves one less thing to worry about every Saturday.

A big part of being a leader of the defense is being a student of the game, being able to put teammates in the right places and knowing exactly where everyone should be. This is something McMillan excelled at, and something Ohio State with surely miss as they try to replace him in 2017. Voted a captain as a true junior, McMillan is a player who played his best in some of the biggest games, as seen by his last game against hated rival Michigan in which he tallied 16 tackles.

Urban Meyer will have a huge void to fill with all that McMillan was for Ohio State over the last three seasons, and there is a shortlist of players who will try to replace him.

The first name that comes to mind as a player that should step up and take that role on as middle linebacker at Ohio State is former five-star prospect Justin Hilliard out of St. Xavier high school in Cincinnati, Ohio. A player who out of high school was the 17th ranked player overall and the # 1 outside linebacker in the 2015 class, Hilliard has the talent but has yet to put it together as a Buckeye due to injury. If the 6’1″, 230-pound linebacker can live up to his billing and finally stay healthy, he will compete for the job come fall.

Dante Booker, (a player who started game one at outside linebacker for the Buckeyes) will be another player who will compete for playing time at middle linebacker next season. Booker was injured in the opener against Bowling Green, and after Jerome Baker player the game of his life a week later against Oklahoma, it was impossible to take him out the rest of the way.

Booker has the talent, as seen by him holding off a talent like Baker to remain the starter through the spring and fall camp before losing his job to injury. His biggest hurdle like Hilliard will be to stay healthy if he wants to compete for the job. The former 2013 Ohio Mr. Football will have his shot to get acclimated to the middle linebacker in the spring, but may stay on the outside if someone else can step up in the middle.

Baron Browning, a true freshman from Kennedale, Texas who will participate in spring practice after enrolling early is also a player that is a dark horse to win the starting middle linebacker spot come fall. Although only a freshman, Browning is one of the best linebacker prospects in the country, and will immediately press all of the Buckeye linebackers for playing time. ESPN ranked Browning the #2 outside linebacker in the 2017 class, and his combination of size and speed at 6’3″, 232 pounds makes him one the best athletes in the country. How fast Browning can catch on to the college game during the spring will determine if he is truly ready to start as a true freshman.

Ohio State is stocked with talent at linebacker, with a number of former high school All-American players vying to replace McMillan this fall. But can any of them truly fill that void, or will the Buckeyes struggle up the middle this season?

E-mail Derek at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @D_woods21.

Photo Credit: Flickr

 

Paul Finebaum is the SEC’s Pawn

Many college football fans, and even some pundits, were quick to strip the title of best football conference away from the SEC last fall.  A shaky season with bad quarterback play, one dominant team, and a lackluster bowl record had these people claiming the king of the hill had been toppled.  Those people were a bit too quick.  If the same thing happens again this coming year, then we can open a discussion on the subject.

In the meantime, the SEC is still top dog but clearly aware that position is in danger of being taken away.  As a result, it’s gone on the offensive, in the form of a man who looks no more intimidating than your world history teacher from junior high.

Paul Finebaum has been the prevailing voice of the Southeastern Conference for years.  Now, as an outside threat begins to appear, apparently Finebaum would like to comment on college football in its entirety.  Specifically, Finebaum seems to have an interest in the actions of one Jim Harbaugh.  Why, you might ask, would the SEC guy care about what Michigan’s coach is doing?  Well, you’ve arrived at the million-dollar question there, one I can only answer with calculated speculation.

Harbaugh has done nothing if not shake up the recruiting process.  Judging by the 2016 and 2017 ranks of his classes, it’s easy to see he’s tapping into something.  He and Urban Meyer have even started to establish recruiting pipelines in the south that only the SEC schools used to feed off of.  When the number of recruits is stagnant but the amount of potential schools has increased, that’s an issue for those who were interested in maintaining the status quo.

Naturally, the easiest way to discredit an opponent is to accuse them of cheating.  Recent outcomes haven’t been what the SEC is used to so somebody’s got to be doing something against the rules.  Finebaum comes out and says Harbaugh’s hiring of Mike Johnson is based strictly on the fact that Johnson’s son is one of the top quarterbacks in the 2019 class.  It’s not technically cheating, but it goes against the spirit of the rules, he says.

First of all, Finebaum should apologize to Johnson for saying there’s “no other reason” Harbaugh would be hiring him.  That’s utterly ridiculous considering the man’s long track record that happens to include previous gigs under Harbaugh.  Do some research, Paul.

Secondly, saying Harbaugh’s not technically cheating is such a slimy way of still saying he’s cheating.  And really, you don’t need to actively build a public opinion case against Harbaugh.  He’s loony enough that he does it for you.  Going out of your way to attack him looks desperate.

Oh yeah, and to top it off, Johnson didn’t even end up taking that job with Michigan.  He’ll be coaching at Oregon in the fall.  Is Willie Taggart a cheater too, Paul?  I didn’t think so.  He’s too inconsequential all the way out there.

The SEC and its mouthpiece must really be worried about this if Finebaum wants to be able to branch out nationwide.  Doing so would enable him to slam whoever gets in the way of the southland and its football.  No sir, I say to the SEC slap.  Stay where you know what you’re talking about.

That is, of course, unless you really are nothing more than an SEC pawn.

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @GreatGatzke.

Photo: Pixabay

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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

2017 Ohio State Signees That Could Make an Instant Impact

For Ohio State under Urban Meyer, a consensus top-five ranked recruiting classes is something you come to expect. With National Signing Day 2017 officially in the books, the Buckeyes once again bring in a loaded group of prospects with limitless talent and NFL futures ahead of them.

Urban Meyer has had a number of great players come in over his five seasons as head coach in Columbus, with a number of very talented signing classes. The 2013 class comes to mind first as undoubtedly the best class Meyer has assembled to date, with players like Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, Eli Apple, and Vonn Bell to name a few.

With as good as that class was, the 2017 signees come in with the most hype of any class Meyer has had. The 2017 class saw Ohio State bring in nearly as many five-star players in this one class than all of Meyer’s previous classes at Ohio State combined.

The Buckeyes suffered more early departures this off-season, with six players from the 2016 team deciding to forgo their remaining eligibility at Ohio State to enter the NFL draft. With those players leaving, and the Buckeyes suffering even more early departures from the 2015 team, it was very important to sign a class like this in 2017.

With some openings for playing time available for the upcoming season due to those early departures, or simply a lack of production from current starters, the extremely talented 2017 class will have its opportunities to prove its worth early.

Ohio State’s secondary took the worst hit when it comes to depth and experience for the upcoming season. Early departures from Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conely, and Malik Hooker leave Damon Webb as the lone returning starter in the defensive backfield.

With those openings available, look for 2017 signees and five-star players Shaun Wade (ESPN No. 1 ranked corner), and Jeffrey Okudah (ESPN No. 1 ranked safety) to have a say in filling that void. Wade (Jacksonville, Florida), and Okudah (Grand Prairie, Texas) come from powerhouse football states and have the ability to play right away as both have enrolled early to get a head start of the college learning curve.

Okudah may have the better chance at playing due to his ideal size and Wade still needed to add some muscle, but both players will have a shot come fall. Kendall Sheffield, (ESPN No. 1 ranked JuCo corner) a former five-star prospect and Alabama signee will also get a crack at playing time after spending a season at Blinn College. Sheffield is known for his blazing speed and has the ability to get on the field right away if he can catch on quickly in Columbus.

After losing center and team captain Pat Elflein to graduation, the Buckeyes will move Billy Price from his right guard spot over to center next season. That leaves a hole at guard for mauling 6’3′, 319-pound incoming freshman Wyatt Davis from Bellflower, California. Davis is one the top ranked guards in the 2017 class and has a college ready (some could argue even NFL) body coming in. Davis could be in line to earn a starting spot as a true freshman. Josh Meyers, a 6’6′, 310-pound tackle/guard from Miamisburg, Ohio and another one of the nation’s top offensive line recruits in the 2017 class will also get his shot to earn early playing time this season.

Ohio State is loaded at defensive end with names like Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis, and Nick Bosa. But what Ohio State doesn’t have is a household name at defensive tackle. Season-ending injury to game one start Tracy Sprinkle saw the Buckeyes playing with a number of inexperienced defensive tackles during the 2016 season.

Dre’Mont Jones and Michael Hill stepped up for the most part, but the Buckeyes could use some more talent at the position. Enter incoming freshman and four-star prospect Haskell Garrett, who ESPN ranks as the No. 7 Defensive tackle in the nation in the 2017 class. Garrett comes in as a winner, playing at powerhouse program Bishop Gorman high school in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a very well coached player and is stout against the run and pass, and should give the defensive line group some much-needed bulk weighing in at just under 300 pounds.

Urban Meyer is in very good hands with this incoming recruiting class, it has the potential to be the best Meyer has ever brought in when it’s all said and done. With a class this good, the Buckeyes should see a few if not a number of true freshman see the field in 2017.

E-mail Derek at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @D_Woods21.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Is J.T. Barrett Good Enough to Win the Buckeyes a National Championship?

When you’re playing for Ohio State, being simply “good” is not enough. The expectations are to be great, and win national championships. With that being said, does J.T. Barrett truly have what it takes to lead the Buckeyes back to a national championship?

Barrett will leave Columbus owning most, if not every quarterback record in the Ohio State record book, but after the Ohio State offense failed to score a single point during its national semifinal game against Clemson, one has to wonder if the two-time Big Ten quarterback of the year can take his team where it expects to go.

It’s a conversation that will most likely take place all off-season, with Barrett deciding to return next season as a redshirt senior.  If you were to look strictly at the numbers, one could say Ohio State was equipped with one of the better returning quarterbacks in the country.

Barrett truly was one the nation’s best during his redshirt freshman season, (his first as a starter) completing a career best 64.6% of his passes, throwing for 2,834 yards, 34 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. A stat that was very underrated during that season, was the fact that Barrett averaged 9.0 yards a pass attempt, also a career high to this point. The yards per attempt stat shows how effective Barrett was getting the ball down the field during that season, and gives you some hope that with Kevin Wilson taking over, J.T. can once again play at that high level.

The biggest difference between the play of Barrett during that 2014 season and the two seasons that followed in the eyes of most, is the fact that Barrett was under the tutelage of new Texas head coach Tom Herman. Herman has quickly become one of the better offense minds in college football over the past few seasons, and many believe he was a big reason J.T. Barrett, as well as Cardale Jones, played so well during 2014.

The two seasons after saw Barrett splitting time with the aforementioned Jones during 2015, and having a pretty good 2016 regular season only to have everything crash and burn on offense against Clemson in the playoff.

Barrett threw for 2,555 yards during the 2016 campaign with 24 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions. He also added 845 yards rushing and 9 more touchdowns on the ground. A big difference from Barrett’s 2014 season is that during the 2016 season he averaged just 6.7 yards per attempt. Sure, a 2.3 yards per attempt dip doesn’t seem like much, but it shows the issues the Buckeyes had stretching the field and getting chunk plays. There are plenty of schools who would love to have a quarterback with those numbers, but at Ohio State expectations are a little different.

Yes, with a 26-4 career record as a starter and a 3-0 record against archrival Michigan, maybe Buckeye faithful should have a little more faith in the quarterback who has accounted for more total touchdowns that any player in Ohio State history. But those numbers are irrelevant if they aren’t accompanied by playoff wins and national championships.

Top-rated 2016 Under Armor All-American Dwayne Haskins has a chance to be a great player for Ohio State one day, and with his upside, a good off-season and more shaky play from Barrett could see the ultra-talented Haskins get his number called sooner rather than later. If Haskins can do the job just as good or better than Barrett and has more upside for the future, why not make his time now?

Whether he has been affected by poor coaching, (which has been addressed in the form of hiring a new offensive mind in Kevin Wilson) way below average play at receiver, or simply the fact that he hasn’t improved from year to year, Barrett will definitely feel the pressure to perform this upcoming season.

E-mail Derek at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @D_woods21.

Photo Credit: 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