Baver's Buckeye Bag 9/2/14
First, some thoughts on the Navy game.
Let's start with the good news. The Bucks held Navy to 17 points, and 7 of those points, you can argue, should have come off the board with the blown sideline call on Navy's first TD. JT Barrett settled down after a shaky start and put up nice numbers for a kid who had no CFB playing experience prior to Saturday. The offense and defense both stepped up in the 4th quarter to turn a tight game into a 34-17 victory, and the Bucks are 1-0.
On the flip side, after having a month-plus to prepare for Navy's triple option, the Buckeye defense gave up 370 yards on the ground at a staggering 5.9 yards per clip. Even though OSU won't have to face another offense that is anything like Navy's this season, those numbers are more than concerning. There were several comments by OSU defensive players in the weeks leading up to the game that, I thought, were borderline arrogant. The Buckeye D was pretty confident that they were going to shut down Navy's triple option, but I think, got a taste of some humble pie.
Now, some quick hitters, looking at both the good and the bad from Saturday's game:
You have to love how JT Barrett responded after the bad pick he threw in the 2nd quarter. Didn't seem fazed, and showed fans what the coaches have been talking about - that Barrett has the demeanor you want in a Buckeye QB.
Navy usually finishes strong, but was completely gassed in the 4th quarter. The two big-play OSU TD's (Lee's fumble return & the 80-yard TD pass to Devin Smith) sucked all of the air out of the Navy D. The Bucks followed Smith's TD with a 10-play, 80-yard drive, then an 8-play, 70-yard drive, and that was all she wrote.
Back to the problems defending the option....the first half was pretty much what I expected - the Buckeye D struggled at times, but didn't let the Navy option hurt them too badly. I thought things would get better for Ohio State after OSU's halftime adjustments. Wrong. It was Navy's offense making the proper halftime adjustments, and gashing Ohio State's D for almost 200 yards on the ground in the 3rd quarter alone.
The Buckeye defense keyed on Navy star-QB Keenan Reynolds, holding him to a net 42 yards. That would have been commendable, had the OSU D not given up 328 yards combined to the Navy TB's & FB's, at 8.2 yards a pop. Yeah…it was difficult to watch at times. But at least they kept Navy out of the end zone for the most part, which is why Ohio State is 1-0 right now.
The Bucks did however make the proper adjustments after the pass blocking issues in the 1st quarter. Not sure why they flip-flopped RG Pat Elflein and LG Billy Price to start the game. From what I saw after that, Elflein was back at right guard most of quarters 2, 3 & 4, with Price and Joel Hale alternating at LG. Meyer said the lack of downfield passes early were because of the O-line issues, not Barrett. I actually think it was both.
You have to love the having “combo” (run/catch) guys like Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall and Curtis Samuel. Wilson and Samuel just missed taking a couple plays to the house. Wilson definitely looked improved, and Marshall and Samuel were as advertised - these guys are going to cause defenses major problems when the O-line and Barrett get past some of the learning curve.
Now the attention turns to Virginia Tech, another game that I think will be hard to watch at times for OSU fans. Virginia Tech had the #1 rated pass defense (efficiency wise) in 2013 and returns all 4 starters from their secondary. They were 23.5 pt favorites over William & Mary in the opener, winning (and covering) 34-9. As of the time of this blog, the Bucks were an 11-point favorite over the Hokies, but I think the line is too high. I expect a dog fight.
Taking a closer look at the Hokies, this is a team that is only 16-13 over their last 29 games. So, I am probably not the only person that has used the "jumped the shark" term, when talking about VT Head Coach Frank Beamer. But at this early point in the 2014 season, I don't think Ohio State looks that much better on paper than Va Tech. It also concerns me that Va Tech likely spent considerably more time in fall camp preparing for Ohio State than the Buckeyes did preparing for them. You can't concentrate on your Week #2 opponent in August when you open against the Navy option attack. The Hokies, on the other hand, could afford to sneak in some early prep work for the Buckeyes, with William & Mary on tap for their opener.
Va Tech returns 8 starters on offense from their 2013 squad and 5 on defense, with 4 of those 5 being their entire defensive backfield, as mentioned above. That means they return only one of their front seven on D. So, you know where the Hokies' strength lies and where the question marks are on defense. But even with the losses on the D-line (with DT Luther Maddy being the only returning starter), this should be a solid Va Tech D-line, and an upgrade from what the Bucks faced against Navy. On offense, Texas Tech transfer QB Michael Brewer now runs the show and the Hokies have a potential immediate star in true-frosh TB Shai McKenzie. But like Ohio State, the O-line is one of the biggest question marks on the VT offense.
The Buckeyes are going to have to build on their offensive effort in the 2nd half against Navy, when the O-line, Barrett and Zeke Elliott got things going. They are going to have major problems throwing the ball downfield against the Hokies, even with VT likely selling out to stop the Buckeye run. Va Tech can afford to leave their elite corners (Brandon Facyson & Kendall Fuller) on their respective islands, and dare JT Barrett to throw the ball vertically against them.
The good news for Ohio State is...Va Tech's offense isn't going to cause the Buckeye D the problems that Navy did. The VT O-line is outmanned in the interior against Adolphus Washington and Michael Bennett, as most teams are. I'd love to have Noah Spence for this one, but he must sit out this game as the last of his three-game suspension. Regardless, I have a feeling either Steve Miller or Rashad Frazier makes a big play in Spence's place on Saturday.
Bottom Line: I expect a fairly low scoring game that goes down to the wire, with the Buckeyes again putting things together late and getting it done. But I am hearing too many Buckeye fans expecting a beat down. I think those fans are probably underestimating the Hokies and are expecting Ohio State to magically get past all the growing pains in one week. We shall see, but I like Ohio State 24-17.