We are a quarter of the way through the regular season and the Bucks still have some pretty big concerns to address. Let’s look at a few of the bigger ones…
Baver's Buckeye Bag 9/23/14
Concern #1 – The O-line. Here is an Urban Meyer quote from Monday, regarding the O-line: “I think we're going to play six games and get some rotation going.” The comment has to make you shake your head because Meyer is rarely this indecisive. And unfortunately, the options appear to be choosing from “bad, worse, or worst” to find the best combination of five guys, and where to play each them right now. Well, they’d better start figuring things out quickly. Right now, there is one O-lineman, Taylor Decker, playing at the level this team needs.
Concern #2 – Finding a big time playmaker on offense. There are a handful of guys that have shown glimpses of being “that guy”, but the Bucks still need one or two guys to take it to another level. I don’t think Dontre Wilson deserves the grief I am hearing OSU fans give him, but Wilson still has not become the superstar most thought he would be. With Ezekiel Elliott, I think some of the questions about his speed and vision are valid. I still like Zeke’s upside but think he is at least a year away. I think Jalin Marshall is going to be a very solid 4-year player at Ohio State, but he is far from the “Percy Harvin” that everyone lusts for. Curtis Samuel has some real talent, and probably has the highest ceiling of any skill position player.
Concern #3 – The development of JT Barrett. I don’t have a lot of specifics to talk about here; the Bucks simply need Barrett to develop quickly. Hopefully he learned a lot from weeks #1 & #2, as I am not sure how much you can learn from facing an outmanned Kent State team. If Barrett plays like a “freshman” the rest of the year, Ohio State is looking at a four-loss regular season. If he gets beyond that, the Big Ten title is in play.
Concern #4 – The defensive backfield. The stats may look good so far, but they are skewed; the Navy and Kent State games tell us little. Let’s see how this unit does against Gunner Kiel and Cincinnati. I really like the potential of Eli Apple and Vonn Bell, but still worry that these guys are not quite ready to face quality QB’s like Kiel, Christian Hackenberg, and Connor Cook.
Onto the matchup against UC….
With what seems like 500 schools changing conferences over the past few years, the rescheduling of games has made a mess of bye weeks. So much so, that Cincinnati opened the season with back-to-back bye weeks, which is beyond ridiculous. But even with the two-week head start, Toledo was a 9 ½-point dog against the Bearcats in week #3, and UC hammered them 58-34. Last week, however, Cincinnati was a 30-point favorite over a very bad Miami (OH) team, and only beat the Redskins by 7. (Political correctness be damned – Miami will always be the Redskins to me.)
So which Cincinnati team will show up Saturday against the Bucks? I tend to think Cincinnati looked past their traditional rival Miami, gearing up for Ohio State. With that being said, this Cincinnati defense does not have the defense Va Tech had, and will be facing a Buckeye team that has had two weeks to prepare for them.
The big task for Ohio State will be defending QB Gunner Kiel. Kiel, a Notre dame transfer and nephew of the late Notre Dame QB Blair Kiel, was all-everything coming out of high school in 2012. Some had him rated as the #1 QB prospect in the nation. Kiel can sling it, and will be one of the more talented QB’s Ohio State will face this year. But, as talented as he is, Kiel is still inexperienced and I tend to think he will make enough mistakes to offset the 300+ yards that I think he will throw for Saturday night.
Last week, I said UC was “fairly solid” on both sides of the ball. Upon closer examination, I just don’t see the Cincinnati D stopping OSU’s offense. Even with the concerns I have with the Buckeye offense (see 1st half of this blog above), the Cincy defense just doesn’t match up. The call: Ohio State makes some progress running between the tackles and force Kiel to make and a handful of critical mistakes. Bucks win (and cover) 38-21.
Brent Baver knows more about OSU football than you. You can read him most every Tuesday and Friday on Pencilstorm.com