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Will Sparty Capitalize on Buckeye's Hawkeye Hangover? Baver Answers

Colin: Wow. Nobody saw that coming. Have you ever seen a worse defensive performance from a highly ranked Buckeye squad?

Baver: No; it was disgraceful. Iowa was averaging 25 ppg prior to last Saturday, and Ohio St should have been the best defense that the Hawkeyes had faced all year. Iowa had TD drives of 63, 80, 89, 78, 60, and 47 yds…mind blowing. It’s been a long time since I can remember a Buckeye defense being that confused. Hard to believe Greg Schiano allowed that to happen.

Colin: 5 TD passes allowed. Four to tight ends and one to a fullback. That is no coincidence. What did the Hawkeye coaches see on film that Penn State didn't?

Baver: I think the Buckeyes were well prepared for Penn St, having that game circled for 12 mths and the extra week to prepare. And Iowa was certainly well prepared for Ohio St. Ferentz and son obviously re-watched the OSU-Oklahoma game and thought the OSU LBs could still be had in pass coverage. Iowa was able to get their TEs matched up with Buckeye LBs, and create confusion with stacked or bunched receivers. Iowa’s fundamentals on offense trumped OSU’s athleticism on D. And Nathan Stanley picked apart a baffled Buckeye defense all afternoon. I definitely underestimated Stanley, as did the Buckeye defense.

Colin: Meanwhile our vaunted D-line got pushed all over the field. WTF?

Baver: And against two freshmen Iowa OTs to boot…so disheartening. I think much of it was just heart….the Iowa O-line simply wanted it more. And the Hawkeyes early success on offense fed off itself, with the confidence of their O-line sky-high by mid 3rd quarter. And the OSU D-line seemed tired….even in the first half. I wonder if Urban has burned these guys out a bit. There were whispers that he worked the team too hard leading up to the Clemson debacle. I don’t know if that’s true, but the burnout theory seems feasible to me.

Colin: Has this offensive under Barrett run out of fresh ideas? Is it fixable with this personnel or will it have to wait for next season?

Baver: I wouldn’t go that far, in terms of being out of ideas. Less than two weeks ago, this Buckeye offense torched a Penn St defense that at the time was giving up an NCAA-best 9.6 ppg. I think it was a major hangover emotionally coming off that game...a bigger hangover than one would expect. But I am worried about JT and his confidence right now. (Yeah, we are back to that topic again.)

Colin: Sparty comes to town excited for the opportunity to win the Big Ten East title. We come in sulking because we are out of the college football playoff. Is this a problem?

Baver: That’s the big question….how does this Buckeye team respond to that drubbing. I tend to think they bounce back emotionally, maybe a bit like they did against UM in 2015, after the heartbreaking loss to Sparty the prior week. But this OSU team has way more problems than that ‘15 team had; thus they could play with a lot of energy tomorrow and still lose.

Colin: What do the Bucks need to do to win this game?

Baver: On offense, JT mentally has to bounce back.  And they have to find a way to get JK Dobbins more carries…rinse and repeat. On defense, the Bucks will need to contain Brian Lewerke, which is no easy task. You might see Lewerke sneaking out of several would-be sacks and making big plays, and that would make things very hard on this Buckeye D. I think the 16 ½ pt spread is too high…no Urban vs Dino matchup has had a margin of victory that big, and Saturday should be no different. But I like the Bucks to bounce back and get a big win. I’ve got Ohio State 27 Michigan State 20.

Colin: Give us an update on your picks to date and other games you will be keeping an eye on the weekend?

Baver: 17-10 against the spread after a rough week. I love TCU catching 6 ½ at Oklahoma. I just see a letdown after the Bedlam game, and I think these 2 teams are evenly matched; should be a tight game. Notre Dame at Miami….playoff elimination game? Might be. Notre Dame was probably caught looking ahead last week in their 11-pt victory over Wake, but I think they will be focused in this one. I like the Irish laying the 3 ½ on the road.