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Is this Buckeye D-line the best yet? - Baver Answers Colin's Questions

Colin: Do you think the offensive play calling would have been the same with Urban on the sideline? 

Baver: You would have seen more designed runs with Haskins, and the pace would have been slower with the play calls ultimately going through Urban. Maybe Meyer will learn a bit from watching things from afar, and allow Day and Wilson to manage the play calling a bit more going forward. On the flip side, I wonder if Schiano took more chances with his aggressive scheme while Urban was watching at home. I tend to think both teams would have scored less had Urban been calling the shots.

Colin: What else on offense jumped out at you? 

Baver: Mike Weber….what strides this kid has made under RB coach Tony Alford, and probably from watching a lot of film. He’s mainly a north/south runner, but on the one play in the 2ndhalf where the middle was congested on 3rd& 1, he made a quick decision to step back and cut outside picking up the first. I’m sure NFL scouts took notice.

What else can be said about Haskins? So comfortable, gets rid of the ball so quickly, adjusts the touch he puts on the ball when he needs to, hits receivers in stride, etc. The kid’s upside is crazy, but it of course won’t be that easy against a good D. 

Colin: I was at the game and Bosa and C Young were literally racing each other to sack the QB on most plays. We have had some great lines but could this one be special or will the relative lack of depth be a problem in tough games? 

Baver: If Dre’Mont, Bosa and Young stay healthy, this line may indeed go down as the best OSU has ever had. The LT for Oregon St, Blake Brandel, is actually one of the better tackles in the Pac-12, and the dude got abused by Bosa. Dre’Mont has done some work since we last saw him, and his athleticism was on full display against the Beavers. Chase Young? He may have had some mental mistakes, but he couldn’t be blocked either. Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard were very good but Bosa and Young are at another level. There are depth concerns at DE, but this team has a pretty deep set of DTs.

Colin: But...the defense got gashed for HUGE plays multiple times. Should we be worried? What gives? 

Baver: You had a combination of inexperienced guys out of position, an extremely aggressive Greg Schiano defense, and they pulled Bosa and Dre’Mont at halftime. In fact, the four best OSU defenders, Bosa, Dre’Mont, Borland, and Fuller were not on the field when Artavis Pierce had his two long runs. 

Still, the expectations are a lot higher than what we saw out of the OSU D this past Saturday. I don’t think the LBs are going to be ready for the big time anytime soon, and the safety play was horrific. The good thing is, if the D-line starters stay healthy, the coaches can devote so much extra time to the back-7. They of course have 4 and 5-star guys to work with, so it may be a night and day difference come November.

Colin: Let’s skip Rutgers talk and look around the rest of the Big Ten, especially the vaunted East division. What were your take always from week one? 

Baver: You would have thought Michigan would have been fired up and ready to break a 3-game losing streak with a lineup that’s playoff caliber. Not. And the defense that many have raved about (myself included) has not fared well against high-caliber offenses. Michigan is underachieving like nobody’s business. 

Sparty? Slow starts are par for the course for them early in the season, but one has to wonder if they have the talent to challenge in the east. Penn State? I think it’s going to take a while for this team to adjust with all the guys they lost. Wisconsin? Hornibrook looked poor again throwing the ball. That would be concerning to me if I were a cheese head. But that’s still a top-10 Badger team in my opinion.

Colin: What other games and lines will you be keeping an eye on this weekend? 

Baver: I’ve got Ohio State covering the 35 this week; I’m calling OSU 56-17. That would mirror the 2014 score, which is the closest RU has come to Ohio St since joining the Big Ten. 

In the other big ones, I like the favorites for a change. That would be Georgia laying the 10 at South Carolina, Clemson laying the 12 at A&M, and Stanford at home laying 6 against USC. Too much of a talent gap I think in the each of first two gms I mentioned, and I tend to think So Cal true freshman JT Daniels is going to get a rude awakening in Stanford Stadium.

 

 

Baver Answers Beaver Week Questions: Part Two - Brent Baver

Colin: Our receivers work hard and have so much depth blah blah blah blah. Is anybody going to step up and be the man who puts fear in the opposing defense? 

Baver: I think the short answer is no. I mean, a defensive coordinator seeing Parris Campbell get in the open field is nightmare for him, but I know that’s not what you mean. Campbell really isn’t a true receiver. I must say that Zone-6 did finally grow on me last year and you saw OSU’s overall depth take its toll against several of its opponents, including Penn State and Michigan in huge comeback wins for the Buckeyes. 

But if the old fashion go-to WR is what you want, it’s very unlikely you are going to see that this season. The guy with the biggest upside of the bunch is Binjamen Victor, but he brings the biggest downside as well. A sleeper to watch would be CJ Saunders. 

The depth argument isn’t sexy, but Phil Steele and Athlon both ranked Ohio State’s WRs as the best WR group in the Big Ten.

Colin: Should I even ask about the tights ends? 

Baver: If you are into blocking schemes, sure…..

Colin: The defense should be stout again. How would you attack them if you were coaching Oregon State? 

Baver: Not that Oregon State has the talent or scheme to do it, but Oklahoma and Iowa exposed Ohio State big time with their short passing games in upset wins against Ohio State last season. These games were a low point for Buckeye LBs since Urban arrived in 2012. And I guess I’d use your “…so much depth blah blah blah..” comment when looking at this LB group. With the talent OSU brings in year in and year out, maybe one or even two guys explode like Darren Lee did in ’14, but I am taking a wait and see approach with this group. 

Colin: Meanwhile Michigan is taking on Notre Dame. Considering the Wolverines closed out 2017 with three straight losses, how big a game is this for Harbaugh and his non chicken eaters? 

Baver: Huge. Jimmy was surviving last year’s rebuilding year, but then his team blew a 14-0 lead losing to Ohio State once again. But at least UM followed that up with a 2ndhalf collapse against a hapless South Carolina team in the Outback bowl, earning the Big Ten its only bowl lost last season.

On paper, this Michigan team clearly looks like Harbaugh’s best. Their defense lost everybody after the 2016 season, and still had a top ranked D last season. They may have the best D in the nation this year. They finally have a QB, and they have a lot of very highly rated guys that got good work as true freshmen in ‘17. 

Still, this has been a Michigan team that couldn’t win a tight game against a decent opponent to save their lives. But I guess I will play the fool again and pick Jimmy to finally get the road win against a ranked team, in a 17-14 type game. But this is a game that can go either way.

Colin: Any other games and lines you will be keeping an eye on this weekend? 

Baver: Washington vs Auburn in Atlanta is the game of the week. Both are legit top-10 teams nationally on paper. Chris Peterson has done a phenomenal job so far at Auburn, but has lost most of his matchups against elite opponents. Auburn doesn’t get the pub like Bama does in this neck of the woods, but Gus and his assistants have been recruiting like gangbusters, and like Washington, the Tigers are stacked this year. I would have these teams probably about even on a neutral field, so I would have lean Auburn with the Huskies traveling across the country to play to play Gus’ boys.

Other gms…..I am really interested in seeing Joe Burrow in action against the Mark Richt’s Hurricanes, although I don’t have a good feel for how that one will turn out. I tend to think Joe won’t be ready yet, as he’s had little time to adjust in Baton Rouge. Still, I will be rooting for him.

I will pass on picking games against the spread this week and just enjoy the return of college football with the nightmare of an August we have had in Buckeye country….I’ll make one exception and pick the OSU vs OSU game ATS.

I’d say take the Beavers getting 38.5 against Ohio State with all the uncertainty with this Buckeye team. I also wonder if you will see OSU play true freshmen for much of the second half with the new redshirt rule. I’ve got Ohio State winning 48-14.

Baver Answers Beaver Week Questions: Part One - Brent Baver

 

Colin: Might as well get this out of the way, do you feel the Urban suspension was too long, too short or just right? 

Baver: My first thought after reading the report was that Urban was lucky to have a job. Knowing that Gene Smith provided Urban with an easy plan to address questions at Big Ten Media Days, and that Urban did the opposite of what Gene suggested, is pretty hard to swallow. Add to it the findings that indicate Meyer likely deleted text messages, knowing his phone would likely be looked at, and there was almost no way Urban could have gotten by without a suspension. Were it not for all that things Urban has done for Ohio State on and off the football field, he almost certainly would have been out of a job. 

Trying to reconcile his failure to drop the hammer on Zach Smith with all the things Urban has done for this program, aside from winning at a ridiculously high level, is tough to do. Meyer has completely raised the bar at Ohio State in every possible manner. 

Urban took a lot of heat when he was at Florida because of player arrests and other off-the-field players issues. He made this area of responsibility a personal project when he arrived at Ohio State, and the results are a night and day difference. These kind of player incidents are way, way down at OSU since Urban arrived in Columbus. Football graduation rates and Academic All-Big Ten selections? Meyer has knocked the ball out of the park here as well. And Urban and Shelley do more for women’s causes than just about any other current head coach/wife combo in college football. And the things they do are absolutely NOT “just for show”. If you missed OSU commit Harry Miller's mother's heartbreaking story, and her unequivocal support of Urban, you absolutely need to check it out HERE. Kristina Miller is a domestic abuse survivor.

It’s hard for me to have a beef with the 3-game suspension, but I think Ohio State definitely made the right move in keeping Meyer. Still, with perception and reality becoming so easily blurred in today’s society, Urban may not ultimately make it through this. If he doesn’t, I will be crushed.

Colin: Along those lines, Urban is notoriously wired pretty tight, how do you think this whole affair is impacting his ability to stay healthy and continue coaching? 

Baver: A definite big concern. Many questioned whether Urban would coach into his 60s before this ordeal got underway. This is a head coach that turned his back to the field, not being able to watch his kicker attempt a 4thquarter field goal in the Big Ten Title game last December. Tightly wired indeed. But Ohio St’s recruiting over that following 6-mth period was off-the-charts, and I had renewed hope for Urban’s longevity prior to things blowing up with Zach Smith.

I think back at first hearing him say “…coach like your hairs on fire.” That’s Urban - spot on. I really hope his health holds up and that Urban is here 5 years from now, but I have my doubts.

Colin: On to football... It all starts up front, the line is reshuffling and replacing a Center and Left Tackle. What should we expect from this unit?

Baver: A big question mark. And as you know….and it’s not just “a” center that has to be replaced; it’s the Remington Award winner. So we now know Mike Jordan will slide from LG to center, while Malcolm Pridgeon will fill Jordan’s vacated LG spot. Word on the street is that Pridgeon has made huge strides. Sophomore Thayer Munford will be at left tackle when healthy, but is dinged up right now, and would be replaced by Joshua Alibi if he can’t go in the opener. LT is a major concern, but I think Munford will eventually be a good one. In the short run, Munfort is going to have major problems dealing with TCU’s Ben Banogu in Wk 3. Banogu is the B12 pre-season Defensive Player of the Year selection.

Colin: It's no secret the offense became predictable and stagnant at times last year with JT under center. Will we see a different offense with the change to Dwayne Haskins?

Baver: You know me, I am almost always going to defend JT. So I have to start by saying, in ’17, JT led the Big Ten in passing efficiency, threw for 3,053 yds, 35 TDs, ran for 798 yds with another 12 TDs on the ground, and played the entire B10 title game 6 days after a knee operation. And JTs ability that was taken for granted, to pick up the needed 1st down on third or fourth and short, was unlike any college QB I can remember.

But I love Dwayne Haskins’ upside. He certainly has a bigger, more accurate arm than JT. There will be fewer read options with DH, and fewer designed runs, but still probably too many called keepers if/when Urban returns. If I were the head coach (and I thank God I am not), I would want to limit the hits Haskins takes. I don’t think OSU can win the rugged Big Ten East with Tate Martell at QB as the #1 guy behind center.

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Brian and Greg Answer My Two World Cup Questions - by Colin Gawel

Gents,  How did your previous predictions turn out and what were the biggest surprises leading to the semi finals? How do you see it playing out from here? 

Greg - BriPhi looks a lot smarter than I do to this point...we were both on France, and he called the full-on EuroFinal. I'm amazed by the Year of the Underdog...not completely, but the teams that have gone home so far...wouldn't have guessed (as I've proven in this very space). I'm seeing a France-England final...France dominates theirs, and England in a close one. As far as the final, my heart says England, but my head says France. The Battle of the Channel!

The plus for England is that while Harry Kane had an off-night in the scoring column, his mates picked up for him. I do think the Golden Boot goes home with Kane.

Brian P. - I'll stick with France and agree with Greg that I like England to get through on the other end. France/Belgium will be wildly entertaining. For France's sake they need to be prepared for the Belgium counter attack way better than Brazil was. Brazil did a terrible job there.

My main surprise at this point was how well Russia did. They were at a serious talent disadvantage versus most of the field. It's been fun! Entertaining World Cup to be sure.

Greg - The X factor for France is Mbappe's speed. I don't think the Belgian defenders have anyone who has the wheels to stay with him.

 

 

Brian and Greg Answer Colin's World Cup Questions

Brian Phillips and Greg Bartram answer my simple minded World Cup questions entering the knockout stage of the tournament. - Colin G.

1) After group stage, whose stock is rising and who is falling?

Brian - To me the knock out stage (16 remaining teams, single elimination) is all about match-ups. We're seeing parity in this year's field. No one's stock is falling faster than host Russia. Uruguay exposed them 3-0 in the group finale. Spain will make quick work of them. I'm certainly more intrigued by Sweden after what they did to Mexico.

Greg - Agreed with Sweden, but I also thing El Tri still has a trick or two up their sleeve. This is a team that made the US look disinterested at home here in Columbus, so I think there's more here. Russia made out like bandits umping out to an 8-1 goal differential, but I think that was the adrenaline of being at home. I expect them to crater. Speaking of stock falling...Argentina? They barely made it, and out of a perennial powerhouse like that with a player the caliber of Messi to stink up the joint that badly...

What games are you most looking forward to in the first knockout round?

Brian - Brazil/Mexico for me. Can Mexico return to the form they showed against Germany? Can Brazil stand up to the physical game they'll see from El Tri? A not 100% Neymar should expect to be knocked around again. Will the center ref offer any protection or let them play? I am also very curious about England/Columbia. Heavy expectations again on the Brits. Does Harry Kane have another goal or two in him?

Greg - Brazil/Mexico, as Brian says, but also and especially France/Argentina. I think France dominates this. Uruguay/Portugal...Sorry, Suarez...you go home sad, methinks.

Do you feel the use of replay has been a success?

Brian - I have loved the replay. The ones I've seen they've gotten correct, and in important spots. And they've been efficient in the process.

Greg - I think VAR has been effective. I haven't seen one that they got wrong. The goal against Germany would've been a crime to let slip away. Not too much to break up the flow, but keeping the game legal...I'm all about it.

What teams would you put your money on at this point?

Brian- I'm liking France right now., but I'm glad I don't have money on this. Expect some surprises. The final four will be all Europeans.

Greg - I was all about the Sons and 'Ssons of Iceland, and sorry they didn't advance. Portugal's an interesting story, underdoggy because of the country's size, but turning out some of the word's best...Ronaldo has been a machine. And here's your Michigan debate...you have Michigan, but you root for the B1G, right? Same thing for El Tri. The US looks better the deeper Mexico moves...maybe their defense should Build a Wall?  I'm feeling Portugal