Three and Out

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Last updated: 09/22/2013 8:46 PM
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Football
Three and Out: Thoughts From OSU's 76-0 Win Over Florida A&M
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Buckeyes got an easy day of work in on Saturday, putting 76 points on their board and keeping the Rattlers from putting anything at all on theirs. This game gave us as overmatched an opponent as I have ever seen in Ohio Stadium, and let's remember that Rich Rodriguez brought Michigan to town twice.

There aren't many conclusions to be drawn from this game, but we did get a few confirmations of what we've already suspected. One, this offense is getting better every week, and it keeps adding new faces. The staff is comfortable pushing the players and asking more and more out of them. The pace is good, and you know that they can go even faster. We haven't yet seen every wrinkle that the Buckeye offense has to give.

On the defensive side of the ball, this game was almost a complete waste of time. It was a reward for young players and scout players, but more importantly it gave Michael Bennett a week off, as well as Adolphus Washington another week to get healthy. So in that way, this game came at the exact right time. Congrats to Gene Smith for such strategic scheduling.

First Down
What's next for Kenny Guiton and Braxton Miller? Miller is expected to be back for the Wisconsin game, and Urban Meyer has already said that Miller remains the starter. However, I think Miller will only be the starter once he is healthy enough to play an entire game. Will that be Saturday night, or will it be further down the road?

Kenny Guiton and Braxton Miller
Photo by Jim Davidson
Kenny Guition and Braxton Miller

Even if Miller is 100%, I would still expect Guiton to get the start, as it will be much easier to ease Miller into the game after a couple of possessions. This will also allow Meyer to freely pull Miller and play Guiton whenever he likes. If he starts Miller, and Miller doesn't move the ball in their first few possessions, the crowd is going to be calling for Guiton. If he pulls Miller at that point, you now have a full-blown quarterback controversy.

Whereas if Guiton starts, regardless of how he does, the Horseshoe will be much more ready to accept Miller coming into the game. If he struggles, then going back to Guiton is no big deal because Guiton started the game and Meyer is still trying to work Miller back in the game.

There is also the small matter of the fact that this is the biggest game of the season to this point, and the Buckeyes need their best option at quarterback right now. I doubt that the best option is a player who hasn't played in nearly a month and who can't yet be completely comfortable in what he is or isn't yet able to do.

Starting Guiton against Wisconsin is the safe bet, and it's also the best bet.

Second Down
We are about to find out about this Ohio State defense for the very first time. Wisconsin is rushing for 349.8 yards per game, and they are going to try to get every last one of those yards against the Buckeyes.

Ohio State has played so much dime defense this season, as well as so many backups, that Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown is third on the team in tackles (20). Brown is the team's dime safety, as well as C.J. Barnett's backup. He may not play many snaps against Wisconsin, but he has played enough at this point to be third on the team in tackles.

This will be the most that Ohio State's starting front seven plays possibly all season long. Will they find out that they have another problem like they did last season, or do the coaches actually have exactly what they want on hand?

Wisconsin is going to attack the Buckeye defense up the middle and on the edges with relentless effort. Curtis Grant will be huge in this game one way or another, and Ryan Shazier will likely have his best numbers of the season. The Badgers have three very talented running backs, and Melvin Gordon and James White are big-play guys that will test Ohio State's ability to keep leverage.

The coaches like their team, but I wonder how confident they are in the defense. Everything to this point has been positive, even with the 34 points given up to California. But these first four games have only delayed our judgment. Things look good right now, but the truth will come out on Saturday night. We will know so much more about this team one week from right now.

Third Down
You can see the future of this running game in the freshmen tailbacks. We have seen what Dontre Wilson is capable of in the first three games, and on Saturday we finally got a good, long look at Ezekiel Elliott. He showed the vision and balance that is necessary to thrive, and the speed and strength that makes him a complete back.

I've been saying for a while that Elliott isn't just a speed back like Wilson, and against Florida A&M he proved that. Arm tackles weren't bringing him down, and his legs kept driving forward. It may be a while before he gets another 14 carries, but the crystal ball we saw on Saturday sure provided some nice foreshadowing for the Buckeyes.

We also have to mention Warren Ball and Bri'onte Dunn, who will both be redshirt sophomores next season. Both can move a pile and will certainly have a place in this offense. Amazingly, every last one of these tailbacks may be waiting in line behind future senior Rod Smith next year.

There is a lot to love here, but I think the future clearly lies in the combination of Elliott and Wilson, who have the home run potential to be a new wave of Bash Brothers for the Buckeyes. That being said, Ball will continue to be heard from, don't worry about that.

And Out
Urban Meyer loves his team but only likes his coaches? After the game, Meyer was asked if this team is ready for Big Ten play. His answer was, “I love my team, I like our coaches and the seriousness that our guys are approaching everything with, and I like the fact that we're relatively healthy.”

Did you catch that part about only “liking” his coaches? Perhaps I am reading too much into this, but week after week Meyer praises Mike Vrabel for the work that he has done on the defensive line, and week after week continues to talk about the linebackers not being where they need to be.

I don't believe that Meyer says many things on accident. That's one reason he told the media on Saturday that he wanted Braxton Miller to play, but Miller said he wasn't ready. To me, he's sending a bit of a message to Miller. Does he do the same thing with his coaches? It wouldn't be a surprise to me.

Meyer expects the best out of his coaches, and if he feels like he's not getting it, then there are going to be issues. Those issues will then soon be resolved one way or another.

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