10 Things We Learned

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Last updated: 10/20/2013 7:50 PM
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Football
10 Things We Learned from Urban’s 19th Straight Win
By Brandon Castel

The Buckeyes improved to 7-0 on the season with their 19th straight victory on Saturday. Urban Meyer still hasn’t lost a football game since November of 2010 and Ohio State is right in the thick of national championship hunt – despite the fact their schedule could be the toughest opponent they face the rest of the year.

Here’s a look at the 10 Things We Learned during Ohio State’s 34-24 victory over Iowa in Columbus.

1. Football as we know it is dying. This is not one of those remember the good old days when guys had to be afraid to go over the middle for a pass rants. I’m not a fan of knockout hits and I completely understand the need for more safety in the game of football, but at what point have we jumped the shark when it comes to player safety? There’s no room in the game for helmet-to-helmet hits, but that’s not what got Bradley Roby ejected from the game on Saturday. Whatever the spirit of the targeting rule may be, I can’t believe it was intended to have a star player tossed from a game for hitting a guy in the shoulder. And if so, then I really don’t understand what we’re doing anymore.

2. This team finds a way get it done. We have talked about this in past columns, but it really hit me on Saturday during the game. Even when they were down at halftime, it never occurred to me Ohio State wasn’t going to win the game. That’s the kind of confidence this team has developed over the last 19 games and it just seemed obvious to me they were going to find a way to win that game against Iowa. It hasn’t always been pretty, and they have yet to face a top-10 team during Urban Meyer’s tenure in Columbus, but some teams just have that ability to rise above the competition when the game is on the line. The Buckeyes have shown that ability time and again under Meyer’s leadership, and it’s almost unfair to bet against them until they prove otherwise.

3. The Buckeyes are in much better position today. While it wasn’t exactly a signature win on Saturday, Ohio State is sitting in a much better position today than it was a week ago this time. It started Thursday night with UCF’s upset over undefeated Louisville and continued Saturday with losses by Clemson, LSU, Texas A&M, UCLA, South Carolina and Georgia. All of them were top 15 teams heading into the day, and all of them were essentially eliminated from national title contention this week. The fact Clemson was demolished by Florida State helped the Seminoles leapfrog Ohio State in the standings, but it eliminated Clemson from what has become, essentially, a four-team race. Missouri, Baylor and Miami may all have something to say before the end of the year, but Ohio State is right there with FSU, Oregon and Alabama in the race for the crystal football. Because of their schedule, the Buckeyes probably need two of those other teams to lose if they’re going to play for all the marbles this season.

4. Urban Meyer can’t rely on his defense. One thing that could keep Ohio State out of the title hunt is the team’s defense. It seems strange to say that after all the success the Silver Bullets had during Jim Tressel’s decade in Columbus, but this group is just not very good right now. Even with Bradley Roby on the field, this OSU defense has struggled to get off the field on third down. It’s struggled to get consistent pressure and hasn’t been able to take over games the way Ohio State’s defense has done in the past. The perfect example of this came Saturday after Braxton Miller found Devin Smith for a 14-yard touchdown. It gave OSU a 24-17 lead late in the third quarter, but less than a minute later the defense gave up an 85-yard touchdown to Iowa tight end Jake Duzey. That’s not what championship defenses do.

5. The secondary is becoming a problem. Speaking of that catch and run by Duzey, how did no one in the OSU secondary run down a 245-pound tight end in the open field? That’s where the Buckeyes missed having a guy like Roby on the field, but it’s almost remarkable no one else out there was able to chase this guy down. With Christian Bryant out for the year, this secondary was already depleted before Roby got the boot on Saturday. Their replacements, Corey Brown and Armani Reeves, haven’t done much to bolster the secondary. Both have looked shaky in their new roles and it’s putting too much pressure on the defensive coaches to coach conservatively because they’re afraid to get burned. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, that’s only leading to more problems on the back end.

6. Carlos Hyde is the most important player on this team. Where would this team be right now without Carlos Hyde? Think about that for a moment. We knew Hyde was going to be important to the season, but remember when he was almost kicked off the team? I’m not saying Jordan Hall and Rod Smith wouldn’t bring anything to the table if Hyde wasn’t around, but he’s the most important player on this team right now. He brings a level of toughness and attitude this group needs and he is nearly unstoppable running behind this offensive line. In four games since coming off his suspension, Hyde has racked up nearly 450 yards on the ground. He has 317 yards and five touchdowns the last two games and he’s averaging over six yards per carry on the season. More importantly, he has been a steadying force when things aren’t going the way Meyer would like offensively.

7. Braxton is getting closer to being Braxton. The good thing for the Buckeyes is the worst should be behind them, or at least the days of needing Hyde to carry them every week. For the first time since his injury, Braxton Miller started to look like Braxton Miller on Saturday. He didn’t break off any big runs against Iowa, but he finally showed some elusiveness in the open field we hadn’t seen really since last season. He was breaking ankles at the second level and making guys miss all over the field. Maybe most importantly, he used his escability to keep plays alive and find open receivers down the field. He picked the right time of year to get his game back and the Buckeyes should be a much more dangerous team offensively as Miller gets more comfortable with his role as the team’s best weapon.

8. Braxton is a better player than he was a year ago. This was only the fourth time in Miller’s career he ran for over 100 yards and passed for over 200. He was an efficient 22 of 27 for 222 yards, including a couple drops by his receivers. He spread the ball to six different receivers and racked up 102 yards on 18 carries. That part has always been a part of Miller’s game, but it’s becoming clearer every week that Miller is much improved as a passer over what we saw last season. He’s making better decisions with the football and throwing a much more accurate ball down the field than we saw even a few weeks ago. It will be interesting to see him develop over the next year.

9. Dontre Wilson needs more touches. This one is self-explanatory. I know it. You know. Urban knows it. Wilson is a weapon and his speed and ability to get to the corner are on a different level than the other guys Meyer has at his disposal. He only got four touches on offense this week, but he was a much bigger part of the game plan than in previous weeks and it’s obvious they need to get him more involved the rest of the way.

10.  Things don’t always make sense. The Buckeyes play Penn State at night this week. The Nittany Lions got whipped by Indiana, 44-24, two weeks ago. Last week they beat Michigan 43-40 in four overtimes. This week Michigan ran away from Indiana 63-47. What does it all mean? Who knows, but it’s why I hate the comparison method for determining which teams are better or which teams are going to win. That’s not really the way football, of all sports, is designed to work. It’s all about matchups and guys making plays at the right moment. I think Ohio State will do that on Saturday night.

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