One week ago, I gave you a Five for Friday telling you why Ohio State was going to win the national title this year. Now comes the heel turn.
Winning a national championship is a lot harder than it used to be and any number of reasons can keep a team from reaching that goal.
Finding those reasons for Ohio State, however, was kind of difficult. But I managed.
1. Too Deep to Get Cohesive
Urban Meyer has said teams can’t be too deep, at least on the defensive line. We’ve seen in the past that they can certainly be too deep at quarterback. I wonder if there might be too many receivers in the mix this season. Zach Smith has his six guys — Austin Mack, Binjimen Victor, K.J. Hill, Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, and Johnnie Dixon, but there are still guys like Demario McCall mixing in at H-back and freshmen Jaylen Harris and Trevon Grimes who are looking to play. And fellow freshman Ellijah Gardiner has been mentioned as a possibility as well. Smith needs to have six guys, which he does, and that’s what this system is designed for. But does nine receivers make it more difficult for J.T. Barrett to build a rapport and consistency? Barrett had trouble trusting the receivers a year ago, so can he suddenly trust all of them in 2017? Or does he only trust some and focus more on them, which then stifles the offense a bit when the guys he doesn’t trust are getting snaps? This feels a little bit like grasping at straws, but if you are looking to produce a dynamic passing game, consistency would be the first step.
2. J.T. Barrett
The Buckeyes played three Top 10 defenses last season in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Clemson. Ohio State did win two of those games, but J.T. Barrett’s passing numbers weren’t all that good in any of them. All told, he threw just one touchdown pass with four interceptions in those three games. He completed 54.2% of his passes, averaging just 159 yards passing per game. If the Buckeyes are going to win a national title this season, Barrett is going to have to produce much better against better defenses. There are no easy roads anymore. Can Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day make that much of a difference? It’s possible. Barrett was 3-0 against Top 10 defenses in 2014, leading OSU to wins over Penn State, Michigan State, and Michigan. He missed the second half of the UM game, but he had already thrown for 170+ yards and rushed for 89 more. In those three games, he completed 60.3% of his passes for an average of 183.3 yards per game. He threw five touchdowns and two interceptions. Can Barrett step up as a passer against the nation’s best defenses? Yes. We’ve seen him do it before. It’s just been a long time since it’s happened.
3. The Safety Situation
Hi, thanks for taking my call. Long-time listener, first-time caller. I was just wondering, does Ohio State beat Michigan last year without Malik Hooker? I’ll hang up and listen. Thanks.
4. The Ohio State Schedule
Speaking of Michigan, they host the Buckeyes this year. The Wolverines may be replacing a bunch of starters, but those guys will all be veterans by the time Ohio State comes to town. I just have a hard time imagining Jim Harbaugh going 0-3 against Ohio State. If the Buckeyes do lose this game, they’ll need plenty of good will (and luck) to get back into the College Football Playoff picture. It wouldn’t eliminate them because we don’t know what the rest of the field looks like. It wouldn’t be a good idea, however. Also, road games at Nebraska and Iowa will require Ohio State to play without any let down. Home games against Top 10 teams Oklahoma and Penn State shouldn’t be ignored, either. Oklahoma will be looking for payback, and Penn State will come to Columbus brimming with confidence.
Ironically, injuries have actually led to great things for Ohio State over the last few years. Generally, however, injuries are bad. If you picture the college football season like a mountainside hiking path, at any point an injury can send a team slipping toward the edge of a cliff. If the next guy up can stop that slide, then more power to you. If they can’t stop the slide, however, then that team is headed home in expedient fashion. The Buckeyes are deep enough that they would have options, but they don’t want to go into another season opener and lose two starters for a second year in a row. Injuries have a way of fracturing plans, as well. Once somebody gets hurt, those plans that have been in the works for months get set aside and new ones are made in a span of days or even minutes. I wouldn’t say that injuries are undefeated all-time, but they’ve certainly had a hall-of-fame career.