It’s a pretty good sign when you can make as many mistakes as Ohio State did and still secure a 62-14 win over a Maryland team that could be headed for a bowl game this year.
The Buckeyes weren’t the only ones making mistakes in this one, but they were still able to overcome every error made.
Dominance has its virtues.
What did we learn from this year’s version of last year’s blowout win over the Terrapins? Let’s take a look.
1. Losing Branden Bowen is big, but the Buckeyes have depth.
Branden Bowen essentially came from the back of the pack in the fall to win the starting right guard job. His momentum built every week from camp until last week, and now he is likely done for the season with a broken leg. The leg will heal, but the Buckeyes must now regroup. The mid-point of the season is not the ideal time to start trying to get a new offensive line to gel. Fortunately, redshirt sophomore Matt Burrell is a guy the rest of the unit is comfortable with. He left the spring as the No. 1 right guard. Center Billy Price said before the start of the season that if it is Burrell next to him, things would be just fine. Price has confidence in Burrell and Burrell has built confidence in himself after a strong spring. Urban Meyer wants to see competition emerge here, but I fully expect Burrell to run with this opportunity.
2. We haven’t even gotten started with Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins.
It was a popular topic last week, but seeing Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins on the field together never happened — or at least I don’t remember it happening. We did see some new looks in the backfield, however, as a tight end came in as a quasi-fullback in a “loaded pistol” look on a few occasions. Weber said after the game that the running backs have been asking for an extra blocker in the backfield. This may be the first of a handful of tweaks in that regard, which will also eventually feature two running backs together. Remember, each week something new gets added to the offense, so there is still more to come.
3. This is as comfortable as J.T. Barrett has ever been.
In each of Ohio State’s last four games, J.T. Barrett has completed at least 60% of his passes, thrown for over 200 yards, and averaged at least eight yards per pass attempt. The only other time he has done each of those things over a four-game stretch was in 2014, beginning after the loss to Virginia Tech. The difference back then, however, is that the offense was more simplified. Now, he is being asked to do more things, and those things are clicking. He never even averaged eight yards per attempt in consecutive games during the 2015 or 2016 seasons. Anytime we talk about how well the passing game is playing right now, we have to add the caveat that it doesn’t mean anything yet, but it does mean something because it’s way better than the alternative.
4. The special teams need to settle.
The only thing the Buckeyes didn’t allow was a blocked punt, but that’s probably because they only punted twice. Maryland averaged 31 yards per kickoff return, including the 100-yarder by Ty Johnson. Urban Meyer was not happy after the game with the way the kicking is going and he said they would have to reconsider some things based on their lack of execution. This could be music to the ears of those people who have never been happy with the practice of trying to kick the ball inside the 5-yard line rather than kicking into the end zone.
5. J.K. Dobbins is not a fumbler.
Yes, J.K. Dobbins lost a fumble in this one, but he reassured the media after the game that he is not a fumbler. He said he thinks he’s only fumbled about three times since pee wee football. Urban Meyer and Tony Alford weren’t concerned, as they eventually got him back in the game after his fumble and he responded well.
6. Dante Booker may be on the verge.
This is the second-straight week that Dante Booker has had a sack and a pair of tackles for loss. Linebackers coach Bill Davis talked in the preseason about Booker’s ability to limit big plays on the outside, and this was going to be a game where that was tested. The two big plays that Maryland had in this game — a 35-yard run by Ty Johnson and a 20-yard touchdown run by Javon Leake — were with Booker on the bench and Malik Harrison and Pete Werner in the game instead. Maryland likes to run receiver screens as well, but the Buckeyes held the Terps to three completions for 16 yards.
7. The running game needs to get better.
This is more of a feel thing than a stats thing because the Buckeyes rushed for 281 yards against Maryland and to want more than that is wholly unfair. I think what is missing is dominance right out of the gate. Looking at J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber’s rushes, they both started slowly, and that seems to be a pattern. For instance, Weber and Dobbins each had 13 carries. In Dobbins’ first six carries, he rushed for 15 yards. In Weber’s first six carries, he rushed for 11 yards. In Dobbins’ final seven carries, however, he rushed for 79 yards, and in Weber’s final seven carries, he rushed for 48 yards. I guess a slow start is acceptable as long as there is a strong finish, but it does beg the question why a slow start is even necessary.
8. An aggressive defense is a productive defense.
The Ohio State defensive line is dominating right now, which allows the Buckeyes to utilize their linebackers in a number of different ways. When Greg Schiano also has the linebackers attacking, however, it makes the Ohio State defense a very dangerous animal. The Buckeyes finally got their first defensive score of the year — which is one of those things where they could start coming in bunches now. Four different Buckeye linebackers had tackles in the backfield, and much like the offense, it looks like additions will continue to be made each week.
9. Binjimen Victor could be a go-to guy yet this year.
The danger with making too much of one weekly performance by an Ohio State receiver is that there just aren’t enough balls to go around to think that big performances could become routine for any one player. Binjimen Victor had four catches for 55 yards, but J.T. Barrett looked for him three times in the red zone. The results were a touchdown, a pass interference, and an incompletion. Based on these numbers, three things can happen when Barrett throws the ball to Victor in the red zone and two of them are good. Victor was also utilized over the middle of the field for the first time I can remember. Urban Meyer and Zach Smith have talked openly about how good he can be, and we are seeing some of that blossoming right now.
10. Jeff Okudah has the goods.
Jeff Okudah is a freshman playing a position at Ohio State that cranks out NFL players annually, and now he is going to be in the starting rotation next week at Nebraska. I’ll write more about this because I asked Urban Meyer and Jerome Baker about it after the game, but they don’t seem to have any concerns, and as Meyer has said in the past, his job is to always have concerns. If there are no huge concerns about a true freshman heading into a road night game against a historic program, then this kid must be pretty darn good.
11. If you’ve got barbecue back there, you better invite Gus Johnson.
I don’t think I need to explain any further.
Gus Johnson is a national treasure pic.twitter.com/sDptGHbnG7
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) October 8, 2017