USC head coach Clay Helton has been impressed by the Ohio State offense from afar this season, and with the Cotton Bowl pitting OSU against the Trojans later this month, he is now in the process of getting much better acquainted.
Playing completely different schedules and in very separate time zones, Helton got to watch the Buckeyes a handful of times this season. There was always something new to take in and be impressed by, but what has always struck him most has never changed.
“The balance jumps out at you right at first,” Helton said. “You know, you’re talking about J.T. Barrett, who’s thrown 35 touchdowns on the year, but then you combine it with the 1300-yard rusher in J.K. Dobbins, as well as a tremendous runner in Mike Weber. So that balance on offense that’s produced 500+ yards a game is something that sticks out.”
One big reason for Helton’s concern is that his defense is also “balanced” in terms of where they have allowed their yards this season.
For instance, they allowed 377 yards rushing in a 49-14 loss to Notre Dame, and over 300 yards passing four times so far in 2017.
In other words, the Trojans have shown a susceptibility against both the run and the pass, and the fact that Ohio State can do either equally well (249 yds rushing/gm and 274 yds passing/gm) is an immense concern.
“They’re very, very hard to defend,” Helton said. “One, they can throw the ball down the field, but, two, they have a very good running game that not only includes the running backs but also includes J.T., who’s rushed for 700 plus yards. So it’s a group that makes you defend every inch of the field, and has fabulous athletes across the board.”
At the controls of all of it is senior quarterback J.T. Barrett, who has the ability to do whatever is necessary before the snap, and almost whatever is necessary after the snap.
“It should be a great matchup,” Helton said. “I’m a quarterback coach by trade, so I’m a huge fan of J.T. Barrett. And that matchup between J.T. and [USC quarterback] Sam [Darnold] is going to be something that’s really fun to watch.
“They’re just a very well-coached football team across the board. And that running game right now with J.K. and Mike, healthy Mike Weber, that balance between the passing game and run game is something that sticks out. Very, very exciting football team that we’ve watched this year.”