Ohio State overcame themselves to beat Oregon State by 46 points last week. The offense looked unstoppable, and the defense looked…improvable.
What kind of improvements will we see this week? Defensive coordinators Greg Schiano and Alex Grinch said the problems were fixable, and not overly difficult to do so. Will we see those improvements this week, or will the issues continue?
There are still plenty of reasons for optimism, so don’t give up on this team just yet.
In fact, if you’re looking for a few things to focus on this week, I’ll give you five.
1. The weather probably isn’t going to cooperate.
Rain is in the forecast, which is going to alter some things. Let’s see how Dwayne Haskins throws the ball in less-than-ideal conditions. It could give us an idea of what is to come when the weather begins to turn in November. If the rain doesn’t affect him, then the Buckeyes are going to be in pretty good hands. Of course, he could throw every pass within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage and he’d still have the playmakers to turn that into 300 yards passing. We will also get to see how the Ohio State defense operates in the rain. Will misdirections on a slick turf get the defense twisted around again this week?
2. An increased role for Shaun Wade.
Greg Schiano has said that redshirt freshman cornerback Shaun Wade is good enough to play nickel, safety, or corner in the Ohio State defense. He also said on Thursday that they would be moving Wade “all over the place,” essentially confirming rumors that Wade would be playing some safety on Saturday — and playing more than he did last week. His high school highlights showcase a defensive back who knows how to come down with the football. And if you’re wondering if he’s physical enough to handle the run game, don’t worry. If you want to see a preview of what may be coming this year from Shaun Wade, check out the nearly 15 minutes of highlights. It’s worth the watch.
3. A bounce back for Baron Browning.
In his first start last week, Baron Browning did pretty well according to Greg Schiano. This week, however, let’s see if he can bump that up to “very well” against Rutgers. Tuf Borland will play more than he did last week, so the pressure is on Browning to continue to earn playing time. He will likely start again this week and with the weather looking like rain, he will have plenty of opportunities to stop the run. Will he be more gap sound this week? He needs to be. He should be. First starts are notorious for leaving room for improvements. In his second start, Browning should be much more in tuned with where he needs to be.
4. More from the Rushmen.
Nick Bosa and Dre’Mont Jones each had two sacks last week playing about 31 snaps each. Chase Young had nine quarterback pressures on 18 pass rushes. The three of them were pretty incredible, which has everyone wanting to see more. Now they will be facing a freshman quarterback who likes to drop back and see what’s available. He won’t have too much time to accomplish that, which is why there will also be some quick screens to combat the pass rush. These three may be the most entertaining aspect of this entire team. Let’s also keep an eye on freshman defensive end Tyreke Smith, who was the fourth guy in the Rushmen package, rushing inside. He didn’t get to the quarterback last week, but his time is coming.
5. The ebb and flow of Zone 6.
Last week, Terry McLaurin, Austin Mack, and K.J. Hill each had at least four catches and they combined for a total of 15 receptions for 272 yards. The other half of the starting six — Johnnie Dixon, Binjimen Victor, and Parris Campbell — combined for five receptions for 32 yards. While the contrast is stark, it’s also just as likely to be Dixon, Victor, and Campbell putting up over 200 yards receiving this week. The constant rotation makes consistent production more of a crap shoot than a fixed guarantee. The good news is that anybody is capable of having a big game, and the young guys are getting more involved as well.
Bonus: Let’s see J.K. Dobbins get back to being J.K. Dobbins.
J.K. Dobbins looked more subdued last week than we have seen him in the past. I would expect more this week. Last week, Dobbins seemed okay with staying between the tackles. He may do the same thing this week, but he’s due to hit some big shots. His longest carry was just 10 yards. Regarding Mike Weber, I expect him to be just as good as he was last week.