Every year there comes a point in time when we download a gigantic file of information on the Ohio State football team.
Over the first two weeks, we’ve gotten snippets, but on Saturday night, we’re going to get an entire zip file.
We think we know how good the Buckeyes are, but we’re going to know a whole lot more after they get done with the TCU game.
Ohio State is favored by 12.5 points or so, which means that this isn’t such a daunting task that the Buckeyes should be lauded for a win. They are supposed to win this game. How they win it, however, could be cause for discussion.
Assuming they win it, of course.
By the way, the last time the Buckeyes were favored by 12.5 points was last year’s Michigan game.
As in that game, we’ll all be keeping an eye on OSU quarterback Dwayne Haskins, but that won’t be all to watch this week.
1. How do the Ohio State linebackers respond?
Overall, this is my No. 1 concern for the Buckeyes this weekend. TCU has their own “thunder and lightning” at tailback and a slot receiver who is going to make defenders miss in tunnel screens. Are the linebackers going to be disciplined and will they rally to the football like they didn’t against Oregon State? Will they find the right gaps? Does Baron Browning spend some time spying quarterback Shawn Robinson? Rutgers did not pose any problems, so while we think the linebackers have improved, we don’t truly know. Will linebacker Malik Harrison earned a Champions grade last week, which is the only time a linebacker has done so this season. That needs to change this week.
2. Is this the game that Dwayne Haskins runs?
Dwayne Haskins has been credited with two rushes in each game this season, and every time it has been due to pressure driving him out of the pocket. There has been no need for him to run the ball voluntarily this season, but does that change in this game? No, I’m not talking about the standard J.T. Barrett 19 carries, I’m talking about maybe five or six runs just to keep the TCU defense honest. If the first play out of the gate is a QB draw, does that force the Frogs defense to rewire their thinking a bit? I expect him to be pressured more this week than any other game so far, which means he will be credited with more runs, even if they’re actually sacks. Will the left side of the OSU offensive line hold up? And if not, can he turn those pressures into good gains like he did against Michigan and Oregon State? If he can, every yard from Haskins on the ground is a bonus.
3. The Buckeye offense taking what the TCU defense gives them.
The beauty of a balanced offense is that taking what the defense gives you is just fine. Because the Buckeyes can throw it very well and run it better than most, they are more than capable of making their bones by taking the path of least resistance. TCU head coach Gary Patterson says before his defense can even worry about the pass, they need to stop the running game. That doesn’t mean the Buckeyes are going to just throw, throw, throw all game long, but they might do it early. Ultimately, they’ll want to run the ball as well, but it’s always going to be about taking the easiest path because the Buckeyes are comfortable taking any road presented to them.
4. Will the Ohio State secondary hold up?
The Buckeye cornerbacks weren’t challenged last week, but they will be this week. The three-man rotation will continue out wide with Damon Arnette, Kendall Sheffield, and Jeff Okudah, but it may be redshirt freshman Shaun Wade at nickel back in the slot who has the biggest impact for the Ohio State defense. There will be times when he is matched up with supremely quick slot receiver KaVontae Turpin, who leads TCU with eight catches for 111 yards. Turpin may be the Horned Frogs’ most dangerous player. Wade — at 6-foot-1 and nearly 200 pounds — will have to keep up with the 5-foot-9 157-pound human hiccup. There is also the matter of the Buckeye safeties, who struggled against Oregon State, but performed much better against Rutgers. Jordan Fuller is a calming influence for everyone, but will Isaiah Pryor be ready for Saturday? Shawn Robinson will take some deep shots, and he’s not necessarily accurate when he does it. Pryor could be in a position to come away with an interception as a center fielder.
5. Can TCU handle the Buckeyes’ running game?
We can talk about the Ohio State passing game and Dwayne Haskins all we want, but if TCU can’t stop the Buckeye running game, then Haskins may only throw the ball 20 times. The Ohio State offense is going to be fast, physical, and full speed, so even if the running game isn’t there initially, the plan is for the TCU defense to eventually wear down. Wearing down can even take place during a possession. If the Buckeyes get a couple of first downs, the defense will have been on the field for longer than they’d like without a breather. That then opens up the running game, which then opens up the play-action passing game. If TCU can handle the Ohio State running game, then the Buckeyes have to be careful about not being too predictable with their passing game, which then allows for a more emphatic pass rush.