It’s halfway through our season. It’s hard to believe it but yes, ½ of the college football season is now over. Kind of sucks to say doesn’t it? The energy, fun and uncertainty of a new season is wearing down while the excitement, consequences and the path the season takes is now closer to taking form. For Buckeye fans, it was a good first half mainly because of the undefeated record. Good start.
Most will agree that there is plenty of room to improve, though. Most of Buckeye nation can agree that we have a decent road of improvement ahead if we realistically want to put beating Alabama in our sights.
But… we have a shot… and it’s all about keeping that alive one game at a time. With that said, here’s my top ten headlines, thoughts and notions in what I’ve learned…
Hyde & Hall
It’s a good problem to have when you have a backfield as deep as the Buckeyes do. The first three games belonged to #2 Hall. The last two games, most notably Northwestern, belonged to Hyde. Hall is back on the injury report to no one’s surprise. What is surprising is that when healthy, Tom Herman leaves Hall out of the equation. Ultimately, it’ll be interesting to see what Hall’s role is like moving forward. This guy thinks it’s in the Buckeyes best interest to get Jordan at least 8-10 touches a game to spread out the defense (provided he stays healthy).
Buckeyes Best Freshman – Joey Bosa (defense) & Dontre (offense)
I’m a present time thinker. Recruiting is awesome to me but I’d rather focus on our current pieces than get overworked about who’s coming in. I trust the system that way. With that, once they are on the team is when I start critically evaluating our talent for what they can be.
To look at this team and to see true freshman not only playing, but making the most of their time, like Bosa & Dontre is enough to turn up about. First with Dontre, 15/147/1TD on the ground with 11/105 receiving, Wilson averages 9.5 yards per offensive touch. He’s shifty, fast and smooth. Would like to see him more utilized in Northwestern, hopefully Herman gets my memo.
Bosa has 16 tackles, 4 TFLs, 2 sacks and 1 fumble recovery for a TD. He trails only Noah Spence (mentioned on #6). Regardless, Bosa is a freak athlete that (barring injury) will be in the NFL. He’s fit in very naturally for a true freshman and has stood out. Watch his maturity as the season goes on.
Offensive Line Play
Anyone that follows my writing carefully understands my passion for praising the offensive line when deserved. Offensive line play is the anchor of any game and trumps any other unit on the team for the need of consistency.
The only game these guys struggled as a unit and that was the opener. That’s the point of the patsy opener right? They returned 4 starters from last year and the new unit is averaging just under 500 yards per game with a run-first offense in the top 10 in rushing nationally. They make the top 10 list because they need respect to make it this good all year.
Hint: Success in any major bowl game usually starts with the losing teams dominate defensive line being contained by the winner’s smart & poised o-lines.
Urban’s 18 Wins
You hire a coach to come in, run a respectable program and win. He’s 18-0, instilled a discipline and motivation to destroy that was deflated from the back-to-back national championship losses. Has it all been pretty? Hell no…But the game has ended in the “w” column and that’s all that matters.
Defensive Front Seven
Ryan Shazier, Noah Spence, Michael Bennett, Curtis Grant & Joey Bosa have all been standouts. Coming into the season the feature of the defense was Shazier & the whole secondary. Well the secondary has looked shaky, Shazier has looked like he greatly improved from an already strong talent, and the rest of the unproven unit has turned out to be sturdy and durable.
107 rushing yards versus Wisconsin. 98 rushing yards at Northwestern. Aldophus Washington is finally healthy. Front seven needs to continue to get better … and faster.
Wide Receivers Consistency
Last year this was a position of weakness. Now it’s a unit of strength. The receiving corp, while it hasn’t looked dominate, has still looked really good and durable. Philly Brown has emerged to be one of my top 5 favorite players on this team. Devin Smith is all the deep ball threat that Tedd Ginn was, Evan Spencer is reliable and Chris Fields is as much of a TD threat of anyone.
This unit needs to step up big in a future game like the Northwestern game was.
Brad Roby’s lack of success
This can’t be a total love fest of the top 10. If anyone’s been disappointing it’s Roby. Sitting at the 50 yard line, 20 rows up, I remember vividly Roby getting burned by a quick slant that went for 70 yards to the Bucks 5. Just after the Bucks had taken their first lead in the 2nd half, this play allowed NU to respond and take the lead once again. This play, to me, truly shows Roby’s inconsistency this season.
The good? Bradley has come up with picks at clutch times. The bad? We watched Roby give up 200+ to Jared Abbrederis, miss tackles against northwestern, and ultimately lack the confidence he injected last season. The hope here is that it’s early season woes rather than just a regression season.
Roby needs to be first team all-Big 10 defensive back to end the season.
Perseverance In The Clutch
Winning teams make winning plays when they count. OSU has had some magic behind it along with cold executions when they need it. Looking at the last season and this season combined, OSU is now about to enter the 4th quarter of the combination of both seasons. It’s going to be all about how they finish.
Braxton Miller’s Inconsistency
This stems beyond just the great game versus Wisconsin to the pretty poor game against Northwestern. This is to the point that Braxton hasn’t had the Heisman trophy QB season that most would have hoped. The injury, nothing he can do about that…but it happened. The game against Northwestern? More upsetting than satisfying. Inconsistency at the QB position cannot happen if the Bucks want to finish the season undefeated.
Christian Bryant’s Injury
The most heartbreaking moment of the season came when Urban Meyer announced the season departure of the Captain CB2 at the post-Wisconsin press conference. Bryant looks more and more to be the heart and soul of the team that really wasn’t verbalized until he was gone.
Bryant, the senior, suffered a terrible broken ankle couldn’t have imagined it worse. The only positive I could ever see from this injury is Bryant’s become a better leader and motivator to the team from the sidelines. Rarely does this happen, but having an attitude guy like that in the locker room is never a bad thing.
Offense: With Guiton vs. With Miller
I’ll say it. I won’t rest peacefully until I know whether the offense truly runs more effectively with Guiton in it. I’ve heard on multiple occasions that Tom Herman calls a better offense with Guiton and Hall rather than Miller & Hyde and I can’t say I’m rejecting that notion. After Wisconsin, my first opinion was the offense was too vanilla with designed runs to Braxton and Hyde; it was predictable. After Northwestern, I’m confident Hyde is needed, but in times of need when the pass is down, I kept wondering if Kenny would get the offense moving better.
Braxton is and will always be the guy. It wouldn’t be fair in the slightest to make Kenny G the starter, but Urban Myer has been known to successfully run a 2 QB system and that’s not an awful idea to consider. Granted that system had two distinctly different QBs at Florida with Leak & Tebow, however I won’t be able to sleep right on this team without understanding who’s truly better at moving this offense. I’m proposing the attempt to discover what is and what type of balance can be achieved.