Well the cut-blocking nightmare that is Navy is in the rear-view and Frank Beamer's Hokies are coming to town. We've got the first home game of 2014, the first night game of the season and the first return of the King since...well, the return of the King. To break it all down I've tabbed Johnny, Nicholas and Ross. Let's get to it.
What'd ya think of J.T. Barrett? Scale of 1-10?
Johnny: Uhhh a six probably, but that's a normalized six instead of a redshirt freshman six which is actually a real life eight and a personal nine million. I'm not great at math or general conversion of fractions but what I can tell you is that I think he was decent overall and very good for it being his first actual football game in literally years. He throws a nice ball and has a ton of potential, despite the noted handicap of not being Braxton Miller.
Nicholas: I'll give Barrett a 5. He had a big screw up (the red zone interception), one game-breaker (Devin Smith's touchdown), and competent play the rest of the time. But it's important to remember: he's a freshman. If Barrett had tried to be Superman like Braxton occasionally does, OSU could have stalled out on the drives that put the game away. On a freshman curve, I'm giving him a 9 for not forcing plays and keeping the offense moving. All in all, a strong debut.
Ross: For a first game starter it was a very solid performance. Barrett largely made good decisions and threw an accurate ball. He needs to get better at not staring down receivers and willingness to dump the football in the flat.
I also think he improved in the run game in the second half. At first he was too ready to give and did not commit once he kept. The OSU offense only works when the defense must account for the QB. And while he's a decent runner, he needs to maximize his yardage once he commits to run.
Biggest surprise from last weekend?
Ross: The offense's inability to convert in the red zone. The offense was efficient most drives but sputtered with converting.
Nicholas: I'm most surprised at how successful Navy was at cut-blocking OSU's defensive line. They knew it was coming, and so did everyone else watching the game. Option teams can give even good defenses trouble, but OSU's defensive line was supposed to be athletic and fresh enough to disrupt it. Instead, Navy had nearly 200 yards of offense in the third quarter. The defense got into the right position eventually, but they should have overpowered Navy's offensive line from the start.
Johnny: The amount of players who got touches in the backfield. It really does look like they're tabbing Barrett as "The Distributor," and not just leaning on a few dudes to carry the load for the rest of the offense.
Looks like the "OSU is Overrated" #narrative is already being crafted after the Buckeyes dropped in the polls. Thoughts?
Nicholas: There's a short way and a shorter way of putting this. The short way: as long as voters use consistent, logic, I don't mind massive swings in teams' grades. The shorter way: DOOONNNN'TTTT CAAARRRRE.
Last year, the polls directly affected OSU's postseason destination. This year, the polls and narrative are like Mark May: irrelevant annoyances you can ignore if you choose to. By Week 10 I'll be frothing at the mouth about stupid-ass narratives and cockamamie nonsense, but I refuse to let #narrative ruin the early part of the season.
Johnny: Well... they probably are. Losing that much on offense coupled with a very unproven defensive back seven probably shouldn't add up to top ten in the country quite this early in the season. There are a lot of teams with a lot to prove, but I feel like Ohio State is probably more a lot to prove-iest than most of them. Yes, it was a 17 point win, but it was potentially a one point loss until late in the third.
Ross: I think people are overreacting. I don't think anyone would have had OSU in the top 10 had they known Braxton Miller was out for the season. Further, I remember how much energy was spent last season worrying about the polls. And at the end of the day it was Ohio State losing that kept them out of the national championship game -- not pollsters or talking heads.
Will we see more Ezekiel Elliott this weekend?
Johnny: Possibly, although maybe not given the question below.
Nicholas: I'm not sure what to expect from Elliott or any of the running backs. Ohio
State had more success running up the gut with Curtis Samuel or Dontre Wilson against Navy, but the Buckeyes might also want Rod Smith for his blocking. OSU will run more than 57 plays this week, so there will be a heavier dose of Elliot by default. Beyond that, I don't know what to expect.
Ross: Not really. As Urban Meyer said yesterday they have five guys they want carrying the football -- Elliot, Samuel, Smith, Marshall, and Wilson. And while Elliot ran much better in the second half, it is not like he earned more touches than the other four against Navy.
Is Curtis Samuel the real deal?
Ross: I was impressed. For a slender back he is an effective inside runner because he keeps his feet moving in the hole. So, he takes advantage of his quickness and gets up-field quickly.
Nicholas: "Real deal" is a tricky phrase. Is it a freshman who shows flashes of greatness like Dontre Wilson, or is it someone who becomes a superstar like Carlos Hyde? Samuel has an unusually smooth stride and great cutting ability; I think he can immediately succeed as a finesse back. As an all-purpose back, or a future superstar? Reply hazy, ask again later.
Johnny: I'm not sure, but he looks like a greased pig shot out of some kind of greased pig shooting cannon as soon as the gets the hand-off. Seven carries for 45 yards makes you turn your head a little bit, and if he replicates that clip against a Bud Foster defense, then I think we might have a pretty decent player on our hands.
What are you looking to see against Va. Tech that you didn't see against Navy?
Nicholas: I want to see some deep throws. The only shot Barrett took down-field against Navy was Devin Smith's touchdown; besides that, OSU didn't have many explosive plays. When Virginia Tech's defense clamps down on the run, as they inevitably will at some point, the Buckeyes have to be able to counter over the top.
Johnny: How the offensive line stacks up against a billion stunts and blitzes. The margin for error with that unit is razor thin on Saturday, and hopefully they have an awesome week of practice.
Ross: The forward pass.
Will Chris Ash's new look secondary be on display against the Hokies?
Ross: I have zero idea and not sure how anyone else does. We haven't seen Ash's quarters scheme in action. And Brewer has played one game against an FCS team. I am confident that Ash's scheme will be more competent than last season. But beyond that -- we will find out.
Nicholas: This has everything to do with expectations. I think OSU holds the same opinion of Brewer that Va. Tech does of Barrett, which is that they're decent QBs who won't break the game open. As for the secondary, I don't know what to expect. Now that they're facing a team that actually passes, I think they'll have an okay performance. After last year, okay is okay with me.
Johnny: I hope so, because if they can't this one swings pretty heavily toward the Hokies. I think the defensive line should shoulder some of their burden, but this is another group that really can't afford to make mistakes, especially the kind of positional mistakes that we saw last game and all last season.
Does freshman running back, Shai Mckenzie concern you?
Johnny: Yes because, come on, 106 yards on nine carries. No because it was against William and Mary, who probably couldn't tackle their way out of a long, rambling story about James Monroe. Yes because neither can our defense at times.
Ross: Not really. I have no doubt he is talented, but his big game was against an FCS team.
Nicholas: He does concern me. Based on a review of Va. Tech's running game against William & Mary by The Key Play's french60wasp, McKenzie drove several piles and muscled for a few short conversions when the line failed. Another concern is how the Hokies' blocking got better as the game wore on. I am not looking forward to stopping the expected misdirection plays or seeing a late-game run with gorgeous execution.
Fill in the blank: If this game turns into a shootout the Buckeyes are____________
Nicholas: Much, much more likely to win than Virginia Tech.
Johnny: Looking good. If we can score consistently on Va Tech, I'm feeling pretty good about the outcome of this game.
Ross: In a really good position. But I would be shocked if it were a shootout.
Ross: OSU 27-17.
Nicholas: 20-17, Buckeyes.
Johnny: I'm worried about this one. A green offensive line coupled with a redshirt freshman playing in his second collegiate game to me spells a lot of potential mistakes, mistakes that Bud Foster and company will make you pay for in spades. I feel the defense will do a decent job at containing Michael Brewer, but ultimately Barrett will make some poor decisions, and an Ohio State team will find that without the comfort blanket of Braxton Miller, winning close games is a lot harder than it looks. 27-23 Hokies. (Shade can be thrown to email@example.com)
You're Braxton Miller and it's your first time back with the team since surgery. What do you say to them before they take the field?
Johnny: "I'm not walking through that door tonight to come play, but neither is Michael Vick. Hit them hard early, and then confuse the hell out of them on offense. Also: free ice cream if we win!"
Ross: "Just. Win. Baby."
Nicholas: "They think it's going to be easy. They think the offense isn't elite, that the defense isn't ready to play. Well, guess what? They're right. Our offense isn't good, it's great. Our defense isn't just ready to play, we're ready to crack skulls. Relentless effort in every phase of the game is what we need to excel, and we excel because everyone works their ass off on every single pay. Now go show them what being elite is all about."