Ohio State's Offense is Run-Heavy Right Now and Urban Meyer Knows At Some Point That Will Need to Change

By Tim Shoemaker on October 4, 2016 at 3:15 pm
J.T. Barrett hands off to Curtis Samuel against Rutgers.

Urban Meyer knows it is coming.

"We're going to face some teams that can stop the run," he said Monday. 

Until then, though, Ohio State is fine with its somewhat unbalanced offensive attack.

The Buckeyes are running the ball at an impressive rate. Their 332 yards per game on the ground rank third nationally and only trails Army and New Mexico. Quarterback J.T. Barrett, running back Mike Weber and H-back Curtis Samuel make up a versatile three-headed monster that's been a handful for opposing defenses to try and contain.

But Meyer knows at some point he's going to need even more from his offense.

"I'll even stare at our scoreboard and see certain times of the game that we have to — because it'll come back," he said. "You can't say we're going to run the ball because at some point we learned a lesson in that rainstorm last year against Michigan State. You can stop the run."

Let's be clear: Ohio State has been able to throw the ball this year, too. The Buckeyes are averaging 244.3 yards per game through the air — a number that's very close to the 250 yards Meyer targets for his passing game — and Barrett has thrown 14 touchdown passes against only two interceptions.

At some point, though, Meyer feels his team may need to win a game through the air rather than on the ground. 

Ohio State hosts Indiana on Saturday and the Hoosiers have the nation's 51st-ranked run defense, allowing 139.5 yards per game on the ground. The Buckeyes should be able to run the ball with relative ease in that one.

But in two weeks Ohio State travels to Madison for a date with No. 11 Wisconsin. Coincidentally, the Badgers also rank 11th in the country in rush defense, allowing just 90.4 yards per game on the ground. 

Perhaps it's then when the Buckeyes will need their offensive balance.

“I think we’re best when we're just balanced in our attack," Barrett said. "The offensive line, they’re doing a great job of allowing that to happen. I think coach Meyer says it best, the way our team runs is through the offensive line. When they play well, we play well. I think they’re doing a great job and coach Stud is getting them guys ready to go each and every week and I think that’s definitely driving our offense.”

Ohio State certainly isn't going to stop its run-heavy offense until a team shows it can slow it down, though.

Weber leads the Big Ten with 123.8 yards per game on the ground. Samuel averages 82.0 yards per game at 8.0-yard per carry clip. Barrett is as efficient as he's ever been in the quarterback run game.

It's as dynamic of a rushing attack as there is in college football. 

"It's really cool to have all those playmakers all over the field," senior center Pat Elflein said. "Then throw in a good offensive line and you can attack the middle. ... Just having all those options and playmakers makes it pretty different for defenses to decide how to defend us. That's awesome we have all those weapons and tools."

For now, Ohio State plans to ride out this dominant running game until someone proves it can stop it. Meyer knows it's coming and he's certainly planning for that.

"You have to be balanced and make them pay the price if they're going to put everybody up there to stop the run," Meyer said. There is no doubt that you have to be balanced and I watch that very closely."

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