Stock Up/Stock Down: Passing Game Goes Deep, Dante Booker Making Strides, and Selling Night Games

By James Grega on October 3, 2017 at 10:10 am
Ryan Day

Ohio State is on a three-game winning streak, albeit against subpar competition, and most units on this team are playing well. 

When you play Army, UNLV and Rutgers in consecutive weeks, it's hard to nitpick and say certain things went sour when you're winning by 30-plus points each week. 

That said, the Buckeyes do seem to be making progress as they get set to host Maryland this week, so we will start with the good before we get to the bad and possibly even the ugly. 

stock up

Ohio State's pass offense

Exhale, Buckeye fans; the deep ball is back. Ohio State hit on a couple long balls against Rutgers, as the Buckeyes finally faced a team that was willing to play press-man coverage against them. The reality is, the deep balls weren't there for Ohio State to try in the early going, because teams were sitting so far back in zone coverage and daring J.T. Barrett to find the holes and make quick decisions. 

Yes, I understand that Army, UNLV and Rutgers are not real tests, but at the very least Ohio State is building confidence through the air in all areas. Barrett is gaining confidence in his receivers, which is giving the coaching staff more confidence to open up the playbook a little more each week. If this continues to be a trend, the matchup against Penn State could very well be the showdown we expected to see after all. 

Ohio State's pass defense

Again, not against the greatest teams, but holding three straight teams under 100 yards passing is worth mentioning. Heck, Rutgers didn't even complete a pass to a wide receiver last week, which speaks volumes to the play of the cornerbacks. 

Much like the pass offense, the Ohio State secondary is gaining confidence, and that should only continue this week as Maryland rolls into town with third-string quarterback Max Bortenschlager. With Jordan Fuller beginning to solidify his spot as a starter at safety with Erick Smith out, this group is really beginning to jell and has one final tune up before heading to Nebraska to take on a pass-first offense led by Tanner Lee. 

Dante Booker - Ohio State outside linebacker 

We have been waiting more than a year for Dante Booker to put together a performance that coaches and teammates have said he is capable of, and we finally got to see it against Rutgers. The Akron, Ohio native collected four solo tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and an interception, and sat for most of the second half while his backups played in garbage time. 

Booker INT

If Booker can keep up this level of play in the heart of the Big Ten schedule, it will help bolster a defense that appears to be coming into its own after a shaky start to the season. With the linebacker group that has been hit by injuries the last two years, it was a good sign for the Ohio State defense to have Booker play up to his potential. 

stock down

Ohio State kickoff unit

No one has taken a kick back all the way on Ohio State yet this season, but the accuracy of Blake Haubeil's kickoffs has led Urban Meyer to make a change.

Ohio State's strategy of kicking the ball inside the 8-yard line and near the sideline is a clever and effective one, but only if it is executed properly. Haubeil failed to impress Meyer and his staff through five games, so Sean Nuernberger is set to take over full-time kickoff duties for the first time in his Ohio State career. While this unit can get by against below average opponents, the better teams in the Big Ten might be able to take advantage. Time will tell if Nuernberger can fix the accuracy issues.

Unnecessary night games

The Indiana night game I understood. Oklahoma made even more sense. But giving 1-3 Rutgers a primetime slot against a team that clearly outmatches them? No thanks. 

I have been to plenty of football games in my life, and I have never been to a primetime game with less electricity, and that includes multiple high school games. Heck, I have been at 10 a.m. JV games that had more anticipation than Ohio State's kickoff against Rutgers at 7:30 p.m. Every fan in that stadium, and there weren't many, knew what was about to happen and they were right. That game, much like most conference games, should be played at noon, for more reasons than I even care to mention.

The Nebraska game being another primetime game makes sense because this matchup only happens every now and then and the Huskers have a rich program history. The Nebraska fans will surely show up for that one, but I don't think the game will be much closer. 

The Rutgers cannon

Those poor men sat there all night and never got their chance to fire the cannon. God bless them for being troopers throughout a cold New Jersey night, watching their team get whooped up and down the field for 60 minutes and not leaving. They almost got their moment in the sun, had it not been for that pesky right upright that kept an Andrew Harte field goal attempt from going through. So close, but yet, so far. 

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