Open Week Mic Check: Passing Fancy

By Chris Lauderback on October 18, 2017 at 4:15 pm
Urban Meyer's squad has an extra week to prepare for Penn State.

Ohio State registered its fifth-straight blowout win last Saturday night handing Nebraska at 56-14 beat down in Lincoln. 

The victory saw J.T. Barrett turn in another exceptional outing against a lesser foe as he tied his own school record with seven total touchdowns while amassing 325 yards passing and another 48 on the ground. 

Complementing Barrett and the receivers, stud true freshman running back J.K. Dobbins peeled off 106 yards rushing on just 12 carries while the offensive line paved the way for 279 total rushing yards. 

Following the game, Urban Meyer noted he likes what he's seeing when it comes to offensive balance and the improved chemistry between Barrett and his receiving corps. 

On the level of offensive performance compared to the Oklahoma game
“I just feel like there was a good chemistry, very good chemistry on offense. The receivers and quarterbacks were playing at a very high level, very efficient. J.T.’s efficiency tonight was elite. Guys were making plays for him, protecting him. This is a good time to be cooking, but it’s also a good time to have a bye week and get these guys fresh.”

On getting 41 first downs and converting the first eight third downs
“I thought our guys played very well, when I look up at the scoreboard and see a very balanced offense, that’s what our goal is. Our goal is a 250-250 game and we’re getting those kind of performances in the last few games.

Yes, the statistical success is coming at the expense of some bad-to-mediocre opponents but the eye test also suggests Meyer isn't blind. 

NEBR 27 33 81.8% 325 5 HILL 7 80 VICTOR 4 48
MARY 20 31 64.5% 261 3 VICTOR 4 55 WEBER 1 53
RUTG 14 22 63.6% 275 3 DIXON 3 115 VICTOR 2 69
UNLV 12 17 70.6% 209 5 CAMPBELL 3 105 SAUNDERS 6 102
ARMY 25 33 75.6% 270 2 HILL 8 74 CAMPBELL 6  54

As illustrated in the chart above, Barrett's lowest completion rate over the past five games checks in at nearly 64% and his highest – which came this past weekend and moved him back into the top spot in program history – is a sturdy 81.8%. Even the biggest Barrett detractor could hopefully find a positive in that rate. 

Another positive to take from the last five outings is the noted chemistry Meyer is seeing between Barrett and his pass catchers. Ohio State's penchant for blowing teams out makes the chart above not simply "Barrett-to-receiver" data since Dwayne Haskins accounts for a few of the completions but it's interesting six different receivers had the most or second-most yards across the five games. 

The flip side to this equation is the extremely poor competition. 

J.T. Barrett and the rest of Ohio State's pass offense would love to end the big game blues a week from Saturday.

Again, I'm not sure how you don't take some positives from the recent stretch of games but it must be mentioned the five pass defenses faced rank anywhere from 63rd (Maryland) to 100th (UNLV) in Team Passing Efficiency Defense. 

Maybe even more meaningful, if you aren't a believer of Barrett's ability to throw under pressure, is the last five opponents have a national ranking of anywhere from 90th (Maryland) to 128th (UNLV) in Sacks Per Game. 

As a confessed J.T. apologist, I must admit those numbers give me at least a little cause for pause. That won't change until Barrett, the right side of the line and the collective receivers all show they can move the ball through the air against a legit pass rush and secondary. 

NEBR 279 354 633
MARY 281 303 584
RUTG 276 342 618
UNLV 190 474 664
ARMY 270 316 586

One factor currently helping the pass offense that could also pay dividends against elite opponents is Ohio State's ability to not only run the football but also hit home runs. With Dobbins leading the way at 7.8 yards per carry the Buckeyes rank ninth nationally averaging 6.03 yards a pop. 

Last year, defenses stacked the box, brought pressure and dared Barrett to throw over the top as the Buckeyes averaged 5.47 yards per carry.

That same strategy could unfold again when Penn State comes to town but the difference this year is Dobbins is a guy that can take it to the house once he reaches the second level. Weber, while a decent back, simply doesn't present the home run threat Dobbins does which made it easier for teams to stack the box and/or bring pressure a year ago. 

If a team like Penn State instead opts to often drop eight into coverage forcing Barrett and his receivers to make the right reads, then it will be up to them to show the progress over the last five weeks wasn't simply due to inferior competition. 

One thing is for certain, the date with Penn State won't have any middle ground. We're on a collision course for either a springboard or a crossroads. 

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