Can Ohio State Win a Championship with a Pass-First, Run-Second Offense?

By David Regimbal on October 18, 2018 at 1:30 pm
Dwayne Haskins, feasting
Dwayne Haskins, feasting | © Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

With Dwayne Haskins at quarterback and a loaded group of wideouts at his disposal, Ohio State is flying high with its most explosive aerial attack in two decades.

Go back 20 years to 1998 and it was quarterback Joe Germaine rewriting Ohio State's history book, setting 11 new benchmarks — most notably a school record 3,330 passing yards in one season.

That offense, with David Boston and Dee Miller catching everything in sight, was steamrolling its way to a national title when it hosted Michigan State (and its head coach Nick Saban) in Week 10. The Buckeyes were undefeated, ranked No. 1 nationally and huge favorites over the Spartans.

It all fell apart when the passing attack faded. Ohio State managed to throw for just 239 yards, and with an uninspiring rushing attack that averaged just 2.4 yards per carry that afternoon, the Buckeyes couldn't hold on to a 15-point second half lead before falling 28-24.

When you look at the Ohio State football teams that managed to win a national championship, commonalities come up immediately. The most common of those, however, is a consistent rushing attack that pulled those teams to the mountaintop. 

That's not something Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes have been able to produce through seven games this year.

Without a dual-threat at quarterback, running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber haven't been able to bring any consistency to the running game. The Buckeyes rank just 53rd nationally with 185.4 rushing yards per game, but that number is largely inflated by two games. If you take away the 600 rushing yards Ohio State piled up against Oregon State and Rutgers during the first two weeks of the season, the average dips to 139.6 yards per game, which would rank 100th (!) nationally.

The large holes that Weber and Dobbins ran through a season ago have closed up thanks to a combination of factors. Replacing the anchor of the line at left tackle and the best center in college football is one of them. But the bigger issue is the numbers disadvantage Ohio State has now that Barrett is no longer bulldozing his way through that offensive line.

There's a trade-off, of course.

Even with the struggles on the ground, Haskins has been remarkable as a first-year starter behind center as the Buckeyes currently boast the third-best passing attack in the country. If he continues on his current pace, the redshirt sophomore will break Germaine's single-season passing record against (looks at the schedule ominously) Michigan State in the tenth game of the season.

But can Ohio State win a Big Ten title and maintain its playoff aspirations with a ground game that's so ineffective? That's certainly something Meyer is addressing.

“We have two very good tailbacks and we’re making a concerted effort to put the ball in their hands with the run,” Meyer said this week.

Rest assured that Ohio State will continue to feed its running backs and try to find some consistency on the ground. But if the struggles continue, Meyer won't hesitate to ride Haskins' hot hand.

"It's discouraging a little bit, but once again, 7-0, and looking down we're throwing for 412," Meyer said after an uninspiring 30-14 win over Minnesota last week. "It is what it is. I just know the game of football, I've been around. At some point, you've got to line up and do what you do."

What the Buckeyes are doing right now is throwing the football better than any team in school history. And who knows, this offense could be good enough to advance to the playoff, where they'd likely have to defeat a Saban coached team to win a national title.

Time really is a flat circle. And for Ohio State's sake, it has to hope that history won't repeat itself.

View 119 Comments