When you rattle off a 13-1 season complete with a Big Ten title and a College Football Playoff bid, there's not a lot to point to that went wrong.
Certainly that was the case for the 2019 Ohio State Buckeyes as Ryan Day's squad ranked No. 3 in scoring offense (46.9) and No. 4 in scoring defense (13.7), outgaining opponents by an average of 270 yards per contest.
The offense's success was truly impressive considering Day had to break in a first-year starting quarterback in Justin Fields and four new starters along the offensive line in left guard Jonah Jackson, center Josh Myers, right guard Wyatt Davis and right tackle Branden Bowen.
To be fair, Jackson had plenty of experience as a right guard at Rutgers before arriving in Columbus as a grad transfer while Bowen and Davis logged single-digit starts in previous seasons for the Buckeyes but left tackle Thayer Munford was the only returning starter to play the same position for the entirety of the previous season.
As such, locking down their respective positions and meshing as a group would presumably take some time. As run blockers however, their emergence was virtually instantaneous. The group paved the way for J.K. Dobbins to rush for over 2,000 yards and Ohio State to rank No. 6 in the country with 5.63 yards per carry.
Pass protection was a different story.
The line had its struggles picking up blitzes particularly against better competition and Munford in particular frankly didn't seem as effective as he was in 2018 while playing through more than a few physical ailments.
|SEASON||TOTAL SACKS ALLOWED||SACKS PER GAME||NATL RANK||PRIMARY QB|
|2015||19||1.46||33||J.T. BARRETT / CARDALE JONES|
Of course, sacks aren't solely a product of the offensive line's performance.
As great as Dobbins was as runner, he wasn't an elite pass blocker. More notably, Fields had a penchant for hanging on to the ball too long and while he was fairly willing to throw the ball away, he did miss opportunities to do exactly that from time to time, helping inflate the sack totals. It should be noted that Fields only tossed three interceptions in 354 attempts, at least partly because he'd take a sack before he'd rush a risky throw into heavy traffic.
Over the 14 game slate, Ohio State allowed 35 total sacks for an average of 2.5 per game which slotted a disappointing 99th-best in the country.
Wisconsin, which ranked No. 5 nationally in sacks per game at 3.64, gave the Buckeyes the most trouble tallying five sacks in a midseason clash in Columbus before registering another five in the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis. Out of the 10 total sacks accumulated by the Badgers, 5.5 came from linebackers illustrating the group's blitz pickup issues and Fields' knack for holding the ball a bit too long at times.
Clemson's No. 12 ranked sacks per game defense (3.13) also had some success confusing Ohio State's offense on the way to four sacks with 3.5 of those coming from members of Clemson's back seven.
Linebacker Baylon Spector in particular was a problem as he often spied Fields, racking up the only two sacks of his career-to-date in Clemson's victory.
|SEASON||LEFT TACKLE||LEFT GUARD||CENTER||RIGHT GUARD||RIGHT TACKLE|
|2019||T. MUNFORD||J. JACKSON||J. MYERS||W. DAVIS||B. BOWEN|
|2018||T. MUNFORD||M. PRIDGEON||M. JORDAN||D. KNOX||I. PRINCE|
|2017||J. JONES||M. JORDAN||B. PRICE||B. BOWEN||I. PRINCE|
|2016||J. JONES||M. JORDAN||P. ELFLEIN||B. PRICE||I PRINCE|
|2015||T. DECKER||B. PRICE||J. BOREN||P. ELFLEIN||C. FARRIS|
|2014||T. DECKER||B. PRICE||J. BOREN||P. ELFLEIN||D. BALDWIN|
|2013||J. MEWHORT||A. NORWELL||C. LINSLEY||M. HALL||T. DECKER|
|2012||J. MEWHORT||A. NORWELL||C. LINSLEY||M. HALL||R. FRAGEL|
Nebraska (No. 57 in sacks per game at 2.25), Penn State (No. 7 at 3.46) and Michigan State (No. 13 at 3.08) also had some success pass rushing the Buckeyes to the tune of three sacks each in losing efforts.
Ohio State gave up at least two sacks in 10 of 14 games although, in retrospect, some of those defenses were effective at rushing the passer all season and deserve a reluctant tip of the cap.
For the sake of lulz, Michigan was one of just four opponents to register only one sack versus the Buckeyes, along with Rutgers, Northwestern and Cincinnati.
Looking forward to this fall, the Buckeyes should expect a significant improvement in sacks allowed per game for a few reasons.
A full season under his belt should only help Fields become a quicker decision-maker while still avoiding reckless throws. Avoiding injury like the knee sprain he suffered against Michigan, hampering him over the final 10 quarters of the season, can only help Fields' mobility both in the pocket and on scrambles with the intention of buying time to throw.
Up front, a healthy Munford at left tackle should decrease some of the backside pressure and while Day must replace Jonah Jackson's exceptional season from the left guard slot and Branden Bowen at right tackle, Wyatt Davis returns as the team's right guard and overall best lineman. Center Josh Myers should be even better as a second-year starter. In fact, Myers making a run at All-American discussion would be far from shocking.
Filling the left guard and right tackle spots remain job one for Day and company but highly touted guys like Harry Miller and Nicholas Petit-Frere (or maybe even Paris Johnson?) could be ripe to slide in and hold their own.
For an offense that returns plenty of firepower from its 2019 juggernaut, maintaining the strengths while polishing the few areas of opportunity such as sacks allowed should have the Buckeyes scoring points in bunches once again.