Time To Get Back On Track

By Colin Barringer, November 11th, 2017

Folks, this past week has been rather dysfunctional for all of us, but especially for me. Last weekend, I stood atop from my throne of sports takes to declare the Iowa game as a fake trap game. Their offense had shown me nothing and the Buckeyes were going to ride the momentum.

The Buckeyes responded to this situation by laying down and surrendering to the Hawkeyes.

I’m past this moment, and I learned a valuable lesson from that disaster: Do not trust Jerome Baker, Chris Worley and Dante Booker in pass coverage.

Linebackers coach Bill Davis has put a target on his back with the way his unit fails to show up in the big games. Noah Fant, Mark Andrews and Mike Gesicki all absolutely dominated their matchups with the Buckeye linebackers, and the opponent’s slot passing game faced minimal resistance in each of those games.

Typically, I am not the “blow everything up” person when a unit struggles, but that linebacker meeting room has some significant issues.

Everything aside, there is still a Big Ten Championship appearance to play for, so we dive into this weekend’s game against Michigan State.

When Ohio State Has The Ball

Will Kevin Wilson force the ball to J.K. Dobbins? He should, because only getting six carries against Iowa was a disgrace. The disappointing part was that Wilson spent this week dancing around the questions and offering excuses. He threw out a stat that he called 30 running plays, and only four of them were designed quarterback runs.

He also mentioned that majority were zone-read options, so Barrett ended up with the most carries because Iowa was set on taking the Dobbins option away.

Here’s a simple solution: Do not run the option plays. Just run designed running back runs, and you do not have to dance around obvious questions.

As for facing the Spartans, it will not get any easier. In fact, things get much tougher.

MSU continues its tradition under Mark Dantonio of displaying a dominating defensive front seven. Ranking third nationally against the run, the Spartans make a living by shutting down anyone in the opponent’s backfield. Last weekend, they held Saquon Barkley to 63 yards rushing on 14 attempts.

Linebackers Joe Batchie and Upper Arlington native Chris Frey will lead this unit in stopping running backs Dobbins and Mike Weber, which means this may be a weekend where Wilson really must lean on Barrett and the passing game.

This makes sense because the Spartans field a very young secondary. While starting a freshman and a converted wide receiver at the cornerback spots, the Spartans are susceptible to being exposed in the passing game. They still sit at a respectable 60th against the pass in the FBS, but there have been times of vulnerability. Most notably, Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson had his way against them.

The deep ball needs to get going, so insert big game possibilities for Johnnie Dixon and Terry McLaurin.

When Michigan State Has The Ball

This section is short and sweet, almost like the Spartan offense. Nothing blows you away with this unit statistically, as they sport average numbers rushing and passing. This week, hearing something like that keeps us cautious, because we know this Buckeye defense can make the most pedestrian offenses look elite.

The Spartans are led by a three-headed monster in QB Brian Lewerke, RB L.J. Scott and WR Felton Davis III.

Urban Meyer labeled Lewerke as “deceptively athletic” and he can make things happen with his legs. He can also sling the ball around as he has notched over 400 yards passing in the past two games. Lewerke will not blow you away, but he is more than capable of torching this defense.

“Buckeye killer” could be a good nickname for Scott. In his first two seasons, he has dominated the Buckeyes in a sign of revenge for Meyer skipping over him during recruiting. This year has been a huge letdown so far by his standards. He averages just over 4 yards per carry, and several off-the-field issues have derailed his junior season.

That being said, I would not be surprised if he puts up 130 yards rushing on the Buckeyes, because he always seems to do it.

Davis is a classic WR1 in this Spartan offense. I’m not declaring him the next Plaxico Burress, but he has all the tools to make the Buckeye cornerbacks struggle. The 6-4 receiver will have a ‘large’ advantage over Denzel Ward, a 5’10” corner who will be tasked with shadowing him. Look for Lewerke to throw Davis’ direction constantly and focus on him in the red zone.

Prediction

I was close to picking Michigan State because I think this team is the real deal. If the Buckeyes win this, they will not cover the 16-point spread.

This has hard-nose Big Ten game written all over it. Barrett will throw for over 275 yards but the team will only rush for 125 yards. Michigan State will take an early lead and social media might collapse.

Thankfully, I will be at the game without Internet service, so I get to miss out on the hot takes. Lewerke throws a few second-half interceptions that doom the Spartans, and all Buckeye fans fall in love again. This fan base lives another week without absolutely losing its mind.

No. 13 Ohio State 28, No. 12 Michigan State 17