Next up in Game Week Q&A is Ohio State. Ian Cuevas from Land-Grant Holy Land was kind enough to answer some questions about Saturday's game, what happened against Michigan, what's different from a year ago.
1. The hell happened in Ann Arbor? 600 yards to Michigan? Based on what I was seeing from Michigan, they were running a lot of the same things, and the Buckeyes just didn't seem ready. Is there any chance they were overlooking TSUN? Or are there real concerns about the defense that were exposed?
As crazy as it might sound, Al Borges and the Michigan offense had an excellent gameplan on how to attack Ohio State's defense, and executed it exactly how they needed to. It was obvious from the get-go that they were prepared and determined to pull off the upset. That being said, it would be fair to say that Ohio State's defense had a bad day, which didn't help their cause. Many of the players were saying after the game that they were actually too fired up for their arch-rival, and didn't focus on playing the game and doing their jobs. It's totally possible (though they would never admit to it, and I don't really think this is the case) that they were looking ahead to Michigan State a little bit, but there's no chance they were overlooking Michigan.
I think the concerns about Ohio State's defense have been pretty much the same all year: The secondary and pass defense is clearly our weakest link, with Christian Bryant out for the year and Bradley Roby struggling throughout the season (to be fair, he's turned it up a notch the past few weeks). The Buckeyes still rank in the top five in rushing defense, and 30th in total defense.
2. On offense, which is more important for the Buckeyes, Carlos Hyde or the quarterback position? What has this offense improved on from a year ago, and how do you stop it?
That's a pretty tough answer, but I think I'll have to go with Carlos Hyde right now. There's no denying Braxton Miller's playmaking ability, and the way he can make a game-changing play any time he tucks it and runs or throws it downfield. But because defenses have been keying in on him more this year, Carlos Hyde has provided Ohio State with a nightmarish (for defensive coordinators) rushing attack.
Despite being suspended for the first three games of the year (and most of the fourth), Hyde trails only Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah and Wisconsin's running backs Melvin Gordon and James White in the Big Ten for rushing, but the margin is only by 278 yards. El Guapo is also leading the Big Ten in average rushing yards per game at 143.
Looking at the lowest point total that Ohio State has scored (31, against Wisconsin) the Badgers actually had 9 more yards than the Buckeyes. But in reality, Ohio State decided to try and eat the clock to avoid giving Wisconsin the ball, and thus stunted their own offensive output. There's really not much you can do to stop Ohio State's offense entirely, but you can try to limit it. The best thing to do is to try and play keep-away when the opposing team has the ball.
3. Urban Meyer has called last year's game in East Lansing as the turning point for his program. How did that game change things, and how are the Buckeyes different?
Up until that Ohio State-Michigan State game, the Buckeyes had done some impressive things, but there were some rumblings that some of the coaching staff and even some players hadn't really bought in to what coach Meyer was trying to give them. The 17-16 win over Michigan State was a turning point because after that win (which was their first game on the road) things started to finally come together on both sides of the ball. Being down six points with only a little over five minutes left in the game (with a QB who had gone down with a scare earlier, in Miller) really forced the team to come together and pull out a big conference win.
This time around, the Buckeyes are more than confident in their offense, as they should be. The thunder and lightning combo of Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller has left defenses in shambles up to this point, with no signs of slowing down. There's also an air of calmness, even in the most pressured situations. When Hyde fumbled the ball against Michigan in the 4th quarter to give the Wolverines a chance, coach Meyer knows his players are going to look at him for some sort of reaction. His demeanor, I think, keeps everyone cool and collected in those heat of the moment situations.
4. What are three keys to victory for the Buckeyes?
1. Win the turnover battle - In 10 of the 12 games this season, Ohio State has won the turnover battle, and that's a big reason why they were able to keep their 24-game win streak alive. The only times Ohio State hasn't won the turnover battle came against Cal (a 52-34 win) and Indiana (42-14 win, with a fumble in the waning minutes of the game). If the Buckeyes can force turnovers on the defensive side of the ball, and take care of the ball on offense, Ohio State should put themselves in great position to win the game.
2. Limit all penalties, avoid stupid ones - Against Michigan, Ohio State true freshman Dontre Wilson (who can provide a spark at any time) got into a fist fight that resulted in Marcus Hall and Wilson himself being ejected from the game at the beginning of the second quarter. As one of the veteran, and key, offensive lineman on Ohio State's line, Marcus Hall is extremely valuable to the Buckeyes rushing attack. Ignore any attempts to provoke another fight, and stay in the game.
3. Defense has chance to prove something - The Buckeyes defense hasn't been championship caliber as of late, but Ohio State has a good shot with the nation watching to show why they've played an important part to this win streak. They have the talent (Ryan Shazier at linebacker, the outstanding defensive line) to do so, and if they can come out focused and prepared, there's an opportunity they can help send Ohio State to the national championship with a solid performance.
5. Score prediction and why?
I'm sticking with my gut, and going to say 31-21, in favor of Ohio State. Going against a top defensive unit is going to be tough, and the Buckeyes will match their season-low on points scored. That being said, I think Ohio State can force a couple of turnovers against the Spartans, in what will likely be a tight game for the entire night.
Thanks again to Ian. Check out LGHL for all things Ohio State.