"The Buckeyes have tilted the field. It's like Ohio State and its opponents are playing a different game."
-Doug Lesmerises, Cleveland.com
Of all the factors working in Ohio State's favor this season, field position might just be the greatest. The Buckeyes currently rank 1st in the country in starting field position and opponents' starting field position. How big is the gap? The Buckeyes' average starting field position is their own 37-yard line. For you math wizards, that means the team only faces 63 yards to go each time it takes over. By contrast, the Buckeyes' opponents' average start is the 23-yard line. That 14-yard difference is far and away the best in college football--no other team even reaches 10.
Lesmerises compiled a list of other reasons that Ohio State will take away the W in State College this weekend. Like Russell Crowe's Maximus, Lesmerises believes that the Buckeyes will feed off the crowd rather than be daunted by it. Joey Bosa, in particular, is on the record as being excited to hit the road. "We play in front of 108,000 people every week, so it kind of (stinks) when we go away and they don't have an environment like that," Bosa said. Other advantages for the Bucks? They're the best rushing attack Penn State has faced, their O-line is much improved, and Bosa himself being an unstoppable monster off the edge.
"There is no shortage of chances for the [Buckeye] running backs to make an impression and have an impact."
-Austin Ward, ESPN
If this article about the Ohio State running back corps doesn't get you fired up, you might want to get your pulse checked. Seriously. Click that link, I'll wait.
The Buckeyes have seemingly looked for production from every member of their deep backfield in 2014. The stable ranges from senior Rod Smith to true freshman Curtis Samuel, both of whom have been called upon in big moments this season. Ezekiel Elliott, a sophomore, has been the workhorse of the group. It's up to running backs coach Stan Drayton to balance the talents and the egos of each. He has no problem referring to them as a "Band of Brothers."
Drayton has spent the year emphasizing that personal goals need to take a backseat to the success of the unit. "You don't get better unless you unselfishly give back to your brother," has been Drayton's motto, and so far it's working out well. The backs, who study everything from hand placement to pass decoying to blocking schemes in the film room, have been dominant on the ground all season. That has required them to cede carries to one another based on game situations. Has that led to any hard feelings? "We fight for each other," says coach Drayton. "That creates an unbelievable bond."
"The Buckeyes and Spartans have helped the conference again engage in the playoff talk...[but] when the committee is looking to differentiate teams, those losses will have to come up again, to some degree."
-Doug Lesmerises, Cleveland.com
You may have heard that Ohio State had a bad loss to Virginia Tech back in Week 2. You may also have heard that the Big Ten conference is considered an inferior product in 2014, and in possible danger of being left out of the first-ever College Football Playoff. The pivotal matchup is obviously the Nov. 8 showdown between Ohio State and Michigan State, currently ranked 13 and 8 in the AP Poll, respectively. The first rankings of the Playoff's selection committee have yet to be released, but will provide a much clearer picture of where the people who matter stand on Ohio State as a team.
There are a number of factors that could work in the Buckeyes' favor. There are a number of former coaches and AD's on the committee, who should know all too well that in the chaos of a college season a great team can lose a game to an inferior opponent. That's especially true for the Buckeyes, who were forced to adjust on the fly to a freshman starting quarterback. Another advantage Ohio State has is that it has been winning big. The old BCS didn't account for margin of victory, but pollsters can, and that means Ohio State posting 50+ points against 4 straight opponents won't go unnoticed.
To the detriment of the Buckeyes, their strength of schedule is only ranked 72. This compares unfavorably to the schedules of talented teams like Oregon, TCU, Kansas State, and Auburn, all of whom also sit at one loss. It might be difficult to make a case for the Buckeyes in such a deep, well-regarded field. Ohio State is currently ranked 8 in ESPN's Football Power Index rankings. The Buckeyes might need to climb a little higher to have a shot at a playoff berth.
"It's another terrific point of progress for a club which has led MLS in average attendance growth since 2011."
-Ryan Schwepfinger, TheCrew.com
The Columbus Crew are on pace to set their season attendance record, projecting more than 284,000 fans by year's end. The previous record, set in 1999, was 283,129. The Crew have increased their average attendance by 38.5% since 2011, the best in MLS.
The club attributes its rapid growth to several factors, most notably the improved in-game experience at Crew Stadium and the better product being played on the field. An increase in American understanding of and appreciation for soccer, especially after this year's World Cup performance, has certainly contributed to the boom as well. The Crew have played host to 5 sellout crowds in 2014, a record. The team has also famously rebranded its logo, with the result being a much more modern, eye-catching take on the team's insignia.
STICK TO SPORTS:
- Probably should have seen this one coming. Ebola Halloween costumes are what's hot for next weekend.
- Space Whiskey has returned to Earth.
- A handy guide to Columbus ballot issues, since voting day is coming up.
- Columbus makes the list in Gizmodo's "5 Coolest New Parks and Public Spaces."
- Ohio awarded title of "Chipotle Heaven," in a move most of my freshman year roommates probably played a part in.