"For most teams, a 5-0 record would speak for itself. But most teams — even most defending champions — don't enter the season boasting an historic quarterback depth chart, the preseason Heisman favorite, the likely no. 1 pick in next year's draft, and the expectation that they breeze through a mediocre schedule from start to finish. By those standards, Ohio State has barely resembled a burgeoning juggernaut. So, are the Buckeyes merely victims of unfair expectations while still working out the kinks? Or is it time to worry?"
Five weeks into the season and Ohio State is still not quite there yet as a contending playoff team. Many critics have gone as far as to drop the Buckeyes from the top 10, though the team still remains as the top team in the polls. There's something just off about this season and its team. Be it from the struggles on the offensive side of the ball or the alarming amount of turnovers in what seem to be crucial moments, it's surprising to see Ohio State have this much trouble. Despite that, the Buckeyes have time to turn things around. But as Matt Hinton suggests, if Cardale Jones and the rest of the team continue to put in uninspiring performances, the time to worry is closing in.
The next handful of weeks are important for Ohio State, not just from a national perspective, but also within its own locker room. Fairly weaker opponents in Maryland and Rutgers should provide enough of a boost to morale to hopefully get things back on track again. A matchup with Penn State should also allow the players to get excited for some of those alternate uniforms that they'll be wearing against the Nittany Lions. There's no better time to get the team firing on all cylinders.
After his clutch performance against Indiana, Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott took home Offensive Player of the Week honors, given by the FWAA. Elliott carried the ball 23 times and rushed for 274 yards and three touchdowns. The junior running back put the team on his shoulders as they met some adversity from the Hoosiers. Elliott broke off several key runs that went for home run plays including runs of 55, 65, and 75 yards. His performance helped elevate the Buckeyes over Indiana en route to their 5-0 record and first Big Ten win of the season.
Elliott also leads the Big Ten in rushing with 729 yards, which also ranks for fifth-best in the nation. His average yards per game (145.8) also rank as sixth-best in the country, putting him among the elite running backs in college football. With games coming up against Maryland and Rutgers, Elliott could be looking at several more big games over the course of the season.
"It's very close. It's just efficiency and making things happen and someone creating a big play. [Penalties, turnovers and the red zone] are all things that are being emphasized. I think we're second in rushing, second in scoring offense right now and we still don't feel like we're doing our jobs. And that's pretty good expectations. So, I think we're on the border of being very good."
It might surprise you to know that Ohio State's offense, while not looking great, is very similar to where the Buckeyes were at this point last season in a couple of important metrics. Urban Meyer's squad is averaging nearly an identical number of yards per play as in 2014, and though there is a slight difference to the number of explosive plays, it's still pretty close compared to the team last season.
The biggest difference seems to be coming in the penalty and turnover categories. While Jones' five interceptions this season is the same that Barrett threw last season at this point, there are many more fumbles this season by the Buckeyes. So it makes sense for coach Meyer to stay optimistic about his team's progression through the course of this season. He knows there's still plenty of time to kick things into gear and clean up the mistakes that riddled Ohio State's first five games.
"We haven't really done much at all this year. Obviously Cardale is not that type of player. He's a very good runner, but he's more of a scrambler than he is quarterback counter, quarterback power, those types of things. So we're not where we need to be, but we're not heavy on that right now."
The quarterback conversation never ends, it seems. Though it's clear the coaching staff is rolling with Cardale Jones, that doesn't mean the chatter or what if's will stop any time soon. An interesting note from Doug Lesmerises' article is that Urban Meyer has willingly given up the quarterback run game by picking Cardale Jones as the starter. It's obvious that J.T. Barrett is the better option to have quarterback runs or read options, but perhaps it doesn't matter in the scheme of things.
As Meyer points out, having the best player(s) could be more important than having the best scheme. One way to read that is that Meyer prefers to mold the offense to best fit what his best players are better at, as opposed to the opposite. Since Jones' arm strength is unquestioned, it makes sense for Meyer to try and build the offense that opens up possibilities for Jones to make plays. For now, it's been a bit of a learning process, but the hope is that when it's all said and done, the Buckeyes will be kicking into high gear.