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Lack of creativity and explosiveness finally caught up to the Ohio State offense

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Where did it all go wrong?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

After the Ohio State offense put up 13 points against Northern Illinois in Week 3, I mentioned in my film breakdown that, "offensive line coach Ed Warinner and the newly hired Tim Beck were given the keys to a Ferrari, but they're on the verge of crashing it." On Saturday, that Ferrari was totaled after the driver lost control of the vehicle.

Fans and media believed in every silver lining when it came to this offense; the same offense that returned four-of-five offensive line starters, an embarrassment of riches on the perimeter, the best three-down running back in the nation and two quarterbacks that could start almost anywhere in the nation. Each week it was a new excuse about why they only put up 13 points against a MAC defense, or sputtered against a Hawaii team that ranks 113th in the nation, or the "junk defenses" that they faced, or the quarterback controversy, and so on and so on.

Every week fans and media alike were fooled into thinking that they would figure it out, but it never happened. I wrote last week that they used a vanilla playbook against Illinois to keep aggressive playcalls off film for the big stretch run versus Michigan State and Michigan, but I was wrong. Each week the excuses mounted, but nothing changed.

It is unreasonable to average 50 points per game; however, with the large talent gap that favored the Buckeyes in every single game, they should have had comfortable wins and the offense specifically should have toyed with the opponent. They never used their explosive weapons properly, their offensive line never bullied the opponent, both quarterbacks regressed and Ezekiel Elliott was not leaned on when he should have been.

As Elliott said, it came down to the coaching staff not putting the players in a position to win. It started Week 2 and finally came back to bite them in their first true test of the season. Not only was it scheme-based, but it was also the little things that were very uncharacteristic of an Urban Meyer coached team. Whether it was not calling a timeout with 1:58 left on the clock in the first half before getting the ball back, or not going for it on 4th-and-1 at midfield, or not taking the wind in the fourth quarter when Michigan State deferred to the second half -- which could have been the difference in the game winning field goal attempt. Elliott should have kept his issues in-house, but no one can say his opinions were incorrect.

This team (most likely) not reaching the Big Ten Championship Game and not reaching the College Football Playoff, especially in this poor conference, will go down as Urban Meyer's greatest, "what could have been," moment in his career.

J.T. Barrett

Designed runs Dropbacks Completions Incompletions TD pass Scramble Overthrow Underthrow Throwaway
11 18 9 6 1 2 2 2 1
Pressured Sacked Hit during throw Pass break-up Batted at LOS Drops Turnovers TD run Defensive PI
4 1 7 1 0 1 0 0 0

*Tap passes do not count as pass attempts

  • J.T. Barrett was under siege, taking seven hits on 15 pass attempts. He never got comfortable, but his decision making and accuracy did not help. He had four errant throws on the six incompletions.
  • The Michigan State secondary did not respect the Buckeye receivers or the playcalling. No quick hitting slants, which has always been money with Barrett and Michael Thomas, stood out.
  • 11 designed runs were far too much, especially when it was not working. Michigan State did a great job of being disciplined and each defender executed their 1/11th, as we see below:
  • With the safety coming downhill and his hips turned towards the sideline, I thought Barrett had a chance to cut back for the first down. The quarterback may not always be the quickest, but he does well in one-on-one situations.
  • This was a good decision by Barrett and it showed the Spartan's respect for his smarts in the read option game. Barrett held on just long enough to force the read defender to freeze and not stop Elliott for a loss on fourth down.
  • Michigan State's secondary came into the game not being able to defend the deep ball. Ohio State attempted to throw deep twice; one an overthrow (below) which Braxton Miller beat the defensive back by two steps, and another which was a forced underthrow into the wind. The Buckeyes have more than enough athletes to take deep shots, but a mixture of poor pass protection and lack of faith in both the quarterback and the wideouts kept the offense conservative.

Skill positions

During Elliott's postgame commentary, he mentioned that they should have kept running power and gap schemes, which is what they did on the touchdown drive, but declined to use it extensively.

Below, this is what Elliott was talking about. On the first touchdown drive, the Buckeyes used 12 personnel (2 TE, 2 WR) and ran power down the Spartan's throat. The picture shows the most space that Elliott had the entire day. After that drive, they ran power out of 12 personnel maybe two times. If Elliott pleaded to the staff to run power, especially when nothing else is working, run it.

The receivers had a tough day getting open, but they were not given the time or ball placement to make plays. Barrett was either under duress or inaccurate on most of his pass attempts. As I mentioned above, the quick game was gone; the slants, crossers and five-yard routes, which could have been executed against the soft playing Spartan secondary. The playcalling had no flow, which lulled the entire offense to sleep and caused an abundance of problems, including an uncharacteristic concentration drop like the one below.