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Ohio State’s Corey Smith might provide the deep threat on offense

The wide out might just be the answer to the deep threat missing from the offense.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

“I think he's going to practice today. You know, his hand is in a little (cast). He has use of his fingers now. He had that surgery on his wrist, so we'll know more today, but I think he's going to practice from what I hear.”

- Urban Meyer via Ari Wasserman,

At the start of the 2016 season, it was expected that Ohio State wide receiver Corey Smith would finally have his moment as a Buckeye. Locked in as one of the starting receivers, Smith provided experience in a position group that lacked a lot of it. He also provided an option to throw the ball deep for quarterback J.T. Barrett. But Smith has been mostly out of action this year. Despite playing against Oklahoma (albeit with a giant cast on his right wrist), Smith hasn’t seen the field since the early weeks of the season. But that’s about to change, as Smith is expected to return to the practice field on Tuesday.

After a crushing loss to Penn State, the offense is shouldering a lot of the blame for what went wrong in Happy Valley. With a return of Smith, things might open up a bit in terms of the receiving game because Urban Meyer mentioned that Smith provides a deep threat that seems to be lacking in this current group of receivers.

“You wish one would separate (from the pack), and I don't see that happening (so far). Noah is a pretty reliable guy and had nice plays. The other ones need to elevate.”

- Urban Meyer via Tim May, The Columbus Dispatch

Staying on topic with wide receivers, when asked about the position group, head coach Urban Meyer didn’t mince many words. He simply said the above, showing that the group has yet to have anyone standing out among themselves, other than Noah Brown. But even Brown has been mostly quiet despite having four touchdown catches against Oklahoma. Since then, he’s not had anything close to a dominant performance though against Wisconsin and Penn State provided a few clutch catches. So the question of not including guys like Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor in the rotation might be worth asking. Victor doesn’t have the current college-level size at least, but Mack could see the field should the coaching staff decide to have him in.

Regardless, the unit has had trouble forming separation from opposing defenses. Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, James Clark, Johnnie Dixon and K.J. Hill all have been involved at some degree but have failed to come up with consistent playmaking ability during the games. With J.T. Barrett being harassed seemingly all game, it would certainly make his job easier if the receivers could elevate their games. And it looks like Meyer is hoping this comment might do just that.

“According to ESPN's Football Power Index, the Buckeyes have a 70 percent chance to enter their matchup with Michigan without another loss. Then they have a 44 percent chance to beat the Wolverines, and with a win, would be at least a 75 percent favorite against any team from the West in a Big Ten championship game.”

- Heather Dinich, ESPN

All hope is not lost when it comes to the chances of Ohio State making the College Football Playoff. In fact, it might be easier than originally thought. As you can see above in the quote, the Buckeyes are going to likely be favored to win the rest of their games before the battle against Michigan. But should they run the table to that point, Ohio State will be looking strong (especially with a win over a ranked Nebraska team) down the stretch. Beating Michigan will be no small feat, but the Buckeyes are certainly capable of it in the annual rivalry game having won every game against the Wolverines since Urban Meyer was hired.

From there, its entirely possible that Ohio State would meet with a team like Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game for a shot at the College Football Playoff spot. No one is saying its an easy road for the Buckeyes, but the chances of them making it back in aren’t impossible. Even with the loss to Penn State, J.T. Barrett and co. still have a lot of time to turn things around. But they need to start the winning once again this week against Northwestern.