“If there were any questions after the loss to the Sooners, Ohio State has answered them through patience, practice and defeating its opponents in convincing fashion.”
-Tom VanHaaren, ESPN
Ohio State may have started the season 1-1, but after four weeks throttling opponents, they are finally settling into a nice groove heading into the tougher part of their schedule. The areas of concern early on this year were the lackluster passing game and the inconsistent (read: young) secondary.
Since the loss to Oklahoma in Week 2, J.T. Barrett has found 10 different targets for touchdowns, not to mention the ones on the ground. Once the receivers stopped dropping passes and gained some confidence, their growth has been impressive. Most of the receivers have been outstanding with their spacial awareness, often snagging touchdowns in the narrowest windows with one foot down.
According to ESPN, even WR Parris Campbell admitted they look better, but still have room to grow, “We are making progress week by week, and I think we are getting better, but I think we still leave too much on the field. It’s not going to be perfect, but we are taking it step by step and continuing to get better.”
Not only is the offense on the upswing, but the secondary has come around too. The team snagged their first interception of the season against Rutgers and limited Maryland last week to only 16 passing yards (!).
All these minor battles are leading up to the loaded back-end of the season for the Buckeyes. With the bye week after Nebraska’s road trip, the Scarlet and Grey will get ready to face Big Ten leader Penn State, a burgeoning Michigan State team and lastly an increasingly frustrated Michigan team. These three of the final five games of the season will determine who ultimately competes for the Big Ten title from the East division and likely who will go on to the College Football Playoff.
“You’re not going to have many shots down the field on the way they play. They’re very sound in what they do. Their secondary, they keep everything in front of them and they rally up and run to the ball very, very well and they kind of give you the short stuff.”
-Urban Meyer via Marcus Hartman, Dayton Daily News
Nebraska has had early success on defense this year at limiting big plays, but not so much at preventing solid gains, as noted by Hartman. Meyer dug deeper into Nebraska’s base 3-4 scheme when he met with the media this week, calling it something out of the NFL with two-gap defensive linemen and eight players in coverage.
This should prove to be a good challenge for the Buckeyes, as they transition from the easier slate of games on their schedule to the more difficult. Ohio State has seen improvements in their passing game, but the real bread and butter is still in the rush. With a three-headed attack from Mike Weber, J.K. Dobbins and J.T. Barrett, the Buckeyes will try and create some opportunities for one-on-one match-ups for the receivers by way of screens and short passes.
“Second-year cornerback Artie Burns missed his first tackle of the season, while Ryan Shazier continues to lead the Steelers in missed tackles week after week, but I think a lot of that has to do with the standout inside linebacker flying sideline to sideline making plays.”
-Josh Carney, Steelers Depot
Through five weeks of play, former Buckeye linebacker Ryan Shazier has 13 missed tackles — more than double of any of his other teammates. While that stat line can be a bit head-scratching, as Josh Carney points out in the tackle breakdown, Shazier flies around the field and has far more tackle attempts than most of his teammates.
Despite these misses, the Buckeye is still gearing up for a career-high season. The linebacker recorded 87 total tackles in both 2014 and 2015, and already has 45 through just five games. Shazier has also never been healthy for a full 16-game season — so that could go a long way in making his fifth-year extension worth it for the Steelers. Similarly, he’s only one interception and one forced fumble away from tying his career-highs in both categories — currently at three in each.
While Shazier might have the most missed tackles for Pittsburgh, he’s also in on almost every defensive play, and has a knack for finding the ball. So long as he keeps making big third-down stops, and game-winning picks, the Steelers aren’t going to let a few missed tackles cloud their judgement on one of the league’s best linebackers.
STICK TO SPORTS
- You can now order food delivery through Facebook.
- Since it’s Friday the 13th, the final trailer for the second season of Stranger Things was released, and it’s terrifying.
- Have you ever wanted to live in a fancy shipping container? Well, now you can!
- A few retailers — including H&M and Urban Outfitters — are having online sales this weekend.