With another game on the the schedule, Urban Meyer held a Monday press conference at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. There was plenty to talk about—injury updates, previewing Wisconsin—during his brief time at the podium.
Let’s take a look at the four biggest points from that presser, and break them down.
1. “Moved into probable. He's doing a nice job with all the rehab.”
After getting hit by a cameraman prior to the start against Michigan, quarterback J.T. Barrett battled on before getting even more injured on a tackle in the third quarter of ‘The Game’. When Barrett left the game and went to the locker room, Jenny Taft of FOX Sports reported that the injury involved the meniscus.
With a couple days of rehab complete, Meyer has now said that Barrett is elevated to being probable for Saturday’s game. A few of the questions that were directed to the OSU coach tried to go more in-depth on the injury, but he only divulged that the meniscus (i.e. cartilage in the knee) was the reason. Explaining a medical diagnosis is a tricky thing, even when you’re a football coach that has seen numerous different injuries throughout the years. But Meyer at least gave us a quick hit to the extent of Barrett’s injury.
It sucks that Barrett got hurt; this is the second time he’s been injured in a game against Michigan. The coaching staff (and fans) will now have to wait it out and see how long the injury takes to heal. Luckily, a case study on a meniscus injury has been done before. Unfortunately, though, the study says that full recovery takes upwards to 20 weeks.
However, Ohio State boasts one of the elite medical schools in the country. If there were a way to make Barrett as ready as humanly possible before Saturday, they can make it happen. I’m not a doctor, but expect a lot of massaging to occur on the knee for the next couple of days. If Barrett is good to go for Saturday night, I would expect him to primarily stay in the pocket—sorta like what he did in the first half against Michigan.
But, if Barrett isn’t ready, or if he’s struggling against the defense, it could be time for the backup to shine against the Badgers in postseason play.
2. “And more than a coach, the comfort and the confidence that those other ten players have, the quarterback is the most unique position in all of sport.”
This is starting to become a theme with Ohio State: the backup QBs are good, actually. Dwayne Haskins came in for the injured Barrett midway through the third frame, and was faced with a 20-14 deficit. By the time all zeroes showed up on the clock, the Potomac, Md., native went 6-for-7 in the air (picking up 94 yards) and led OSU on a 17-0 scoring run, ultimately securing the win 31-20.
That’s impressive, seeing that he was a redshirt freshman playing for the first time (outside of garbage time), and playing in a hostile environment in, arguably, the most important game of the regular season.
Haskins showed the poise needed to be the conductor of the Buckeye offense, and was rewarded by getting champion honors for his performance.
Going forward, knowing that Haskins can ball out against elite defenses will give OSU offensive coaches an easier night’s sleep—at least in the short term. Knowing that he won’t implode when the going gets tough, or that he won’t make bad throws, helps in trying to devise what plays will be run.
In a way, this is shaping up to be eerily similar to 2014: backup QB Cardale Jones steps up and destroys a once-thought stout Wisconsin defense for a Big Ten crown. Granted, Jones was a third-string quarterback that was elevated to backup after Braxton Miller got hurt.
Cardale may no longer be with the Buckeyes, but the testament to development by the Ohio State coaching staff remains: backup QBs are still producing in games.
That’s something that hasn’t been replicated by many schools.
3. “We play our rival you can't say we saved a little bit of energy for this next one. But also our guys are energized, ready to go for this one.”
A point that was brought up quite a few times during the presser was the possibility that the team would be emotionally drained after playing Michigan.
This is the third time the Buckeyes have gone directly from playing Michigan to playing in the conference championship game, and so far, they are 1-1. In 2013, Ohio State was undefeated before stumbling to Michigan State in Indianapolis; the following season, they ran the Badgers out of Lucas Oil Stadium, 59-0.
Prior to coming to Columbus, Meyer dealt with playing an emotional regular season finale before playing an equal, if not even more, emotional game for a conference championship. At Florida, Meyer routinely faced a pretty good Florida State team to round out the regular season. In the three times he advanced to the SEC title game, Meyer was able to win two of them.
Winning football games at an elite institution is hard. Winning games in late-November/December/January is even harder. Even through all of that, Meyer has proven that he’s one of the best.
Even though Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst has made it to the Big Ten Championship Game as an unbeaten, Meyer has the experience in surviving the potential letdown after playing a rugged finale to the regular season.
4. “Giant offensive linemen in Wisconsin. And obviously a very good challenge against an elite running back”
While Meyer may have the coaching experience, Wisconsin is coming in with a head full of steam. Last week, the Badgers chased the Gophers away en route to a 31-0 road win to secure one of their marquee rivalry trophies, Paul Bunyan’s Axe.
Don’t be fooled by the Badgers: this team is good. They have the hallmarks of good teams—offensive linemen that can block and a defense that can contain opponents—that ends up in the late stages of the season in the hunt for a championship.
In a slew of defensive categories, the Badgers rank first. Just to name a few, Chryst’s defense has the best total defense, rushing defense, and passing-efficiency defense.
Also, like Wisconsin teams of years past, they have themselves an elite running back. Jonathan Taylor leads the Big Ten in rushing with 150.5 yards per game. Nationally, that average is the third best—but it could only be done if the offensive line gave Taylor the ability to bust open.
With a combination of lockdown defense and star power on offense, the Badgers haven’t trailed in the fourth quarter of any of their 12 regular season games. In 10 of their wins, they’ve been by at least 14 points. Only Northwestern and Purdue were able to lose to the Badgers by less than two touchdowns.
In 2014, the Buckeyes stopped the Badgers’ top offensive weapon, running back Melvin Gordon. Can they do the same this time around? We’ll find out Saturday night.