There was a moment on Saturday night when it looked like the Ohio State offense had finally turned the corner. J.K. Dobbins, the freshman phenom running back, cruised into the end zone from six yards out and unleashed the cockiest, most Ohio celebration on the books: LeBron James' "silencer." From there, it was easy to see how the rest of the game would play out: the Buckeyes would control the ground game, eat up yardage and clock, and slowly but surely suffocate the life out of an Oklahoma team that had made a good-but-not-great effort.
That's what was going to happen, until it didn't. You know how the rest of the game went, with a million and one designed rollout throws to nowhere, uninspired route-running that was laughably easy to cover, and a 15-point loss that should probably have been two scores bigger.
That won't happen again, at least not this week. This week the Buckeyes play Army, a team that—despite its steady and intentional improvements—shouldn't be able to hang with Ohio State for more than a quarter. And the man who might blow the doors off the Black Knights? None other than J.K. Dobbins himself.
Name: J.K. Dobbins
Height/Weight: 5'10, 208 lbs.
Stat line: 42 carries, 253 yards, 1 TD
Dobbins had such an world-wrecking Buckeye debut (181 rushing yards...pretty good) that he was named Ohio State's starter for the Oklahoma game even with Mike Weber's return from injury. Weber got carries against the Sooners, but his nagging hamstring problem took him back off the field, and Dobbins will almost certainly be the Buckeyes' primary back again this Saturday.
(That's not to say that they can't both eat. Would you bet against the Dobbins-Weber combo rushing for, say, 2,100 yards this season?)
Army is an option team, meaning that on their good days, the Black Knights keep their offense on the field for a loooong time. They finished third nationally in time of possession last season, averaging almost 35 minutes per game. That's a great recipe for keeping your defense healthy and rested during games. Seriously, they run a lot of option:
Army is now 2-0 this season despite throwing for a grand total of 17 yards in the 2 games.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 9, 2017
They'll need that rest against the Buckeyes. While this year's team returns 10 of the 15 most productive defensive players from 2016, the Knights lost a linebacking duo that accounted for 24 TFLs and 6.5 sacks. That's not great news for Army, given what Ohio State is capable of in the ground game.
What to watch for
That is, if Ohio State even has a ground game, because good LORD, I cannot watch another 60 minutes of football where the team's best unit is ignored, so help me,
Ahem. J.K. Dobbins should get his share of looks against a defense that has yet to face a real test, no disrespect to Fordham and Buffalo. The Black Knights were 48th in rushing defense by S&P+ last season, which is plenty respectable for a team whose recruiting is generally limited to two- and three-star recruits.
Whether or not Army can keep up that level of production remains to be seen. But the Buckeyes will likely run early and often, both to set the tempo and to give the lackluster passing game a little breathing room.
One matchup to look for: Dobbins (or Weber) looking for running room against Army LB Alex Aukerman. Aukerman was third on the team in tackles last season, and is the leading returning tackler for the Knights; the former two-star recruit made hay in 2016 to the tune of 15 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. The Buckeyes should still win this one handily, but the backs will still have to work early against a formerly-awful team on a quick rise.