Advance notice: this discussion of Ohio State football is going to veer quickly into a discussion of some gross body stuff before we right the ship and get into the Xs and Os. Consider yourself warned.
This past week, my side job had us do a team-building exercise in which we made our own sauerkraut. (Or started to make our own sauerkraut; the good stuff takes three weeks to ferment.) But before we did that, the two nice women guiding us through the session started talking about the various benefits of fermented foods, including their proven track record at restoring the various flora and micro-biomes in people's guts and GI tracts.
As you might imagine (especially if you live on the crunchy-granola west coast, like I do, and such discussions are more commonplace), this conversation spiraled off into side chatter about the repair to human systems that can be done by—and I am not making this up—DIY fecal transplants, among other things. I'll spare you the gory details about how that's done, but a quick Google search done in a browser that your employer can't see will fill in the blanks for you.
Here's the basic idea that governs the success of both processes—kraut and the DYI stuff—in restoring the functions of the human body: various parasites, like Giardia and cryptosporidium, wreck all your digestive functions, and the medicines we use to kill those parasites also kill way more bacteria in your gut than they need to. For your system to function properly again, healthy and diverse bacteria have to be reintroduced so they can rebuild the little ecosystem of your innards.
All of this is to say that I sat in this seminar thinking about, uh, Ohio State football. The debacle that was the Oklahoma game destroyed the system, top to bottom. On-field play, off-field tweeting, enough message board exclamation points to last a lifetime—everything was broken all at once, with seemingly no hope for recovery.
For a week, anyway. The Army game kickstarted the system again, like eating 15 Chobani yogurts might do. On the near horizon is Rutgers, a metaphorical organic-matter transplant if ever there was one. And here, to let the Ohio State system repair its core functions, is a big damn bowl of sauerkraut: the UNLV Rebels and their abysmally-performing defense.
Here's a look at just one of the guys poised to take advantage of that matchup.
Name: K.J. Hill
Year: RS Sophomore
Height/Weight: 6'0, 198 lbs.
Stat line: 15 catches, 124 receiving yards
Hill, nominally Parris Campbell's backup at the H-back position, has rushed just once all season. His primary function in the Buckeye offense is as a receiver, where he's reeled in 15 catches in 2017, including a team-high eight against an overmatched Army secondary. He'll get just as many chances to feast this Saturday, as UNLV might offer even less resistance than the Black Knights did.
The reason that Hill and his teammates in the Buckeye receiving corps look due for a big day is that UNLV's defense is compromised everywhere, including the secondary. The Rebels' pass defense had to replace three of its top four tacklers from 2016, but even those losses came from a unit that wasn't good: UNLV finished last season 106th nationally in passing defense by S&P+.
Through two games in 2017, the Rebels have managed to get the bleeding in the secondary somewhat under control, allowing 401 total passing yards so far. But those stats came in a historic upset loss to Howard and in a trouncing of perennial doormat Idaho, so take them with a grain of salt.
A few names to know as the Buckeyes look to have a second-consecutive field day through the air (thanks to what J.K. Dobbins and co. open up for them on the ground): junior safeties Dalton Baker and Tim Hough, who have combined for nine solo tackles, and Chauncey Scissum, a Syracuse transfer who had the best day of any player in the secondary during the Idaho game.
What to watch for
Even with the resurgence of the Buckeye passing game against Army, Urban Meyer's offense will be run-first for the foreseeable future. That's easy enough to do when you have all-world talent like J.K. Dobbins and J.T. Barrett getting a high volume of carries; it's hardly surprising that Ohio State's first three touchdowns came on the ground against the Black Knights.
What that does, especially when a player like Dobbins is a threat to rip off a 50+ yard touchdown run at any moment, is force opposing teams to stack the box to try to stop the run. When that happens, the passing unit gets to see a lot more single coverage. For burners like Hill, Parris Campbell, and Johnnie Dixon, who aren't particularly crisp route runners, that's an ideal scenario.
UNLV's got a few bright spots on both sides of the ball, but they have a multi-year rebuild ahead of them. This one will hopefully be ugly by halftime.