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J.T. Barrett still hasn’t shown what he can do as a downfield passer

Even with all of the emphasis this off-season, the senior QB attempted just three long passes Thursday.

Ohio State v Indiana Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

“We made such an emphasis on the deep ball that it’s somewhat disappointing that we didn’t hit a couple of them.”

-Urban Meyer, via Ryan Ginn, Land of 10

On paper, J.T. Barrett had a highly-successful game versus the Indiana Hoosiers, especially considering the fact he was breaking in new receivers on the road in the team’s opener. Barrett finished the game Thursday with 20 completions on 35 attempts for 304 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. He also rushed for 61 yards and a touchdown in the Buckeyes’ 49-21 win. Still, what remains somewhat disturbing given all of the offseason hype is the fact that Barrett never managed to complete a long pass. Even more disconcerting, Barrett attempted just three such passes. One, targeted to tight end Marcus Baugh, was overthrown. The other two, however, showed that Barrett is actually capable of completing such passes. Wide receiver Parris Campbell dropped a touchdown pass in the endzone; the final pass, an attempt to WR Binjimen Victor, drew a pass interference penalty which, while not padding Barrett’s stats, kept the offense moving downfield.

Urban Meyer acknowledged that it was disappointing that there were no deep balls caught in the game. Given the troubles last year in making the big play, the need for a vertical passing game was a key driver in bringing Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day onto the staff in the offseason. With so few attempts in this first outing after all of these changes, fans are left to wonder if the root cause is a lack of confidence in Barrett, failure of the receivers to get open in space or a desire by Wilson to limit downfield passes.

The latter option may be one of the most viable. Barrett was able to effectively pick apart the Indiana defense from close range. Especially as freshman running back J.K. Dobbins managed to effectively run through the defense, Indiana was on their heels for many of these short-yardage plays.

“The Ohio State sophomore defensive end has grown accustom to the speed of the college game, gotten stronger and added moves to his arsenal--a breakout season, he felt, was coming.”

-Bill Landis, Cleveland.com

It came as no surprise that the Ohio State defensive line was more than stellar in their opener against Indiana Thursday, carrying the rest of the defensive units as they got up to speed. The Buckeyes even showed from the start what Ohio State fans have been dreaming of all offseason, lining up in a five-man defensive front in their first play on defense. What is perhaps more surprising on the loaded line is that sophomore defensive end Nick Bosa played more snaps than any of the other noted players on the line, including Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes.

While his stat line is not that impressive in itself (he did record a sack in the first half), Bosa was quick off the edge in his snaps, forcing Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow to get off quick throws throughout the game and often allowing one of the other linemen to make a play. That sort of pressure, even if it did not result in a sack, altered Indiana’s gameplan on offense, and is a strength to the defensive line as a whole.

Last season, Bosa tended to play more inside the line as part of the Buckeyes’ “Rushmen” package, which was used for 17 snaps Thursday. This season, however, it is likely that he will line up on the edge more often, as he did Thursday. Even so, he still demonstrated his ability to stuff the run up the middle in his season debut.

One of the benefits of having such a loaded defense is that players can rotate and play fewer snaps in a given game, reducing fatigue and allowing for more explosive plays against a progressively more worn-down offensive line. Thursday, a total of 12 defensive linemen saw the field, with snap counts ranging from six to Bosa’s 62. This group was used in 24 different arrangements.

“ESPN GameDay has been good to Ohio State. The Buckeyes hold a 26-12 record in games played following a GameDay appearance, and are 11-4 in those games played in Columbus.”

-Jason Priestas, Eleven Warriors

For the second week in a row, ESPN’s College GameDay will be on-site for an Ohio State game. While it was a crazy opening weekend for the pre-game show, which traveled from Bloomington on Thursday to Atlanta on Saturday ahead of the Alabama-Florida State game, the crew will settle into its usual schedule of one site per week starting this weekend.

Columbus has been a favorite spot to host the show, with Lee Corso and team visiting Ohio State a whopping 15 times. With this weekend’s scheduled appearance added to the mix, that number is tied (technically) with Alabama, who played three of their games off-campus in Birmingham. This weekend will also mark the fourth-straight time that the Buckeyes have had GameDay on-site for their matchups, dating back to last season’s final two games against Michigan and Clemson.

Of course, it makes sense that the show would visit the Buckeyes so often. Since GameDay began touring campuses in 1993, Ohio State has been one of the winningest programs in college football, and they have won more games than anyone over the last two decades. Especially as Urban Meyer joined the program, the Buckeyes gained additional prestige, producing monster numbers of draft picks each year who simply have to be watched in person before they head to the NFL. Still, GameDay didn’t cover an Ohio State game until 1996, when they had three matchups in five weeks (at No. 5 Notre Dame, No. 3 Penn State at home, and at No. 20 Iowa). The Buckeyes won all three games during that stretch, finishing ranked second nationally. And the matchup against Penn State marked that historic moment when, for the first time, Corso donned headgear to declare his pick for the game. He chose Brutus, and he chose wisely.

Overall, Corso is 20-10 when picking Brutus.

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