Ohio State won the 2017 Cotton Bowl by suffocating Sam Darnold and forcing numerous turnovers. The offense took advantage of these turnovers on a short field, but ultimately, they brought a very, very vanilla game plan to Dallas. The passing game was non-existent, with J.T. Barrett only attempting 16 passes, and the running game was invisible, with both JK Dobbins and Mike Weber both averaging under 3.6 yards per carry. There was very little rhythm and tempo, which led the offense to only 55 total plays — which had to be the lowest of the season.
One could argue that they went conservative because of the scoreboard, but they didn’t even stick to the run and they were horrendous in short yardage. If they’re going to go the ‘Tresselball’ route, they have to extend drives on the ground, which just did not happen.
A win is a win, and it was a dominant one on the defensive side of the ball, but the offensive game plan was very perplexing to say the least. Just like the B1G Championship, this could have been a 30 point blowout, but the bland playbook, mixed with poor execution made it look much closer than what it should have been.
J.T. Barrett Passing Chart vs USC
|Batted at LOS
*Tap passes do not count as an attempt
- As noted, it’s pretty wild that they designed 11 quarterback runs for Barrett, while only dropping him back 22 times. Out of those 22 dropbacks, he only threw the ball 16 times. If you add the number of designed runs with scrambles, Barrett only threw the ball three more times than he ran it.
- KJ Hill, Parris Campbell (outside the handoffs), Johnnie Dixon and Binjimen Victor were completely invisible and were barely targeted as a whole. Although we’re waiting on Campbell and Dixon to make a decision regarding their futures, we’re looking at the return of #Zone6, and they should be one of the better positional groups on next year’s squad.
- It looked like Austin Mack was the only perimeter receiver who could get any separation on the outside. Mack is turning into a legitimate WR1.
- Below, Barrett made an NFL-type throw to Mack, when he rifled a 15-yard laser to the sticks. If you aren’t hyped about the possibility of Dwayne Haskins and Mack next season, you don’t have a pulse.
- The weird play calling was confirmed when Marcus Baugh was Barrett’s most targeted pass-catcher on the afternoon with five targets. It seems as though Kevin Wilson saw a matchup with his tight end that he really liked, and Baugh benefited. Speaking of Baugh, he’s going to be a pretty good TE2 in the NFL for a long time. He possesses good athleticism, is a solid blocker and has reliable hands.
- Barrett’s legs and his decision making in the read option will be the greatest difference between Barrett and whoever starts at quarterback in the future. I’ve chronicled for years how much the game slows down for him in the read option, as he makes the right decision just about every single time. Below, Barrett was able to make the quick decision with a defender bearing down on him, broke the tackle, read his blockers and turned on the jets for six. Buckeye fans are really, really going to miss Barrett in the QB run game.
- Defensive side note: Typically during the long bowl layoff where the team has a month of practices, a young guy makes a leap, balls out in the bowl game and locks up a spot for the upcoming season. We’ve seen Vonn Bell and Noah Brown do it in the past. Denzel Ward sitting out of the bowl game allowed Kendall Sheffield and Jeffrey Okudah to step up and get more playing time, which will only make them better next season. After making multiple plays against USC, I think Sheffield makes the biggest jump in 2018.
- Overall, the defense — especially the defensive line — was national championship caliber, but the offense was far too inconsistent and lacked execution in the key moments to beat any of the playoff teams. As much as fans don’t want to admit it, the committee got it right.