For the second straight week, the Ohio State Buckeyes will have to defend against a quarterback capable of throwing and running. While not as big of a threat as Penn State’s Trace McSorley, the Indiana Hoosiers signal-call Peyton Ramsey poses his own set of problems for the OSU defense.
Through five games this season, Ramsey has thrown for 1,039 yards and eight touchdowns on 115-of-162 passing. However, he has thrown five interceptions, with two of them coming against Michigan State, their toughest opponent to this point. By the end of the weekend, there’s a good chance that Ohio State will take the role of toughest opponent the Hoosiers will face this season.
The Buckeyes will be without defensive back Isaiah Pryor for the first half as he serves out the rest of his time for the targeting penalty from the Penn State game, meaning that either Jahsen Wint, Shaun Wade or Brendon White (or some combination therein) will get ample time on the field. However, this could be a net positive for Ramsey and the Hoosiers.
Ramsey is leading the Big Ten in completions (115) and completion percentage (71). That may sound hard to believe, given how well Ohio State’s own QB, Dwayne Haskins, has been playing, but it’s true. Haskins is right behind Ramsey with 109 completions, and a 70.8 completion percentage. Consistency has been key to Ramsey’s high completion mark; in no game this season has he dipped below a 67.5 completion mark by the time the final whistle blew.
At the same time, having options that you’re throwing to can make life easier. For Ramsey, he has a bevy of wideouts who can catch the ball. Leading the way is Whop Philyor, who’s snagged 18 passes for 194 yards and a score. Donovan Hale has the better average yards per reception at 12.6, and leads the receiving unit in TDs at three. Then you add in Nick Westbrook’s 15 receptions and 160 yards, and you have a trio of targets to choose from. In no way can the Ohio State defense nap on these guys, or go through the motions defending them.
Last year after coming back to beat the Nittany Lions, the Buckeyes travelled to Iowa for what was thought to be an easily winnable game. Hawkeye QB Nate Stanley played out of his mind, and threw for 226 yards and five (!) touchdowns. Playing at home is a lot different than playing on the road, but a letdown can always happen after winning a tough, hard fought contest.
And when the opposing QB has such a high completion rate, anything is capable of happening. Ramsey has the completions down, and combined with Pryor being out for a half, it’s setting up to be a “swiss cheese” model of problems for Ohio State. With a few things going Ramsey’s way, that might be enough for the Hoosiers to make things interesting in the first couple quarters.
Like McSorley, Ramsey does have some wheels, too. So far this season, he’s collected 170 yards worth of real estate on the ground— good enough for second on the team— and two rushing touchdowns. Last time out against Rutgers, Ramsey hit a 300 all-purpose-yard game for the second time in his career. He had 288 in the air, and 51 on the ground. In comparison, McSorley had 286 in the air and 175 on the ground against the Buckeyes, but he also had 15 more carries in his game than Ramsey.
Would I bet on a letdown this week from the Buckeyes? No, not really. But, would I expect Indiana to hang in the game for the first half, and be the “upset alert” that gets the cutaway treatment if you’re watching anything other than OSU-IU? Yes, I do.
Even though Ramsey isn’t of the same caliber QB as McSorley, he does the same kind of things that have given the OSU defense trouble. He is accurate with his passes, and he can take off when needed. If Ramsey can get a couple of breaks on a quick slant route, or find a mismatch in the secondary— especially in Pryor’s absence— then expect a few chunk plays in the air. Giving up big plays has been the bugaboo for Ohio State this season, and I’d expect a few to come out of this Hoosier offense.
But, in the end, the Buckeye defensive frontline will find a way to pressure Ramsey. Last week, Malik Harrison excelled at spying on the QB— especially in the second half— and made a couple of big stops that changed the tide against Penn State. There needs to be more of the same this Saturday with Ramsey. If the Buckeyes do that, they’ll be able to pull away from the Hoosiers in the second half.