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If Ohio State is to win the national championship, they’ll likely have to solve their running quarterback problem

Tua Tagovailoa should already be giving Buckeye fans (and defensive coaches) nightmares.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

“Think about the thrilling 42-35 shootout in the 2015 Sugar Bowl between Ohio State and Alabama that christened the College Football Playoff era... Now, imagine the possibility of a rematch in this year’s national title game at Levi’s Stadium on Jan. 7.”

-Bill Bender, The Sporting News

Not only does The Sporting News currently have Ohio State vs. Alabama as the projected national championship game, but ESPN also has OSU’s chances of making the College Football Playoff at 74.9 percent, behind only those of the Crimson Tide, which sits at 75.4. ‘Bama is still the prohibitive favorite to win it all at 32.6 percent, but the Buckeyes are the clear No. 2 at 22.9 percent.

For years, the Tide has been the gold standard in college football, with the cheers of “We Want ‘Bama!” ringing in stadiums across the country from fans of champions and charlatans alike.

However, OSU is one of the few programs that can boast of dethroning the champs in the CFB era... in fact, OSU was the first champ to sit on that throne, eliminating ‘Bama on their route to their 2015 coronation.

Looking forward—knocking on every piece of wood available—it’s tough to tell what the Buckeyes should expect from a potential matchup with Alabama, because the Tide hasn’t exactly played the same caliber of opponent that OSU has thus far. Granted, that’s not entirely ‘Bama’s fault, as neither Louisville nor Ole Miss have been nearly as strong this year as they have been in seasons past.

So, it still remains to be seen if Alabama’s defense would be able to stop Dwayne Haskins and the Buckeyes’ passing game, or if the Tide’s offensive line would be able to keep Chase Young, Dre’Mont Jones, and perhaps a healthy Nick Bosa at bay.

But, one thing is certain, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa should already be giving Buckeye fans (and defensive coaches) nightmares. Not only is he completing 75 percent of his passes, but he is averaging 13.2 yards per attempt— both numbers second best nationally— but he is also averaging 5.8 yards per carry, and even though he hasn’t had to run much, is dynamic when he needs to.

That should be terrifying for anybody hoping that OSU can knock off the Tide in the CFP, as running quarterbacks who can also execute from the pocket seem to be the kryptonite for this Buckeye defense.

While a potential matchup is still at least 11ish weeks away, and there is time for both teams to develop and change, it is likely safe to assume that— barring injury— the Buckeyes will need to figure out a way to not let Tagovailoa run roughshod over the defense like Trace McSorley did last weekend if they want to have any shot at surviving the Tide.

This, more than anything, is why Penn State blitzed on roughly 80 percent of their defensive snaps on Saturday night. They knew that this would make them susceptible to the short pass and screen game, but it was a gamble that they were willing to take in an effort to make it difficult— if not impossible— for Haskins to get the ball down the field.

If 13 of his attempts of 15 yards or more result in touchdowns, that’s an untenable situation for any defense. So, the Nittany Lions knew that they had to sell out to defend that option. Fortunately for them, that also meant that their “load the box/rush more defenders than the O-line could handle” philosophy would also hamper the running game; two outta three ain’t bad, or so Meatloaf told me.

Unfortunately for them, the Bucks had a third potent weapon in their arsenal, and it was the one that eventually led to Saturday night’s improbable epic comeback. So, future OSU opponents, when game-planning to stop the Buckeye offense, you’re going to have to pick your poison; but, the poison that you don’t pick, might end up leading to your demise anyway.

Urban Meyer is the country’s second highest-paid college football coach, it would cost Ohio State more than $38 million to fire him without case.

-USA Today

Every time that this type of story comes out, I talk about the gross disparity between what coaches are paid, and what players are not paid. I’m not going to do that this time, because, I’m all for everyone making the most money that they can. I tend to think that players should be making more than they are, but that’s not an indictment on what a school is willing to pay a coach. I think it’s a bit bonkers, but they’ve gotta do them!

Anyway, the numbers that stood out most to me on USA Today’s annual salaries list, weren’t actually the salaries, but rather the buyouts. Urban Meyer’s buyout is just north of $38 million dollars, meaning that if Ohio State wanted to fire him, they would either need to do it “for cause,” which would undoubtedly be challenged by Meyer’s lawyers, or the school would have to pay him that total.

So, let’s be honest, OSU likely isn’t ever going to fire Meyer for on-the-field reasons. If there comes a time when Meyer’s team isn’t winning, I think it is safe to assume that the coach will be the first one to understand that, and they’d work something out amicably. That is why there was undoubtedly a financial component running underneath of all of the administrative discussions concerning Meyer during his six-week suspension earlier this fall.

But, Meyer’s buyout— the second highest on the list— is a paltry sum compared to that of Texas A&M’s agreement with head coach Jimbo Fisher. This season, Fisher will make $7,500,000— fourth highest behind Nick Saban, Meyer, and Jim Harbaugh— but, his buyout is more than $30 million more than Meyer’s. That is not a typo, his $68,125,000 buyout is $30,066,598 more than Meyer’s, which is—let me repeat—the second largest in college football.

Now, I know that coaches at this level are competitive, and want to succeed at all costs (no pun intended), but man, if they want to pay me that much money to fire me, I think my ego could take it.

That being typed, I think it is now safe to assume that Fisher will be the Aggies’ head coach for many, many, many, many years to come.

On Monday, Terry McLaurin was named Ohio State’s Offensive Player of the Game against Penn State. Terry McLaurin is a wide receiver. Terry McLaurin had exactly zero yards from scrimmage against the Nittany Lions. Terry McLaurin did not return a punt, nor a kickoff. What Terry McLaurin did do was block, and block incredibly well. In fact, on more than one of the Buckeyes’ biggest gains of the day, you can see McLaurin blocking multiple PSU defenders, laying out PSU defenders if need be.

Now, I am not a football Xs and Os genius, but when you constantly hear Urban Meyer talking about the commitment and brotherhood required to “by in” to the culture of what it takes to play at Ohio State, especially at a skill position, to see veteran leaders like McLaurin exemplify that is impressive. Good for you, Terry. Now coaches, let’s make him a game champion because of what he can do catching the ball this time!


  • “Few rivalries in sports fuel as much hostility and pressure to win like college football’s annual Red River Showdown between Oklahoma and Texas... Now, thanks to Mike Leach, the 1999 game can officially be added to that same legacy.”

-Jake Trotter, ESPN

  • “Ohio State sophomore punter Drue Chrisman was named this week’s Ray Guy Award winner as the nation’s top punter.”

-Ohio State Athletics

  • “The most maligned position group on Ohio State’s roster played its best in the biggest game of the season. That might sound strange, praising OSU’s linebackers coming off a game in which Penn State’s quarterback set a school record for total offense and ran for more yards than any other PSU quarterback in 80 years.”

-Bill Landis,