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Ohio State’s running game shows sparks but leaves questions

J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber have the talent to be a special pair, but haven’t been able to consistently dominate.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

“We have got to do a better job as coaches and better job, obviously, with players, just executing the run game. Because it’s not always a loaded box. That’s [one of the] weaknesses of our team right now is balance on offense.”

- Urban Meyer via Austin Ward, Lettermen Row

One of the position groups that never really had any doubts leading up to the season was running back. With J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber both returning this year, Urban Meyer and his staff knew how fortunate Ohio State was to have a two-headed monster in the backfield alongside Dwayne Haskins. And although for the most part everything has run smoothly, there’s still some question as to how effective the running game for the Buckeyes really has been.

Last season Dobbins finished with over 1,000 yards and Weber had a solid season despite missing games to injury. Of course, whenever running the ball is discussed, it starts with the offensive line. Against the Hoosiers, there just didn’t seem to be much of a push up front for Dobbins and Weber to create from, though Dobbins still showcased his ability. But with Ohio State seemingly shifting to more of a passing team anyway, balance has been an issue for the Buckeyes several weeks into the season.

The good news is that Ohio State has a fairly easy schedule up until November, and should be able to finetune several things on the offensive side of the ball in preparation for the last stretch of games.

“Ohio State could drop any one of the six games remaining on its schedule and still have at least a 67 percent chance to reach the playoff.”

- Heather Dinich, ESPN

The Buckeyes managed to avoid a letdown against Big Ten foe Indiana after a huge road win against Penn State, and now Ohio State is positioning itself nicely for a chance at the College Football Playoff. Urban Meyer’s squad has a 6-0 record midway through the season and have one of the best odds of making the playoff. The toughest remaining game on the schedule is Michigan, but the Wolverines have to travel to Columbus for ‘The Game’.

Although Ohio State would still have a chance to make it into the College Football Playoff as a one-loss Big Ten champion, the most obvious route is to win out, and there’s no way the committee can leave the Buckeyes out of the playoff. In fact, Ohio State has one of the best résumés in college football with a road win against a top-10 Penn State team and a win over TCU at a neutral site.

“There continues to be that conversation ... those are all conversations that we have. Tate’s a very dynamic player. Those are questions we have every two hours.’”

- Urban Meyer via Bill Landis,

Last week Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer talked a little bit about not having his normal quarterback type running the show and how it affects the team on third-and-short. Well, Meyer has now discussed the possibility of bringing in Tate Martell for those short running situations and perhaps even in the red zone a la J.T. Barrett in 2015, when he split time with Cardale Jones. The main difference now, though, is that the Buckeyes aren’t really struggling on offense other than on third down. They’re still getting scores in the red zone, and Dwayne Haskins has been doing such a good job that he’s moving up the Heisman Trophy contender list.

So a complete overhaul is unlikely, but I could absolutely see Meyer leaning on Martell’s running ability for a change of pace on short yardage situations. The only real downside is that Martell is the only true backup quarterback on Ohio State’s roster, and should he get hurt, that would leave Haskins and Meyer in a pickle in terms of the quarterback depth.