“As you go forward, your baseline changes. Your expectations for yourself and for your team (change).”
-Michigan defensive end Chase Winovich, via Nick Baumgardner, Detroit Free Press
Ohio State’s win over Nebraska Saturday was pretty ugly. What makes it even uglier is knowing that Michigan destroyed the Huskers 56-10 earlier this season. While we all know the transitive property does not apply to college football, it is nonetheless troublesome that the Buckeyes were unable to manage even a two-score victory over a Scott Frost team which had managed to just win two games so far this season. Credit has to go to Nebraska, however. They really have become a much better team throughout the season, but that doesn’t necessarily help to overcome the resultant anxiety when comparing the Buckeyes’ win with a Wolverines’ win over a common opponent.
What makes the prospect particularly concerning is that Jim Harbaugh’s team has not yet stumbled this season, with the exception of the Wolverines’ season opening loss against Notre Dame. Then, it was easy to write Michigan off as another over-hyped Harbaugh squad which wasn’t worthy of its preseason ranking. Now, they get much more difficult to dismiss.
The fact is that, for the most part, Michigan has gotten through the toughest stretch (as in three-straight games versus ranked opponents) of its season. Moreover, those wins were not narrow escapes in adverse circumstances, but decisive wins. For proof, look at how they manhandled Penn State (another common opponent, whom Ohio State battled down to the wire). The Wolverines still have to contend with traveling to Columbus at the end of this month for a rivalry game, but they’ve already come through a brutal string of conference matchups unscathed. And while Ohio State must contend with Michigan State on the road this weekend before continuing its road tour against a better-than-their-record Maryland team, the Wolverines get Rutgers on the road and Indiana at home before the regular season finale.
“Another thing this matchup has going for it is that the Bearcats will be re-opening Fifth Third Arena in front of a sellout crowd on national television. This one should be raucous.”
-David Wertheim, Eleven Warriors
Ohio State basketball has a big season to follow up on. The good news for the Buckeyes is that, once again, expectations are in the basement for most people in terms of the 2018-19 season. With the loss of Keita Bates-Diop, Jae’Sean Tate, Kam Williams and Andrew Dakich following last season, Chris Holtmann is left without a lot of veteran experience to work with heading into his second season in Columbus. Things got even harrier today with the announcement that junior center Micah Potter is transferring from the program.
The Buckeyes will have a very, very early test to prove the haters wrong. Ohio State travels to Cincinnati Wednesday to face the Bearcats in their season opener in a freshly-renovated Fifth Third Arena. While Cincinnati enters the season unranked, the Bearcats cannot be counted out. Mick Cronin’s team has made the last eight NCAA Tournaments, including last season as a two-seed. They’ll also be coming out fired up, since the last time the team appeared on national television was when, as a two-seed, it fell to Nevada in the second-round of March’s tourney.
Cincinnati isn’t the only tough game of Ohio State’s non-conference season. Later this month, the Buckeyes will face Syracuse in Columbus as part of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. As an 11-seed, the Orange almost earned Cinderella status in last year’s tournament after advancing to the Sweet 16. The out-of-conference festivities continue Dec. 22 when Ohio State is scheduled to battle UCLA in Chicago as part of the CBS Sports Classic.
The Buckeyes should reap the benefits of a tough non-conference slate when it comes time for tournament selection next spring, but they’ll also have to contend with a typically strong Big Ten schedule which features the likes of Michigan State (sans Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson), Michigan and Iowa.
“Because Haskins can’t run. Everyone knows it. And Ohio State doesn’t need him to.”
-Doug Lesmerises, Cleveland.com
A running quarterback seems like standard procedure at Ohio State, right? Four years of J.T. Barrett showed what a dual-threat QB could do to opposing defenses, especially when paired with a strong traditional rushing attack. Before Barrett, Braxton Miller was a notable force with both his arm and his legs, as was Terrelle Pryor before him. But, in those days it was easy to complain about the lack of passing — especially downfield. Standout receivers were rare because they simply did not get the ball at range (though, obviously, some have demonstrated their abilities at the next level). When Barrett was able to run for touchdowns, though, it was easy to overlook that deficiency.
Now, Ohio State has much the opposite problem. After years of calling for a stronger traditional passing game, Ryan Day finally has the personnel to be able to implement it. That’s because Dwayne Haskins is a no-kidding true passer with the arm strength to deliver those beautiful downfield arcs that fans have so longed for in recent years. But, just as with Barrett, there is a tradeoff.
Haskins is not a rushing quarterback — that is just not part of his skillset. And, just like it was a painful experiment to try and force Barrett into vertical passing situations, compelling Haskins to make plays with his feet in an attempt to bring balance to the offense is a poor use of his talent.
The offense has to work with the talent that it has. Fortunately for Ohio State, it has two outstanding rushers in J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber, a stable of talented receivers, and a quarterback who can tie the two together. On the bench, Tate Martell could bring that dual-threat ability if needed (perhaps in red zone situations). But, the fact remains that Haskins needs to be used where he can perform best, and accepting him as a pure passer is perfectly acceptable.
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