It’s been an incredibly long season for Ohio State. From scandal to start the season, a three game suspension for Urban Meyer, the come from behind wins over TCU and Penn State, the devastating loss to Purdue, the blowout win over Michigan, and Urban Meyer’s eventual retirement, we’ve had enough #content to fill three seasons in this past one. After all of that though there was one more game to play, and it just so happened to be the Granddaddy of Them All, the Rose Bowl.
After such a tumultuous season, this one felt like an exhale. Like the final expression of the year long frustration for a group of players that was frequently hurt by things entirely out of their control. And man, it sure did feel like much of the season did for the Buckeyes as they took care of Washington, 28-23.
There’s certainly plenty of action to talk about, so I won’t waste anymore time. For the final time this season, let’s talk Buckeye stocks.
Blue chip stocks
- Using motion and screens to open up the running game: Okay, this is a bit unconventional for this article, but it’s my article, so I can do what I want, and I want to talk about Ohio State’s run play design. The Buckeyes have struggled all year with creating enough space in the running game because they so frequently ran into stacked boxes with no threat of a quarterback keeper. I spent a good chunk of the year calling for Ohio State to synthesize that quarterback-keep threat with motions to hold defensive ends and keep them from collapsing in, allowing Ohio State to pick up a numbers’ advantage and giving the running back a cutback lane to work with.
On Tuesday, they finally started to do it. Early in the game, Mike Weber picked up a big gain after Chris Olave went in motion, and Dwayne Haskins faked a pop pass to him. The defensive end was forced to stay in place, and Weber had all kinds of room to get the first down. We can only hope to see more of that misdirection under Ryan Day moving forward.
- Dwayne Haskins: In what was almost certainly his swan song at Ohio State, Dwayne Haskins put on yet another show, just like he had all season long. Haskins had no issues with Washington’s zone defense all game long, sitting in the pocket for long chunks of time and picking apart the Husky secondary with precision passes. Haskins is ready for the NFL, and we wish him nothing but the best as he deservedly starts getting paid for being extremely good at football.
- Wyatt Davis: Davis’ name only came up a couple of times during the broadcast, and for a player making just his second ever start on the offensive line, that’s exactly what you want. He had a false start early, but outside of that, he was great in run and pass blocking, moved well, and looked ready to start next season.
- Jeffrey Okudah and Shaun Wade: I want to keep this section about Shaun Wade and Jeffrey Okudah, rather than getting pissed off about the fact that both of them spent much of the season behind two less talented, but older cornerbacks. I’ll save that anger for later. For now, it’s compliment time, because both class of 2017 recruits were excellent against Washington.
Okudah was lockdown in coverage all game long, and made several key pass breakups on underneath routes. Wade wasn’t far behind, getting burnt once or twice but shutting down his man at pretty much every instance outside of the two mistakes. Both young players were awesome, and will hopefully be starting opposite each other next season.
- Playoff #takes: I’m sure this’ll make folks mad, because folks love getting mad about playoff takes, but I want to talk, briefly, about something I saw quite a bit of on Twitter during the late stages of this game. Ohio State fans — and other various college football people — seem to think that because Ohio State beat a pretty good Washington team, that means that the Buckeyes are more deserving than Oklahoma or Notre Dame, and should’ve been in the playoff instead.
That’s stupid. Ohio State sleepwalked through the whole season, lost by 29 to a bad Purdue team, and didn’t live up to its lofty potential until late November. It was saved numerous times by Haskins’ unique talent, and wasn’t one of the four most deserving teams in the country. One week, or three weeks, whichever one, don’t change that. There’s no reason to relitigate an argument that was never worth having now that the season is over. Just move on.
- Buy: Demario McCall at running back. It’s been tricky to place Demario McCall for pretty much his entire Buckeye career. He’s been used as a return specialist, receiver, h-back, and more recently, running back. I think that, despite the small sample size, I’m ready to say that the final position on that list is McCall’s best. His speed and vision make him a perfect fit for Ryan Day’s air raid influenced offense, and with Mike Weber off to the NFL, Dobbins/McCall is the best backfield for next season.
- Sell: Seniority over talent. If there’s one thing I want to change more than anything from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day is the way that Meyer handled his personnel. Meyer frequently favored older players over their younger, more talented counterparts, and it frequently came back to hurt the Buckeyes. We saw it all season long at both linebacker and cornerback, and I think the performances of Wade, Okudah, and even Baron Browning showed why that’s such a bad idea against the Huskies on Tuesday. Hopefully Day goes away from the old formula and is much more willing to play his young stars.
- Buy: Ryan Day’s time: I’ll leave the season with one last look towards the future, and reflection on the past. The Urban Meyer era is over. It’ll be remembered fondly in Buckeye circles and forever immortalized in tacky shirts with way too many words. He won a whole lot of games and a national title, and did just about what he was expected to do when he was hired in late 2011.
His time is over now. Remember him, reflect on his tenure, but don’t yearn for his return. Don’t compare and contrast him to his successor. Urban Meyer isn’t the head coach at Ohio State anymore, which probably means that there are going to be some changes to the program. That’s perfectly fine. The program can probably use some changes. Maybe it’ll be more passing, a different defensive scheme, a new approach to recruiting, or a combination of all three.
It’s going to feel weird. It’s going to feel different, and foreign. It did when Meyer arrived and started going for two against various G5 foes. That’s just what happens when a new coach takes over, and it’s important that Ryan Day is allowed, both by his administrators and by his fans, to make the changes he needs to make. Hell, it may even take the programs to the next level. We can only hope so.