After Ohio State put the finishing touches on a 63-38 victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers Saturday night, it didn't take long for many people around the country to start pondering whether a 12-0 finish was in store for the Buckeyes this year.
Even Ohio State starting cornerback Bradley Roby admits to thinking about an unblemished regular season, "We're trying to go 12-0," Roby said after the Nebraska game (h/t Doug Lesmerises, The Plain Dealer). "Win every single game."
Saying it is one thing. Doing it is another.
The Buckeyes are over the hump after beating two of the better teams in the Big Ten—Michigan State and Nebraska—in consecutive weeks. With six more opponents separating Ohio State from protection, here's what the Buckeyes will need to do to finish the season 12-0.
Keep Braxton Miller Healthy
This is obvious, but nothing is more important to Ohio State than keeping its star quarterback healthy.
Miller carried the ball a combined 39 times against Michigan State and Nebraska, and in both games, Miller was briefly forced to the sideline to recover after taking a hard hit out of bounds.
It's no secret that Ohio State's offense lives or dies depending on how often Braxton runs the ball. The Buckeyes offense has looked the most anemic this season when the coaching staff has limited his running opportunities (against Cal, UAB and during the first quarter of the Nebraska game).
Still, Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman need to find a way to limit the amount of hits he takes.
Continue Devin Smith's Development
Ohio State could dramatically decrease the amount of running Braxton does if they developed their vertical passing attack, which features Devin Smith.
As seen in the video above, Smith has freaking playmaking abilities with the ball in the air. On top of that, he has the speed to beat corners on streak routes and the strength to battle with defenders for the ball.
Right now, Devin Smith is an offensive threat; the kind of player that defenses have to worry about. With more consistency, Smith has the talent and ability to become the kind of player defenses dread facing.
Find a Replacement for Etienne Sabino
Senior outside linebacker Etienne Sabino fractured his right fibula during the Nebraska game, and Meyer said a three-week return would be Ohio State's best-case scenario.
The loss of Sabino creates a huge crater in an already-struggling group of linebackers. The coaching staff will turn to two true freshmen—Joshua Perry and David Perkins—to replace Sabino in the starting lineup.
Sabino was really starting to perform well too, earning defensive player of the game honors against Michigan State two weeks ago. Replacing him will be no small task for the Buckeyes.
Fix the Tackling Issue
Ohio State's struggles on defense, in part, can be blamed on their inability to get ball-carriers on the ground.
The tackling issue has improved after a disastrous start to the season, but against Michigan State and Nebraska, poor tackling form led directly to touchdowns for both teams.
Michigan State scored on the play above, where Keith Mumphrey broke seven tackles during a 29-yard waltz to the end zone. Against Nebraska, the Buckeyes treated Taylor Martinez like a pinball on his way to a nine-yard touchdown run.
Running backs like Montee Ball (Wisconsin) and Fitzgerald Toussaint (Michigan) have to be foaming at the mouth to get a crack at this defense, and if the tackling issues continue, Ohio State could falter.
What else will Ohio State have to do to finish the season 12-0? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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