Getting Bradley Roby and C.J. Barnett Back Doesn't Matter Much to Ohio State

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Getting Bradley Roby and C.J. Barnett Back Doesn't Matter Much to Ohio State
Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, Ohio State gave up 20 points to the Buffalo Bulls, and that was enough to drop the Buckeyes to No. 3 in the latest poll. However, there was less than a sense of panic among the OSU faithful and more importantly the OSU coaching staff. 

Why? Because Ohio State wasn't near full strength on defense—especially in the secondary—where it was missing cornerback Bradley Roby (suspension) and safety C.J. Barnett (ankle sprain). 

As we enter Week 2, though, it appears that Barnett will be back in the starting lineup and that Roby's suspension will be over. We're just not sure how much Roby will play against San Diego State on Saturday.

So, Ohio State fans should expect everything to be right with the world with those two stars back in the fold starting this week, right? 

Well, maybe not, and that's because the numbers tell a vastly different story about just how good Ohio State's pass defense actually was and is.

Yes, Roby and Barnett are insanely talented players and are among the best at their positions in the Big Ten. 

However, they were those same players a season ago, and the results in the passing game suggest this is anything but an elite unit. Ohio State ranked in the middle of or in the bottom half of the Big Ten in almost all defensive categories involving the passing game. 

Category Total Rank
Scoring D 22.8 points 6th
Total D 359.6 yards 6th
Passing D 243.5 yards 11th
Def. Pass Efficiency 116.8 6th

Interestingly, those rankings were in spite of what were seen as impressive performances by Roby and Barnett last year. Sure, Roby only had two interceptions, but there was a reason for that—teams stopped throwing at him.

Roby led the conference with 1.73 passes defensed per game to go along with those two interceptions.

Barnett also had two interceptions and also had 56 tackles and three tackles for loss last season.

As a team, the Buckeyes led the Big Ten in interceptions with 14, yet it didn't make them into an elite passing defense. 

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The question then is why the disconnect between the stellar performances of Roby and Barnett and the results of the team in the passing game? 

Perhaps it's because the opposition figured out there was a soft spot opposite of Roby, and they exploited the heck out of it. 

You know, kind of like what Buffalo did with Armani Reeves last week

Teams know what to expect with Roby and Barnett back there. Game plans aren't being altered because of their presence this week or any other week—they weren't going to throw at those two anyway.

So, while the Buckeyes are getting two talented individuals back on the field, it isn't out of the realm of possibility that in the grand scheme of things their presence doesn't mean as much as some think. 

Perhaps, it is actually on the rest of those around Roby and Barnett to step up and become playmakers to really make the pass defense elite in 2013—something it wasn't last year despite the perception.

 

*Andy Coppens is the lead Big Ten writer for Bleacher Report. For more Big Ten conversation follow him on Twitter.

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