Ohio State Football: 5 Reasons Buckeyes Can Still Win Big Ten
The Ohio State Buckeyes have come a long way since losing three of their first six games.
Led by a solid rushing attack and a defense that is among the best in the country, the Buckeyes are in second place in the Leaders division. While Penn State is leading the division at 5-0, the Buckeyes are 3-2 and otherwise control their own destiny.
The offense is coming together, and is taking good care of the football. As I have said previously, if Ohio State's offense takes care of the ball, the defense will keep them in any game. The Buckeyes give up 17.9 points per game, but this stat is extremely misleading. Most of the points scored on Ohio State come on a short field, or late in games when the defense is gassed. Early in the season, the offense was unable to put together a sustained drive. This kept the defense on the field far too long, which sets any defense up to fail.
Read on to see why Ohio State winning the Big Ten isn't out of the cards.
5. Favorable Schedule: Ohio State Controls Own Destiny
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As I mentioned earlier, Ohio State trails only Penn State in the Leaders division of the Big Ten.
Penn State sits at 8-1 overall, 5-0 in Big Ten play. Ohio State is 6-3, and 3-2 in conference play. Ohio State is through the meat of their schedule, while Penn State has three of it's toughest games remaining to close the season. Ohio State has Purdue, Penn State, and Michigan remaining. Penn State has Nebraska, Ohio State, and Wisconsin.
Ohio State won't be favored against Michigan or Penn State, but this doesn't matter. Purdue is 4-4 and a very average team. There is no reason why Ohio State should lose this game, although it may stay close being a road game. I see the Buckeyes defense shutting them down.
The game against Penn State is in Columbus Ohio, one of the toughest places in the country to play for visiting teams. Penn State is horrible offensively, and there is no way they will be able to throw the ball effectively. This will force them to become one-dimensional, which will lead to a loss for the Nittany Lions.
They can't score as it is, scoring only 21.8 points per game. Alabama is the only really good team they have played to this point, and they only managed to score 11 points. While Ohio State is only averaging a few more points per game, they have played a stronger schedule. The team is also able to score in bunches, and is starting to come together. Watching Penn State offensively is like watching a rec-league team who practices once a week.
Honestly, I think Penn State will lose out. They haven't done anything to prove they can beat teams as good as Nebraska or Wisconsin, and they have to beat Ohio State in Columbus.
4. Offense: Braxton Miller Has Arrived
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Quarterback Braxton Miller is growing as a player every week.
Last week, he showed off his clutch gene as he beat Wisconsin with a 40-yard bomb when all seemed lost. Ohio State had blown another late lead against a favored opponent, and there was less than two minutes remaining. The freshman phenom hadn't thrown the ball much all game, but did so when the game was on the line.
Everybody in the country knows he wants to run the football, and they still can't stop him. He's still learning to become a passer, but with his athleticism that is to be expected. When he was in high school nobody could keep up with him. This allowed him to get away with poor decisions and mechanics, which he found out in a hurry. College is full of high school stars like Braxton Miller.
What we see now is that the game is slowing down for him. This is why he can lead this team to victory, and why the Buckeyes will win out. The kid knows how to win and it doesn't have to be pretty. He may never put up big passing numbers, but as he matures as a player the numbers will improve. For now, he will do enough to keep defenses honest.
He ran for two scores, including a record 81-yard jaunt today against Indiana.
3. Offense: Ohio State Run Game Continues to Impress
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Ohio State continues to run over the competition.
Today against Indiana, three players rushed for over 100 yards. Dan Herron led the team with 141 yards on 14 carries, Carlos Hyde added 105 yards on 15 carries, and Braxton Miller gained 105 yards on 14 carries. The Buckeyes totaled 346 rushing yards on 46 attempts.
A true three-man running machine, the Buckeyes offense is tough to stop. You can't focus on just one player, and all three of these guys can score from anywhere on the field. This years Ohio State squad is a throwback Big Ten team. This is the most talented group of running backs I have seen at Ohio State for a long time. One star back is common, but three is very unusual to say the least.
Carlos Hyde would be starting for most teams in the country, and he is only a Sophomore. He is 6' 1" and nearly 240 pounds, and still has shown the ability to run by everybody. This guy is going to be a lot of fun to watch over the next couple of seasons.
They run at you even when everybody in the stadium knows it's coming, and still can't be stopped.
I look for this trend to continue as the Buckeyes fight to catch Penn State for the division lead.
2. Defense Wins Championships
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Even when the Ohio State defense is tired, they are always flying around the field.
Led by Senior linebacker Andrew Sweat, this defense can force turnovers at any moment. They apply consistent pressure, and aside from he Miami game early in the season keep the team in every game.
The secondary has multiple guys who are always in good position. I like Freshman defensive back Bradley Roby a lot. He has three interceptions, but it's what he does after the catch that impresses me. Once he has the ball, Roby looks like an offensive player. He immediately turns up field and takes off.
Add Sophomore defensive back C.J. Barnett, along with Junior defensive back Travis Howard, and you have a solid secondary. All of these guys have the ability to catch the ball, not just knock it down. All three will be back next season for what should be another good year.
If Ohio State does the improbable and wins the Big Ten this season, the defense will have been a huge part of the success.
1. Penn State Just Isn't That Good!
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I've said that Penn State will lose the remaining three games on their schedule, and now I'll explain why.
The offense is awful as a whole. The team can run a bit, but doesn't have success doing so consistently. This is due to the fact that teams know they can't throw the ball. They are pitiful passing the ball, one of the worst passing teams in the conference. Junior quarterback Mathew McGloin just isn't very good, and that's putting it mildly.
He doesn't throw the ball often, and his completion percentage is still bad. He has only completed 55.6% of his passes this season, and that is an improvement over last season! Completing only 90 of his 162 passes for 1,193 yards, he has only seven touchdowns thus far with three interceptions.
The Nittany Lions try to cover up his lack of skill by calling short passes and screens, but it doesn't work very well. Even with the weak schedule, I'm shocked Penn State has only lost one game. I'll be equally shocked if they win more than one of their remaining three games.
As long as that win doesn't come against Ohio State, the Buckeyes will be in the drivers seat going down the stretch!