There’s a football game on Saturday! Finally, the long wait has ended, we are in the middle of game week. The trip to Baltimore to face the Navy Midshipmen may be more daunting then some of us think. We’ll look into Braxton, JT and the Middies. It’s Wednesday, let’s rumble!
The show must go on
I think it came as a shock to us all just one week ago when we learned that Braxton Miller would be lost for the season with a torn muscle in his right throwing shoulder. The “doomsdayers” proclaimed the season already over while others picked out positives and attempted to put a silver lining on the nasty rain cloud.
The truth of the matter regarding this seasons fate, I believe, lies
somewhere in the middle: It won’t be as bad as some are telling are you but it may not be as flashy as you’re used to. I can tell you this, and my opinion hasn’t changed from when we discussed it a few weeks ago: No matter who is behind center, the front 5 will be the biggest key to the offenses productivity. Nothing helps a new quarterback like an offensive line giving him solid protection.
What to expect from JT Barrett
As you would naturally expect, the news of Braxton Miller missing 2014 turned all attention to backup quarterback JT Barrett. There’s been a lot said about him over the last week. comments have been everything from players and coaches singing the praise of his leadership abilities to a nickname surfacing of “the distributor”.
The eyes of the college football world will be fixed firmly on M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday to see just how well number 16 looks taking the snaps for the 5th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.
When it’s over opinions will be all over the place. You’ll hear the full range of criticism and praise.
So how’s he going to do? For the answer I look no farther than the sideline and coaching box. Tom Hermann and Urban Meyer are fantastically intelligent people. They’re good at what they do and what they do is construct gameplans and install offenses that score points.
Meyer said last week that Barrett has taken over 300 practice throwing reps this year going back to spring. As he made clear, those aren’t just route drills, pass skeletons or something of that nature. He’s talking about live-fire 11 on 11 situation reps leading the offense.
Meyer and Hermann know better than anyone what Barrett’s
strengths and weakness are. They also know what he is and isn’t capable of doing either altogether or just at this point in his progression.
So, what’s it all mean?
I expect we’ll see a run heavy attack featuring Ezekial Elliot, Curtis Samuel and the stable of thoroughbreds the Buckeyes have accumulated over the last 3 years. When he puts it in the air, expect Barrett to be looking for Dontre Wilson out of the slot early and to rely heavily on veterans Devin Smith and Evan Spencer to run good routes and find soft spots in the Navy coverage to give him high percentage, low risk throws down the field in the 8-15 yard area.
There’s been some talk that Barrett isn’t quite the runner and doesn’t compare to what Miller brings on the field with his legs. Well, newsflash, most aren’t and don’t. Braxton Miller is a once a decade type talent with his feet that you’re not just going to replace. That said, Barrett is going to run. It may not be XBox-ready highlight stuff, but he’s going to run.
A few things I think that I think about the Buckeye offense on Saturday
I think there is a long list of highly talented players who are chomping at the bit to get out there and make a name for themselves. Every action has a reaction. And while clearly nobody wanted to see Braxton get hurt and lost for the season, the fact that the ball will being passed around looking for people to step up and into the spotlight I can’t imagine is being lost on the likes of Dontre Wilson, Curtis Samuel, Ezekial Elliot, talented young wide receivers like Johnnie Dixon and Michael Thomas as well as, and maybe this should be obvious but isn’t, JT Barrett. These are kids that came to Columbus with hopes of one day launching their own Heisman Trophy campaigns, not to just be a part of Braxton Miller’s. As Rage Against The Machine said in Guerrilla Radio “It has to start somewhere. It has to start sometime. What better place than here, what better time than now?”
I don’t think the size differential between Ohio State’s offensive line and Navy’s defensive line should be forgotten. For everyone who insists this game will be tight (and it may be) I can’t help but argue that at any time they would like the Buckeyes can tighten up their split up front and simply lean on the Navy defense with guys like Bri’onte Dunn or Warren Ball being a physical load to bring down chugging behind a vastly superior sized front 5.
If you liked how things looked when Kenny Guiton was calling the shots last year, what we see on Saturday and what will hopefully progress and get better and better as the season moves on may be right up your ally. Early on expect Barrett to manage and do things to make sure and not lose a game. But what about when he starts to gain real confidence and things start to click for him?
Silver Bullet thoughts heading into Navy
This may be the perfect opponent to open the season for a young defense that is loaded with talent. The Middies run a flex-bone option offense that demands a defense to be disciplined and obey assignments all while be aggressive at the point of attack. They throw the ball just enough to keep a defense honest, preventing safeties from creeping up too far too often.
I can’t stress enough the discipline needed to beat an offense like this. The Buckeye defensive line, with a whopping size advantage, is going to be chop-blocked all afternoon. The Middies will pull guards to create mismatches in space. The QB will fake all over the backfield and bring it full blast around the end with a pitchman beside him. Once you’re keying on the guard and getting comfortable they’ll pull strictly for deception. Needless to say, it’s a lot of moving parts. And it can be maddening to watch when your favorite teams defense is getting chewed up by it because it seems so simple. It’s not.
With that all being said, there’s also a reason Navy is essentially the only team in America to run this offense and run it well. It’s tough to find the athletes to do it and, as we mentioned, if a defense is disciplined and talented it can be shut down fairly easily. The repetition and commitment required to pulling it off an offensive scheme like this one leave no room for a backup plan. So if it fails, the ship is sinking and you’re going down with it, no pun intended.
The Buckeyes will be the faster, stronger and bigger team. If they’re disciplined and let their talent take over they can be a real headache for Navy’s offense. If they allow themselves to be beat at the point of attack, get tired or sloppy in any area, the Navy offense will feed off of it and become harder and harder to stop.
This may be the only game all year that the opponent is better conditioned. A hot day on field turf in the Baltimore sun make conditioning a factor. Write that down.
Kickoff is near
It should be quite the scene in Baltimore for those that are heading down to the game. The Naval Academy will have it’s Midshipman both on and off the field as the men and woman of the Annapolis campus will be on hand in uniform taking up some major space in the lower bowl. It should be emotional seeing all the pomp and circumstance associated with the Naval Academy’s traditions and pregame rituals. Remember, it’s in Baltimore but it is a home game for Navy.
The game will be seen in Columbus and across the state/country on CBS Sports Network. Please do yourself a favor and if you aren’t sure go and find out as soon as possible if you get this channel. I know what you’re saying “I get CBS, it’s where I watch CSI” but that’s not the same channel. Again, the game is on CBS Sports Network, which is totally separate from your local CBS station. Just check. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Wrap it up
Buckle up, Buckeye fans. We’re in for a fun ride. Forget the naysayers and ESPN-types telling you Braxton being out means a lost season. It simply isn’t true. Until next week, Go Bucks!
Metallica track of the week
Back in the 90′s, The Blitz 99.7, Columbus’ most popular new rock channel, used to host a game day tailgate party and even broadcast live from it. For years and years, they’re “official game day fight song” was Metallica’s Don’t Tread On Me. I loved! So let’s kickoff the 2014 season by going to Prague back in the summer of 2012 for the live world premier of Don’t Tread On Me!