Buckeyes Still Perfect But With Better 'O'

The Ohio State football team is undefeated through the first nine games of the season - much like the Buckeyes ended the 2012 season with an unblemished record. The difference this year is a more-balanced, potent offense, which has Urban Meyer's squad in the national title hunt.

The result has been the same, but road there has been different this fall for the Ohio State football team.

Through the first nine games of the 2013 season, the Buckeyes are a perfect 9-0 – much like OSU went through the entire 2012 season without a loss. But when discussing this year's team during Ohio State's second open week, head coach Urban Meyer said there is one major difference between his first OSU team and his second.

"Offensively, we're playing offense," Meyer said last week following a team practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Last year, the Buckeyes averaged 423.8 yards and 37.2 points per game. Neither of those figures were particularly poor, especially seeing how the yards ranked third in the Big Ten and the points were best in the conference. Yet those totals weren't good enough for Meyer and his coaching staff.

"It was smoke and mirrors because we weren't very good. Last year, we were a bad offense," Meyer said. "Certainly in the first half of the year and the last half still wasn't very good.

"(The offense) was a really athletic quarterback that ran fast."

During Meyer's head coaching career, his teams have taken big leaps in the second year of his tenure. Ohio State has been no different, especially on offense. The Buckeyes have averaged 530.9 yards and 48.2 points per game – both jumps from a year ago.

Meyer credited some of the improvement of the offense to a more balanced approach. Last season, Ohio State rushed the ball 66.8 percent of the time and threw the ball 33.2 percent. This season, OSU is getting closer to a preferred 60-40 split – rushing 61.9 percent of the time and throwing 38.1 percent.

In all, the growth of the OSU offense was something Meyer expected.

"If you take over for a completely different system, it takes them awhile to understand what you're trying to get done," Meyer said. "Obviously there are good players here. It's Ohio State. A lot of those guys have been developed.

"It's just the knowledge of the offense. This time last year I was convinced that our quarterback position didn't really understand pass protection, which is mind-boggling when you think about it. Now (Miller) knows everything about it."

Miller has had back-to-back big games leading the OSU offense in routs of Penn State and Purdue. OSU junior defensive lineman Michael Bennett said he can see Miller growing under center.

"It feels like Braxton has a lot more confidence in every aspect – all of his reads, all of his passes," Bennett said. "Obviously I'm not an offensive player, but just watching him he seems a lot more confident in who he's throwing it to and who he's giving it to. … I just feel like the confidence on the offense is sky high."

Senior center Corey Linsley said maturity is a big reason for the offensive breakthrough. The balance the Buckeyes have found this season – they rush for 301.1 yards and pass for 229.8 yards per game – has also helped.

"It means a lot that we can go two-dimensional," Linsley said. "We can run. If you want to clog the box inside and stop the run, we have no problem with throwing it. We've got a good scheme going.

"It just says a lot to our maturity level."

Linsley wasn't ready to say that the Buckeyes were bad on offense last year, but with time – and plenty of success this season – the Youngstown native sees where Meyer was coming from.

"In his words, yes. In our terms, maybe not," Linsley said. "But we haven't seen what a good offense was. I think now we can look back and say, ‘Yeah, we probably were a bad offense.' … We're a lot better this year."

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