What we learned last week: Ohio State did not forget how to be a great offense.
The Buckeyes aren’t there yet, but they reminded everyone in beating a plucky Western Michigan team they have the pieces… or at least most of them.
Ezekiel Elliott ran well, and so did the wide receivers. The blocking on the perimeter looked better, and the front line had an easier time of dealing with what it was seeing.
Cardale Jones had a good day, but it was easy to take his disappointment he did not do more as sincere.
The Buckeyes are one quarter of the way through what always figured to be a unique season, and they have emerged from nonconference play no worse for wear.
While injuries have hit Michigan State, Penn State and Rutgers, Ohio State is pretty healthy as October approaches.
The Buckeyes’ stats aren’t as healthy as they were expected to be, but in the grand scheme of things that doesn’t matter much.
Peaking too early can be a true phenomenon, although it is probably better to get things straightened out sooner rather than later.
Saturday after the game one got a sense the Buckeyes had done enough they could stop pressing but not enough to be satisfied with where they are.
My impression of Jones was that he was not playing more relaxed so much as more under control. Maybe simply cutting it loose would have helped on those deep balls he under threw, but the methodical way he attacked the short and intermediate passing game could have been a positive byproduct.
His interception was a matter of a physical mistake rather than a bad decision, and that’s probably a good thing in the grand scheme of things, too. Obviously you’d like to see a quarterback avoid mistakes of any kind, but the ones that come with trying to make a big play are more forgivable. He nearly threw another interception in the red zone, but from my vantage point that was the result of a very athletic play by a defender who leapt out of his area to get a tip on a ball that should have been competed otherwise. Once it goes up in the air, anything can happen.
If that is the best Jones looks all season, is it enough? That remains to be seen. Although the Broncos were abysmal statistically, I was impressed both against Ohio State and Michigan State with the way their cornerbacks competed on the perimeter. They are not big guys, but they can run with receivers and have no fear.
Ohio State getting guys open as much as they did is a positive sign, especially since it is already known Jones can complete those deep balls because he has done it in the past.
Getting the running game going was also big in terms of taking some pressure off the passing game — unless it was vice versa.
If you look at Elliott’s carry totals and compare them to when the Buckeyes have been there best offensively so far this season, you’ll see the opposite of what you’d expect based on all the talk about how he needs to get the ball more.
Is there any reason for concern with the defense? We’ll have to wait and see. The Buckeyes showed last season with the adjustments brought by Chris Ash that they would rather give up some rushing yards than get dinked and dunked or give up big plays in the passing game, so some of that success the Broncos enjoyed was thanks to math. It also appeared to me there was a drop-off when the reserve interior linemen were in the game.
There seems to be no disagreement regarding the quality of the Western Michigan receivers, who also had big days against Michigan State (and everyone else) this season.
Overall I thought WMU coach P.J. Fleck’s group represented itself well. They were just outmanned, obviously.
They gave Ohio State a good look, and the Buckeyes responded well to the adversity they faced the previous couple of weeks and took some steps toward being the type of team they want to be.
What we can expect to learn this week: Indiana probably brings just the right amount of challenge for Ohio State this weekend.
I’ve been a believer in the Hoosiers’ having a good season since the summer, and they have delivered with a 4-0 record that has required some great escapes against suspect competition.
But considering they have not had that mark in 25 years, it is nothing to sneeze at in Bloomington. Neither is having adversity and responding with game-winning plays as opposed to crumbling.
The Ohio State defense will face a balanced offense that features a smart senior quarterback who is still bringing along a mostly new cast of receivers. After several years of outstanding play, the receivers were a big disappointment last season even before quarterback Nate Sudfeld went down with a shoulder injury that essentially submarined the entire season for Indiana.
He is back and looking good, but he’s gotten a huge assist from the continued success of the running game. Running back Jordan Howard is a great story as he leads the Big Ten in rushing after leaving behind the UAB football program when it was shut down.
Both of them benefit from a strong offensive line, so this will be a good measuring stick for the OSU defense after its two weeks of domination were dampened by the Broncos.
On the flip side, this is another chance for Ohio State to work on things offensively because Indiana is just not a good defensive team. That is especially true the farther one gets away from the line of scrimmage, so there should be plenty of opportunities to make big plays down the field against the is week for the Buckeyes.