Week-Five: Thoughts On The OSU Offense

Ohio State narrowly escaped with a win over Indiana Saturday in Bloomington, securing the win in the last seconds. What stood out on the offensive side of the ball?

- First off, it should be apparent to everyone at this point that 2014 is over, and it's officially 2015 for Ohio State. This is not last year's team, and it's not coming back. Does this mean Ohio State can't win? Not at all, but it means they have to win games in a different fashion, and at 5-0 they are doing just that. This is just not going to be the same offense everyone saw and loved from last year, and I don't think it's because of the change in coordinators. 

- Cardale Jones is not J.T. Barrett, simply put. Barrett had one of the greatest seasons in not only Ohio State history, but since the Big Ten was established. That ain't coming back. Let's deal with the negatives first with the current QB. He is not an accurate passer. He cannot run the read option. He is a one-read quarterback in the pocket, where Barrett could scan the field and go through progressions until the right receiver came open. He holds the ball too long on occasions, taking sacks or forcing the ball to the other jerseys. 

- So that means Ohio State is dead in the water with Jones, correct? Not at all. And I actually saw things yesterday that made me think Cardale took a big step forward over the previous few weeks. There were throws that missed touchdowns by inches to Mike Thomas and Jalin Marshall, and all they needed was a little less velocity. The pick was a bad one, but Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers will both thrown one today that looks similar. The offense ran better against Indiana, and Jalin Marshall hurt this side of the ball far more than Cardale did. They did distribute the ball to seven receivers, and made bigger plays down the field, which is huge for this team. 

- As big a fan as I was of J.T. Barrett's performance last year, he has not been remotely close to that player when given chances this season. I would stick with Cardale, coach up his weaknesses, but build on his strengths. I thought he played more as a quarterback Saturday, and less of a street-baller, which will increase his efficiency. He is not fast, but he can keep plays alive in the pocket with his mobility and find people. He can get the ball downfield and make throws that Barrett struggles to make. This will be more of a pro-style passing attack, and less option football going forward, which plays to Cardale's strengths. He still has not played a lot of football to date, and if he will continue to improve Ohio State can win with Cardale Jones. 

- Ohio State was very close to scoring 50 points and destroying Indiana on a few occasions Saturday, and even with the penalties and turnovers they rolled up over 500 yards of offense. The offensive line was back to being who they're supposed to be, and they got it rolling in the second half. This group played to the level they were at last year when they tore through the playoffs and crushed opposing defenses. As I've said all year, no worries with this group in my mind. Even the panic over Chase Farris seems premature, and I think he's going to be just fine. 

- Zeke Elliott saved their bacon again yesterday, and we've seen that a lot over the past few years. I really like Leonard Fournetee and Nick Chubb, but Zeke is such a money player and a winner that he would be my first pick at runningback in the country. The blocking and pass catching are both A+ areas, and his running ability is at the top of the charts when you combine power and speed. This is a great football player, and I love everything about his game. 

- The injury to Corey Smith is a tough one because he was starting to emerge as the number-three guy behind Thomas and Marshall. I'm not sure they know what to do with Braxton Miller, but there's still time to incorporate him into the offense. Nick Vannett is not spectacular, but he's very reliable and another good option. The problem here is Marshall, one of my favorite players, and a guy you would just love to get the ball more to. But the fumbling is a killer, and he set them up for a possible loss yesterday. I don't have the answer, but he's a game breaker with the ball in his hands, so the fumbles simply have to be coached out of him. Either by technique or sitting him down until he gets the message that he is hurting the team by being so careless with the ball. Overall, this group is fine. 

- I have no issues with the playcalling at all, and I thought pretty much everything they did worked against Indiana. The turnovers kept them from 600 yards and 50 points, which is not a bad day at the office. They seemed to really find themselves in the latter part of the second quarter, and really started moving the ball at will. As the QB play improves, and I thought he did get better against the Hoosiers, people are going to see the offense they expect to see. You could see how things changed when they got back to controlling the middle of the field again with Zeke, and that's a credit to the O-line and the back. 

- This is a new season, and I know people want to see more 55-10 games where they're laughing and dancing from halftime on, but that is not happening right now. But Ohio State is on track to be in the Big Ten title game, which is the goal. I think this offense is close, really close, to busting out. Get Cardale just a little sharper, and keep Jalin from putting it on the ground, and I think those two things make this offense lethal once again. They are close. Really close. 

- In terms of where Ohio State fits in nationally, your guess is as good as mine right now. I will still have them at number-one, and the rest of the teams behind them can be ranked any way you want to put them. Again, the rankings don't mean squat. The committe showed last year that you need to win your conference, and have no more than one loss, to get in. Ohio State is well on their way to doing just that, whether they're ranked at one or ten spots lower means nothing. 

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