View From The Fan: Night Time Is Right Time

The only thing better than Buckeye football is Buckeye football at night, and our View from the Fan says why that's the case in this week's column.

Thoughts on Last Week –
Mobile quarterbacks eh? Two weeks in a row we have seen what they can do to our usually stout defense. Perry Hills ran up and down the field last week on the Buckeyes and made the defense look pretty sad at times. It is a good thing that the three tough games we have down the stretch (PSU, MSU, TTUN) do not have mobile quarterbacks or the dream of a repeat national championship might be out the window. Other than letting Hills run wild on the defense, the rest of the game seemed to have the team heading in the right direction. The passing game of Maryland was pretty much nonexistent after the misplay by Vonn Bell that led to the opening touchdown, as Maryland only gained 81 yards after that through the air. The defense was bringing a lot of blitzes and it left a lot of space wide open in the middle of the field when the blitz was unable to get to the quarterback in a timely manner. Had those blitzes been more successful, or we played a spy on the QB, the running game for Maryland might have been a lot different as well.

We saw a change of pace last week with the addition of J.T. Barrett in the red zone for the Buckeyes. I for one was happy to see the change, as it brought a new dimension to the offense that had been missing for the past few games, the quarterback run. Cardale Jones can run, but it takes him scrambling and getting a head of steam on him to really make him dangerous. J.T. is a different kind of runner in that he can accelerate much faster and hit the hole and go. It brings a whole new scheme that teams will have to prepare for going forward making the Buckeye offense that much more difficult to contain. With the Buckeyes struggling in the red zone early this year, the switch was made and the Buckeyes made it pay dividends with a 6 for 6 showing in the red zone. The only touchdown that was not scored inside the red zone was the Jalin Marshall bomb from Jones that broke the tie at 21 in the 2nd quarter. Again Jones threw the ball well going 21-28 for the game with almost 300 yards again. He had some great connections with Braxton Miller, who got back in the swing of things with eight touches this week. It seemed like the two quarterback system worked last week, we shall see how it does going forward, but Urban seems to like what he has concocted.

All in all, I thought it was the best game we have played overall besides Virginia Tech. Yes we gave up 28 points to a Maryland team that was shut out the week before, and we made their quarterback look like Tim Tebow out there, but the overall progress of the team continues to improve. The question remains, will we continue to see the team evolve as the season goes on or will we plateau and let other teams pass us by?

Players of the Game –
Ezekiel Elliott
I hesitated giving him the award two straight weeks, but then I remembered how good he was against Maryland and had to put him here. He looks so fluid coming out of the backfield to catch passes and even though he got a slow start he still managed to gain over 100 yards and score 2 more TD’s. He is the complete player at running back, and we better enjoy his last few games here before he is playing on Sunday next season.
Joey Bosa – His numbers aren’t staggering like they were a year ago, but to me he is playing better than last year. He is facing more double teams wherever he lines up and is still managing to get to the quarterback for pressure even though the sacks are evading him. He had 4 hurries against Maryland and his first sack of the season, so hopefully the ¯\_(?)_/¯ makes a more consistent appearance going forward.
Cameron Johnston – Yes, the punter gets some love this week. He had only three punts on Saturday, but his average was almost 55 yards a kick with two dropping inside the 20-yard line. He kept the dangerous William Likely at bay by getting height and distance on his kicks. Johnston is our secret weapon and he will come in handy in more games down the line this season.

On Penn State
If there is one thing that I enjoyed more than football at the Shoe, it was night football at the Shoe. The crowd has been tailgating for hours, the energy is palpitating around campus, and then the Buckeyes come out to play under the lights. Traditionalists don’t seem to like the night games, they would rather stick to the noon kickoffs, but what they fail to realize is what hosting a big time night game does for the University. The exposure the program gets on national television, the excitement that the recruits who are attending get to witness, and the overall enthusiasm that the crowd has for a night game is unlike any other atmosphere in college football. Penn State makes its first true road test this week, and with the Buckeyes going with a “Black Out”, and debuting new all-black uniforms, the crowd should be in a frenzy from the get go.

This game was circled on the calendar as a potential tough game for the Buckeyes before the season even got under way. Penn State took Ohio State to double overtime last season, and with a majority of the same pieces in place, they were expected to again be competitive in the Big Ten East. While they haven’t exactly played good football this season, they still remain 5-1 with their lone loss coming in the first game of the season to Temple. James Franklin has the team focused and playing much better since, and even though the offense has not taken off, the defense has been playing solid and will pose problems for the Buckeye offense. Their defense ranks 11th in the country in scoring defense allowing just 14.3 points per game, and their overall defense ranks 10th giving up a mere 275 yards per game. Their defense ranks No. 1 in the country in sacks with 25, so they know how to get to the quarterback. By far this will be the best defense the Buckeyes face until the last game of the season against TTUN.

Christian Hackenberg, the Penn State quarterback, continues to find himself atop a lot of mock drafts, but I just don’t see it. He is a non-mobile quarterback who does not have an overly impressive completion percentage. He has thrown only seven touchdowns through six games, and none of his receivers put any fear into me against Apple, Conley, Bell and Powell. However their offensive line play has gotten better and their running game has been the beneficiary of that. They are splitting the carries among a stable of backs with Saquon Barkley and Akeel Lynch getting the majority of the reps. Barkley has been out with an injury since the San Diego State game and still is listed as probable to play this Saturday. If he goes, then Penn State becomes a more explosive offense, if he doesn’t then the Buckeyes should have a much easier time containing the run game.

As for the Buckeyes, hopefully we see more of what we saw last week from the offense against Maryland. The quarterback situation seems to have cleared a bit, with Cardale guiding the team until they reach the red zone and then J.T. coming in to get them into the end zone. I like the change of pace that this brings to the offense, and it makes the opposing team have to prepare for both styles of quarterback which is always difficult. Going against the toughest defense of the year by far will be the real challenge for the Buckeyes. Will the offensive line be able to open up holes for Zeke or will he be shut down? Will the Nittany Lions defense put too much pressure on Jones and Barrett to make life miserable for them in the pocket? I think the Buckeyes have something to prove this week, and coming off a game where they seemed to be firing better offensively, I think that they will be able to make some plays both running and passing. I think the dual-threat quarterback situation makes it more difficult for Penn State to prepare, especially knowing that once the ball is in the red zone, J.T. can either run or pass effectively.

As this is a night game where the crowd will be electric and the team should be extra pumped up with the game under the lights and new uniforms, I see the Buckeyes coming out and playing a great game this week. I expect it to be a struggle early on, but I think they overcome those struggles and again in the 2nd half, put on a show and run away with the win. It won’t be the 63-14 game of two years ago or the double overtime game of last year, but it will be a good competitive game in which the Buckeyes will pass the test of playing a gritty tough defense.
Prediction: Ohio State 38 – Penn State 17

Musings –
I wanted to spend this section on college recruiting this week. I consider myself a strong follower of college recruiting, not only for Ohio State, but across the board to see who year in and year out are pulling in the top kids to compete with the Buckeyes every year. In the past few years I have seen a lot go on in recruiting from the outside, and can only imagine what takes place on the inside. I just wanted to share my thoughts on where college recruiting is in my mind and what things could be done to make it better for everyone involved.

You hear the same thing every year, so and so big named prospect has committed to the University of (fill-in-the-blank). And every year we see said prospect begin to look around and take visits elsewhere, only leading to his decommitment later on down the line. I can understand kids wanting to find the best fit for them for their football playing career as well as their education, so why not just wait until you have looked at all the available options before committing? I realize that there is pressure to secure your spot in the class, or that a coach tells you something you really want to hear so jumping on board seems like the right thing to do. These coaches spend hours and hours reviewing players and scouting them and recruiting them only to get them to commit and have them decide a few months later that they don’t want to play there anymore. I wish there was an early signing period for the kids that you knew wanted to be part of your program, and then the regular signing day for the kids who are going to flip more times than a dolphin at SeaWorld. This would certainly help the coaches out so that they had a secure number of kids that they knew would be part of the class, and then they would have whatever left over scholarships to hand out to the kids that they will be fighting national programs for. Now you go all the way to signing day hoping to get a faxed signed letter of intent from each player, not really knowing if that will happen or not.

I also realize that these kids are making huge decisions in their life and they should have all the correct information that they need to make the right choice. Therefore I am asking that instead of making a rash decision and committing, only to know you are going to keep looking around, stay uncommitted and do your due diligence. Those kids who grew up fans of a certain program and are lucky enough to get offered there, pull the trigger and sign the paperwork. Everyone else, take a deep breath, explore your options, and make a choice before that first Wednesday in February.

Another thing that bothers me is kids that commit to these schools, and then a few months down the line are kind of pushed out the door and told to look elsewhere. Again if there was an early signing period and those kids signed their paperwork, they would be guaranteed to have their scholarship and would not be able to be told that the program does not have room for them. We see this happen all too often at the big time programs, where they get a late five-star recruit to come on board, only to push a three-star kid out. Those kids may have been committed for months already and had everything planned only to have the rug pulled out from beneath them. In fairness to these kids who made a decision and were going to stick with it, they should have the opportunity to lock themselves in with an early signing period as well.

I could probably go on and on about the different aspects of recruiting and how I feel about them, but these are just some of my thoughts on the topic. I know there is a vast array of opinions on the topic, and not everyone will agree with mine.

A Fan’s Top 4:
1.) Ohio State – Still No. 1, even not playing the best football in the country, they are the most talented and will continue to improve each week.
2.) Clemson – They got past a trap game last week in a reeling Georgia Tech, and their schedule sets up nicely for them to continue to remain unbeaten until they play Florida State at home on Nov. 7.
3.) TCU – I thought that TCU was going to fall last week at Kansas State, and then they decided to turn it on in the fourth quarter and win again. I like them better than Baylor out of the Big 12, but anything can happen as we saw last year in that conference.
4.) LSU – Big game this week against a surging Florida team. The game is at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge and it is a night game as well, so the crowd should be well into it. If they can clear this hurdle, they still get Alabama, Ole Miss and Texas A&M before the SEC Championship.

A Fan’s Heisman Ballot
1.) Leonard Fournette
2.) Ezekiel Elliott
3.) Trevone Boykin
4.) Seth Russell

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