OVERVIEW: We are seeing this Ohio State team peaking at the right time, and they are in perfect position to defeat both Michigan State and Michigan on consecutive weekends to finish out the regular season at 11-1. But there's a lot of football left to be played before that happens, and the Spartans are on the docket first. I have had Ohio State winning this game since last August, and nothing has changed for me in that regard. But understand that Mark Dantonio would sell his soul to be able to crush Urban Meyer's dream for a third time, and his Spartans are going to be loaded for bear behind a home crowd that will be loud. It will be up to Meyer and the Buckeyes to put that fire out in the first quarter. The Buckeyes are the better team by far, and the only way they lose is by letting an average Michigan State team hang around and start thinking they can win. If it's Ohio State winning 14-0 after the first quarter, it will be time to call in the dogs and pee on the fire, because Michigan State's hunt will be over.
THE PLAYOFF PICTURE: The Auburn loss to Georgia put Alabama in the playoffs. Period. Who else will join them? We simply do not know right now, and this week's committee BS means nothing. The only committee show I'm interested in is the last one. I will leave all the possibilities to the different team sites to argue why their team is a deserving participant. There's nothing to argue about right now, and nothing to discuss from my point of view. One team is IN. Everybody else is fighting for the last three spots. WITH A LOT OF FOOTBALL LEFT TO BE PLAYED. We can talk about how Alabama will fare in the playoffs, but that's the only team we can talk about. Everyone else has lots of work to do.
CAN OSU DO WELL IF THEY MAKE THE PLAYOFFS? Again, we are only guessing right now, but to me Ohio State is cooking with gas right now and they're as good now as any team Meyer has put on the field in five years. The difference between the last two games, and the four before those, is night and day. If they continue to play like this they can beat anyone, including Alabama. Instead of worrying about the playoffs, and I mean the players and coaches, not the fans, they need to concentrate on the task at hand. Meyer can get a little whiny at times trying to make the playoff argument before his team has taken care of business, and I think it affected his players. There will be time enough for counting when the dealing's done------ thank you great football philosopher Kenny Rogers. Play it out. Put out a great resume. And start politicking AFTER the Michigan game. Not now.
THE OSU OFFENSE: You want your quarterback playing his best football heading into the toughest games, and J.T. Barrett is doing exactly that. He is playing very confidently, and I'm convinced that's coming directly from the offensive staff. When they don't trust him to execute the offense and they start playing safety-first football, they're very easy to defend and his play goes down. The Northwestern game was the turning point offensively, when play calling and execution was pretty awful all game long. But when Ohio State needed to salt the game away, Barrett was trusted to hit a few throws and not just run the zone read to run out the clock. They have not looked back since offensively, and they are involving all of the skill guys right now. They have played championship offense the past two weeks, and they are getting championship play calling. If they try to run the QB 25 times behind 10 blockers against Michigan State and/or Michigan, they will get beat by one of them. Play to win. Play to your strengths. And let the cards fall as they may.
THE OSU DEFENSE: When you can leave your defensive backs on islands by themselves, it makes playing defense so much easier. And these are the best cover guys I've ever seen at Ohio State. But now this defense is dominating against the run as well. Dre'Mont Jones and Michael Hill are controlling the inside so well right now, against two teams (Nebraska and Maryland) that run the ball pretty well. Raekwon McMillan has stepped up his game as well, and what happens when all this comes together? People cannot score on you. I've had this group as championship quality all year long, even with a few blips in the middle of the year. And their "blips" were giving up 20 points, not 40 points.
SUMMARY: Ohio State needs to win two games in which they will be favored in both to finish at 11-1. To me, having only one loss would be a heck of a season, regardless of how the playoff picture falls. This team has gotten dramatically better the past two weeks, and that's all you can ask for going forward. Nobody would want to play Ohio State right now, so this season is set for a heck of a finish. First off, they must be at their best and not looking ahead to Michigan or the playoffs to beat Michigan State. I know the Spartans aren't good, but Dantonio can get his guys to play above their heads against Meyer. This is always Dantonio's crusade game, so the Buckeyes need to put them away early and not let it go to the fourth quarter. Win this week against Michigan State, and then let the fun begin.