Tim Moody/BSB

Game Review: OSU Squeaks By Michigan State

Ohio State held on to beat Michigan State 17-16 Saturday in East Lansing. What were the keys to a Buckeye win?

OVERVIEW: The most important aspect of the Ohio State win Saturday is 10-1, and still very much alive for the national playoffs. This late in the year you're not looking to work on new things, or insert new parts, because this is survive and advance time. Everyone can nitpick Urban Meyer's anemic offense all day long, but at the end of the day 17 tops 16, so it's on to Michigan Week. A loss would have been devastating to Ohio State, because it would have basically ended the season. This is like winning a tight game in the NCAA basketball tournament where your team plays poorly. Ugly wins trump pretty losses all day long. Not to say there won't be nitpicking later in this piece, LOL. 

GREG SCHIANO: Here's your game winning coach, and this guy saved Ohio State's bacon once again. Did they throw a shutout? No, not at all. Were they perfect? Nope. But in the second half, when it was clear there was no way Ohio State could win a game that got into the 20's, Schiano slammed the door aside from one drive. They got stung by L.J. Scott, the best offensive player on the field, a few times early and he got them on the last drive, but when the defense knew they could not get in a game of matching scores they were very good. There isn't a person alive that thought Michigan State could drive 50 yards in two minutes to set up a game winning field goal in the end. Conversely, there probably wasn't much optimism Ohio State would have been able to come back had Michigan State converted the two-point conversion. There's a heck of a lot more confidence putting the game in Schiano's hands, rather than the offensive braintrust of Meyer/Warinner/Beck. And for good reason. This is a national championship unit, from the coaching to the players. 

MICKEY MAROTTI: It's time to mention the fact that when we see Michigan State starting their seventh different offensive line this season, and a defensive line that was on their sixth different combination, that Ohio State usually starts the same guys week after week. And it's gone on this way for five years. Of course, there are occasional season ending injuries and various bumps and bruises, but you never see a whole line knocked out. Over the course of five years it simply cannot be luck. If you watch college football, you hear announcers every week bemoaning four starters out in the secondary, or a team down to their fourth string runningback because of injuries, but this just is not the case at Ohio State, and it's time to salute the job Mickey Marotti does with the strength and conditioning program. 

THE OSU OFFENSE: You can blame the weather all you want, and I would agree you definitely need to adjust your approach in conditions like Saturday's, but to say you could not throw the football against Michigan State because of the weather is pure BS. Shoot, Ohio State DID throw it 22 times, and Barrett was sacked three times, while he scrambled out of trouble on another three plays, so that's about the normal amount of passing plays for this offense. The deep ball to Samuel was not affected by the wind, nor was the deep miss to McLaurin. And each throw went to opposite ends of the field, so stop with the incorrect refrain that "we couldn't throw the ball in that wind." They did try to throw it, but rarely on first down, rarely on deep shots, NEVER in the forbidden zone of the middle of the field, never on the pop pass to Samuel, never on a slant to Noah Brown. I would agree with anyone that thought J.T. Barrett was beyond awful yesterday, which he was, but having him throw against a blitz on third-and-eight probably isn't going to work. Running him into Michigan State's defense on first and second down, to set up third-and-eight won't work. As New England has proven for a decade, first down is the down to throw. And even if you accept that your quarterback can't throw it accurately, why does he get 15 carries in the first half? Especially when he's hesitating at the holes and running like he has the new Wrangler work boots on his feet? To say there's no way to run into Michigan State's stacked defensive front is once again pure BS. Mike Weber was averaging ten yards per carry right at the teeth of that stacked front. Keep running him until they are forced to move bodies inside, then attack them on the edge with Charles Samuells, or whatever that guy's name is that seems like a good player but they never let him play. How Barrett gets 24 carries and Samuel only gets 4 is beyond me, but Mark Dantonio wasn't complaining about that one bit. How does Weber, on a day where he's running wild, only get 14 carries to Barrett's 24? Again, Mark Dantonio is saying "thank you Urban", throughout the game. And when you think a guy that can't run well at all is all of the sudden the next Archie Griffin, you let a bad team play even with the number-two team in the country. I will go to my grave, and some may hope it's soon, not believing that J.T. Barrett deserves more carries than Zeke Elliott in an elimination game, or the very next year, that freaking J.T. Barrett deserves more carries in total than Weber or Samuel get combined. Maybe I'm wrong, because maybe J.T. Barrett is a combination of Braxton Miller and Corny Greene, but to me he's a slow, indecisive, plodding QB that is a game-manager, not a superstar with the ball in his hands. 

MARK DANTONIO: I never thought yesterday's game would be close, and that's me underestimating just how Dantonio has the perfect style to look Meyer in the eye, and not flinch at all. You have the better team? Fine, no problem. You're at home? No problem. Think I can only beat you in bad weather? What about in the dome in Indy? He has the right style to stop this offense, whether he has Malik McDowell and a bunch of all-conference guys, or yesterday's rag-tag unit with freshmen on the defensive front. Props to Coach D, although the two-point play might have been too much coaching. Going to overtime with the better kicker might have been the winning ticket Saturday, but you can't fault his guts. If I was going to go down on a two-pointer, that football had to be in L.J. Scott's hands, not have the game rest on Tyler O'Connor finding a receiver against the best secondary in America. Pitch it to Scott, throw it to Scott, wildcat snap it to Scott, but go down fighting with the ball in the hands of the best player on the field. Not a below average QB. But all in all, Dantonio coached his butt off and I respect the heck out of the guy. Look back at Nebraska curling up in the fetal position with their QB leaving the field with a hangnail in fear of playing Ohio State. That has never, ever happened to a Dantonio team facing Meyer. We've seen a lot of these Big Ten coaches get taken straight to the shed by Meyer in five years, even the great James Harbaugh. Never happens to Dantonio, even with this scrap heap team he threw out there yesterday. You know, the team that lost to powers like Illinois and Maryland. 

SUMMARY: Beat Michigan and head to the playoffs. Lose to Michigan and it's hello Outback Bowl. PERIOD.


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