Most fans wanted to see total domination of one of the worst teams in college football on Saturday.
While it is difficult to call a 73-20 victory (the first time Ohio State has scored 70 since the “Mark May is going to hate Ohio State forever” beat down of Pitt in 1996) anything but that, Ohio State fans, as usual, are left with some questions.
The two biggest question marks revolve around the running game and defending the pass.
In the run game, Ohio State has failed to establish a “go to” back in the first four games. Brandon Saine and Boom Herron, the two most experienced players, have not separated themselves from the pack. This has left many fans questioning the effectiveness of Ohio State’s ground game and calling for more playing time for the explosive Jaamal Berry.
The other question that fans are left with after EMU is why Ohio State’s passing defense looked so weak against such a bad offense.
In an uncharacteristic performance, Ohio State gave up 208 yards through the air against the hapless eagles to the point that they looked downright soft at times right in the heart of the Buckeye secondary.
Luckily for you, I have thoughts on both these issues after the jump.
Spoiler alert: I don’t think they are issues at all.
What is going on with Ohio State’s ground game? That is the question on most people’s minds. Against Eastern Michigan, many fans (including myself) really wanted to see the backs run wild against one of the worst defenses the Buckeyes will face all season.
That didn’t exactly happen.
Cumulatively, 342 yards rushing isn’t bad, but no back went over 100 yards for the third time in four games. The leading rusher (outside of Pryor who broke 100 for the second time) was Jaamal Berry with 74 yards on 4 carries.
Berry is without question one of the most explosive runners Ohio State has had under Jim Tressel. His 11.8 yards per carry has many fans calling for Berry to get touches earlier and more often in games.
I am not against giving Jaamal Berry more touches, but I don’t think that alone is the answer for Ohio State’s running game. In fact, I don’t think Ohio State’s running game even needs an answer, and I have two reasons why.
First, I think opposing defensive coordinators are lazy.
Every team Ohio State has played this year has tried to “Purdue” their way to victory. This means that they all have loaded the box on defense to bring as much pressure as they can on every play, hoping to stuff the run game and pressure Pryor into making mistakes that will ultimately cost Ohio State the game.
Ohio State’s running game is facing an uphill battle against a loaded box every time they take the field because of this. Additionally, the passing game is left open for Ohio State to take advantage of, and the improved ‘Pryor version 2010′ has done just that.
Tressel, behind a trusted veteran QB, has been attacking defenses more through the air (122 pass attempts through four game vs. 87 last year) and the run game has “suffered” as a result.
That brings me to my second point about the run game.
The stable of backs is affecting people’s perception of the effectiveness of the ground game. Ohio State clearly doesn’t have a “go to” back, but has the ground game suffered as a result?
I won’t beat around the bush, it hasn’t.
To prove it, here is a side by side rushing comparison between this year and the year Ohio State had the ultimate “go to” back; Beanie Wells in 2007.
In ’07, Ohio State split carries between Beanie, Maurice Wells, and Brandon Saine.Through four games, their stats were:
137 rushing attempts
699 rushing yards
5.1 yards per carry
7 rushing touchdowns
In 2010, Ohio State has been splitting carries between Brandon Saine, Boom Herron, Jordan Hall, Jaamal Berry, and Carlos Hyde. Through four games, their stats have been:
109 rushing attempts
657 rushing yards
6.0 yards per carry
7 rushing touchdowns
And that isn’t even including Pryor’s 43 attempts, 269 yards, 6.3 yards per carry, and 3 touchdowns.
Also, if anything, the opponents were arguably more cup cakey in ’07 than they were this year with Youngstown State, Akron, Washington, and Northwestern.
So, do you still think the ground game has been a problem this year?
And when teams stop trying to “Purdue” us (if that ever happens), I expect the run game to get even better.
I will try to keep this one brief.
Ohio State did look soft against the pass at times on Saturday. I think this can be attributed to several things.
First, I think Ohio State was playing a defense so vanilla it would make your eyes water.
Second, I think Ohio State fully expected Eastern Michigan to run the dink and dunk style offense that pretty much everyone has been using against us to neutralize the pass rush.
Eastern Michigan, to their credit, did not.
Instead, they attacked down the seems with quick passes to the tight end and slot receivers. This down field attack caught Ohio State off guard for a few series (namely, the ones they gave up touchdowns on) until they were able to make adjustments.
The vanilla defense combined with the unexpected down field attack from the eagles resulted in three touchdown drives (out of four) for Eastern Michigan at the end of the second quarter and the start of the third quarter.
This may seem like a cause for concern, but…
Ohio State did make adjustments. After Eastern Michigan’s third scoring drive the Buckeyes did not allow another first down the rest of the game (six straight three and outs).
Color me not worried about the pass defense either. Bring on the Big Ten.