(Image courtesy of ohiostatebuckeyes.com,  game information courtesy ohiostatebuckeyes.com, cleveland.com, espn.com)

The Buckeyes (12-1) pulled out a 45-24 win against Northwestern (8-5) in Saturday’s B1G Football Championship Game. Since there were no upsets that day, the Buckeyes did not move into Final Four Five playoff bracket. Nothing wrong with a trip to Pasadena over the holidays.

This was a game of ‘ebb & flow”. Actually, it was “flow-ebb-flow”. The game started well with Buckeyes leading 24-7 at the half. Then didn’t go well in the 3rd quarter, getting outscored 14-7. Then, it went well again in the 4th quarter where they outscored N’western 14-7. This game pretty much summarized Ohio State’s season; stretches of elation mixed with stretches of frustration. 

Offense

It’s a good thing Ohio State can pass the ball, because they sure as hell can’t run the ball. Their total of 607 yards is impressive enough. Their rushing total of 108 yards on 46 carries (2.3 YPC) is pretty bad. At some point, someone opponent is going to start ignoring the play action, because it’s in their best interests to let OSU try to run the ball.

In terms of the passing game, Dwayne was Dwayne. He was efficient (34-41, 83%) and effective (499 yards, 5 TDs). Time after time, Haskins’ passing bailed Ohio State out of difficult down-distance issues. I counted at least seven occasions where Haskins had clutch completions to Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, Chris Olave, Johnny Dixon III to get 1st downs, or touchdowns on 2nd/3rd and long. If anyone is making a case to travel to New York City to pick up an award, It’s Dwayne Haskins.

Getting back to the running game for a minute. Of Ohio State’s 44 carries (I excluded the 2 kneel-downs) their longest run was 11 yards, one year by Dobbins and Weber. In almost half (24) as many carries, Northwestern had “longest” runs of 77, 20, 18 and 18 yards, by four different ball carriers. There was no ‘pop’ to their running game, either. Of 34 carries by Dobbins-Weber, 18 resulted in gains of 3 yards or less.

Another issue is they offensive needs to clean up its act, especially in the offensive line. Of 10 Ohio State penalties accepted, the offense committed eight of them. Four were illegal procedures and two were holding. Johnnie Dixon claimed two penalties – holding and illegal touching.

Defense

The defense was an embarrassment. Against a .500 ball team, they allowed over 500 yards and over 50 points. Freshman running back Anthony McFarland had 21 carries for 298 yards and two TDs. He had his two TDs and 156 yards on his 2nd and 3rd carries. 

They were out of position (Arnette on McFarland’s 1st touchdown), missed tackles (White on McFarland’s 2nd TD) and linebackers continued to take bad angles at point of attack. 

I really don’t have much else with this unit. There are several relatively nonathletic players and the coaching staff has no idea how to put them in situations to succeed. I did a quick Google search and YouTubed a couple videos to get a primer on Matt Canada’s offense. It’s basis is motion and pre-snap alignment to numerically “unbalance” the point of attack. I fail to see how, with a week of preparation, Schiano, etal., couldn’t anticipate nor quickly adjust to the Maryland offense. 

And no, there were no “2nd half adjustments” to stabilize the defensive effort. After shutting down the Terp offense in the 3rd period (their TD came on a Haskins pick-6) Ohio State gave up 14 points in the 4th quarter and 6 in OT. 

The Ohio State defense has been the beneficiary, in their better performance, by opposing offenses that had inexperienced and or injured QB’s. Against a functional offense, OSU’s defense wasn’t.

Special Teams

In general, they did okay. Buffalonian Blake Haubeil & Co were 6-6 on 7-7 on PATs and 1-2 on FGs. The return teams were fine, meaning they did acquire some “hidden yards” and didn’t turn the ball over. However, the kickoff unit, specifically young Mr. Haubeil wasn’t that good. Of Blake’s 8 kickoff’s, 2 were hooked out of bounds, giving Northwestern possessions at their 35 yard line. Since a touch-back/fair catch spot the ball at the 25 yard line, these are 10 yard penalties. Quit trying to be cute and “coffin corner” the kick-offs. You couldn’t do it last year, you can’t do it this year. Do what you do best – kick it high and deep.

General

Other than allowing the obligatory chunk (77 yard touchdown) run on Northwestern’s second possession and a general lack of offensive/defensive competence early in the third quarter, Ohio State played pretty well. Ohio State needed a 2014 type performance to have a chance to make the Final Four. Northwestern’s style of play precludes wide variance of score, so the “style points” scenario wasn’t going to happen.

Misc

I updated the table, below. Based on the BuffaloBuckeye Plays/Point Table©, below. Ohio State (1.93 plays-per-point) a bit more than average (1.84 PPP) to subdue Northwestern. I would like to point out that this was in contrast to the relative “walk-in-the-park” the previous week against (then) top ranked Michigan defense (1.08 PPP).

Based on the plays-per-point metric, the UM defense was the softest on Ohio State’s schedule. That tidbit had nothing to do with the Northwestern game, but it was fun to type.

OpponentPlaysPointsPlays/Point
Oregon State87771.13
Rutgers73521.40
TCU80402.00
Tulane76491.55
Penn State76272.81
Indiana92491.88
Minnesota76302.53
Purdue98313.16
Nebraska72362.00
Mich State84263.23
Maryland94521.81
Michigan67621.08
Northwestern87451.93
Total10625761.84
Average81.744.31.84

 

Up Next

The Buckeyes go “old school” with a trip to Pasadena to play the PAC-12 champion, University of Washington (10-3, 7-2) on January 1st. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:00 pm ET. You’ll be able to watch it on ESPN or listen to it on 97.1. Or both.