Ohio State is 4-0 and ranked #4 in the first edition of the College Football Rankings. They’ve had one game canceled and they just won an unexpectantly close game against Indiana. QB Justin Fields had his worst game in his OSU career. It seems that fans are freaking out about the Buckeyes’ performance so far and are not satisfied. I’m not going to lie; I’m worried too.
But should we be concerned?
My answer is no. We shouldn’t be too concerned, but there are still reasons to be worried about this football team’s future, especially if you acknowledge the expectations we have for them.
The biggest cause for concern?
The defense allows an average of 26 points per game scored against them and gives up an average of 386 total yards per game. For some perspective, last year’s defense allowed an average of 13.7 points and 260 yards per game. Yes, we lost a lot of top talent, but there should not be this big of a drop-off, especially when we’ve faced much more inferior offenses so far.
The defensive backs are where the defense has struggled the most. Last week, the Indiana offense stopped running the ball entirely because they had no success in that area and we still could not stop any passes. This was not us making physical mistakes either. The majority of the big plays were due to the backs having blown coverages. That is inexcusable. Some people are saying the defensive coordinator has implemented too complicated of a defensive scheme. If that’s true, I really hope Coombs and head coach Ryan Day make changes before it’s too late.
The other concern is the offensive line.
What has Fields avoided in most of his OSU career?
He was well protected all last year and he was not prepared for the pressure Indiana brought. His second and third interceptions were made while he was being taken down. Should he have still tried to complete those passes? Probably not, but Fields is confident in himself and believes he can do it. Unfortunately, he was wrong. Fields will recover and be fine, which he did by still having a relatively efficient game last week. The o-line, though, is where I am not so sure. They have top talents, including an All-American with Wyatt Davis, yet they still struggle against inferior defensive linemen. In each game except one, the opposing defense has had equal or more sacks than the Buckeye defensive line, which is inexcusable. My only take is that we need to establish the run more. The run game has worked and opens up the passing game, yet we try to force the pass too much, like the beginning of the Indiana game. Run the ball, then make the big plays through the air.
Even with the concerns in the secondary and the offensive line, I still am not concerned. Ohio State is favored in all of their remaining games, including whoever they play in the Big Ten Championship game (most likely Northwestern). That puts them in line to make the CFP playoff with a conference championship and undefeated record. Clemson, Notre Dame and Alabama still have big games remaining that may lead to more shake-ups in the top-four, as well.
I think it is safe to say that Buckeye fans, including myself, believe in Ryan Day and Justin Fields. The Indiana game was only the fourth game of the season and the team is very young. At this point in their season, Alabama almost lost to Ole Miss and was down at halftime against Georgia. In Notre Dame’s fourth game, they barely squeaked by 3-6 Lousiville. All teams have struggled in this ever-changing 2020 season. There is still another half of the season to play and the Buckeyes should continue to improve. The talent on this team is above most teams and they will be ready come playoff time. Ohio State has always struggled in trap games and I am labeling Indiana as one. I expect them to pick it back up against Illinois and continue on the upward trajectory. Go Bucks!