With a bye this week and a potential 12-0 season, the Ohio State Buckeyes have a week to prepare for the final two games against Wisconsin and Illinois. Here are five things they need to do in order to their personal wrench into the championship polls.
1) Dominate in the trenches
It seems like just yesterday that Buckeye fans were calling for the firing of Coach Fickell. Three weeks later and the Ohio State defense is looking like an Ohio State defense. On the other side of the ball, it was this same offensive line that earned those coveted Urban Meyer 5 a.m. practices.
Against Illinois, the Buckeyes performed on the line. Offensively, they carried Carolos Hyde 118 yards for an average 7.6 yards per carry. They also gave Braxton Miller the time to complete 12 of 20 passes for 226 yards. Defensively, the Buckeyes have been finding their way into the backfield as of late and need to continue to do so.
In order to get past both Michigan and Wisconsin, the Buckeyes need to perform as good or better than they did they did against Penn State and Illinois. Continue to the improvement we’ve seen the past few weeks and they will.
2) Hit the the pass when we need it
Braxton Miller’s development this season has been something to watch. We’ve seen him go from a scrambling quarterback running when he should pass to a quarterback looking for the pass when he should run to his development at hitting the long pass. However, when it comes to those first down or third and long completions, he still needs work. Although his pass completion ratio is looking pretty good lately, getting the ball safely to his receivers when it’s needed most has to happen.
He’s getting better but it isn’t there yet. When he does find it though, look out.
3) Stop giving the ball away
Seems pretty obvious doesn’t it. Yet the Buckeyes have given up 16 turnovers in 10 games. Braxton Miller starts hitting his passing game and we lose a fumble. The Buckeyes hold on to the ball and Miller throws an interception. In order for the Buckeyes to finish out the season, they have to stop giving the ball away.
4) Enough with the stupid penalties
After the Illinois game, Coach Urban Meyer specifically called out “one guy in particular” and said that they would be having a little chat. Although he didn’t mention anyone by name, I’d hate to be in Nathan Williams shoes. Sure, the Buckeyes can absorb a temper tantrum or two against Illinois but in a close game, there is no room for the cheap penalty.
3) More Rod Smith
It’s one thing to have both Miller and Carlos Hyde staring at you from the backfield but add Rod Smith to the mix and look out. Although he still can have trouble hanging on to the ball, he’s really become a threat. Early in the season the Buckeyes were all about Braxton Miller. Now they are about a powerhouse offense. The Hyde, Miller, Smith show combined with this offensive line is going to be hard for anyone to stop.
2) Score more points
Before everyone starts yelling at me for stating the obvious, one thing the Ohio State offense has done better than most is score points–lots of them. In four games this season, the Buckeyes have scored 50+ points in four games this season. In all but two games, the Buckeyes have scored at least 30 (Purdue 29, Michigan State 17).
Michigan and Wisconsin are no slouch for putting up points but neither has made it to 50. Wisconsin hasn’t broken 40. As much as I hate the trend toward basketball like scores in college football, I fully expect the Buckeyes to run the score as high as they can if given the chance in the next two weeks. High scoring wins over either Wisconsin or Michigan will be a huge lug-nut in those polls I mentioned ealier.
Miller earns his invite to New York
All season it’s been obvious that Miller has not yet reached his full potential and we have yet to see his true break out game. What better venue to impress the Heisman voters than against Wisconsin or better yet Michigan at home. A beat down of either one (or better yet both) would be incredibly satisfying for the Buckeye fan base. It would also provide an amazing launch pad for the 2013 season.
I’m not saying he get’s the Heisman this year but a big performance against either Wisconsin or Michigan and he’ll be sitting at the table.