This column originally appears at ohiostate.scout.com
Thoughts on Last Week
I’m not sure I’m over last Saturday night yet. I’m trying to see the silver lining, which is Urban Meyer’s Buckeye teams seem to play better after a loss. In 2014, Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech then went out and won the national championship. Last season, the Buckeyes lost to Michigan State and then pounded Michigan and Notre Dame. Let’s hope this loss propels the Buckeyes back to their early-season form.
We can go back and second guess a lot of things and even criticize the refs for certain calls, but the Buckeyes just didn’t execute when it mattered most, and it cost them in the end. It’s time to move on and hope for better things for the rest of the season. The Buckeyes still have a lot to play for.
The Buckeyes return home this weekend to take on an improving Northwestern team. The Wildcats started 1-3 with losses to Western Michigan, Illinois State – an FCS school – and Nebraska, and it looked like they might miss out on a bowl game. They’ve gotten back on track, though, with three straight wins against Iowa, Michigan State and Indiana, and they enter Saturday’s game at 4-3.
Quarterback Clayton Thorson leads the Wildcats, and he comes into the game with only a 58 percent pass completion rate this season. He can run the ball – though his numbers aren’t great so far – so keeping him contained in the pocket is important. Fortunately for Thorson, he can throw to Austin Carr, one of the best downfield threats in the Big Ten. Carr has already hauled in 50 passes for 720 yards and nine touchdowns so far this season, so the Buckeye defensive backs will have their hands full all game with him. Justin Jackson is the main running back for the Wildcats, and he leads the Big Ten in rushing with 792 yards. The Wildcats seem to have found their offensive identity at the right time and should be an interesting matchup for the Buckeyes.
A week after losing to Penn State, the Buckeyes will be looking to put that loss in the rearview mirror and finish the season strong. That all starts with Northwestern on Saturday. The Buckeye offense needs to find its rhythm and get J.T. Barrett comfortable like he was at the beginning of the season. The offensive line needs to protect better and not allow so many sacks and tackles for loss. The defense played pretty well last week, but they let the big plays beat them. Ohio State’s defense hadn’t allowed many 20+ yard plays all season, but there were a few against Penn State. I expect the Buckeyes to come out firing on all cylinders looking to avenge the loss. Then they’ll move on and keep their eyes on the prize – a Big Ten championship and hopefully playoff spot.
Prediction: Ohio State 45, Northwestern 17
A Fan’s Playoff Standings
- Alabama – The Tide keep on rolling with another impressive victory over Texas A&M. True freshman Jalen Hurts continues to be efficient running the Alabama offense, and the defense – including special teams – came up with a touchdown for the 10th game in a row. The Tide have a bye week before their big game against LSU.
- Clemson – The Tigers take over at No. 2 as the Buckeyes fall out. They have a huge game this weekend against Florida State that should be their last test of the season. If they can pull out a win, they should enter the ACC title game undefeated.
- Washington – The Huskies go on the road this weekend for a matchup with No. 17 Utah, which hosts College GameDay. Can the Huskies keep up their sizzling offensive pace, or will Kyle Wittingham and the Utes have something in store for them? Jake Browning looks to continue his Heisman march.
- Michigan – It pains me to put the Wolverines here, but after the Buckeye loss, they would be the Big Ten representative if the season ended today. The Wolverines have a big matchup against a sub-par Michigan State team this weekend in East Lansing, but the Spartans will play like it’s a bowl game. I expect it to be closer than the experts predict.
A Fan’s Heisman Standings
- Lamar Jackson – Just another four-touchdown, 431-yard day at the office for Jackson against NC State last weekend. He led the Cardinals to a 44-0 halftime lead and didn’t need to do much else after. Louisville’s remaining schedule still sets up nicely for him to pad his stats for New York.
- Jake Browning – Browning continues to lead the Huskies to an undefeated season, and his 26-2 touchdowns-to-interceptions stat is very impressive. He has an important game this weekend against the Utah Utes. If he has another big night, it might be a two-man race to the finish between him and Jackson.
- Deshaun Watson – Watson was on a bye week preparing for battle against the Seminoles this weekend. Although he hasn’t been playing up to last season’s standards, he’s still leading the undefeated Tigers, and his comeback win against Louisville was a Heisman moment.
- Baker Mayfield – A preseason favorite to end up as a finalist for the Heisman, Mayfield struggled early with two losses against Houston and Ohio State but has rebounded nicely to get the Sooners back to 5-2. With Dede Westbrook and Joe Mixon to throw to, he should continue to put up video game numbers in the no-defense Big 12.