Why Ohio State Can Still Win The National Championship
The Ohio State Buckeyes had a less than ideal start to their football season, to say the least. After being one of the preseason favorites to win the national championship, the Buckeyes came out flat in their first real test of the season. The offense looked horrendous against Oklahoma, while Baker Mayfield sat in the pocket and picked apart the secondary. However, since that loss to Oklahoma, the Buckeyes have gone on a tear, shredding through everyone they’ve played and looking great doing it. Despite this, Ohio State is a team that has been largely left out of the National Championship conversation due to the success of Alabama, Penn State, and Clemson. Granted, they have yet to face a quality opponent in that timespan, and they have the chance to prove themselves against Penn State after the bye. But, you can still learn a lot about a team in five weeks. And with that, here are the reasons Ohio State can bounce back and still win a national championship.
That Defensive Front
When Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano was interviewed before the season, he called this year’s defensive line the most talented line he’s ever coached. That’s pretty high praise when you consider that Schiano coached in the NFL for two years. According to CBS Sports, Ohio State ranks 18th in rush defense in the FBS, giving up 109.6 rush yards per game. What’s more impressive is that they give up just 2.93 yards per carry. They average 2.57 sacks per game and 8.3 tackles for loss per game, tied for 6th in the country in the latter. The Buckeyes clearly have one of the best defensive fronts in the nation, which is going to be critical if they hope to go the distance.
J.T. Barrett is Back to His Old Self
One of the biggest criticisms of Ohio State this year has been the play of quarterback J.T. Barrett, and to be honest, it’s a little unwarranted. While I admit he had his struggles throwing the deep ball early in the year, he has been nothing short of stellar this year in just about every other area. And, his deep ball accuracy has improved in recent weeks. On the season, Barrett is sporting a 66.5% completion percentage, according to Sports Reference. He is on pace to surpass his touchdown total of 24 from last year as he has already thrown for 21 touchdowns this year. Oh, and he’s only thrown one interception. Combine all of this is 173.7 passer rating, and you can see Barrett is having a great year throwing the pigskin. As we know from watching him over the past four years, Barrett is known for his ability to run the football, and this year is no exception. Barrett has 71 rushes for 370 yards from scrimmage and 5 touchdowns. Barrett could easily surpass his rushing totals from last year as well if he keeps on this track. If you’re a Buckeye fan who isn’t sold on Barrett yet, it’s time to get sold, because he is clearly the best option at quarterback if the Buckeyes want to keep their eyes on the prize.
The Dynamic Backfield Duo
At the start of the season, Mike Weber was out with a hamstring injury that is still nagging him to this point in the year. This left the door open for J.K. Dobbins, and he ran head first right through the door, exploding for 181 yards on 29 carries in the season opener against Indiana. However, since Mike Weber has returned, they’ve split the carries and the Ohio State offense looks more explosive than ever. While J.K. Dobbins still looks like the primary back with 100 rushes for 775 yards and 5 touchdowns, Mike Weber has a solid 48 rushes for 227 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2 fewer games. To add to his already impressive stat line, J.K. Dobbins is averaging a stellar 7.8 yards per carry, good for 5th in the country. If Dobbins and Weber keep this up, there’s no reason the Bucks shouldn’t find themselves in the mix come December.
It’s no question that Urban Meyer will go down as one of the all-time great college football coaches. Meyer sports a 171–30 record including a 10–3 record in bowl games in his 16-year career, according to Sports Reference. He currently holds an astounding 67–7 record in 6 plus years at Ohio State, including a national championship in the 2014 season. He also held a 65–15 record with 2 national championships in his 6 years at Florida. Meyer went 17–6 in 2 years at Bowling Green and 22–2 in 2 years at Utah. These stats tell a simple story: Wherever Urban Meyer goes, success follows. After Ohio State’s embarrassing 31–0 loss to Clemson in last year’s College Football Playoff semi-final game, Meyer has been a man on a mission this year. He is out to prove that he can lead this team to a national championship and further cement his legacy as one of the greatest of all time. If his team keeps playing the way it has been in recent weeks, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to accomplish that goal.
Stats courtesy of CBS Sports and Sports Reference.