3-2-1: Things are getting real
COLUMBUS, Ohio - This week really should be the week that we learn if the Ohio State football team is just a really good team in 2019 or a great team with Penn State coming to town.
Sure, this was supposed to be a top-five kind of game but there is no reason to sell on this game because Penn State had to go and trip up on the way to this late-November match-up.
"Talent Equated" seems to be the mantra around the WHAC this week as head coach Ryan Day has made sure that everyone in the building understands that Penn State has a roster every bit as talented as Ohio State. This is not going to be a game where Ohio State will be able to just show up, roll the team out there and be able to out-athlete everyone, as the Buckeyes have been able to do in previous games this season.
That does not mean that Ohio State has done that, the victories have been too convincing to show a team that just rolls out of bed and just plays a game. There has been a lot of hard work that has gone into this season and this week is just going to require a little bit more hard work than previous if the Buckeyes want to keep all of their goals on the table and within reach.
In this week's edition of the 3-2-1 brought to you by our friends at Hague Water Conditioning, we take a look at how the Rutgers game put fear in some of the most nervous of fans out there as the Buckeyes gave up an uncharacteristic amount of points. We talk about how the Buckeyes are doing something that nobody else is right now in the polls as well, Plus, we will touch quickly upon recruiting.
All of that and more as we dive into the 3-2-1.
THREE THINGS WE LEARNED
1 - Good is not good enough at times
Execute at a high level and have high expectations form.
We certainly did not help things here as we had most people calling for the Buckeyes to score 60, 70, 80 points on Rutgers this past weekend.
That did not happen, but Ohio State did get to 56 points.
Not good enough screamed many fans.
Ohio State gave up 21 points, 14 of them by the second and third teamers and the first seven came on a short field after an uncharacteristic special teams gaffe.
Did this team peak too soon?
While things were not different in the days prior to social media, we sure hear about it more now in this day and age.
Let's just get it out there... there is nothing wrong with this Ohio State team.
It is hard to get up for 12 games during the regular season and if your idea of a down game is 35 points, you have some lofty expectations.
Yes, Rutgers was not a very good team. Yes, Ohio State certainly did not look as sharp as it has in other games.
No, the Buckeyes did not cover. No, the Buckeyes were not as clean and crisp as people have grown accustomed to.
There was not amount of points that Ohio State could have scored this past weekend to move up in the rankings over LSU based on playing against Rutgers. While Ole Miss is not a great team by any stretch, the Rebels are around 70-80 spots better in the Sagarin Rankings than the Scarlet Knights.
Speaking of LSU, they did not exactly look great on one side of the ball against LSU in giving up 37 to the Rebels, while scoring a very similar amount of points (58 versus Ohio State's 56).
Let's just say that neither team did anything to really impress the ardent critics.
What they did do however is win the game, and whether the margin was 35 (like Ohio State), 21 (like LSU) or whatever, what they did not do is trip up along the way.
Georgia cannot say that. Neither can Penn State. Utah is in that same boat, as is Oklahoma and many other teams sitting with a loss that now need some help to be in the CFP picture for real.
And if we are being completely honest, the Buckeyes were up 42-7 when the move was made to sit the first team and bring in the back-ups.
Yes, Ohio State's 2nd or 3rd team probably should have been about a 21-point favorite, if not more, against the Rutgers first team, who was still in there.
But you are not going to see wholesale line changes in the next five games for the Buckeyes with the quality of opponents that are left on the schedule or are likely to be on the schedule.
And if you do?
That generally means that things have gone extremely well and the game is in hand.
2 - These Buckeyes continue to impress
With apologies to Stetson, we learned over the last seven days that the Buckeye basketball team has the potential to be real good and that all stemmed from a dominating 76-51 win over Villanova just a week ago.
There is a long way to go and it might be a little soon to be looking at your postseason travel plans for the men's basketball team. But the glimpses that we have seen in the past four games have given reason to be optimistic as the Buckeyes remain undefeated and have seemed to shed a couple of the week one issues (cold starts, horrible from the line).
Chris Holtmann would be the first to say that there are a lot of games left to be played. When asked about Ohio State's ranking (more on this in a minute) he dryly said to ask him again in a couple of months.
Ohio State still has games at North Carolina, a neutral site game against Kentucky as well as one against West Virginia as well as a 20-game Big Ten season that promises to be no cakewalk with top-10 foes like Michigan State and Maryland both looking good as well as a slew of teams that may not be ranked at the moment but who will all provide their own unique set of challenges.
Kaleb Wesson has been a focal point, but people need to start talking more about Kyle Young at this point. He has been automatic from the floor this season and has been working the boards as hard as anyone out there in the conference.
Throw in a pair of sophomores heating up with Duane Washington and Luther Muhammad and then a talented freshman like DJ Carton who has shared the point guard role at a high level with CJ Walker.
And we are still leaving several key contributors out at this point including Andre Wesson, who saw his first action since the opener after suffering an eye injury that cost him a few games.
Holtmann's Buckeyes may not be getting the same clippings as MSU and Maryland at this point, but that is just find. This team is trying to figure out who they are.
And so far, those early returns point to a team that could be pretty darn good come March and could prove to be a tough out and one that could get into the second weekend of the tournament when all the dust settles.
3 - Top 10/Top 10
It was not all that long ago that the Buckeyes were right up there with the elite in both football and basketball when Urban Meyer and Jim Tressel's teams were complemented with Thad Matta's basketball teams. The football team has had some incredible staying power but the basketball team started to go through some rough times and led to a change at the top with the inclusion of Chris Holtmann into the equation.
By virtue of Ohio State Basketball's win over a (then) top-10 Villanova team, the Buckeyes are now in the top-10 joining the No. 2 ranked football team.
A quick look of the rankings will show that Ohio State currently is the only team that can claim top-10 status in both sports. And while that is not going to go out and win the Director's Cup for across-the-board success in all sports, it is a big accomplishment to lead both of the major revenue sports at this point of the season.
Only three other teams can even claim to be in the top-25 of both the AP football and basketball polls with Oregon close to Ohio State with its football team No. 6 and basketball just missing at No. 11. Auburn is in the mix with football at No. 16 and basketball at No. 19 and then Memphis rounds things out with the football team at No. 18 and basketball a couple of spots higher at No. 16.
The Buckeyes should remain in the top-10 of both polls through the end of the regular season with basketball not having its next tough game (on paper) until December 4th at North Carolina as part of the ACC/B1G Challenge. That means games against IPFW, Kent State and Morgan State should all be in-hand. Football on the other hand has two regular season games with Penn State and Michigan, both games where Ohio State should be favorited by a good margin.
Nothing is given however and any loss of focus is a sure recipe for disaster.
But drink it up while you can, it is a special time in Ohio State athletics and we are all just along for the ride.
TWO QUESTIONS THIS WEEK
1 - What kind of impact will a rested Chase Young have?
Obviously Ohio State fans have missed seeing No. 2 out there on defense but the question is, how is he going to respond to getting back out on the field. The good news is that he was able to workout and keep in football shape, even if he has not played any football in the last eight quarters.
With Saturday most likely being his final home game as a member of the Ohio State Buckeyes, where will his emotions be? He almost had all of this taken away from him for making a silly mistake on a rule that likely won't even be a rule in the next couple of years as NIL legislation really comes into its own.
The fear is that an emotional player will allow the enormity of it all get to them and will not play their assignments and rather just go out swinging for the fences on each and every play.
But if there is something that we have learned about Chase as he has matured during his time with the Buckeyes, it seems that he has a really solid sense of who he is and what he is doing.
That does not mean that he might not get a little too amped up at times out there... football is a physical and emotional sport and while guys can come out and be described as cool., calm and collective, when your job is to get out there and produce havoc, it is sometimes difficult to keep all of that under control.
The prevailing thoughts are that Young will come right out and be as productive as he has been in the past, especially against a Penn State offensive line that might not be one of the top units in the league. But keep an eye on the first couple of series that Young in is there, as Larry Johnson will be doing. It will be oh-so-important for him to play under control and not try and do too much after his two-week exile.
2 - How impactful will this recruiting weekend be?
As the week goes on, we will have plenty on the upcoming recruiting weekend as this marks the final home game of the season and by all accounts the largest one in terms of opponent and scope of the game.
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We will of course have the rest of the week to put everything into perspective as that list will remain fluid and nothing will really be known until all of these players actually set foot on campus and are seen by a member of the staff as either an official or unofficial visitor.
There are not a lot of spots left in the class of 2020 and the Buckeyes are holding out for a couple of key positions with running back and a second quarterback at the top of the list and then beyond that, it really is a bit of a free-for-all to try and figure out who/what/how many beyond that.
This really looks like a big weekend for the class of 2021 however with some major names set to be a part of the weekend.
How hard will the staff push on some of these guys? It is a little bit more until early NSD for football 2021, that is a long time to hold on to an out-of-state guy. Could a couple of pushes be made however, especially if the right players show up on campus?
It will be very important this weekend with some of the out-of-state guys like Donovan Jackson, Tunmise Adeleye (if he is able to attend) and others as Ohio State will have the biggest of backdrops on players that either have to travel a sizable distance (Jackson) or are looking to make an early decision (Adeleye).
It certainly does not help the out-of-state players with this being a 12pm game but that is something that we have gone over at length in the Horseshoe Lounge and we certainly are not going to solve anything before the game this weekend on that front.
Keep it locked in here and the best in the business, Marc Givler and Alex Gleitman will be working the phones to see how the Buckeyes did.
ONE PREDICTION: Saturday's game will be decided by the end of the third quarter, at the latest
Okay, we were way off with our 800-yards prediction and we will own that.
But this week we are going for something that seems to be safer. On the surface.
Vegas does not believe that this is going to be a close game, with the margin still hovering well above two touchdowns between the Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions.
Historically however, the last two games were decided by a point and the game before that was by three points.
So do you side with history and say that this might go down the final possession? Do you go with the oddsmakers and casinos, that exist in all of their grandeur because they are right an awful lot?
The favorite is 4-6 according to the line in the last 10 games of this series, so this has not been a game that has held true with the number that the oddsmakers have put in place. In fact, Ohio State has not covered since 2015 when the Buckeyes won 38-10 with a 17.5-point line in place.
That game was in Columbus. This game is in Columbus.
We have watched enough tape on both of these teams that as long as the weather does not get to be crippling out there, the Buckeyes should be able to move the ball up-and-down the field, and while it might not be with the ease that we have seen some of the games go this year, it should be often enough to get into the 30s.
We just don't see Penn State getting into the 30s in this one, maybe not even the high-20s.
JK Dobbins talked about this game maybe not needing to be a four-quarter game and we agree. Ohio State will get up early and will keep Penn State out of range long enough to turn them one dimensional and while Sean Clifford and Pat Freiermuth could get something good going underneath, it won't be enough to move the ball down the field in sync with the Buckeyes and by the fourth quarter, the outcome should be pretty much known, despite the history of Ohio State being down two scores in the fourth, only to come back and win.