Buckeye Sugar Bowl (Playoff Semi-Final) Preview
December 31, 2014 6:30 PM

Game On - it's here - the first College Football Playoff.  It seemed highly improbable at several points this season, but the Buckeyes earned the playoff berth and this is exactly why they hired Urban Meyer.  Big underdog?  Urban has thrived on the underdog roll throughout his coaching career.  He’s 4-0 as an underdog at Ohio State and one would have to think his team will be ready tomorrow night in New Orleans.  

That’s the good news.  The bad news is, for the first time in his Ohio State coaching career, Meyer is facing a team that has more talent than his.  I think most Buckeye fans will tell you that this Bama team is not on par with any of Nick Saban’s three recent national championship teams.  While I would tend to agree, I still think Saban has the best team in the country.  No one in Big Ten country wants to hear this, but the SEC West is better than any other division in any other conference, and it’s not close.  And Bama is class of the division and the conference, period.

But favorites lose all the time….just ask former Wisconsin coach Gary Anderson.  There is a reason you play the games, and like any other game Ohio State has played during my lifetime, tomorrow’s game against Alabama is a winnable one.

The Matchup:

The Bama Offense vs. the Buckeye Defense

The biggest task for Ohio State will be containing Amari Cooper.  Cooper has the entire package and can beat you in a variety of different ways.  The only real way to contain him is to put pressure on Bama QB Blake Sims.  If Sims consistently finds time to throw, he is going to find Amari Cooper, and Cooper is likely going to walk away with game-MVP honors, while Alabama advances to the title game.  But to protect Sims, Bama stud freshman LT Cameron Robinson and veteran RT Austin Shepherd are going to have to deal with Joey Bosa.  The Alabama O-line was tops in the SEC giving up only 13 sacks on the year, so you have a strength vs. strength matchup here.  The Buckeyes D-line will simply have to get to Sims if the Buckeyes are going to pull the upset, and I think this is the #1 key to the game.

Although new OC Lane Kiffin has made the Alabama offense much more diverse with their expanded air game, the Tide can obviously still run the football.  The Bucks did a great job holding Melvin Gordon in check, but the Badgers had no passing game to take pressure off Gordon.  With the Buckeye D having to focus on Amari Cooper, the Bama running back combo of TJ Yeldon and Derrick Henry are going to be tough to handle.  The Buckeye tackling was strong early in the year, but not as much in the latter half of the season.  The OSU defenders will have to do a good job wrapping up tomorrow or it will be a long night.

The Buckeye Offense vs. the Bama Defense

You have to feel better about Cardale Jones after seeing his effort against the Badgers.  The kid was much more prepared than anyone thought he would be and now appears to have his head where it needs to be.  The best chance of success for the Buckeye offense is going to be through the air.  Devin Smith emerged big time late in the year, and the Jones-to-Smith hookup was of course deadly against Wisconsin.  I guess you can argue that the Bucks would have beaten the Badgers handedly without Smith, but Ohio State will not beat Alabama without a strong effort from Devin Smith.  Also, I wouldn’t be surprised to see OSU utilize TE Jeff Heuerman more as a pass catcher tomorrow night.  And it goes without saying that Buckeye OT's Taylor Decker and Daryl Baldwin need to protect Jones, who will be starting only his 2nd game in college football.  

It will be interesting to see how much Ohio State tries to establish the run with Ezekiel Elliott, who has now hit the big time.  The Bama rush defense is as good as it gets, giving up only 2.8 yards per carry and 3 rushing TD's all season, tops in the nation in both categories.  The Bucks may not need Zeke to hit the century mark in rushing yards, but they have to at least find some success on the ground to take some pressure off Cardale.  I don't see Jones having much success running with the ball against Alabama, as the Tide defense is too talented and disciplined to let Jones beat them in that manner.

The Call

Like I said in the beginning of the piece, I expect Ohio State to be ready to play.  Jumping out to an early 10-point lead, a la the 2007 title game, would not surprise me.  But an early deficit won’t faze Alabama and I think the Tide offense eventually puts 30+ points on the board.  Will Ohio State be able to score that many?  Probably not without some breaks in special teams and/or getting a defensive score.  Hope I am wrong, but the call here is Alabama 35 Ohio State 27.

--Brent Baver

Merry Christmas
December 25, 2014 12:00 AM

Merry Christmas to all Buckeye fans.  Warm wishes from the Buckeye 50 family to yours.  May your new year begin with much happiness and a victory over the Crimson Tide.

Cover Boy Cardale Jones
December 24, 2014 5:00 PM

Herman Wins Broyles Award
December 9, 2014 7:30 PM

It has been a long time since the Buckeye head coach has been coach of the year, this may be an oversight.  Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman was named the winner of the 2014 Broyles Award.  The Buckeyes made the College Football Playoff despite losing two starting quarterbacks to season-ending injuries.  OSU went 12-1 this season, averaged more than 45 points per game and beat Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten championship game despite using their third string quarterback.

The Broyles Award, presented by the Rotary Club of Little Rock and Delta Dental, is named for former Arkansas athletic director and football coach Frank Broyles.

Nike Announces New Uniform Designs
For Playoff Teams
December 9, 2014 10:00 AM

Never let it be said that Nike would miss an opportunity to
profit from the playoffs.  OSU will have a new look when
they play Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal.

Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State are all
getting special new uniforms to wear for the playoffs.
Nike, who sponsors all four teams, just released designs.
Each uniform features a diamond swoosh on the front, 
which is supposed to symbolize the ultimate goal:
winning the national title and getting that diamond ring.

OSU's playoff home jerseys are traditional scarlet, but will
have black numbers on the shoulders.  The university
confirmed the Buckeyes will wear wear white road
uniforms in the Sugar Bowl. 

Game 13: Ohio State 59   Wisconsin 0
December 6, 2014 11:45 PM

There was a rumor the Badgers were scheduled to appear
in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship, but officials
are still looking for them.  Meanwhile, the Buckeyes carried
on dominated the game with 558 total yards against the 2nd
best defense in the nation.  

The excitement of the Ohio State (12-1, 8-0) victory is only
enhanced by the performance of Cardale Jones in his first
ever start.  Jones was 12 for 17 passing for 257 yards and
3 touchdowns.  The next biggest performance came from
punter Cameron Johnston who had 4 punts for an average
of 53 yards, including one for 73 yards which landed inside
the Badger 5 yard line. 

The victory should seal the Buckeyes fate and earn them a
spot in the inaugural college football playoff.  The only ones
weeping are Melvin Gordon and the Big 12 commissioner.
With 76 yards on 26 carries you can be assured that Gordon
is now out of the Heisman race.  As for the Big 12, they
decided not to pick between TCU and Baylor, so expect
the playoff committee to refuse to decide between the two
teams and chose Ohio State for that fourth and final playoff

Baver's Buckeye Bag
December 3, 2014 4:30 PM

The Game thoughts, the Barrett injury and Misc.

  • Hats off to Michigan for remaining composed after the poor start Saturday, and for hanging tough with Ohio State.  It is quite amazing though, how emotion affects college football so much.  I mean, if you didn’t know any better, you’d have thought Ohio State played a pretty good Michigan team this past Saturday.  But that simply isn’t the case.  The Wolverines 5-7 final record tells it all; this was a bad football team.

  • The finish to the 2014 season is mirroring the finish to the 2013 season for this Buckeye defense.  Michigan had no Jeremy Langford, no David Cobb, and no Tevin Coleman …. hell, they didn’t even have an offense to speak of.  I gave some deserved credit to UM above, but once again, the Buckeye defense helped make a horrendous Michigan offense look pretty good.  So, how is this Buckeye D going to stop Wisconsin’s running game?  That is the million dollar question. 

  • Once you saw the replay of JT Barrett’s leg getting bent backwards, you knew it was bad.  Such a shame.  How ‘bout JT returning from the locker room, and coming back to the stands to watch the end of the game before heading to the hospital?  I said it a few weeks ago…is there anything not to love about this kid?

  • What can we expect from Cardale Jones?  Jones has a cannon….and if he can settle into a rhythm, I think he will throw the ball better than most think.  Cardale also runs very well for a 250-pound man.  But Cardale, experience wise, is about where JT was going into the Va Tech game….and we all know how that turned out.  The rest of this Buckeye team is going to have to raise their collective “game” if Ohio State is to have any shot at beating Wisconsin.

  • My thoughts are with the Karageorge family and those close to him.  Being distraught over Buckeye football injuries obviously doesn’t hold a candle to what this family is going through right now.

  • Since late October, I’ve been saying winning out likely puts the Bucks in the playoff.  My guess is that this is still the case.  It’s not a given, but it never was.  There is a better than 50% chance of at least one team losing this weekend between Oregon, TCU, FSU and Bama.  If the Bucks win and none of the others lose, you could still see TCU drop two slots in the poll, although the chances of the Horn Frogs dropping two slots aren’t great. 

The Big Ten Championship Game

From a matchup standpoint, this is about as bad as it gets for Ohio State.  The Buckeyes have not been able to stop the run as of late and they now face what is probably the best rushing attack in the nation.  The Buckeyes will have to sell out to stop the run, otherwise Melvin Gordon is going to add another 200+ yards to the 2,260 yards he already has accumulated this year.  That means Buckeye corners Doran Grant and Eli Apple will have to handle the Badger WR’s one-on-one for much of the evening.

On the other side of the ball, the Bucks also face a tall challenge – the Wisconsin defense is ranked 8th in the country against the run, 2nd against the pass, and 2nd in total defense.  And the Bucks will of course have to face the Badger defense without their top 3 Heisman candidate, who is being replaced by a QB that has not started a game at the college level.  The Buckeye O-line is going to have to play their best game of the year and the Buckeye playmakers, Marshall, Ezekiel, D. Smith and company are going to have to dial it up.

The thought here is that Urban Meyer will have this Buckeye team ready to play and they will play with a stronger sense of urgency, realizing they have to after losing Barrett.  Meyer is 3-0 at OSU in games where the Buckeyes are underdogs….he knows how to motivate his team in these type of games.  Normally you don’t take chances with a new QB, but this staff obviously has to, with this being the Big Ten title game.

In the end, I expect the Bucks to put up a valiant effort, but to come up short.  It is just too much of a downgrade from Barrett to a QB with no starting experience, and I don’t see this Buckeye defense doing enough to stop Melvin Gordon.  Hope I am wrong.   The Call: Wisconsin 33 Ohio State 27

--Brent Baver

The Big Ten is Not Getting Better Any Time Soon
December 1, 2014 8:00 PM

There are only two coach's in Division I that have won 9 or more games each of the past 7 years.  One of them is Nick Saban, and we know he is not going anywhere.  Of course he won multiple national championships in that stretch.  The other coach is Bo Pelini, who was just fired by Nebraska.  In 7 years he has compiled a record of 66-28, including a 21-10 record against the Big Ten, but he is out of work.  Meanwhile Kevin Wilson at Indiana is 13-34 in 4 years, 5-26 in the Big Ten.  Tim Beckman at Illinois is 11-24 in three years at Illinois and 3-20 in the Big Ten.  Pat Fitzgerald is 60-52 in 9 years at Northwestern, 30-41 in the conference but is considered a savior.  Former Buckeye assistant Darrell Hazell is 4-19 in his first two years at Purdue, just 1-14 in Big Ten play.  Still my favorite is Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, the dean of Big Ten coaches.  In 16 years he is only 68-59 in the Big Ten, and is one of the top paid coaches in the country.

Until the standard is raised by the universities, until they update facilities, the Big Ten will continue to lag behind other conferences and Ohio State's reputation will be brought down at the same.

Missing Player Found In Dumpster
November 30, 2014 7:30 PM

The missing Ohio State football player who disappeared shortly after sending a text message about his concussions was found dead Sunday, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  Police tell media outlets the body of 22-year-old Kosta Karageorge was found near the campus after a search since he went missing Wednesday. The senior defensive tackle from Columbus had last been seen at his apartment when his roommates said he left to go for a walk.  University athletic officials said they were grieved to learn of Karageorge's death.

Reports have indicated the body was found within a couple hundred yards of his house.  The site was within a mile of the university's student union building and about a half block from High Street.  Karageorge's parents filed a missing-person report Wednesday evening, and his mother, Susan Karageorge, told police he has had several concussions and a few spells of being extremely confused, according to the report. She said Wednesday he texted a message that cited the concussions and said, "I am sorry if I am an embarrassment."

A former Buckeyes wrestler, he joined the football team as a walk-on this season. He has played in one game and was among the seniors slated to be recognized at the final home game Saturday against rival Michigan.  Defensive lineman Michael Bennett said afterward that Karageorge missed practices and that teammates started getting nervous Thursday.  The player's sister, Sophia Karageorge, told The Columbus Dispatch that he was upset, and roommates said he went for a walk, dressed in black from his hat to his boots.  She said he was without his wallet and his motorcycle.

Game 12: Ohio State 42   Michigan 28
November 29, 2014 4:00 PM

Ohio State continues their recent dominance in the rivalry and defeats Michigan 42-28.

Baver's Buckeye Bag
November 26, 2014 5:00 PM

The Indiana debacle, Michigan week, other misc thoughts… 

  • I guess we have to start with the rush defense.  It’s an embarrassment, and the thought of facing Melvin Gordon in a week and a half is frightening. (More on that in a second.)  Bad angles, bad reads…just plain bad execution.  Not sure what the answer is, but the entire linebacking crew, along with Tyvis Powell, are just not getting it done.  Thankfully, they are finally facing a team this week that doesn’t have an elite tailback.

  • As a Buckeye fan, do you still want to see Wisconsin in the B1G title game?  I would think you do, but from a matchup perspective?  Certainly I’d rather take my chances with David Cobb and Minnesota again than have to face Gordon and Wisconsin.  A win over the Badgers would look more impressive to the Committee but a potential matchup with the Badgers is looking much more troublesome than it did two weeks ago.

  • The Indiana game surprised me more than any game all season.  It shouldn’t have mattered that the Bucks had trouble getting up for this one.  They should have hammered the Hooisers, and the game should have never been in doubt.  Trailing an Indiana team in the 3rd quarter that is 0-6 in Big Ten play?  Really?  As unpredictable that college football is, I never saw that coming.  That game by itself shouldn’t affect Ohio State’s final position in the Committee ranking, but it’s still hard to swallow.

  • It’s Michigan week, and that’s still special….but does it seem like Michigan week?  This is a bad Michigan football team.  Can they get up and win one for a coach that is likely on his way out?  Certainly possible.  The “Springs slip” in 1996, when the Bucks lost as 17-point favorites, blowing their undefeated season, is still fresh in my mind…..18 years later.  Man, that was painful.  And if the Bucks play like they did against Indiana, this game will be closer than it should be.  More on the matchup below.

  • Glad to see The Game again being a noon kick.  The day that they move it to an 8 pm kick, I will want to cry.  The Game was made to be played on a Saturday afternoon – period.  Absolutely have to keep this game as the last game on the schedule with an afternoon kickoff time.

  • Nice to see Jalin Marshall respond like he did after the tough one in Minneapolis and the Twitter onslaught afterwards.  Marshall is electric and will be needed against Michigan.  Urban Meyer talked about Marshall having some “wear and tear” and him possibly being limited some against Michigan.  This is concerning with no other healthy H-back available.

  • Noah Spence permanently ineligible now?  Not often you hear the word “permanently” in sports.  Best of luck to Noah Spence, and if he still has drug problems, let’s hope he overcomes them.

The Game – the matchup

The Michigan offense is atrocious….no easier way to say it.  111th nationally in scoring offense, 114th in total offense, #113 is passing offense, and #61 in rushing offense.  Brady Hoke’s recruiting hasn’t been great, but it’s been good enough that their offense shouldn’t be this bad.  And this after adding former Alabama OC Doug Nussmeier in the offseason to help cure their offensive woes.

The Wolverines are not clicking on the ground or through the air.  Devin Gardner is wrapping up a disappointing career; he’s now thrown 14 picks, with only 8 TD’s this season.  They lost their #1 TB Derrick Green to a broken clavicle in early October and have lately been going with the sophomore combo of Drake Johnson and De’Veon Smith.  Green has been ruled out against Ohio State.

Michigan has been much better on the other side of the ball, ranking 9th in the country in total defense and 21st in scoring defense.  If they can get some confidence early, they may be able to get the Buckeye offense in a rut, much like Penn State did.  As mentioned above, if Jalin Marshall isn’t close to full go, this could be a major issue for Ohio State against this Michigan defense, with Dontre Wilson out until the bowl game(s).

Last chance for Brady Hoke to beat Urban Meyer?  One would think so, at least while Hoke is UM’s head coach.  Last year’s Michigan team was sky high for Ohio State, but I don’t expect their emotion to be the same Saturday.  I think this Michigan team is more than demoralized.  They do have more talent than their 5-6 record might tell you, so letting UM hang around might be ill advised.  But if the Buckeyes can get Michigan down 2+ scores early, the rout should be on.   *The Call:* *Ohio State 38 Michigan 13*

--Brent Baver

Baver's Buckeye Bag
November 19, 2014 1:00 PM

Gopher game thoughts, moving forward, and misc…

  • Fans need to get lay off Jalin Marshall.  The kid made some mistakes, but it’s NOT time to sh*tcan him as the punt return and the idiots that degraded him on Twitter are just that - idiots.  Absolutely embarrassing (….the Twitter idiots, not Marshall).  Marshall will bounce back and his future at Ohio State looks as bright as ever.

  • The Minny game wasn’t too surprising.  I guess the only thing that surprised me was the Buckeye rush defense.  David Cobb is a very good back, but 145 yards & 3 TD’s at 5.4 yards a pop?  Shouldn’t have happened.  The Buckeyes defense is going to have to play better or they will not beat a playoff team, should they get there.  But the 7-point margin of victory?  Not the end of the world.  The Bucks beat the Gophers more soundly than the score indicated, and the weather conditions certainly did not favor Ohio State.

  • Joey Bosa.  What can you say that hasn’t been said already?  How many plays did Bosa disrupt that you didn’t even see in the stats?  

  • Is there anything not to love about JT Barrett

  • Things could obviously change (as stranger things have happened) but it’s looking like the Bucks and Badgers in the B1G title game.  My biggest fear is a worn down OSU defensive line having to face Melvin Gordon and Wisconsin’s O-line.  That will be the Bucks 8th straight game since their last bye week, and it’s been the starting four D-linemen going most of the way every game.  I am not sure why the backup DT’s have not emerged to contribute more.  The lack of depth at DE has been well documented, though.  The Bucks have played against two very good TB’s the last two weeks that combined for 282 yards, averaging 6.3 yards per carry between them.  And Wisconsin’s power running game is an upgrade over the last two rushing attacks the Bucks have faced. 

  • If Ohio State beats a 10-2 Badger team to go 12-1, that will carry some weight with the playoff committee.  Wisconsin has pulled things together nicely and a victory by the Bucks over the Badgers would look far better than TCU’s (likely) victory over Iowa State that same day.  And TCU’s game at Texas will not be easy.  With the Bucks passing Baylor in this week’s committee poll, it tells me that a 13-1 Buckeye team will not have to worry about Baylor being ahead of them.  Of course there are many other games that factor in as well, so things could play out many different ways.  But it looks like the Bucks are in the playoff “if” they win out.  

  • THE Game is a week and a half away.  Am I overlooking Indiana?  Yes, and rightfully so.  As far as THE Game, we’ve seen the Buckeyes lose as a 17-point favorite, and the spread should be around 17 for this one.  One last chance for Brady Hoke.  Last year, Michigan took a lot out of Ohio State prior to the Big Ten title game, and you can argue that UM should have won the game.  Probably won’t be the same story this year, but as I said above, stranger things have certainly happened.  

Hoosier Daddy – The Michigan tune-up

How did Indiana beat Missouri at Missouri?  Not that the Tigers are all that, but this is a very bad Indiana football team.  Purdue, power ranking wise, is probably a touchdown better than Indiana.  That should tell you most of what you need to know about Indiana.  What looked like a program on the rise under Kevin Wilson looks worse than bad right now.  They are winless in the Big Ten (0-6) losing by an average of 23 points per game.

The one bright spot for the Hoosiers has been tailback Tevin Coleman, who has rushed for 1,678 yards & 12 TD’s, while averaging 7.8 yards per carry.  Hard to reconcile how good Coleman has been with how bad Indiana has been overall.  As far as the top B1G defenses Coleman has faced, he was held to 71 yards and 3.5 ypc against Penn State, but ran for 132 yards and 8.8 ypc against Michigan State.  The Buckeye defense has done a poor job at stopping the run lately and containing Coleman looks like one the only individual challenges Ohio State will have to face Saturday.

The look-ahead to Michigan - is it a problem?  If the Bucks were facing a team like (say) Iowa, it would be a concern, but not against Indiana.  Bucks roll (and cover) Saturday.  The Call: Ohio State 49 Indiana 10

--Brent Baver

Reminder: Ohio State-Michigan Charity Dinner
November 17, 2014 5:00 PM

It's not too late to plan to celebrate the history and excitement of Ohio State-Michigan football rivalry with the Central Ohio Diabetes Association!  I have attended this dinner every year since it started in 2003 and it is a great time ever year.  -- Gregg

On Tuesday, November 25, 2014 the Giant Eagle Celebrities for Diabetes event will take place in the Archie Griffin Ballroom at the Ohio Union on OSU's campus.  The evening will include dinner, live and silent auctions, and the main program featuring a panel discussion about the game and rivalry with former players and coaches from Ohio State University and the University of Michigan.    We can share that this year we have confirmed for OSU--Champ Henson  72-74 (Vikings, Bengals);  Matt Finkes 93-96 (Panthers, Jets, Redskins, Jaguars) and Roy Hall 02-06 (Colts, Omaha Nighthawks).  For Michigan we have Glen Steele 94-97 (Bengals), Jamie Morris 84-87 (Redskins, Patriots) and Coach Erik "Soup" Campbell 84-87 player; 1995-2007 Asst. Coach.   In addition to the great speakers we have a silent and live auction including a wonderful ESPN Game Day package!
Giant Eagle Celebrities for Diabetes 2014 tickets are on sale now at: www.celebritiesfordiabetes.org Regular Ticket  $100 per person; VIP Ticket $175 per person; Tables (all VIP) $1750                                                                     

Game 10: Ohio State 31   Minnesota 24
November 15, 2014 4:00 PM

The temperature at the start of the game was a frigid 14 degrees but the OSU offense was hot.

On the second series for Ohio State, they opened up the scoring with an 86 yard touchdown run by JT Barrett.  The jaunt was the longest scoring run in OSU history for a quarterback.  By the end of the day, he would have two more records with his name on it.  He also had the most rushing yards in a game by a QB at 189 and the most TD's in a season, now at 38  For the rest of the year he will be adding to that one.

The game would probably not have been as close as it was except for  a number of turnovers by the Buckeyes kept Minnesota in the game. Jalin Marshall had 107 total yards for the Buckeyes (9-1, 6-0 Big Ten), but he lost two fumbles to give the Gophers (7-3, 4-2) a chance to come back.  By securing the victory, that makes 37 wins for Ohio State over Minnesota in the last 39 games, dating back to 1966.

Baver's Buckeye Bag
November 12, 2014 12:00 PM

Thoughts on the Sparty win and going forward

  • Urban Meyer teams continue to be deadly as underdogs, with the Buckeyes soundly beating Michigan State in East Lansing, at night.  The Buckeye offense now has to be considered the real deal, and will be very tough for anyone to stop from here on out…even a playoff team, should the Buckeyes get there.  The defense on the other hand certainly did not play their best game and will likely face an offense better than Michigan State’s if they make the playoff.  Regardless, that was a GREAT win.

  • Was Michigan State really that good?  Maybe, maybe not.  I give a ton of credit to the Buckeye offense, but I think it’s now obvious that the Sparty defense is not on par with what they had a year ago.  Again….regardless…..a GREAT win for the Bucks.

  • Hats off to left guard Billy Price, who got beaten early, but went on to have his best game as a Buckeye.  The Buckeye interior O-line trio of Price, Boren and Elflein took care of business in East Lansing.

  • Two guys that are really helping this Buckeye offense reach the next level: veteran WR’s Devin Smith and Evan Spencer.  Smith has come alive, and if the kid comes to play, there aren’t many corners in the Big Ten that can cover him.  And Evan Spencer does everything that doesn’t show up in the box scores.  A tip of the hat to these two seniors. 

  • Dontre Wilson continues to be up and down, but I hate to lose him with the foot injury.  Although, Meyer says Dontre Wilson will be out “a few weeks”.  Only out a few weeks with a broken foot?  That would seem to be a quick return.

  • It appeared to be a big downgrade at the field corner spot with Gareon Conley subbing for Eli Apple the first two drives against MSU, as Apple dealt with a hamstring injury.  Conley got beat early and that may have been a different game had Apple not spelled him on Michigan State’s third drive.  Apple didn’t practice all week because of the injury, so that was a gutsy performance out of Eli.

  • Michael Bennett is a beast – period.

  • Some strange happenings with nickel back Armani Reeves?  The Buckeye coaches continue to say they “can’t” comment on Reeves’ status.  I won’t speculate as to what is going on with Reeves and just say that I think the Bucks could have used him Saturday in East Lansing.  

  • Based on the updated odds to win the National Championship, the chances of Ohio State making the playoff still appear to be excellent “if” they win their next 3 games “and” the B10 title game.  Four more wins should bounce the Buckeyes up from #8 in the current playoff committee poll to top 4.  Ohio State is the third overall favorite to win the National Championship game at sportsbook.com with 6.5-1 odds, trailing Alabama (3.5 to 1) and Oregon (4 to 1).  OSU is the 6th favorite at the 5 Dimes sportsbook, with 8 to 1 odds, behind Alabama (4.5 to 1), Oregon (5 to 1), and the trio of TCU, Miss St, and Fla State, each of which is catching 7.5 to 1. 

The trip to Minny and possible winter wonderland

As of early Wednesday morning, the weather forecast for the Minnesota game was a high of 29 degrees with a 40% chance of snow.  This worries me.  And it’s obviously a bad spot for Ohio State after such a big win against Sparty.  So, you have the bad spot, the act of facing a tough defense on the road, and the uncertainty that comes with snow and cold weather.  

As for the matchup….  Minnesota’s offense is a big downgrade from Michigan State’s, with the Gophers ranking 96th in the country in total offense, despite playing a weak schedule.  I am not sure if they did it with mirrors last week, putting up a 51-spot on Iowa, but I don’t expect much from the Gopher offense this week.

There is more of a concern on the other side of the ball, as the Gopher defense has been stubborn all year.  They rank 21st nationally in total defense and are fairly strong against both the run and the pass.  TCU has one of the best offenses in the country, averaging 47.2 pts per game, but scored only 30 on the Gophers in decent weather (in Fort Worth) in mid-September.

If the weather ends up being “not so bad”, I like the Buckeyes here, regardless of the spot (on the schedule).  I may change the score prediction later in the week, based on an updated weather forecast, but I almost certainly will still like the Buckeyes to cover the spread (currently OSU by 12, as of Wednesday morning) regardless of how much the line moves.  The Call: Ohio State 28 Minnesota 10.

--Brent Baver

GameDay Sign
November 7, 2014 10:00 PM

Josh and I are here north of the border, ready to support our Buckeyes against the Michigan State.  GameDay is here also and Josh has created a sign we will proudly display for all of college nation to see, particularly those parts of the country that don't have too much positive to say about the Big Ten.  Be sure to watch for the sign during the GameDay broadcast.  Go Bucks!  - Gregg

Brent Baver Bag
November 5, 2014 9:00 AM

A few thoughts before diving into Sparty week:

  • Nice to see Devin Smith reappear this past weekend.  Smith has had some shining moments as a Buckeye, but has also had multiple game spans where he has contributed little.  An energized Devin Smith could pay huge dividends for the Bucks this Saturday night.

  • Another nice thing to see this past weekend was JT Barrett looking smooth running the football.  But I would have much rather seen Barrett not run the ball at all.  At least Meyer did get him out of the game at halftime.  I probably would have had a heart attack had Barrett re-injured his sprained knee.

  • Huge get this week, with the verbal commitment from QB/ATH Torrance Gibson from Ft. Lauderdale.  The Bucks will first give Gibson a look at QB, but in the end, I tend to think Gibson ends up at WR or another position.  His athletic skills are up there with just about any Buckeye recruit in recent memory.

  • The Buckeyes thrash inferior football teams - period.  Just not sure that tells you much in terms of how this team is going to play against a legitimate opponent.  The battle in East Lansing Saturday night is certainly going to be interesting.

  • What was up at tailback against the Illini?  Did Meyer really start Curtis Samuel ahead of Ezekiel Elliott because of Samuel’s strong week of practice?  Don't know; it just seemed a little odd.  The good news is Samuel and Zeke both look good right now, and the future looks bright at tailback for Ohio State.

  • The Bucks are getting solid play out of the OLB spots right now, but the play at the Mike still should be better than it has been.  Fans continue to drool over Raekwon McMillilan, but he just isn’t there yet.  Meyer praised Curtis Grant’s play against Illinois, but overall, Grant is nowhere near as improved as the coaches told us he was in August.  This is bit concerning heading into the biggest game of the season.

Sparty Week – This is it

This is it; make no mistake where you are
This is it; your back's to the corner
This is it; don't be a fool anymore
This is it; the waiting is over

--Kenny Loggins

How big is the game, Saturday?  Doesn’t get much bigger.  If the Bucks win at Sparty, they probably jump five or more spots in the playoff committee poll and give Urban Meyer his first career win over a big time opponent as Buckeye head coach.  And the Buckeyes will likely control their own destiny in terms of the playoff picture.  But lose to Michigan State, and I think even the biggest Buckeye homers will be forced to call a spade a spade  .…  in that Meyer will still not have a so-called signature win over a top notch opponent since he took over in 2012.  

Sparty compared to OSU’s first 8 opponents?  Little comparison.  MSU is 5th nationally in scoring offense, while their defense is very strong against the run (6th nationally) and against the pass (8th nationally in pass D efficiency). Sparty QB Connor Cook is 2nd in the Big Ten in passing efficiency, behind only JT Barrett.  WR Tony Lippett has been lighting it up, with just shy of 900 yards receiving and 10 total TD’s.  The Spartan defense is tops in the B10 in team sacks, while their offense has given up the fewest sacks in the league.  To say this is an upgrade in competition for the Bucks is the understatement of the year.  

It’s rare that you see this from one of OSU’s Big Ten opponents any more, but on paper, this Spartan team is simply looks better than Ohio State.  The last time a good coaching staff had an extra week to prepare for Ohio State, James Franklin and his Penn State defense derailed the Buckeye offense.  And this MSU defense is worlds better than PSU’s.   

The bright side?  You know Meyer is playing the “no respect” card all week with his players, while ESPN, and most of the other talking heads outside of Ohio, are giving Ohio State little shot in this one.  On the opposing side, I am guessing just about every player on the Spartan roster thinks MSU takes Ohio State to the wood shed.  Not the mindset I would really want right now from my players if I am Mark Dantonio; Ohio State simply has too much talent to underestimate.  And underestimating Urban Meyer usually isn't a bright move either.

Neither the O-line, nor Barrett have performed well against either of the two solid defenses (Va Tech & Penn State) that Ohio State has faced.  If they get similar performances out of the OL & Barrett, Michigan State will beat Ohio State by double digits.  On the other side of the ball, the Buckeye defense is much improved from early September.  The Buckeye D will have to bring it Saturday night, and may need a defensive score, or the Bucks will likely have a tough time winning this game.  Certainly hope I am wrong here, but….  The call: Michigan State 31 Ohio State 24.

Game 8: Ohio State 55   Illinois 14
November 1, 2014 11:45 PM

In spite of the starters only playing half a game, the Buckeyes had not problem dispatching the Fighting Illini.  

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If the SI Jinx is in place then, OSU could be in trouble.  After just one start, OSU top quarterback Cardale Jones finds himself on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated.  This is part of a series of four regional covers showcasing the teams in the college football playoff. 

Jones threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns in a 59-0 win over Wisconsin, will now have to face #1 Alabama on New Year’s Day in the Sugar Bowl.   This is the fourth time these two traditional powers have squared off.  All three of the earlier meetings were won by the Tide.

At least Cardale got his name on the cover.  Florida State's controversial quarterback is pictured but his name is not used.  It is the only cover of the four that does not feature player by name.

12-29-14 Sports Illustrated - Cardale Jones