COLUMBUS, Ohio — Two games into the 2019 season, many of the questions and concerns regarding Ohio State football have been resolved. Defensive improvements and the offense’s ability to control games proved their worth with a dominant 42-0 victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Buckeyes controlled all three facets of the game and showed significant improvement from week one.
One question raised after game one was the offensive line. While it showed glimmers of brilliance, it was mixed with inexperience. Any of these concerns were quickly discarded as the Buckeyes' offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage. Behind the offensive line, the Ohio State offense had a prolific day on the ground with Dobbins rushing for 141 yards on 17 carries (an average of 8.3 yards) and two touchdowns. Justin Fields also put up two rushing touchdowns and 42 yards while Master Teague ran for 60 yards. All game it seemed the offensive line continued to open huge holes for the offense, including on Dobbins’ 60-yard touchdown run. If the offensive line plays like they did on Saturday, the Buckeyes should have few worries for the offense.
The offense seemed to flow better and controlled the game throughout. The Buckeyes ran efficiently, averaging 7.35 yards per play. Ohio State also was able to convert 31 first downs and were 7-of-11 on third down. While the offense ran efficiently, it was also balanced. It totaled 238 pass yards and 270 rush yards for a sum of 508 yards. When an offense features a dominant offensive line along with this kind of efficiency and balance it is difficult to stop. In order for Ohio State to continue their hot start deeper into the season, offensive play like on Saturday is a must.
With Indiana and the start of Big Ten play coming this week, Ohio State's offense must be ready to go. Based on the performances Indiana has had against Ohio State as of late we know they will be ready. The Hoosiers can score points, so the Buckeyes must be ready to go stride for stride. The key factor will not only be dominance by the Ohio State offensive line, but the play of one specific player — Justin Fields. This will be the first road start of his collegiate career and I expect Fields to continue the roll he’s been on. So far, his stats have spoken for themselves. 458 passing yards, 76% completion percentage, 6 passing touchdowns, zero interceptions and three rushing touchdowns. I expect more of the same against Indiana.
Another key will be Ohio State’s discipline. Ohio State had only two penalties for 25 yards versus Cincinnati. As long as the line plays well, Fields continues to put up stats and the offense plays disciplined, I expect Ohio State to make it past Indiana.
While the offense excelled on Saturday against the Bearcats, the biggest question mark coming into the season was the Ohio State defense. Led by the defensive line, Ohio State posted their first shutout since the 2017 season. They gave up just 273 yards; 166 pass yards and 107 rush yards. The defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, racking up a blocked field goal, seven tackles for loss and five sacks. Chase Young was dominant and finished with three tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1.5 tackles for loss and a blocked field goal. Damon Arnette led the team in tackles with six. One of the defense’s biggest criticisms from last season was the lack of forced turnovers. This week seemed to curb that discussion at least slightly, when the Buckeyes forced two red zone turnovers.
The defense has shown considerable growth and improvement from last year, both statistically and fundamentally. Last season, Ohio State was one of the most penalized teams in the nation. The secondary committed no pass interference or holding penalties against Cincinnati.
Another show of growth in the Ohio State defense has been the overall defensive technique. It seems that through the first two games of the season, there have been more defenders getting to the ball quicker. Team tackling has greatly improved, especially among the linebackers. It also seems that the secondary has been coming up and making more plays on the line of scrimmage, especially Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette.
A team who gets pressure on the quarterback, make tackles for loss, are solid at wrapping up and cover well are difficult to beat. I expect the Ohio State’s defense to continue to grow, improve and become one of those difficult teams to beat.
With Indiana on Saturday, the Ohio State defense will have their toughest test yet. The Hoosiers come into the game with a talented young quarterback that Ohio State has yet to play against, Michael Penix Jr. Penix has a host of talented and experienced receivers to sling the ball to and has recorded a total of 523 pass yards on the season. He also has the ability to run the football, though he is much more dangerous with the pass. Ohio State over the last few years has struggled with dual-threat quarterbacks.
The defensive line must be able to get pressure on Penix while containing to ensure he can’t scramble or run.
The experienced receiving core for Indiana will be a good test for the secondary. They must be able to allow the defensive line to apply pressure to Penix and make plays.
Regardless of how tough the Hoosiers have been the last few seasons for Ohio State, if the offense moves the ball, the defensive line gets pressure on Penix, and the secondary plays well, Ohio State should have few problems. Indiana scores some points and moves the ball, but in the end the Ohio State offense is just too much. I pick Ohio State as a winner, 42-21 on the road.