The year is 2014, it was the inaugural season of the College Football Playoffs. The 2014 season saw the Ohio State Buckeyes rebound from their 12-2 season the year before, but it wasn’t great to start the year. They won the first game, but would lose the second game against Virginia Tech. They went on to win out the rest of the season, but that one loss was still there and looming when the final playoff selection day came around. In the end they got in at the fourth spot, they were given a chance, and they made the most of it by winning it all.
This 2022 Buckeyes team is very similar. They came into this season after losing two games in 2021, and looked strong throughout the entire 2022 season. Yet, their playoff hopes took a turn after losing to Michigan in the final week of the season. That one loss would drop them to fifth in the rankings. Then, the second chance for the Buckeyes came on Friday, December 2 as fourth ranked USC would lose in the Pac-12 Championship Game to Utah. This loss would be their second of the year, opening the door for Ohio State to take that fourth spot in the final rankings. The Buckeyes now have a second chance after being counted out, much like the 2014 team. Their first task with this is to take on first ranked Georgia, and there are a few things they must do to win not only this game, but the National Championship.
The stakes are higher in these playoff games, and it is not the time to get conservative. That is what happened in the big game against Michigan, and it resulted in a loss. The Buckeyes were close to or in the Wolverines’ territory in fourth down situations and instead of Ryan Day taking a chance for his offense to convert, he punted. Michigan, on the other hand, took the chances on fourth down, and it paid off for them in the end with a victory. These are high stakes games where you are going to need to make the most of any opportunities you get, if you are in opponent territory you need to give your offense led by C.J. Stroud the chance.
No More Screens
Day comes up with plenty of creative offensive schemes that can throw defenses off and you have Stroud who can stretch the field. It led to their undefeated season until Michigan. For some reason, the play calling got extremely conservative against Michigan as Day called more screens than anything else, those screens didn’t work. It starts with them not being able to properly block on the outside for the screens to be executed right. With the screens not working, it leads to them falling behind the sticks and having even more yards to make up. Over the season, Stroud averaged 9.4 yards per attempt and had a 54.4% completion percentage on passes of 15 yards or more. That pressure Stroud can put on defenses vertically is what makes this offense successful. The Georgia defense has been dominant, but if there is one thing they have been susceptible to, it is long passes downfield. They are allowing 215.1 pass yards per game for a total of 2,796 pass yards on the season. The Bulldogs are coming off a game in which they allowed LSU to put together 549 yards of offense, 502 were through the air. So, Ohio State, get back to your roots and open the offense up downfield, don’t try to change your identity.
Be Physical Upfront The Entire Game
The run defense was doing a good job in the first half, holding the Michigan ground game to 10 yards. That changed quickly as the Wolverines ended up finishing with 252 rush yards, with Donovan Edwards leading the way. Edwards finished with 216 yards, helped by two of his runs going for a total of 160 yards to close out the game. The Buckeyes have the talent on the defensive line with Tommy Eichenberg, Steele Chambers, J.T. Tuimoloau, Zach Harrison, and Jack Sawyer. They just need to keep the same physical nature until the final whistle. Georgia averages 207 rush yards per game with their running back trio of Kenny McIntosh, Daijun Edwards, and Kendall Milton. After Georgia there is also TCU with Kendre Miller or Michigan again. These are all physical running teams that the Ohio State defense will have to slow down.
Ohio State has the talent, it’s why they finished the season 11-1. They have a real chance at winning the championship, but they need to play their game their way and make teams adjust to them. It all just comes down to now learning from the Michigan game and making the most of this second chance.