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5 Keys to Ohio State Buckeyes victory in 2017 Big Ten championship game

OSU looks to ruin badgers perfect season. We’ve got the keys to do just that.

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The last time Ohio State saw the ‘motion w’ staring across the field at them in the Big Ten championship game, the result was complete Buckeyes domination en route to a national championship.

The two titans of the Big Ten meet on Saturday for just the second time in the B1G title game, only it is the Badgers with a sure-fire College Football Playoff spot on the line.

Ohio State comes in with two losses, but plenty left to still play for at No. 8 in the country. There’s an outside chance of a playoff spot and certainly a New Years Six bowl game to be played for.

But, none of that happens without a win and how do the Buckeyes get there? Let’s take a look at some of the big keys for the Buckeyes to win.

Get Off to a Fast Start

How do you beat a team that excels in the second half? Crush their dreams early. I know, simple, right?

Sometimes the most obvious answer is also the right answer. In the case of the Buckeyes beating the Badgers, the obvious answer is to get out to a fast start. It’s what OSU does best and takes advantage of a Badgers team that doesn’t score points early and often.

Forcing the Badgers to play from behind by building up a couple score lead in the first quarter would be huge. Now, a 10-point lead or less doesn’t work. Wisconsin has trailed like that in the first half plenty and it mattered none in the end as the Badgers just plugged away and blew away teams in the second half.

Ohio State has to jump on the Badgers with a 14-17 point lead and get them out of the ability to just ball control you to death. Luckily, that is exactly what Ohio State has been good at all season. OSU has scored 24.5 percent of its points in the first quarter this season.

The caveat to all this is that the Badgers defense has been lights out in the first quarter, allowing only 40 points (at least 14 of which came off of pick sixes) to opponents all season.

If the Buckeyes can score points early, it likely means the Badgers recipe for success on both sides of the ball is blown up and that is very much advantage Ohio State.

Make Alex Hornibrook Beat You

Another simple to say, hard to do situation here. Not because Hornibrook is an All-World quarterback, but because many a good defense has tried to take on the Badgers run game and all have really failed to do so. Only three times this season have the Badgers been held under the 200-yard mark as a team on the ground.

So, can the Buckeyes defense do it? If they want to win, they don’t have a choice. Picking between Jonathan Taylor or Alex Hornibrook to beat you should be an easy choice, because Taylor has been the best running back in the Big Ten and one of the best in the nation this season, while Hornibrook has been an average or below average quarterback most of the year.

Ironically, one of those games was against Michigan, and in that game it was Hornibrook who helped get Wisconsin over the finish line. But, the devil is in the details as Hornibrook’s raw numbers suggest the formula that should work. He finished the game just 9 of 19 for 143 yards and just one touchdown to one interception.

Ohio State would love to limit Hornibrook to a single touchdown throw and only nine completions. The problem for Michigan in that game is that a lot of his work came when the Badgers needed to move the chains or score points.

The key here is to keep the run game in check, force third down and try to get some pressure on a quarterback who folds like a cheap suit when under said pressure. When you’re making Hornibrook beat you and not the run game, you’re doing it right.

Out-Adjust the Badgers at Halftime

One of the most fascinating and least talked about aspects of this game seems to be the coaching matchup. It’s likely because Ohio State’s Urban Meyer loves a bit of the spotlight and Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst isn’t a media darling. But, as far as head coaches go in the Big Ten, you’d be hard-pressed to find two more successful in-game coaches than these two.

All you need to do is look at how the Badgers go in to halftime and dominate opponents out of the break. That isn’t an accident, as Chryst and his coaching staff are masters at making the adjustments needed (however slight) and getting the players to execute well in the second half. UW is outscoring opponents 226 to 58 on the season.

Ohio State isn’t a slouch in that category either though, as the Buckeyes come in to this one scoring a whopping 216 points of their own in the second half of games this season. The only difference comes in Wisconsin’s defense totally dominating the second half on the scoreboard.

Those numbers are a testament to coaches making good moves at the half and putting players in the right spots to be successful. Which coach has the right adjustments and motivations at the half? The answer likely determines the winner on Saturday night.

Winning the Edge on Defense

Wisconsin has perhaps the best left-right tackle tandem in the country in 1st team all-B1G left tackle Michael Dieter and 2nd team selection David Edwards. Ohio State has three of the best defensive ends in the Big Ten though.

Something has to give.

As we’ve talked about already, fast starts and making Hornibrook beat you are keys to Ohio State’s success. Accomplishing those goals means winning the one-on-one battles at the edge of course.

It means setting the edge in the run game so that Taylor doesn’t have an outlet to break away from runs that were supposed to be going inside. It also means getting to and rattling Hornibrook, as that seems to be when he looses confidence and makes the majority of his mistakes.

That’s an easy concept to think of, but given the Badgers offensive line just put four of five starters on the All-Big Ten team it won’t be an easy task on the field. Wisconsin gave up the fewest sacks of any team in the Big Ten this season at 17.0, while Ohio State was just fifth in the Big Ten with 34.0 sacks as a team.

Win the Battle of the Freshmen

While we talked about one of the untold stories in this game already, there’s a second one few are talking about and that is the effect of freshmen on both the Buckeyes and Badgers this season.

If it wasn’t going to be Jonathan Taylor winning all the awards this season, it likely would’ve been Ohio State’s own star freshman running back, J.K. Dobbins. Dobbins has been no slouch himself, putting up the second most yards in the conference at 1,190 and also scoring seven touchdowns.

Dobbins is the home run hitter that the Badgers really haven’t seen at running back so far this season. Can he be the one to finally crack the code of a Badgers defense that has allowed just four teams, let alone players, go for over 100 yards? Or will Taylor win the day? If Dobbins is getting noticed in a good way it bodes well.

Then there’s the other position that will be telling — wide receiver. Wisconsin is without its star sophomore, Quintez Cephus, who was lost for the season earlier in the year after posting a great start. In his place has stepped a pair of freshmen in Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor. Can the Buckeyes shut those guys down, especially on big downs where both have shined late in the season?

Davis and Pryor have combined for just 28 receptions so far this season, but Davis has had 11 of his 18 receptions in the last four games, while Pryor has posted five of his 10 in that same time frame. Ohio State’s secondary has come on well as the season has gone on for the most part. Can they continue that trend and make Wisconsin’s freshmen look like freshmen?

If Dobbins can win vs. Taylor and OSU’s secondary shut down UW’s freshmen wide receivers it would be huge on Saturday night.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

Buckeyes Football

Talking10 Podcast Episode 100: Something, something Urban Meyer

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Ohio State made its decision on Urban Meyer. Andy and Phil are here to break it all down for you and give you the truth in a hazy situation. What better way to celebrate episode 100 of the podcast than to spend 50 minutes breaking down a mess of a situation in Columbus, right?

We’ll talk our reactions to the press conference, break down the actual findings of OSU’s investigative report and we’ll even talk how the media-at-large and the OSU media handled the fallout from Wednesday night’s press conference.

Don’t forget you can listen to the podcast each week via Radio Public and other podcasting apps. 

Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Twitter @talkingB1G

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Buckeyes Football

Urban Meyer and OSU AD put on suspension following investigation

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The media stakeout of the Ohio State Board of Trustee’s meeting can now end. It only took 12 hours or so, but answers finally came. 

According to multiple reports, including from the AP, OSU head coach Urban Meyer is suspended for the first three games of the season. In addition, athletic director Gene Smith will serve the same suspension from Aug. 31 to Sept. 16 — both will not receive pay during that time frame as well. 

Both came under fire as this story unfolded. It began just prior to the Big Ten media days in late July, the story that Zach Smith had been arrested for criminal trespassing in April of this year broke and Meyer fired Smith on Monday morning of the start of Big Ten media days.

Brett McMurphy then detailed in an exclusive report that Smith had previously been “arrested” back in 2015 for a second allegation of domestic abuse against his then-wife Courtney Smith. 

Meyer was questioned about that arrest and allegation from 2015 at media days and struck out against reporters repeated questioning. He would deny knowing of the arrest report back in 2015. 

However, further reporting by McMurphy put that denial in to further question and Ohio State decided to get to the bottom of it. 

Once Meyer was put on paid administrative leave, he would put a statement out admitting to knowing about the 2015 incident and alerting athletic administrators of the domestic abuse allegations. 

Meyer has stayed silent since that statement and awaited the outcome of the 14-day inquiry in to whom knew what and when and what action was taken. 

That investigation ended this past Sunday, with the committee verbally advising the Board of Trustees on Monday morning of its findings. Two days later, the Board of Trustees would come to meet publicly and then behind closed doors to discuss what would happen to Meyer and others involved in this situation. 

Meyer’s suspension is for the first three games, and on the field that is a big hit with three FBS games coming at the start of the season. OSU kicks off the year against Oregon State, plays a Big Ten contest against Rutgers and a massive game against TCU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. 

We will have more on this situation and the reaction to what Meyer and Smith had to say on the talking10 Podcast tomorrow. 

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Buckeyes Football

Report: OSU to suspend Urban Meyer

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The Ohio State University board of trustees have been verbally read in on the findings of a 14-day investigation in to the conduct of football head coach Urban Meyer. 

So, what will happen next? 

According to the Columbus Dispatch, it appears a suspension or even lighter punishment is coming for Meyer:

“Two sources connected to the investigation said the likely recommendation to university President Michael V. Drake is a suspension for Meyer. Drake and the board could also opt for a ‘time served’ punishment since Meyer has been removed from football activities for more than two weeks.”

Meyer has already been on suspension (or paid administrative leave) for the better part the month of August.

The meeting on Monday was able to take place because it was an “informational meeting” and no public business was conducted. However, there is a meeting scheduled for 9a.m. on Wednesday to discuss just what punishment would be recommended. 

Ultimately it will be the university president that makes the final decision, but the board of trustees will meet to send their recommendation to President Michael V. Drake, who is likely to adhere to the recommendation of the board. 

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Buckeyes Football

Ohio State wins Cotton Bowl Classic: The good, bad and what it means for 2018

Buckeyes defense dominates USC en route to Cotton Bowl Classic victory.

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Some may say that Ohio State had a real gripe about not being selected to the College Football Playoff this season. Whether the Buckeyes believed they were snubbed or not, they certainly took out any frustration on USC in the Cotton Bowl Classic.

Ohio State used a dominating night on defense and just enough offense to beat the Trojans 24-7. Four turnovers were forced by the Buckeyes defense, resulting in a pick six and a huge shift in momentum late in the game too.

The win sends quarterback J.T. Barrett out on a high note, but it wasn’t his best effort on the field. He had just 114 yards passing and no touchdowns, while also putting up a Buckeyes-best 66 yards on the ground as well.

Luckily those 66 yards were enough to find the end zone twice in the first half for OSU.

Barrett got the Buckeyes on the board on their first possession and then put the Buckeyes up 24-0 on a 28-yard run late in the second quarter. However, it appeared momentum was shifting late in the half as Ronald Jones II put the ball over the goal line with just 1:29 to play in the first half.

That was it for the scoring though and it was a massive defensive message to the critics of the Buckeyes.

It all added up to the Big Ten coming away from a loaded day of action with a 5-0 record. Not only did the Buckeyes win, but so did Northwestern to help the Big Ten continue its banner bowl game start.

The Good

J.T. Barrett Continued to be Legendary

Few players in the history of Ohio State football have had the career that quarterback J.T. Barrett has had. Yet, it feels strange to say his career has been legendary. Maybe its the fact that he missed out on a Big Ten and national championship in 2015? Maybe it’s the fact that it somehow took until his senior season to win a Big Ten title as the quarterback?

Whatever it was, Barrett’s career just seemed incomplete. But, on Friday night Barrett added to his collegiate legend, setting the Big Ten’s total yards record that was previously held by some guy named Drew Brees.

There’s little doubt that Barrett is going to be remembered in Columbus for some time. Most importantly, Barrett was able to complete a post-season with a Big Ten championship and a win in a New Year’s Six game.

Not a bad way to go out in your college career.

Defense Got Turnover Happy

Ohio State showed it had a really good defense down the stretch run of the regular season, but it seemed to finally all come together in the Cotton Bowl. The Buckeyes forced USC quarterback and talked-about No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft, Sam Darnold, to look rather average at best.

Part of Darnold’s issue came in the form of turnovers. Well, Darnold and USC in general, as the Trojans gave up the ball via turnover a whopping four times.

The last of which came as Darnold got hit from behind and let the ball fall right in to the waiting arms of an OSU defensive lineman.

It all added up to a USC offense that came in averaging 35 points per game being completely shutdown.

Let’s just say it was a great time for OSU to give its best defensive performance of the season too.

The Bad

Ohio State’s Offensive Performance

While a 24-7 scoreline would seem flattering, Ohio State’s offense really did minimal work on Friday night.

The Buckeyes amassed just 277 yards on 55 plays in the game, including just 114 yards in the passing game. Barrett getting a win in his final game was nice, but his passing game wasn’t. Barrett finished the game 11 of 17 passing for just 114 yards and no touchdowns.

Even more telling? The dynamic duo of J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber was held to just 57 yards combined.

Given the domination of the defense all of this seems to be a bit nit-picky, but it should also be worrisome because this offense was up and down all 2017.

What it Means for 2018

It’s hard to say that this one game was make or break for any Ohio State players and their NFL draft status, but that is really the key from this game. Did Sam Hubbard’s great night make his decision easier? How many other guys will take off after this game?

Ultimately that is what is going to matter most heading in to the 2018 offseason.

However, what we can take away from the Cotton Bowl is the fact that the Buckeyes need some real work on the offensive side of the ball. Some of it is just simply growing up for young players, but we also saw what we saw most of this year in the pass game for OSU — there aren’t a lot of receiving options.

That group has got to regroup in a major way or the Buckeyes won’t be going anywhere but backwards on offense in 2018.

Dwayne Haskins is a better pure passer than J.T. Barrett, but it may not matter if no one can get open. Sure, you can give credit to the Trojans secondary, but the Buckeyes receivers did nothing to help themselves either.

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