September was somewhat good for Ohio State. The Buckeyes ended the month 3-1 and are heading into October with momentum following a 37-17 win over Colorado.
The problem is October will be much more challenging for the scarlet and gray.
Their schedule will test them. With home games against Michigan State and Wisconsin and road games against Nebraska and Illinois, we’ll find out how good the Buckeyes can be.
Are they ready for the challenge?
It’s still hard to know what to make of this team. Two of their wins have been against bad teams and their win over Toledo was more the Rockets undoing than the Buckeyes taking care of business. Therefore, Ohio State hasn’t wowed anyone.
Still, they have shown some encouraging signs.
For a young team it’s hard not to like their mentality. They came back and played well when the Rockets made big plays and the Buckeyes rebounded well on Saturday after a tough loss at Miami. It shows this team is resilient and can handle adversity.
In addition, it appears they have finally settled on a quarterback.
Braxton Miller is the man tasked with leading the offense. Miller will learn on the fly, which means he’s going to make mistakes, but he does make big plays and his running ability gives opposing defenses something else they must prepare for.
The Buckeyes have also found a nice one two punch in the running game.
Jordan Hall has come back from his suspension on fire. He’s made big plays on special teams and has proven to be a good go to back. Meanwhile, Carlos Hyde provides a nice balance. He’s done a great job running the ball and his power provides the Buckeyes with a nice dual threat option in the backfield.
Of course, none of this would be possible without great line play.
For three of their four games, Ohio State’s offensive line has played well. They’ve done a great job establishing push up front. If they can continue this in conference play, they’ll give the offense the opportunity to grow. If the offense takes off this could be a dangerous team.
Meanwhile, there are also areas of concern as the Buckeyes head into conference play.
When people think of the Silver Bullets, they normally think of outstanding linebackers. While their current crop isn’t horrible, they do make mistakes. They don’t seem to get back into deep coverage well. This could be a problem considering that anytime the Buckeyes face a decent quarterback with a good tight end they’re going to try to attack this weakness.
Another area of concern is the coaching staff.
Let me preface this by saying Luke Fickell has the potential to be Ohio State’s head coach for many years and to be frank I hope he receives a shot. Still, there have been some examples that make me and probably others wonder whether he’s ready.
For one, he continues to look confused when it comes to calling timeouts. He did it at the end of the Miami game and again at the end of the first half on Saturday. He’ll need to become better at managing the game, which should come with more experience.
The other troubling concern is why it took the coaching staff four weeks to determine Braxton Miller brings more to the table than Joe Bauserman does. While it would have been premature to just hand Braxton the keys at the beginning of the season they should have given him more reps (or in the case of the Toledo game any) to help prepare him for what he’s about to face. Miller only has one whole game under his belt and he’s about to play against some very good defenses. For a freshman quarterback, it isn’t an ideal position.
In the end, the Buckeyes are a young team trying to find an offensive identity. They have a freshman quarterback that possess a lot of promise and a defense that’s aggressive and gets after people. Their head coach is young and inexperienced, but has the potential to be the next great coach. When you add all of these factors up it’s easy to see this is a team big on promise but also big on uncertainty.
Now sprinkle in an October slate where they will face four ranked teams, two possibly in the top ten and it’s easy to see this month could be challenging for the young group. Can they rise to the challenge? Certainly, but from what we’ve seen so far, it could go either way.
Feel free to contact Sean with any questions or comments.