No. 2 Ohio State did not look great in its season-opener against Indiana – at least not in the first half. The Buckeyes trailed 14-13 midway through the third quarter, as Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow had his way with the Ohio State defense.
Granted, Ohio State’s offense erupted for five second-half touchdowns, but shouldn’t the defense be a concern for Buckeyes fans, especially heading into this Saturday’s showdown with Baker Mayfield and No. 5 Oklahoma (1-0)?
“I don’t think so,” CBS college football analyst Rick Neuheisel said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “Watching that game, it was curious to me that Greg Schiano really called one defense. They were in a pressure front – gang up the box – and they played what we call man-free defense. They just played man – all first half – without exception. It was every down, and it was what we call ‘press man,’ where the corners were up there in the faces of the Indiana wide receivers.”
That didn’t exactly work against 6-4 wideout Simmie Cobbs Jr., who had 11 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown.
“What they didn’t realize (is that) Simmie Cobbs was back,” Neuheisel said. “He had missed last year, and that one-on-one is like period 6 in practice. Lagow would go back and rip (it), so they were able to have their way with Ohio State in the first half because it was one look. . . . Greg Schiano and Urban Meyer believed that, ‘Hey, we can play one defense. We don’t have to show Baker Mayfield anything of what we’re going to do, and we can win this game because we’ve beaten Indiana 23 times in a row’ or whatever the number is. And they found out they couldn’t do it. They had to change up. And once they did and confused Lagow a little in the second half, all of a sudden that pass rush – which are like waves on the beach because they’re so deep in the defensive front at Ohio State – started getting after Lagow and the game totally turned.”
Ohio State’s offense had something to do with that, too. Bottled up for much of the first half, J.T. Barrett threw touchdown passes of 74, 59, and 11 yards to Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon, and Binjimen Victor, respectively. Barrett finished 20-of-35 for 304 yards and three touchdowns and ran 13 times for 61 yards and a score.
It was Barrett’s first 300-yard game since a 77-10 win over Bowling Green in last year’s season-opener.
“Ohio State, from a protection standpoint, was much better,” Neuheisel said. “J.T. Barrett was sacked a ton of times last year, and it’s why their offense, especially in the passing game, went way down – to the point that they got shut out by Clemson. They were much better protecting the passer in the second half. J.T. Barrett was able to sit in a clean pocket and find some big-time guys like Parris Campebell. And for that reason, I believe Ohio State is ready to do battle against Oklahoma – and Oklahoma, if there’s a kryptonite for Baker Mayfield, it’s getting harassed in that pocket. The way I saw that defensive front and the amount of guys – the Tyquan Lewises and the Nick Bosas and the Sam Hubbards coming after them – I think that this sets up for Ohio State in the Horseshoe.”
Ohio State and Oklahoma kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Buckeyes beat Oklahoma, 45-24, in Norman last September.