Ohio State finished 2016 11-2 with an embarrassing loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoffs. The Buckeyes biggest issue was that their offense could not get any momentum and were forced to punt seven times. Their 215 total yards and nine first downs were no match for Clemson’s 470 and 24 first downs. J.T. Barrett only completed 19 of 33 passes with two interceptions. There were issues on both sides of the field that will need to be addressed in 2017. However, with the returning talent that Ohio State has, they are still in a very good position to win the B1G. And after last season, they likely will not get as lucky to get into the College Football Playoffs without a conference championship. Here is how Ohio State can win the B1G in 2017.
How Ohio State Can Win the B1G in 2017
Improve the Passing Game
The passing game was one of the main reasons Ohio State could not keep up with teams in the later portion of the season. In the last three games, it became apparent that Ohio State’s passing game was not efficient, and they were forced to lean on Barrett’s rushing ability more. Barrett had over 200 yards passing in seven of the first 10 games but did not throw for over 127 in the last three. He was also forced to run more, rushing 24 or more times two times. He only did this three times in 2016.
Barrett will only have one of his four receivers who had over 20 receptions in 2016 returning, Marcus Baugh. One of the major reasons Ohio State could not get the ball down field was due to their lack of experience. Of his top returning targets, Baugh, K.J. Hill, Parris Campbell, and Binjimen Victor; the only player who had offensive contributions for more than one season is Baugh. Ohio State does have a history of having breakout players who shock fans however. Both Curtis Samuel and Noah Brown exceeded their expectations for 2016 and are now on their way to being drafted in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. One key receiver to watch is Victor. Victor is 6’4″ and will certainly be a redzone threat in 2017. To put him in a position to score, watch freshman Austin Mack who is full of speed. He has consistently run under 4.5 40-yard dash times and is a threat both on offense and special teams.
Kevin Wilson’s Play-Calling
In January this season, Urban Meyer hired Kevin Wilson from Indiana to take over offensive coordinator duties for Ohio State. While at Indiana, Wilson put up numbers that kept Indiana near the top of the conference on offense. He also had the worst defense in the B1G four of the six years he coached. Because he will only be focusing on offense, he should be able to excel with the talent Meyer recruits yearly.
Wilson’s style is primarily focused on the running game. His quarterbacks are not typically asked to run the ball often, and tend to throw downfield more. This is the exact style that Barrett will need in his last season to boost his draft stock. After an incredible freshman year, Barrett was forced to split time with Cardale Jones his sophomore year, and just under-performed in his junior year. This will be his last chance to prove that he is more than just a mobile player who can occasionally throw the ball. This style should also give Weber more chances to find the outside and get more yards. Wilson tends to like spreading the offense out and then running zone plays to the outside.
Give Mike Weber More Chances
In 2016, Mike Weber showed flashes that he can continue the streak of great running backs Ohio State has recently produced. Weber finished 2016 with 1,096 yards, nine touchdowns, and averaged six yards per carry. Weber proved that he can be a threat in both short and long yard situations. He had two rushed for over 45 yards and scored six of his nine rushing touchdowns within 10 yards of the endzone. However in the last three games of the season, Weber carried the ball 14, 11, and 5 times. His productivity shot down and he struggled to even move the ball at all.
Ohio State is returning four of their starting five offensive linemen which should help Weber continue his success. Weber will also not have to fight with Samuel for touches in every game. As long as Wilson does not use the old offensive game plan of giving Barrett 40+ touches per game, this should open Weber to getting more touches. Wilson has had a lot of success with running backs in the past few years. He has had at least one 1,000 yards rusher in all but three seasons since 2006. He was an offensive coordinator in Oklahoma from 2006-2010 and with Indiana from 2011-2016. Both Jordan Howard and Tevin Coleman are well on their way to becoming feature backs in the NFL. He also has worked with Adrian Peterson and DeMarco Murray who are both elite running backs in the NFL. Weber could easily find himself in a position where he can have his name added to this list of amazing talent.