Curtis Samuel

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No. 2 Ohio State survives scare from Michigan State, stays in line for Playoff

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No. 2 Ohio State (10-1, 7-1 Big Ten) did just enough to get out of their final road game of the season with a 17-16 win. Michigan State (3-8, 1-7 Big Ten) has been going through a frustrating season but gave Ohio State one of their best efforts of the year in their final home game. Despite riding LJ Scott as much as they could, a failed two-point conversion in the fourth quarter allowed Ohio State to get out of Spartan Stadium with a key win to keep their playoff hopes alive with one regular season to go.

Ohio State quarterback JT Barrett rushed for 105 yards and Mike Weber rushed for 111 yards and a score. Running was the key to the game for both teams, as Barrett completed fewer than half of his 22 pass attempts (although one was for a touchdown to Curtis Samuel) and Michigan State’s Tyler O’Connor completed fewer than half of his passes. Spartans running back Scott rushed for 160 yards and a touchdown. Defenses were on point though for both teams, but the Buckeyes won the turnover battle with a late interception on Michigan State’s final offensive possession of the game.

Michigan State scored a late touchdown in the fourth quarter with fewer than five minutes to play, cutting the Buckeye lead to 17-16. Rather than kick the extra point to tie things up, Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio gambled (as he had earlier in the game with some tricks up his sleeve) by keeping the offense on the field for a two-point conversion try. With nothing to lose, Dantonio went all in for the lead, but O’Connor’s pass over the middle was picked off in the end zone, securing a narrow lead for Ohio State.

Next up for Ohio State is a regular season finale rivalry game with Michigan. A stake in the Big Ten East Division will be on the line for the noon kickoff, but a win by the Buckeyes next week will not necessarily send them to the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis. Penn State can still wiggle their way to Indy with an Ohio State next week and their own win against Michigan State next week in State College. Penn State also must beat Rutgers tonight, which is pretty much a 94% certainty if we’re being conservative.

Ohio State Clinches Big Ten East If…

  • Ohio State beats Michigan AND Penn State loses once

A win by Ohio State next week should make for a fun discussion about the Playoff. Assuming Ohio State stays in the top four this week, a win against a highly-ranked Michigan next week should probably wrap up a playoff spot for the Buckeyes despite the possibility of not playing for a conference championship.

Could the program that won the first College Football Playoff national championship set the precedent for a non-division winner to reach the playoff?

No. 2 Ohio State uses running game and defense to pull past Indiana

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J.T. Barrett rushed for 133 yards and a touchdown to make up for an underwhelming day throwing the football to help No. 2 Ohio State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) pull away from Indiana (3-2, 101 Big Ten). The Buckeyes used a big second quarter to create some separation from the Hoosiers and the defense clamped down on Indiana in the second half of a 38-17 victory in The Horseshoe on Saturday afternoon.

Despite the comfortable margin of victory, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer will have some things he can drill into his team in the coming week. Barrett completed just eight of his 20 pass attempts for 91 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Against Indiana, on this day, it was not enough to prevent Ohio State from winning a game. It is, however, something that may not be as easy to overcome elsewhere this season. Fortunately for Ohio State, when Barrett can’t get things going through the air, he can take care of business on the ground. Barrett rushed 25 times for 133 yards and a touchdown to lead the Buckeyes. Curtis Samuel added 82 yards and a score and Mike Weber led the team with two rushing touchdowns in addition to adding 73 yards to the rushing total.

Ohio State’s defense was where Ohio State had a distinct advantage against Indiana. The Hoosiers caused some stressful moments for Ohio State,  but Ohio State held their opponent to just 281 yards of total offense, with just 99 of those yards coming by way of the run on 40 rushing attempts. Indiana’s Devine Redding led his team with 78 rushing yards.

Ohio State will take to the road for the first time since taking care of Oklahoma in Week 3 next week when they head to Madison to take on Wisconsin. The Badgers will supposedly be rested up after suffering their first loss of the season at Michigan last weekend. Wisconsin was on a bye week this weekend. After a road game at Wisconsin, the Buckeyes travel to Penn State before returning home to take on Northwestern.

Indiana will be home next Saturday to host Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are 5-0 and will be coming in off a bye week.

Urban on suspensions: ‘Get going. Move forward’

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The announcements of the suspensions of four Ohio State football players — possibly related to marijuana and/or academics — dropped roughly three hours or so prior to Urban Meyer‘s turn at the microphone for Big Ten Media Days.

Not surprisingly, that particular topic dominated a good portion of the media Q&A with the head coach of the defending national champion Buckeyes.  Also not surprisingly, Meyer delved into very few details as to what led to the punitive measures.

“A violation of team policies.  That’s as far as I’ll go,” Meyer responded when the first query on a specific reason for the suspensions was tossed his way.  Meyer also acknowledged that he’s “known about the suspensions for a little while.”

The suspensions will be owned by junior defensive end Joey Bosa, sophomore H-back Jalin Marshall, senior wide receiver Corey Smith and junior H-back Dontre Wilson, who will all miss the opener because of the sanctions.  Meyer very powerfully intimated that the temporary losses should not be used as a crutch by his football team, mainly because he and his staff have collected the kind of depth that can withstand the impact of losing a player or players.

“The university, the athletic department has the policies that we expect and that I 100-percent fully support,” the coach said. “Whether it’s a sprained ankle or [other] stuff, you try to create a culture where a team knows how to move forward and not concern yourself.  When we lost Braxton [Miller] 10 days before the first game [of the 2014 season], you lose J.T. [Barrett] a week before the Big Ten championship game, you push forward.  We’re pushing forward.

“The comment I did make, we are playing an extremely talented team [in the opener vs. Virginia Tech in Blacksburg], very well-coached team on the road in a tough environment.  However, we have recruited very well.  So, get going.  Move forward.”

When pressed by a Tech beat writer regarding his greatest concern for an impact stemming from the suspensions, Meyer responded, “Off the get-go, arguably one of the best defensive players in the United States of America [Bosa] won’t play in that game, so that’s the one.”

Meyer did, though, attempt to mitigate the loss of Bosa by… referring back to the depth that’s been accumulated at the wide receiver and H-back positions before finally circling back to “the big defensive end.”

“I think if we stay healthy throughout training camp, and continue to improve,” Meyer began, before rattling off a sizable portion of his skill-position depth chart, “and [projected H-back/wide receiver] Braxton and then we have [wide receiver] Noah Brown, we have [wide receiver] Michael Thomas, you have [tight end] Nick Vannett,  you have [wide receiver] Johnny Dixon, [wide receiver] Terry McLaurin and [wide receiver] Parris Campbell, [running back-turned-H-back] Curtis Samuel, you know, we’ve recruited pretty good.  Now we have to get them ready to go play and I’ll know more as we get going.

“But I’m not overly concerned at that spot [defensive end].  Obviously when you lose the big defensive end, that everyone knows where he’s at, that is [still] a concern.”

In other words, Meyer wants to hear no excuses.  And he wants his players to know there are no excuses at their disposal, and that it’s very much next man up for the opener — just as it was when the Buckeyes lost two starting quarterbacks in its run to the title.

Four key Buckeyes, including Joey Bosa, suspended for opener

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Just a short time ago, Ohio State received the first of what’s expected to be a string of No. 1 votes in preseason polls.  Now we learn that, when the Buckeyes take that No. 1 ranking into the opener, they’ll do so without a handful of key components.

In a press release, OSU confirmed that four players will miss the first game of the season, Sept. 7 vs. Virginia Tech: junior defensive end Joey Bosa, sophomore H-back Jalin Marshall, senior wide receiver Corey Smith and junior H-back Dontre Wilson. The only reason given was “violating Department of Athletics policy.”

The loss of Bosa will be most noteworthy nationally as the 2014 All-American is a consensus pick to similar squads entering the 2015 season. He’s also projected to be a Top Five pick in the 2016 NFL draft if he leaves OSU early, perhaps even the top pick overall.

The Columbus Dispatch writes that “[t]he Buckeyes likely will make do for the loss of Bosa by picking from a defensive end corps which includes sophomore Tyquan Lewis, who emerged in the spring as the new starter for the vacated spot on the other end of the line, redshirt-freshman Sam Hubbard, sophomore Jalyn Holmes and redshirt-freshman Darius Slade.”

Wilson and Marshall had split time at H-back prior to the former’s injury, which allowed the latter to become a breakout star and one of the most dangerous weapons on an offense loaded with them. In traveling to Blacksburg to face a tough Hokie defense, just how deep and loaded that group is will be tested.

Braxton Miller, who announced last week that he would be moving from quarterback  — probably — could very well be an option at the H-back in the opener, and even beyond.  Curtis Samuel, the primary backup to star running back Ezekiel Elliott, has been working , the Dispatch wrote, “almost exclusively at hybrid back in the spring as the coaches sought ways to get his speed and possible playmaking ability on the field more often.”

Smith is the Buckeyes’ second-leading returning pass-catcher among wide receivers, hauling in 20 passes for 255 yards last season.

Head coach Urban Meyer is expected to address this development as he takes to the podium for the Big Ten Media Days later this afternoon.

No. 16 Ohio State Buckeyes continue to roll against Illinois Fighting Illini

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Since losing to Virginia Tech Sept. 6, the Ohio State Buckeyes are 5-0 and average 51 points per game.

Urban Meyer‘s squad is well ahead of that pace with a 31-0 lead over the Illinois Fighting Illini at halftime as the Buckeyes put together another dominant effort.

The most impressive part of the Buckeyes’ early season turnaround has been its offensive efficiency and overall explosiveness. This developed due to the improved play of redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett and a plethora of offensive weapons.

Saturday night’s effort hasn’t been any different.

Barrett is 15-of-24 passing for 167 yards and two touchdown tosses. The quarterback is also the team’s second-leading rusher with 38 yards on the ground.

What’s most impressive is how the Buckeyes roll through their offensive options.

Three different running backs have carried the ball for 79 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Freshman Curtis Samuel led the way with 45 yards and both scores. Meanwhile, seven different receivers caught passes.

Senior Devin Smith continues to be the Buckeyes’ most dangerous weapon on the outside. The wide receiver caught three passes for 72 yards and both of Barrett’s touchdown tosses. The first-half performance placed Smith in elite territory among Buckeyes history:

Ohio State’s defense played well, too.

Illinois only managed 117 yards. The Illini’s quarterbacks finished the first half 6-of-14 passing with two interceptions.

Despite a nearly insurmountable lead, the Buckeyes can’t let up during the season half. If Ohio State plans to make a legitimate run to become one of the four teams in the inaugural College Football Playoff, the program has to dominate since the Buckeyes suffer from a weak overall schedule. Expect Ohio State to put up even more points during the second half.