For two quarters and some change, Kevin Wilson’s return to Indiana after a messy departure last year wasn’t going as smoothly as Ohio State new offensive coordinator would have wanted. For fans at home and in the stands, the same could be said of the team’s highly anticipated new look on offense, which sputtered early and often.
Then things just started to click for the Buckeyes in the third quarter and the No. 2 team in the country started living up to that preseason ranking, eventually pulling away from the Hoosiers for a comfortable 49-21 victory on Thursday night that opened the season and Big Ten play for both teams.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett wasn’t quite as sharp as some expected the senior to be but he still posted solid numbers (284 yards, three touchdowns passing plus another score on the ground) as he broke in several new receivers for OSU. Perhaps the biggest development for Urban Meyer’s team was the emergence of freshman tailback J.K. Dobbins, who may have Wally Pipped starter Mike Weber (hamstring) with 181 yards rushing and showed off plenty of nifty moves in the open field.
Like their counterparts on the other side of the ball, Ohio State’s defense also need a little time to get warmed up but ended up performing just as expected. The vaunted defensive line helped record five sacks while Jordan Fuller and Denzel Ward both picked off passes.
Though the final score may not have indicated it, the Hoosiers did have their moments in the debut of new head coach Tom Allen and actually led at halftime 14-13. They had numerous opportunities to make things even more interesting in the third quarter but failed to capitalize each time they had a shot at the lead, eventually giving way to a 29 point unanswered run that salted the game away for the visitors. Quarterback Richard Lagow did what he could running the quick tempo offense (40-of-65 — yes 65 attempts — for 410 yards, three scores and two interceptions) and hooked up several times for some highlight reel plays with wideout Simmie Cobbs (149 yards, one score). It wasn’t enough though and the lack of any ground game certainly hampered the offense down the stretch.
If you told somebody who didn’t watch the game that Ohio State won by four touchdowns over Indiana, they probably would think things went as expected in Bloomington before the second string entered the action. That wasn’t exactly the case to start for the Buckeyes but the end result was certainly something fitting for the second-ranked team in the country. It probably won’t be good enough next week as Oklahoma rolls into Columbus but that will be a story for another time.
There’s a new Guy on the team at Colorado.
On Saturday, former Nebraska linebacker Guy Thomas announced his commitment to Colorado. “I give thanks to everybody that has been influential, and supportive in my life,” Nyon said in a graphic posted to his Twitter account. “I am taking this time to announce that I will be committing to the University of Colorado.”
Thomas first announced his transfer back in November; he appeared in just four games over two years on the club. He posted four tackles in as many games as a redshirt freshman in 2018, with three coming against FCS Bethune-Cookman.
“It’s not working out,” Thomas told the Omaha World-Herald upon his transfer.
Barring a waiver, Thomas will have to sit out the 2019 season and compete as a redshirt junior in 2020. He figures to contribute as a pass-rushing outside linebacker whenever he is cleared to play.
Michigan does not open training camp until Aug. 2 and does not play its first game until Aug. 31, so any “as of right now” statements are devoid of 20-odd practices worth of context.
Still, as of Big Ten media days, Jim Harbaugh plans to play both Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey in every game.
“Yeah, I do (see games where they’ll both play). Where it stands right now, and that could change later or not, is I see them both playing,” Harbaugh told the Detroit Free Press. “Where it stands right now, I see it as maybe redefining what a starter is…. I’m really not talking about playing them both at the same time (on a play), when I say both in games it’d be they’re both playing quarterback during the same game. And in the way it stands now, in every game.”
Harbaugh has been a one-quarterback man for the entirety of his career, but Patterson’s inconsistency and McCaffrey’s talent may demand a change. Michigan did juggle quarterbacks in 2017 — John O’Korn, Brandon Peters and Wilton Speight each threw at least 81 passes — but that was due to necessity, not strategy.
Patterson completed 64.6 percent of his passes last season for 2,600 yards (on 8.0 per attempt) with 22 touchdowns against seven interceptions while rushing 76 times for 273 yards and two touchdowns. In his second year in the program, McCaffrey completed 8-of-15 passes for 126 yards with two touchdowns whilst rushing 10 times for 99 yards and a touchdown.
The son of Ed McCaffrey and brother of Christian McCaffrey is certainly the heir apparent in Ann Arbor, and it appears Harbaugh isn’t willing to wait for the future to arrive in order to unleash arguably his most talented quarterback recruit since Andrew Luck.
Whether he knew it or not, Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck broke news that will set certain circles of the college football blogosphere (including this one) by touching on the topic that is consistently gobbled up like Thanksgiving turkey: realignment.
“Change is inevitable,” Fleck told The Athletic. “I think we all know that. I think that the East and West have been around for a while. I like it, I like the division of it. But I don’t think it will stay the same. I think we’ll change it at some point because change is coming somehow, some way. And I think people are going to want to move it around, and shake it up a little bit.”
Fleck said the topic came up during the Big Ten’s spring meetings in Arizona; the conference did not comment on the topic.
The Big Ten split into divisions upon Nebraska’s 2011 arrival, memorably going with the idiotic Legends and Leaders alignment that was designed to protect rivalries and preserve competitive balance. That alignment lasted three years, until Maryland and Rutgers joined the party in 2014 and the conference rejiggered its alignment into a more sensible East and West split.
While a geographic divide does preserve rivalries and makes both logistical and logical sense, it has come at the price of competitive balance. The East champion has gone a perfect 5-for-5 in Big Ten title games under the current arrangement.
However, the East is a mere five games ahead of the West in regular season matchups, an average of one extra victory per season.
If — and at this point’s a very big if — the Big Ten does realign again, the conference could return to a Legends and Leaders format (hopefully with different names) or it could scrap divisions altogether, giving each school two or three protected rivals while putting the rest of the league in a regular rotation. The positive aspect of this alignment is it guarantees the top two teams would meet in Indianapolis, but the drawback is it could trigger an instant Michigan-Ohio State rematch.
It’s too early to report when and if a second realignment would happen, but as Fleck reminded us this week it is never too early to speculate.
The season does not begin today, but if it did Penn State would be without one of its best players.
Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin confirmed to the press at Big Ten media days that defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos and running back Journey Brown are presently suspended for a “violation of team rules” dating back to spring practice. The suspension is slated to end Aug. 1.
Gross-Matos, a junior, led Penn State in sacks (eight) and tackles for loss (20) while registering 54 tackles, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery on the season. He enters the year a candidate for the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award.
“I talk to him all the time,” Franklin told Lions247 of Gross-Matos, despite the suspension. “[He is] doing great.”
Brown, also a junior, posted eight carries for 44 yards and a touchdown in 2018.