No. 2 Ohio State capped its nonconference slate with a marquee 45-24 victory on the road against Oklahoma, and a nicely timed bye week will give Urban Meyer and the coaching staff the opportunity to fine-tune the playbook and tighten up some of the mistakes his team made in the first three weeks.
Those mistakes are minimal, as the Buckeyes enter Week 4 with the No. 3 scoring offense and No. 12 scoring defense. J.T. Barrett and the offense have a clear identity and are executing at a high level, and the defense is thriving under new co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano.
But even with the near flawless start to the season, Barrett sees things his team can improve upon.
“I think we’re in a good place coming into the bye week, and we just want to keep on preparing and getting better. We’re not where we want to be,” Barrett said, according to Eric Seger of Eleven Warriors. “We’re just continuing to keep on getting better. I think we’re at a good place right now and have room for improvement.”
Here are the things Ohio State should work on during its bye week.
What to Fix on Offense
Meyer came into the season wanting more balance on offense after relying too heavily on Ezekiel Elliott and the running game a season ago—whether through actual plays called or production after the fact.
The Buckeyes seemed to strike that balance in the season opener, registering 417 passing yards and 359 rushing yards in a 77-10 demolition of Bowling Green. But a torrential downpour the following week grounded the Buckeyes, who ran the ball 48 times (for 268 yards) to just 22 passes (for 149 yards).
Going up against a Sooners team that looked stout against the run and very susceptible to the pass, Ohio State had the perfect opportunity to find that balance once again in last week’s prime-time showdown.
While most of the Buckeyes’ scoring came through the air (Noah Brown hauled in a single-game school-record four touchdown catches), they still ran the ball more than twice as much as they threw it, and the ground game accounted for more than 65 percent of their total offense.
It’s hard to criticize this strategy too much based on the results, but Ohio State is slowly drifting to a run-heavy offense that Meyer was specifically aiming to avoid heading into the season.
The Buckeyes could put more of an emphasis on their passing attack by simply limiting Barrett’s running plays. After opening the season with just six carries against the Falcons, Ohio State’s quarterback has registered 16 and 17 rush attempts against Tulsa and Oklahoma. That’s more than Meyer wants, as he said earlier this fall that 10 to 12 rushes would be ideal for Barrett on a weekly basis, per the Associated Press’ Mitch Stacy.
With running back Mike Weber and H-back Curtis Samuel leading the Big Ten in rushing through three weeks, the Buckeyes can afford to throw the ball a bit more during league play.
What to Fix on Defense
Maybe a little less bending to complement the don’t-break mentality?
That’s about as much as one can say about a surprisingly dominant defense that rolled out eight new starters to open the season.
The Buckeyes were supposed to experience some growing pains after losing first-round NFL draft picks at each level of their defense in defensive end Joey Bosa, linebacker Darron Lee and cornerback Eli Apple.
But with the recruiting of Meyer and the tutelage of Schiano, Ohio State has reloaded and looks built to last. Through three weeks of action, the Buckeyes have allowed just two offensive touchdowns to a trio of scoring offenses that ranked in the Top 25 a season ago, and that’s half as many touchdowns as the defense has scored via pick-sixes.
That defense has shown some weaknesses, however. The interior defensive line is still a question mark after the season-ending injury to tackle Tracy Sprinkle, and Tulsa and Oklahoma found success hammering away on the inside.
The Buckeyes defense only allowed Oklahoma’s high-powered offense to score 17 points, but the Sooners still averaged six yards per play on Saturday night.
Ohio State leads the country with nine interceptions and four defensive touchdowns, but if it doesn’t improve between the 20s and find a way to force more punts, a team that takes care of the ball and converts in the red zone could find a lot of success against it.
David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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Source: Bleacher Report-CFB News