Ohio State wrapped up its non-conference schedule with a 29-15 win against University of Alabama-Birmingham. Here’s what we learned about the Buckeyes in their closer-than-expected battle with the Blazers, as well as observations from the first third of the season.
The “freak show” was upstaged
There was plenty of excitement surrounding OSU’s special teams unit this season, and for good reason. Meyer’s Gators blocked 21 punts, eight field goals and three extra points during the coach’s six seasons at University of Florida. The coach hoped to bring that success to Columbus, featuring a punt-blocking subunit called “the freak show.”
But the stage on Saturday belonged to UAB’s special teams, who returned a blocked punt for the game’s first touchdown and later caught the Buckeyes unaware while recovering an onside kick.
OSU’s special teams were woeful last season, most noticeably against Purdue when a blocked extra point cost them the game. It seems that even with Meyer in helm, the Buckeyes have a long way to go before the “freak show” is a featured act in Columbus.
This is an imperfect team in a less-perfect conference
OSU is not amongst the nation’s elite college football teams this year. This is less of an observation from one game, and more about the team’s performance through non-conference play.
In the first four games of their season, OSU struggled to put away two teams from Conference USA and barely evaded an upset bid from a Cal team that is now 1-3.
The young offense has been prolific yet inconsistent and occasionally inept. This was on perfect display against UAB, as the Buckeyes were held scoreless for the first third of the game, and then rattled off 21-unanswered points in a matter of 5:29.
The offense followed up their scoring barrage by reverting back to lethargy, punting three times in three possessions as the Blazers crawled back into contention. Once victory was again in doubt, Miller drove the Buckeyes 71 yards on a 10-play touchdown drive to put the game away.
In all, the Buckeyes put up 29 points and 347 yards against a defense that had allowed an average of 44 points and 477 yards through their first two games.
Despite their most evident flaws the Buckeyes are still 4-0, preparing to play in a conference that has looked even more suspect. The Big Ten’s early season favorites – Wisconsin, Michigan State and Michigan – have all been beaten, and to various degrees embarrassed, in non-conference play.
OSU will compete for the conference title that they are sanctioned from winning this season, just don’t confuse conference dominance with national prominence.
Give an extra helmet sticker to…
Jordan Hall. In his second game back from injury, the senior running back rushed for a career-high 105 yards on 17 carries. He also caught two passes for 21 yards.
More importantly, Hall’s presence has allowed the Buckeyes to be less dependent on Miller as a rusher. In the two games without Hall, Miller carried the ball 17 and 27 times. In games with Hall, Miller’s workload decreased significantly, as he received 12 and 11 carries.
Less carries means less hits for Miller, which will be important heading into conference play against the physical Big Ten defenses.