Football

Ohio State in College Football Playoff, can lift Trojans

Read more at trojanswire.usatoday.com

The USC Trojans’ season ended on Friday, December 18. The Ohio State Buckeyes then played the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday, Dec. 19 against the Northwestern Wildcats. In that game exists a lesson Clay Helton and Graham Harrell can apply to how they run the Trojans’ offense.

Ohio State got stuffed on the ground early in the game. The Buckeyes threw short passes but had to settle for a field goal after a drive of over seven minutes. That’s generally not how Ohio State wants to play. Northwestern, however, has a well-schooled defense which doesn’t get beaten over the top on long pass plays and has an alert, attentive back seven. Northwestern forces opponents to be patient and make a lot of precise plays.

Ohio State saw that first drive — in which the running game didn’t work — and felt it had to spread the ball across the field with Justin Fields in the passing game. Yet, with Northwestern picking off Fields in the end zone and continuing to shut down any vertical attempts the Buckeyes made, it became important for the Buckeyes to go back to the ground, since Northwestern was backing people out of the tackle box and daring Ohio State to run.

It took three quarters, so it’s not as though Ryan Day and Ohio State’s coaching staff were brilliant in this game — they weren’t — but after watching one approach fail, the Buckeyes were able to shift gears.

Ohio State began to run Trey Sermon between the tackles. The Buckeyes began to lean on Northwestern’s smaller bodies. Ohio State realized that instead of being clever, it could simply mash a physically inferior opponent.

Sermon got fed. He rolled up the yards. Ohio State finished drives and won with a measure of comfort, 22-10, after being in genuine trouble (or at least some danger) late in the third quarter.

Have a Plan B, and also have the personnel to execute it — that’s the lesson Ohio State can teach USC.

Read more at trojanswire.usatoday.com

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