Thursday, October 2, 2014

BARRETT, 20TH-RANKED BUCKEYES FLYING HIGH INTO MARYLAND

It is quite apparent over the past two outings that Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has taken the leash off of his youthful offense.

After posting just 55 combined points over the first two weeks of the season — against Navy and Virginia Tech — the 20th-ranked Buckeyes (3-1, 0-0 Big Ten) have exploded for 58 points per contest since in routs over Kent State and Cincinnati.

"I was really excited to get our skill going, and we didn't do a good job early in the year," Meyer said Monday, during his weekly media luncheon in Columbus. "Navy, we were a little conservative because of a really new quarterback. Virginia Tech, I wish we had that one over again.

"And then the last two ... I am really even more excited now about our offensive skill."

Freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett has been the catalyst for the Buckeyes' resurgence on offense, coming off an all-time performance in a 50-28 victory over Cincinnati last weekend, where he totaled 409 yards of offense (2nd in school-history) and four touchdown passes.

Barrett leads the conference in total offense.

Has the young signal caller from Texas surprised his head coach with his stellar play recently?

"No, I had a lot of confidence in J.T.," Meyer said. "I love J.T. He's fun to coach. He's a guy that has a great demeanor on the sideline. He's a student of the game. He has a great relationship with his coordinator and position coach. 

"He's a product of those around him."

It is true, "those around him" have stepped up their game, especially in the backfield, where they have received back-to-back 100-yard performances — Curtis Samuel with 100 yards and two TDs against Kent State, and Ezekiel Elliott with 182 and a score versus Cincinnati.

"It is a street fight to get the ball right now," Meyer said. "What I really appreciate watching is when you can start platooning guys as they're going in. I don't know if you notice that during the course of the game. You're running new tailbacks, and who is better, our first or our third?

"They're pretty good. And the same thing, we have two sets of receivers who can go in. Now we have two tight ends with a very capable third. So we're recruiting some depth.

"And when you start talking tempo, you wear out the defense. Unfortunately wear out the offense, too, if you don't have that depth."

Bottom Line

While the young offense has blossomed over the past few weeks, the defense continues to be suspect, especially against the pass.

That's not good when you're facing a team on Saturday (12 p.m., ABC) in Maryland (4-1, 1-0) that has the type of talent they possess on the edges.

Maryland junior receiver Stefon Diggs — a near OSU-signee out of high school — has been electric this season for the Terrapins, not only as a receiver where he is second in the Big Ten in receptions (29), but also as a returner, averaging a conference-best 29.4 yards per attempt.

Diggs, along with senior wideout Deon Long, each had 100-yard performances last week in their 22-point thrashing of Indiana.

The Buckeyes' defensive secondary must batten down the hatches in this one.

Of course, so does Maryland's.

Lee's Prediction: OSU 48-34