Sunday, December 1, 2013
What we learned: Week 14
By Austin Ward
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- After analyzing the new information after No. 3 Ohio State's 42-41 nail-biting win over rival Michigan on Saturday at the Big House, here’s what we learned:
Challenge accepted: There hasn't been much adversity to deal with this season, but the Buckeyes have stared it down every time they've seen it, perhaps most impressively on the road against a rival and after losing two valuable players to ejections. Michigan had an effective offensive game plan, and it put Ohio State on its heels. It challenged the Buckeyes physically, and after briefly losing composure and watching hybrid offensive threat Dontre Wilson and starting right guard Marcus Hall be sent to the locker room because of it, they weathered the storm and didn't allow the game to get away from them. And while there might again be criticism that the Buckeyes didn't score any style points, that shouldn't make any difference when evaluating what they accomplished. They stayed unbeaten after two of the most disastrous quarters of football they've played all season popped up early in a hostile environment against a motivated opponent.
Perfectly imbalanced: The target was to get an even split between rushing attempts and passes this season, and for a while that was working out pretty well for the Buckeyes. But it's becoming more obvious with each game toward the end of the year that Ohio State is at its best when it heavily favors its potent running game and simply sprinkles in some throws. That's not a knock on Braxton Miller's arm, because it has clearly shown signs of improvement and was spot-on with his touchdown tosses to Devin Smith and Jeff Heuerman. But letting the bruising style of Carlos Hyde and the freakish acceleration of Miller pound away is obviously a tall enough task for a defense, and the Buckeyes didn't need to add any complications of their own with the talented tandem combining for 379 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns.
Next in line: The Buckeyes don't have to replace all four seniors on the offensive line yet, but they got a pretty good glimpse at the future thanks to the unexpected absence of guard Marcus Hall following his ejection. Pat Elflein looked more than capable of filling at least one void when the time comes. The Buckeyes didn't miss a beat after plugging in the redshirt freshman, who teamed up with another guy who still has plenty of eligibility remaining as he and Taylor Decker inflicted enough damage on the right side to fuel another huge rushing performance. If for some reason the Big Ten office decides the time Hall missed on Saturday wasn't enough and elects to add a one-game suspension on top of the ejection, the Buckeyes now know they can count on his backup -- now and down the line.