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Opponent Offense Preview: Ohio State Buckeyes

Spoiler alert: they’re extremely good.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Ohio State
Washington’s DBs will have their hands full against Dwayne Haskins and his big, accurate arm.
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Four more days until the Rose Bowl, which means that you need to:

  • Plan your festive food and drink
  • Locate your purple game day shirt
  • Cover everything in sight with rose petals
  • Get smart on Ohio State

We got ya covered on #4. So without further ado, the Ohio State offense:

Key Stats

Offense S&P: #4 overall

Points per game: 43.5 (#7)

Sack rate: 3.6% (#17)

Passing yards per game: 373 (#2)

3rd down conversion percent: 48% (#10)

Rushing play percentage: 49.6% (#91)

S&P+ passing efficiency: #3

Passing yards per completion: 13.07 (#39)

Offensive Philosophy

Ohio State has been a full-on spread team since Urban Meyer took over in 2012. They still wanted to maintain that B1G identity with a strong downhill run game, but traditional power plays were replaced with inside zone and what’s known as the “inverted veer.” Instead of bringing in extra TEs and FBs, they put fast wide receivers on the edges to clear out the middle of the field. Your basic spread stuff you all know and love. But what’s changed in 2018?

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Ohio State
OC Ryan Day will take over as Head Coach after the Rose Bowl.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Buckeyes still run a hybrid spread but have replaced dual threat JT Barrett with pro-style QB Dwayne Haskins. The timing of the switch could not have been better as new OC Ryan Day arrived in 2017 and began implementing more Air Raid concepts - the perfect fit for a strong armed QB like Haskins. Despite this, the guts of Urban Meyer’s offense was still there: it’s all about getting the ball to the fast guys and turning them upfield. Unlike the WSU variety of the Air Raid with only a handful of plays, Ohio State and Day utilize a much more diverse playbook backed up by a solid run game.

Perhaps the biggest noticeable on-field change is Day’s introduction of the “mesh” passing concept, honed with Chip Kelly in the NFL. It essentially involves WRs running underneath crossing routes, getting defenders to screen themselves out of plays by getting lost in the shuffle. This can be devastating against man coverage. You may recall the ass whooping Ohio State put on Michigan’s #1 ranked defense just a few weeks ago. I present to you, death by 1000 crossing routes:

Ohio State is built to pass this season despite having two capable running backs in J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber. However, at times during the season the offensive balance was a total mess. During a 5 game stretch of Tulane, Penn State, Indiana, Minnesota, and Purdue, the Buckeyes did not crack 160 rushing yards in a game. In incredibly un-Ohio State like fashion, Dwayne Haskins attempted a whopping 73 passes in that mind boggling loss to Purdue.

A lot of fans will point to consistently alternating drives for Weber and Dobbins as the main culprit, not allowing either one to get into a rhythm, despite Dobbins appearing the far superior prospect. S&P rates them 41st in rushing efficiency, but 70th in stuff rate and just 121st in explosiveness. Think lots of 4 yard carries.

Players to Watch

QB Dwayne Haskins

70% completion, 4,580 yards, 47 TDs, 8 INT, 9.2 yards per attempt

In a lot of seasons besides this one, Dwayne Haskins may well have won the Heisman Trophy. But the other worldly Tua Tagovailoa and Kyler Murray resigned the spectacular Haskins to 3rd place. But he is no slouch - his stats prove that. He’s a specimen of a QB standing at 6-3 and 220 pounds, with a rocket for an arm. His ball placement is superb and has a great feel for deep passes. He throws a really pretty ball, effortlessly. Like many QBs his size, he moves fairly well in the pocket and is hard to bring down.

He is absolutely this offense’s engine: he’s only played in two games this season with less than 30 pass attempts - against Tulane and Rutgers - which were out of hand so quickly he had no need to wear his arm any further. Ohio State puts a lot on his shoulders. He’s not a dual threat by any means but can run a little bit with some of the RPO elements. We saw this especially in the Maryland and Michigan games where he rushed for 93 yards and 3 TDs.

WR Parris Campbell

79 catches, 992 yards, 11 TD

Senior Parris Campbell is target #1 and the player this offense looks to get the ball to most often. He leads the team in catches and shows off an impressive top gear making him a serious big play threat. Ohio State will give him the ball on screens, jet sweeps, and of course, crossing routes. He’s one of the fastest receivers in the country and excels and turning upfield quickly once he has the ball. He pairs this athleticism and big play potential with nice size too, standing at 6-1 208 pounds.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

WR K.J. Hill

67 catches, 831 yards, 6 TD

K.J. Hill is used in a similar fashion to Campbell. However, while Campbell has better top end speed and is a bit stronger, the slightly smaller Hill is more shifty in the open field. He shows good body control as well, adjusting to catch balls mid-air. He’s got the most reliable hands on the team and also serves as the primary punt returner.

WR Terry McLaurin

34 catches, 669 yards, 11 TD

McLaurin, along with Campbell and Johnnie Dixon (40 catches, 642 yards, 7 TDs) represent the senior trio of WRs on this Buckeye team. McLaurin doesn’t get the same number of targets as Dixon and Campbell, or even Hill, but he’s just as explosive if not more so, sporting nearly 20 yards a catch. He’s got a similar build to Parris Campbell and is one of the better blocking WRs on the team, famously taking out 3 Penn State defenders on one play to spring a TD. In fact, WR blocking is something the entire unit really buys into and they love playing physical.

RB J.K. Dobbins

223 rushes, 1,029 yards, 9 TD

He hasn’t quite replicated his 1,400 yard freshman year of 2017, but Dobbins is still one of the best looking running backs in the country. At 5-10 and 214 pounds, he’s compact but has great vision and speed in the open field. He has a nice Myles Gaskin-esque jump cut and can make the first defender miss in the hole and is much more a home run threat than his backfield partner Mike Weber, who announced his intention to enter the NFL draft after the Rose Bowl.


Make no mistake about it - Ohio State is a team that will come out throwing aggressively. Using fast and athletic WRs all around 6 feet tall, they are perfectly designed to run the mesh concept underneath. I can practically hear the shouts of “THEN DON’T PLAY MAN COVERAGE! PLAY ZONE YOU IDIOTS!” That might work, but Ohio State can easily counter by running more traditional option plays and getting zone defenders caught in no man’s land.

Ohio State has 4 different receivers with 600 yards a piece - I don’t think the Huskies can just hope to take them all out of the game with excellent coverage. They simply have to get to Haskins and make him uncomfortable. Even the best quarterbacks are forced into mistakes when they can be made skittish in the pocket. We will probably see some interesting stunts and twists with Joe Tryon and Levi Onwuzurike to manufacture some pass rush from the DL and LBs. But, some of the Huskies best blitzers are also their best cover guys - Taylor Rapp and Myles Bryant. How the coaches gamble sending them after Haskins verse keeping them in coverage is something to keep an eye on.

Ohio State is superb on 3rd downs, and it is absolutely imperative to pressure Haskins, otherwise this game could get out of hand quickly.


How many points will Ohio State score in the Rose Bowl?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    (7 votes)
  • 1%
    (11 votes)
  • 13%
    (81 votes)
  • 37%
    (230 votes)
  • 28%
    (174 votes)
  • 8%
    (53 votes)
  • 9%
    (61 votes)
617 votes total Vote Now