Ohio State: 5 things I'd like to see from Buckeyes vs. TCU
The Ohio State Buckeyes, ranked fourth in this week’s Associated Press poll, face a huge out-of-conference test on Saturday against TCU (8 p.m. Eastern, ABC).
This is technically a neutral-site game in Arlington, Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys. But make no mistake, the No. 15 Horned Frogs will have home-field advantage at JerryWorld, just minutes from their Fort Worth campus.
Which brings us to the first thing we’d like to see Ohio State do on Saturday:
Take the crowd out of it early
Not to belabor this point, but TCU fans with long memories — or even semi-long memories — are undoubtedly still bitter about the way Ohio State jumped over the Horned Frogs to get into the inaugural College Football Playoff semifinals in 2014. The Buckeyes went on to win the national championship while Big 12 co-champion TCU was left to wonder what might have been.
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Even setting all of that aside, this is the biggest non-conference game for TCU since 2013, when the Horned Frogs lost to LSU, also in Arlington. Ohio State would do well to make some big plays early to silence the fans.
Keep Haskins on track
The OSU coaching staff has gradually brought quarterback Dwayne Haskins along in his first two starts and he has responded with poise and a lot of accurate passes.
But TCU’s always strong defense is going to bring a much more difficult test than either Oregon State or Rutgers could offer in the Buckeyes’ first two games. Defensive lineman Corey Benthley already has three sacks, four tackles for loss and seven total tackles through two games for TCU. The Horned Frogs defense has 10 pass breakups and six QB hits. OSU will have to help prepare Haskins for this big step up.
Don’t assume D-line dominance
Nick Bosa, Dre’Mont Jones, Robert Landers and company have looked all-conquering in the first two Buckeyes games. But Ohio State will have to throw some more exotic looks and use its depth up front to challenge coordinator Sonny Cumbie’s TCU offense, which scored 33.6 points a game last season.
Elusive sophomore quarterback Shawn Robinson, who leads the Horned Frogs in passing and rushing through two games, will show the Buckeyes a dimension that they really have not seen in 2018. Not only will the front four have to keep performing at a high level, but the OSU linebackers must make big plays as well.
Domination by Dobbins
Running back J.K. Dobbins has not had to be spectacular in 2018. Mike Weber carried the load in the opener against Oregon State, and in the Big Ten opener against Rutgers the Buckeyes were ahead so big so early that they rested their regulars and spread the rushing load widely.
But Dobbins, coming off of a 1,403-yard season in 2017, is still the best bet for a big individual game for the Scarlet and Gray against TCU. The Horned Frogs are allowing 107.5 yards a game rushing, pretty close to their 2017 average of 103.9, which ranked fifth in the nation. TCU coach Gary Patterson always has his defense ready, so the Buckeyes offensive line must fight hard to win the physical battles and give the playmakers, especially Dobbins, time to do their thing.
Make a big special teams play
Again, it’s only through two games, but TCU has been strong on defending returns on special teams. The Horned Frogs are allowing 20.14 yards per kick return, and the Buckeyes are averaging 22.67 yards per kick return. The new touchback rule has without question already altered the number of returns.
Bottom line, to take a bit of pressure off of Haskins and also off of the defense, Ohio State could use a big return. If not that, then perhaps the kicking teams can create a turnover which would lead to a short field for the offense.