The Tate Equalizer? Establishing Ohio State's running game
Week 12 is so ugly it goes to the proctologist for facials.
Week 12 deserves no respect, no respect at all. No matchups of ranked teams, nothing at stake, save for speculation on Jeff Brohm’s time at Purdue and the airing of grievances emanating from somewhere in Ohio. Let’s focus on Week 13. Sadly, we have to go there.
I would rather not discuss Ohio State and Michigan for two weeks, but for a conference prone to stub its toe and poke itself in the eye, maybe a more aggressive form of self-harm if we’re talking strictly Rutgers and Illinois, what choice do we have?
Now it’s a two-week wrinkle hunt. What will the two teams do to ruin the other’s chance at the college football playoff? Ohio State and head coach Urban Meyer will continue to attempt to deflect questions about the mess they failed to clean up regarding Zach Smith while college football questions Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh’s salary thanks to the Sabanization of the sport. It’s all fodder to the buildup of the marquee matchup the Saturday after Thanksgiving with the Ohio State offense against the Michigan defense as the main stage attraction.
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We know what to expect from Ohio State’s offense. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins maintains the pocket presence of an immobile AFC North quarterback and makes little to no effort to tuck and run down field if all of his receivers are covered. He’s a passer and the primary reason the Buckeyes scored with such regularity at the start of the season.
But the running game. Gross, ick, gag. Find a bag. The team failed to establish any balance the entire season evidenced by the 61st best ranked rushing yards per game in the nation. Running the ball was just something to do in between pass attempts on third-and-unmanageable.
Enter Tate Martell.
The freshman dual threat quarterback from Las Vegas gives the Buckeyes the sort of offensive weapon that might allow offensive coordinator Ryan Day to jump-start a moribund rushing attack. Sites speculated on the quarterback’s potential role and others even asked Meyer about it. What resulted was one rushing attempt from Martell in Saturday’s win over Michigan State. A whole five yards to add to the 121 he compiled in the three other games he saw playing time at the start of the year. Please make sure the Walter Camp Award is buffed and sparkling for the presentation.
I don’t expect you to get excited about numbers like that, just the same way I don’t expect you to get excited about the numbers amassed by Ohio State’s rushing attack and a team in a year-long funk. The Buckeyes are a flat one-loss team. That’s better than a perky 2-loss team or a resilient 3-loss team, but not the sort of enthusiasm emblematic of a team with a chance to make the college football playoff. Martell would at least inject a sense of enthusiasm to a program in bad need of some while they wait for Smith to fling his latest round of claims directed at anyone associated with the sport and the program.
The subtle addition of Martell could at least stabilize a fan base in the throes of Defense of Meyer Fatigue. Maybe the freshman becomes a goal line quarterback, or he’s brought in during any sort of second or third and short situations. Or he’ll operate as a decoy sent in to hand the ball off and give the offensive line a slightly better chance to move Michigan defensive linemen off their spots. How will offensive coordinator Ryan Day try to deploy the last hope of a running game? Time to get creative in a last-ditch efforts.
And you know the angst of coaches and coordinators. If it’s on film they have to pay attention to it. Martell won’t be a secret to Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown but he will at least warrant some attention in game planning. Another wrinkle to consider for the last conference game that matters.
Time for Week 13.