OSU line trying to get through growing pains


By Jim Naveau - jnaveau@civitasmedia.com



Northwestern (4-3, 3-1 Big Ten) at No. 6 Ohio State (6-1, 3-1)

3:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Line: Ohio State by 23½

Series Record: Ohio State leads 60-14-1.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Ohio State needs a victory to stay on course for a Big Ten championship after being upset by Penn State last week. Northwestern looked horrible to start the season, but has won four of its past five games. The Wildcats last beat Ohio State in 2004 and haven’t won in Columbus since 1971.

KEY MATCHUP

Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett vs. Northwestern defense. The Ohio State passing attack is sputtering, but Barrett and coach Urban Meyer say it’s nothing that can’t be fixed with some tweaks. Barrett has shown he can win games with his arm and his legs. Northwestern DE Ifeadi Odenigbo leads the Big Ten in sacks (eight), and S Igwebuike is among the conference leaders in tackles on a defense that has improved with each game.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Northwestern: WR Austin Carr. The former walk-on leads the Big Ten in receptions (50), receiving yards (720), receiving yards per game (102.9) and touchdown receptions (nine).

Ohio State: HB Curtis Samuel. The hybrid back broke away for a 74-yard touchdown run in one of the few offensive highlights for the Buckeyes last week. One of the team’s most dynamic offense weapons, he is among the Big Ten leaders in all-purpose yards. He had only 10 touches against Penn State.

FACTS & FIGURES

Ohio State has allowed just two rushing scores, tied for the fewest in the FBS. … Samuel ranks second in the Big Ten with 142.6 all-purpose yards per game. … Northwestern CB Matthew Harris, who hasn’t played since Sept. 10, announced his retirement from football this week. … Northwestern has limited opponents to 71.7 rushing yards per game. Opponents have averaged just 2.4 yards per carry in the past three games. … Wildcats RB Justin Jackson has rushed for 453 yards and three touchdowns in the past three games. … Ohio State LB Jerome Baker, who stepped up when starter Dante Booker was injured, leads the team with 43 tackles. Booker is healthy again and may play against Northwestern.

COLUMBUS – As it played out visually in real time and when it was reviewed in the film room and on the stat sheet, Ohio State’s 24-21 loss to Penn State last Saturday night was not a good night for the Buckeyes offensive line.

Quarterback J.T. Barrett was sacked a season-high six times, including the last two plays of the game, and was pressured on more than half of the 51 times he dropped back. OSU’s last five possessions of the game ended with a punt, a punt, a blocked punt, a blocked field goal and Barrett being sacked.

Along with the special teams, which allowed those two blocked kicks, it was a favorite topic of discussion following the first loss of the season for No. 6 Ohio State (6-1, 3-1 Big Ten).

But coach Urban Meyer and veteran offensive guard Billy Price both said panic is not the appropriate reaction to the line’s unsettling performance at Penn State with Northwestern (4-3, 3-1 Big Ten) coming into Ohio Stadium on Saturday.

Meyer said there will be no changes in the starting lineup on the offensive line. Center Pat Elflein, guards Michael Jordan and Price and tackles Jamarco Jones and Isaiah Prince have started every game this season.

“There’s still conversation, but not right now. I don’t foresee that,” Meyer said on the Big Ten coaches teleconference when asked if there would be any personnel changes on the offensive line.

Price jumped to the defense of right tackle Prince, a first-year starter along with Jones and Jordan, after he was beaten for at least two of the sacks and several other quarterback pressures.

“We have to get better as a whole. There were a lot of things I did wrong, too. You can’t sit here and say it was Isaiah’s fault or Mike Jordan’s fault or whoever,” Price said. “I have no problem with him (Prince). I’m not going to sit here and allow somebody to nitpick him. He and I, we’re going to get better. There’s not a doubt about it.”

“Coach Meyer always says if you have a bad receiver you can put him in a corner. Leave him in a corner, don’t throw him the ball. It’s no big deal. But if you have an offensive lineman who isn’t playing well, you can’t hide that.

“Offensive line is a single position. We must perform at 100 percent efficiency, otherwise you have blunders and you have bad things happen. There are a lot of young guys in there. They have to play for us and they have to execute. And if they don’t, we have issues like this,” he said.

Price, a three-year starter, remembers one of his welcome to college football moments at Penn State two years ago.

“In 2014 when I played at Penn State, it was like, ‘Holy moley.’ You have to grow up now. That’s what the expectations are here,” he said.

Another reason personnel changes are not being discussed might be that OSU doesn’t appear to have great depth on the offensive line.

The back-up who made probably the strongest preseason push for a starting spot, Demetrius Knox, suffered a broken foot in late September and might be out the rest of the season.

The current second-team players on OSU’s depth chart are redshirt freshmen Branden Bowen at right tackle, redshirt freshman Matthew Burrell at left guard, sophomore Brady Taylor at center and junior Evan Lisle at both left tackle and right guard.

By Jim Naveau

jnaveau@civitasmedia.com

Northwestern (4-3, 3-1 Big Ten) at No. 6 Ohio State (6-1, 3-1)

3:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Line: Ohio State by 23½

Series Record: Ohio State leads 60-14-1.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Ohio State needs a victory to stay on course for a Big Ten championship after being upset by Penn State last week. Northwestern looked horrible to start the season, but has won four of its past five games. The Wildcats last beat Ohio State in 2004 and haven’t won in Columbus since 1971.

KEY MATCHUP

Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett vs. Northwestern defense. The Ohio State passing attack is sputtering, but Barrett and coach Urban Meyer say it’s nothing that can’t be fixed with some tweaks. Barrett has shown he can win games with his arm and his legs. Northwestern DE Ifeadi Odenigbo leads the Big Ten in sacks (eight), and S Igwebuike is among the conference leaders in tackles on a defense that has improved with each game.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Northwestern: WR Austin Carr. The former walk-on leads the Big Ten in receptions (50), receiving yards (720), receiving yards per game (102.9) and touchdown receptions (nine).

Ohio State: HB Curtis Samuel. The hybrid back broke away for a 74-yard touchdown run in one of the few offensive highlights for the Buckeyes last week. One of the team’s most dynamic offense weapons, he is among the Big Ten leaders in all-purpose yards. He had only 10 touches against Penn State.

FACTS & FIGURES

Ohio State has allowed just two rushing scores, tied for the fewest in the FBS. … Samuel ranks second in the Big Ten with 142.6 all-purpose yards per game. … Northwestern CB Matthew Harris, who hasn’t played since Sept. 10, announced his retirement from football this week. … Northwestern has limited opponents to 71.7 rushing yards per game. Opponents have averaged just 2.4 yards per carry in the past three games. … Wildcats RB Justin Jackson has rushed for 453 yards and three touchdowns in the past three games. … Ohio State LB Jerome Baker, who stepped up when starter Dante Booker was injured, leads the team with 43 tackles. Booker is healthy again and may play against Northwestern.

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.