DottingTheEyes - 3-2-1: So it begins (2024)

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Buckeyes are out of their second open week and now it is a four-game sprint to the end of the season. They now know where they stand, at least this week in terms of the College Football Playoff (more on that in a second) but also know that they can't get too caught up on in that because all it takes is one loss to throw everything into disarray and while one loss may not kill the Buckeyes in terms of the resumes of other teams, do they really want to leave anything to chance based on the outcome of the last two years?

The next two weeks of games are not really shaping up to be much of a test but then again, the Buckeyes were a 13.5-point favorite over Maryland last year and needed to claw back to win a game in overtime to save the season (to that point).

Add to all of this the start of the men's basketball team, for games that count, and it is a busy time around Buckeye Nation.

In this week's edition of the 3-2-1 presented by Hague Water Conditioning, we talk a little more about the College Football Playoff rankings, the men's basketball team and several other items that have come up since the last edition of the series.

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1 - Win and you are in

On Tuesday night the College Football Playoff committee announced their top-25 teams and while it was not a surprise that the Buckeyes were in the top-four, many people were shocked to see the Buckeyes sitting at No. 1 (granted, if you had listened to me a couple of weeks ago, I told you that I had a sneaking suspicion that the Buckeyes would be No. 1 in the first poll).

While we could get into a huge debate about who is ranked where and what that means, what we do know is that Ohio State just needs to keep winning. Yes, there is the argument that if Ohio State beats Penn State and then somehow drops the game to Michigan but still goes on to win the B1G Champ Game, that Ohio State would still be in the playoff, but wouldn't it be better to just erase all doubt and just run the table?

The Buckeyes have been one of those teams that has won games and moved down in the human polls this season, and there is a real chance that could happen this next week, even if Ohio State beats Maryland but 100 points. The No. 2 versus No. 3 (sorry CBS) game between LSU and Bama should launch one team or the other over Ohio State for a couple of weeks is everyone holds serve, especially if it is LSU that wins. The argument could be made that if Bama wins, that their SOS still would not be that great and that Ohio State should not be passed up, but that is for a committee to discuss and not something that we will have any input into.

Now, all of this talk about where to book late-December travel is grossly premature if the Buckeyes start to buy into their own press clippings and trip up in a game that shouldn't even be a game. Fortunately, Maryland and Rutgers are... well... not very good this year. Maryland did beat Rutgers by 41 points in a head-to-head match-up earlier this year to give you an idea about which team is worse, but it would take an absolute implosion of one way or another for Ohio State to find either of these games contested in the second half.

Back to the playoff rankings now, there will certainly be some movement when No. 2 and No. 3 play each other this week while the current No. 1 and No. 4 will play each other on November 23rd. That game against Penn State could see a different ranking if No. 17 Minnesota is able to pull off an upset against the Nittany Lions, so it might be best for Ohio State fans to pull against Minnesota, just to protect a likely top-five match-up later in the month. Not that it is going to change Ohio State's ability to get into the playoff if the Buckeyes win out, but it sure would be nice to be the No. 1 team overall and have at least the appearance of some sort of advantage in selecting locations.

On to that, with the Fiesta and the Peach Bowls having the semifinals (December 28th for those looking at holiday travel) it is not exactly a slam dunk as to where the Buckeyes would end up. Yes, Atlanta is the shorter trip, it is drivable from Columbus (granted, I have driven through eastern Tennessee during snowy weather and that is not something that I have any interest in doing any time soon again) but the Peach Bowl is also in the backyard of several potential opponents including Alabama and Clemson (and to a lesser degree LSU, with Baton Rouge (La.) actually 42 miles closer to Atlanta than Columbus). Why would you want to go to a venue and potentially be the road team in terms of crowd when you have earned the No. 1 spot and what should be a 'home field advantage'. That is not saying that Ohio State fans would not travel, because they would. You could have a game in Zanzibar and Ohio State would still have tens of thousands of fans at it. But if Ohio State were set to face one of those teams, it might be better to make everyone travel to Ohio State's second home in Arizona and the Fiesta Bowl.

Now, if things start to move in the playoff rankings and a Pac-12 or Big 12 opponent appear to be the foe, then it would make perfect sense to play the game in Atlanta, keep it somewhat close, especially in a year where many fans are believing that there could be 'two' bowl trips in store and a pretty quick turn around to New Orleans for a championship game at the Sugar Bowl.

It is all well and good for us to be talking about this but make no mistake, the message around the WHAC is about focusing on each game on the schedule and not looking ahead to the rankings.

"The rankings and all that stuff really shouldn't be any of our focus," head coach Ryan Day said on Tuesday.

We believe him. Especially with games against Penn State and Michigan still on the schedule to keep the attention of everyone and the last two games against Penn State being knuckle-busters that were decided by one point after the Buckeyes were down by multiple scores. The Buckeyes are well aware of where they are ranked but are not going to fall for the old 'banana in the tailpipe' trick again.

Get caught up in how good everyone says you are and get lett out.

Not this year.

2 - These guys are pretty good

Okay, Cedarville is not representative of what the Buckeyes will see during the Big Ten season, or even what they will see during the non-league portion of the schedule, but it was still nice to see Chris Holtmann's team take the court for the first time this season and get an idea of what this team may look like.

Fans won't have to wait long to see this team play in a game that counts with Cincinnati coming to town this evening for the season opener. Ohio State went down to UC and spoiled the season opener for the Bearcats last season in a 64-56 decision and UC would love to return the favor this year.

This year's team will obviously have a new look with four new freshman players along with CJ Walker coming off of a transfer season, and of course a slimmed-down Kaleb Wesson will also go a long way as Ohio State's returning leader in scoring and rebounding.

Against Cedarville, the Buckeyes won easily in a 95-52 rout but that game is not about looking at a final score, it was more of an opportunity to see these guys out there playing against someone in a different color uniform.

Kaleb dominated the smaller Division-2 team with 23 points and 9-11 shooting from the floor but with that, people wanted to see what the new guys were going to look like.

DJ Carton had 15 points and five assist at the point while CJ Walker had 10 points of his own. The Buckeyes should have a really good duo running the floor for them as the Buckeyes shot 51.6-percent from the floor on the night.

The concern, granted it is only one game, is that the sophom*ore class struggled somewhat with neither Luther Muhammad nor Duane Washington having good evenings. The tandem shot a combined 2-12 from the floor and just never seemed to get into the flow of the game.

The Buckeyes will need everyone to answer this week, going against a UC team that while not in the top-25, promises to be pretty good.

This Ohio State team certainly has the horses to make a lot of noise in the Big Ten season but a lot of the early success or lack thereof will come down to how quickly everyone gets on the same page and our belief is that we will see an even better effort tonight against the Bearcats.

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3 - The divide is real

With nearly half of the top-10 idle last week, we had a chance to see up close how wide the chasm between the top couple of teams and the rest of the pack is in college football.

Ohio State, LSU, Alabama and Penn State were all off, Clemson essentially was off with a game against Wofford. We will throw Oklahoma into this group as well, even if we are not totally sold on the Sooners after their loss to K-State.

Sure, there were some fun games to watch over the weekend but did any team that actually played a game (again, leaving Clemson off this list for the sake of making an argument) strike fear in the hearts of the teams sitting at home watching the action on television?

That does not mean that upsets can't happen, we are well aware that they happen and we still probably have one more weekend shaping up to be rife with traps and pitfalls and it will be a moment of knots in stomachs and sweaty palms for the nation's elite.

Did UGA or Florida look like a team that could really crash the party against the best teams in the nation? How about Auburn, who only beat woeful Ole Miss by just six points? Notre Dame benefitted from Virginia Tech deciding to stop rushing more than three to move down the field and pull out a one-point win. Michigan took it to Maryland, but it is Maryland, the same team that is a 40-point-plus dog to Ohio State. Utah farted around with Washington for way too long, and while the game was in Seattle, it still was not a great look for the one-loss Utes to struggle with a 2-4 conference team. Don't even get us started on Baylor.

No, Oregon might be the one team outside of the "group" that might have a reason to put a little fear into teams as they made USC look like a JV team. The Ducks will have every opportunity with just one loss as the committee will eventually have to decide which league(s) will be left out of the dance at the end of the season and if a week one loss to Auburn is excusable enough when the music stops playing and everyone struggles to find a seat in the circle.

Now, all of this could change in the coming weeks, you just never know... but it seems as if the pool of legitimate contenders is set and it will be hard for anyone else to knock the door down without some major upheaval, even with a bit of a round-robin getting ready to occur with LSU/Alabama, Penn State/Minnesota, Penn State/Ohio State among others set to take place in the next four weeks.

When the experts are already talking about what a "one loss" Alabama, LSU or Ohio State would mean to the picture and how they would still likely be in, it just goes to show that the card may be closer to set than anyone realizes.


1 - How sharp will Ohio State be coming off the second open week?

Coming off the last open time around the Buckeyes only put up seven points in the first quarter on the road at Northwestern. Now, that is not completely out of character for this Ohio State team that is much more of a second quarter team versus the first quarter, but you do always carry some concern about coming off of a week without a game.

Northwestern plays much better defense than Maryland does so the thought would be that Ohio State should come out much faster this week against the Terps and have something to build upon, especially with the thought that the desire would be to play the starters for a half and then get them on the bench and out of harm's way.

With all of Maryland's issues, they have been pretty good in the first quarter and are averaging giving up just 9.2 points per game in the first frame. Granted, Maryland has only faced two scoring offenses in the top-30 nationally this season against playing against three in the bottom-75 nationally as well as a poor offense from Division I-FCS.

We shall see if the Buckeyes can come out quick, regain some momentum from the last stretch of games and get this one put away quickly. It sure beats the alternative of being down 17-3 at the end of the first quarter like last season.

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2 - Will Penn State versus Minnesota live up to the hype?

While this does not have a direct impact on Ohio State with Minnesota off the schedule and Penn State set to play Ohio State in a couple of weeks, we are curious to see if Minnesota is for real, and for that matter, is Penn State for real?

The Gophers have played a very poor schedule along the way and were only 13 points better combined than their three non-league opponents. The margins have gotten wider in league play but a stretch of Purdue, Illinois, Nebraska, Rutgers and Maryland could not have been hand-picked any better for fattening up a resume.

Penn State on the other hand has at least played somewhat of a legitimate B1G schedule with Iowa and Michigan on the list. Neither of those games were blowouts by any stretch of the imagination but they were good enough for the win at the end.

It is just easy to be skeptical that this game will live up to any sort of hype. Prevailing thought would say that Penn State should expose the Badgers in Happy Valley and knock them back closer to Wisconsin in the B1G West race. But again, we would not be shocked to see the Gophers shock the world, being the first team that Penn State has played with an offense and a defense (sorry Iowa and Michigan can only score on bad teams).

This smells like a two-touchdown type of margin, but we are not sold on which team is the bigger faker. Right now, let's give the credit to Penn State and expect to see the Gophers go home with a pretty thorough beating.

ONE PREDICTION: Ohio State will run for more than 400 yards against Maryland

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Ohio State ran for 283 last season in the overtime win against the Terps, but that was also with 405 yards of passing as Ohio State closed in on 700 yards of total offense in a game that was lacking defense.

This time around, we expect to see those numbers flipped as the Buckeyes will look to get it done more on the ground than via the air but we won't be shocked if Justin Fields/Chris Chugunov/Gunnar Hoak close in on 300 yards combined throwing the ball.

JK Dobbins ran for 203 yards last time around on a whopping 37 carries, and we expect that he can get close to that number again with 15 fewer carries this time around, if he even gets 20 carries at the end of the day.

To Maryland's credit, they have only had one game where the Terps have given up more than 200 team rushing yards, but that was the only game where Maryland faced a top-50 national rushing offense. Where are the Buckeyes? Try No, 4, averaging 284 yards per game.

Look for Dobbins to get close to 200 yards, Master Teague to come close to 100 yards and then the rest of the pack to be beyond 100 yards as well as the Buckeyes control this game on the ground.

DottingTheEyes  -  3-2-1: So it begins (2024)
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