Ohio State of­fense are ready for Michi­gan

No. 2 Buck­eyes click­ing as they host No. 3 Wolver­ines

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Mitch Stacy

When Ohio State’s pass­ing game was sput­ter­ing last month, J.T. Bar­rett kept say­ing ev­ery­thing was OK. Even af­ter the loss to un­ranked Penn State, the quar­ter­back in­sisted no big changes were nec­es­sary and the of­fense was on track.

The quiet Texan’s con­fi­dence and pa­tience paid div­i­dends. The Buck­eyes went out and routed then-No. 10 Ne­braska 62-3 to open Novem­ber and swamped Mary­land by the same score a week later, with Bar­rett throw­ing for 680 yards and six touch­downs in the two games.

The wind blew down Ohio State’s pass­ing at­tack last week against Michi­gan State, but the Buck­eyes es­caped with a 17-16 win. Mike We­ber rushed for 111 yards and a touch­down, and Bar­rett ran for 105 yards and threw a 24yard touch­down pass to Cur­tis Sa­muel.

No. 2 Ohio State is pre­par­ing to face the best de­fense it’s seen all sea­son in No. 3 Michi­gan on Satur­day, with ter­rific line­backer/de­fen­sive back Jabrill Pep­pers, a game-changer who has to be ac­counted for on ev­ery play, and per­haps the

na­tion’s best se­condary.

Michi­gan leads the na­tion in lim­it­ing op­po­nents to 245.6 yards per game.

“We have a re­spect for them,” wide re­ceiver Terry McLau­rin said. “Just watch­ing a cou­ple of clips within the last cou­ple of days, the press man, they’re go­ing to load a lot of the box and as a group we have to beat man cov­er­age. That’s why you come to Ohio State. That’s why they re­cruit you, to come beat man cov­er­age.”

While Bar­rett spread the ball around ear­lier in the sea­son, Ohio State’s of­fen­sive resur­gence has been built around the dual-threat quar­ter­back;

We­ber, who is the third Ohio State fresh­man ever to run for over 1,000 yards; and Sa­muel, a hy­brid back who runs the ball and catches passes with equal skill. Wide re­ceivers have be­come mostly sup­port­ing play­ers.

“We’ve got a lot of dif­fer­ent things in our of­fense that al­low us to uti­lize all three of those play­mak­ers, and there’s other guys, too,” cen­ter Pat Elflein said. “Our re­ceivers are play­ing well, they’re block­ing well, which al­lows for the whole of­fense to open up. As long as we keep do­ing that, we’ll hit our shots and we’ll keep play­ing Buck­eye ball like we have been.”

Bar­rett said it be­gins and ends with the play of the of­fen­sive line. Dur­ing the Oc­to­ber swoon, the

line strug­gled in pass pro­tec­tion and Bar­rett was con­stantly on the run. Ad­just­ments were made.

“I think our O-line is do­ing what they need to do, and if our O-line plays well then we have a good day on of­fense,” Bar­rett said. “The main thing is that the of­fense has re­ally opened things up for the guys run­ning and also for me run­ning the ball.”

Michi­gan coach Jim Har­baugh said Bar­rett is hard to pre­dict be­cause he’s able to do so many things well. The ju­nior is re­spon­si­ble for 99 touch­downs in his Ohio State ca­reer, seven shy of Drew Brees’ Big Ten record.

“Slip­pery,” Har­baugh said. “Tough run­ner, like a run­ning back, but he’s got the vi­sion of a quar­ter­back, he’s got the throw­ing

abil­ity of a quar­ter­back. There’s times where he can put the ball into the tight­est of win­dows. He plays with a lot of con­fi­dence. He’s an out­stand­ing player. It’s a unique com­bi­na­tion for a quar­ter­back to have all those things.”

Sa­muel has emerged as the go-to guy for Bar­rett. He leads the team in re­ceiv­ing with 790 yards and seven touch­downs, and has rushed for an­other 650 yards and seven scores. In what prom­ises to be one of the more in­trigu­ing matchups of the day, Sa­muel could line up in the slot and be star­ing across at Pep­pers.

That’s a matchup that makes the game even more in­trigu­ing, if that’s pos­si­ble. The win­ner stays in the mix for the Col­lege Football Play­off.

AL GOLDIS — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ohio State quar­ter­back J.T. Bar­rett looks to throw dur­ing Buck­eyes’ vic­tory over Michi­gan State last Satur­day.

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