Out­come doesn’t an­swer all doubts

The Columbus Dispatch - - Football - ROB OLLER

Well, at least the pass de­fense held up. That’s a joke, by the way. Ohio State’s pass de­fense ranked last in the na­tion en­ter­ing Satur­day’s 38-7 skir­mish against Army, but as prov­i­dence would have it, Army’s pass­ing of­fense also ranked last. Given the aes­thetic yin yang of that sta­tis­ti­cal nov­elty, the Buck­eyes were in no dan­ger of get­ting flag-planted by Black Knights’ quar­ter­back Ah­mad Brad­shaw. Baker May­field he is not.

What’s not a joke? J.K. Dob­bins. The true fresh­man gives Ohio State a break­away threat it has lacked since Ezekiel El­liott took his burst to the NFL. Mike We­ber is a good tail­back. You don’t win Big Ten fresh­man of the year last sea­son on smoke and mir­rors. But Dob­bins has the look of an ex­cep­tional tal­ent, a gifted run­ner who in­stinc­tively feels when a cut­back move is needed, which de­fines the great ones.

Don’t take my word for it. Par­ris Camp­bell de­scribed his team­mate as primed to take a place among the OSU greats.

“J.K. is a one-of-a-kind player. He can re­ally be some­thing spe­cial,” Camp­bell said.

J. T. Bar­rett can be spe­cial, too, but no one is quite sure, be­cause he also can seem pedes­trian, at least as a passer. The fifth- year quar­ter­back is not headed for NFL star­dom, and maybe he misses on too many deep throws, but he still holds some­thing like 4,034 school pass­ing records, and just passed Drew Brees for the most touch­downs re­spon­si­ble for ( 107) in Big Ten his­tory.

Bar­rett is like the ag­ing ac­tor who wins an Os­car based mostly on his life­time achieve­ment, a la Paul New­man in "The Color of Money," but New­man was still pretty good in that movie. And, so, Bar­rett is still pretty good at times.

“The heart of a lion,” Ohio State coach Ur­ban Meyer said of Bar­rett. “And one of the tough­est play­ers I’ve ever been around. That’s pretty good char­ac­ter­is­tics to have with a guy touch­ing the ball ev­ery snap.”

So to re­view …

This much we know:

• Ohio State needs to be a run­first, pass- sec­ond of­fense. It is best to be bal­anced, of course, and the Buck­eyes were against Army, rush­ing for 281 yards and pass­ing for 316. Credit Meyer and of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Kevin Wilson for mesh­ing their philoso­phies, for one game, any­way. But more than just the eye­ball test tells me OSU is best when the run sets up the pass. Dob­bins rushed for 172 yards and two touch­downs on 13 at­tempts against the Black Knights. Al­low me to do the math: That is 13.2 yards per carry. As Jef­fery Le­bowski would put it, “The Dude abides.” So abide him by hand­ing him the ball more than 13 times a game.

This much we think we know: • Bar­rett is best as a passer when he free- wheels it, but that is the tricky part, right? How to get him to that point? Clearly, Bar­rett looked bet­ter late than early against Army. Re­gard­less, his fi­nal num­bers (25 of 33 for 270 yards and two TDs) were strong. What hap­pens when a bet­ter de­fense comes his way? Keep read­ing.

This much re­mains a mys­tery: • How will Bar­rett fare against bet­ter de­fenses? His track record is sus­pect, but — and per­haps it’s be­cause his school records are rat­tling in my brain at the mo­ment — maybe some­thing clicked for him in the sec­ond half against Army?

• Is Ohio State’s de­fense ca­pa­ble of dom­i­nat­ing? We al­ready men­tioned the pass de­fense. No clue if it has im­proved. As for the de­fen­sive line, which has been touted as among the na­tion’s best, it showed some re­solve against Army, which had an 18-play drive that went 99 yards over 9: 37. But the Knights still only scored seven points. That’s the bot­tom line.

What have we learned, then? A lit­tle but not a lot. Ques­tions re­main. This onion still has lay­ers to be peeled.

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