COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer made it clear that Cardale Jones is still his starting quarterback despite two consecutive shaky starts.
“He’s the guy,” Meyer said. “Unless he doesn’t perform well.”
College football’s most interesting quarterback competition continues Saturday when the top-ranked Buckeyes face Western Michigan.
Jones was relieved in the second quarter of last week’s tense victory against Northern Illinois by J.T. Barrett, the sophomore who led the Buckeyes to an 11-1 record last season before breaking his right ankle. Barrett wasn’t effective either and Ohio State (3-0) managed just one offensive touchdown in the 20-13 win.
After the Northern Illinois game, Meyer called the offense “discombobulated.” On Wednesday, he described it as being “in a funk.”
Not exactly a vote of confidence for the whole unit.
“We’re not controlling the line of scrimmage and when we do, we’re not perimeter blocking like we normally do,” Meyer said.
It’s most noticeable when Ohio State feeds the ball to running back Ezekiel Elliott. Since scoring on an 80-yard run on his first carry of the season against Virginia Tech he has 251 yards on 60 rushes, a below-average 4.1 average.
Although he had only 11 runs vs. Virginia Tech, Elliott totaled 50 in the past two games. Some fans would like to see Zeke get even more work.
“We’re going to do what we need to do to win football games,” running backs coach Tony Alford said. “If someone says he’s not carrying it enough, I can’t answer that for you.”
Meyer is not concerned about the defense, especially after it’s been responsible for scoring two of the past five touchdowns —Vonn Bell off a fumble recovery vs. Hawaii and Darron Lee’s interception return last week.
In the past two games the Buckeyes have yielded 85 and 80 yards through the air.
“It’s not about the secondary,” safeties coach Chris Ash said. “It’s not about the corners and the safeties. It’s about team defense.”
Here are other things to watch as the Buckeyes go for their 17th straight win while the Broncos (1-2) try to upset the defending national champions.
MONEY BALL: It makes sense for Western Michigan to play an in-state rival such as Michigan State and it makes cents (after a six-figure dollar amount) for the Broncos to face Ohio State.
“We needed a big money game and that was a decision of our administration,” Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck.
The Broncos lost at home to the Spartans 37-24 on Sept 4. Michigan State is now No. 2 in the nation.
“It’s a benefit for our kids,” Fleck said. “We’ve got such young kids. When you’re not a champion you’ve got to learn and know what a champion looks like, feels like.”
MILLER TIME: After former QB Braxton Miller’s sizzling debut as a hybrid back for the Buckeyes against Virginia Tech in which he scored on a 54-yard pass reception and 53-yard run, he has been quiet the past two games.
Against Northern Illinois he had four runs for 7 yards and only two direct snaps. It’s part of a bigger problem of not having any deep threats since the departure of Devin Smith.
AIR IT OUT: Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell threw for 355 yards and four touchdowns vs. FCS Murray State last week but don’t diminish the Broncos aerial game.
He passed for 365 yards vs. Michigan State and has two quality receivers in Daniel Braverman and Corey Davis. Each had more than 100 yards in the last game. Braverman ranks sixth in the nation in receiving yards with an average of 132.7 yards per game. He also leads with 40 catches, 10 more than his closest pursuer.
TIGHT GRIP: Meyer said a portion of his team is feeling the pressure of being the hunted as champs as opposed to being the hunter last season.
“I think it’s affected us offensively, and we’re playing defense on offense right now, and you don’t do that,” he said. “It’s something that I feel on offense, not defense or special teams.”