What we learned last week:
Why Tom Herman keeps calling Kenny Guiton the best backup quarterback in American but also why he is a backup.
People sometimes wonder how many teams Guiton could start for if he were not at Ohio State sharing a roster with five-star talent Braxton Miller, but they might be missing the point.
I’m sure there are a lot of colleges for whom Guiton would be the best quarterback they could find, but he is really well suited to be a backup on a highly rated team. He has the right mindset for it – a positive, confident guy who can put a group at ease with his calm, cool demeanor. But he also has the skillset for being a backup in that over the long haul his physical deficiencies will catch up with him.
He can make every throw, but he won’t make it every time. He doesn’t have a very strong arm or lights-out accuracy, but he can get the job done – sometimes with spectacular results, and especially with a little help from his friends.
That was the case Saturday in Berkeley, Calif., where Guiton put on a historically great performance as the Buckeyes beat California 52-34.
His 90-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith to start the scoring was a thing of beauty, as was the 47-yarder that followed less than two minutes later. The 1-yard toss to Chris Fields for the third touchdown was a little more crafty but still a well-executed play. The last of his four TD passes had him put the ball where only his receiver could get it, and Philly Brown did just that with a spectacular diving catch in the corner of the end zone.
I don’t recall Guiton throwing any passes that left me wondering what he was thinking putting the ball there, and he continued to run the option with aplomb.
Again he demonstrated why Urban Meyer says making great decisions is the most important aspect of running his spread offense even though most of the time we get caught up in the razzle-dazzle of its big plays.
The spread creates space, and Meyer puts people on the field who can take advantage of that – be it inside (Jordan Hall) or out (Jordan Hall, Dontre Wilson, Devin Smith, Philly Brown, Braxton Miller, etc.).
Guiton is better at helping others exploit the space than he is at doing so himself, but he is athletic enough to be dangerous if not accounted for. At the most basic level, that is all the quarterback needs to be from a physical standpoint for the offense to function fully. Of course, it is nice when he can account for an unblocked man himself or get away from a secondary defender to turn a four-yard gain into 40.
What can we expect to learn this week:
I’m not really sure if the answer will be anything. Perhaps watching the progress of the defense makes the most sense.
The Silver Bullets allowed more than 500 yards last week, but I’m not sure how instructive that is in today’s college football.
Perhaps time will tell, but days like that are going to happen. Look no farther than College Station, Texas, for an example. There Alabama allowed 628 yards – a program record – but remains on track to defend its national championship again thanks to some timely turnovers and a Crimson Tide offense that is pretty good in its own right.
More plays mean more yards in college football today – but more points are not necessarily as much a part of the equation. By spreading the field, offenses have created more opportunities to move the ball, but the space still gets constrained as you get closer to the goal line.
A premium is now on turnovers (Ohio State has forced seven in three games) and other big plays (the Buckeyes have 17 tackles for loss, including seven sacks) to thwart whatever momentum the spread-based, hurry-up offenses are bound to build just by their nature.
That does not mean there should be no sense of urgency to get better, but there probably aren’t any alarms going off in the defensive meeting rooms at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, either.
Of course the Buckeyes can tackle better, and Meyer said they did not react to screens as well as they needed to against Cal, but this is still a young unit with lots of talent and room to improve.
For proof of that, consider five-star sophomore Adolphus Washington missed the game with a groin injury and five-star freshman Joey Bosa was named the team’s defensive player of the week as his replacement.
Some credit goes to Cal, too. The Golden Bears obviously have a keeper in true freshman quarterback Jared Goff, the nation’s leader in passing both before and after he faced Ohio State. There are plenty of weapons around him, too, though the young offensive line could use an upgrade.
That this week’s opponent, Florida A&M, was scheduled for its band (which can’t make the trip because of the continued fallout from a hazing scandal that left a person dead) more than the product it would put on the field is probably all you need to know.
Michigan provided the latest reminder of what can happen when taking an opponent lightly, but I think the Wolverines’ escape against Akron had something to do with warts coming to light that I already suspected were there, too.
Nonetheless, Ohio State has plenty of areas it needs to improve if it wants to reach its lofty goals and only so many Saturdays to do it.
The Big Ten schedule awaits after a visit from the Rattlers.