Ohio State at Penn State, 8 p.m., ABC, 1410
What’s up with Ohio State’s passing game?
That was one of the major discussion points this week when coach Urban Meyer and some of his players met the media.
Meyer acknowledged there are things to clean up but took issue with a reporter characterizing the aerial attack as looking like it had a square wheel.
“Guys work too hard around here for a square wheel comment,” Meyer said. “It’s a work in progress with a bunch of young receivers, and they have to continue to work at it.”
The Buckeyes are 83rd in the nation in passing yards per game (216) but 14th in efficiency rating.
Meyer was quick to point out the latter stat is the only one he pays attention to, and that was probably not just a matter of convenience.
Raw yards don’t necessarily mean much (especially when a team is fourth in the nation in rushing at 300.5 yards per game), and the efficiency stat takes into account not only completion percentage but also yards per attempt.
That means it rewards big plays and avoiding turnovers, arguably Meyer’s favorite and least favorite things on a football field, respectively.
Regardless of numbers, nearly everyone agreed the Buckeye passing game didn’t really pass the look test the last two weeks.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett completed 9 of 21 passes for 93 yards with an interception and a touchdown against Indiana on Oct. 8, and he shook off a choppy first half and a third-quarter interception to finish with 226 yards and the game-winning touchdown a week later at then-No. 8 Wisconsin.
Barrett didn’t deny there were things that needed improvement, and he not surprisingly looked at himself.
“I think timing,” he said when asked what could be better. “At times maybe I was ready to throw and the receivers weren’t quite open, or maybe I needed to slow down my drop to allow them time to get open.
“We have to be on time with the passing game.”
Wisconsin is 27th in the country in pass efficiency defense while Indiana is a surprising 19th.
Penn State, Ohio State’s next opponent, is 39th.
“I would not consider us elite performers right now, but once again, efficiency is what we look at, and that takes everything into consideration,” Meyer said.
“We do not look at yards and number of throws. We look at efficiency, and the one bad play (at Wisconsin) was the interception going in. That’s what we look at. If we manage that one right, then you probably score on that play.”
While the passing game was expected to take a step forward with Barrett the full-time starter this season, it is still relying on numerous new faces.
The quarterback has plenty of weapons, if not a true go-to receiver yet.
Pass protection has been an issue at times, too.
Slot receivers Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson lead the team in receiving yards with 403 and 232, respectively, while outside receiver Noah Brown has 213 yards and six touchdowns.
“We’ve got a lot of different receivers who are able to do a lot of different things,” said Brown, who caught the game-winning touchdown pass at Wisconsin in overtime. “So the rotation can mess up some timing sometimes, but overall we’re all right and we’ll be fine.”