Ohio State Football: Key to Buckeyes’ season will be seizing momentum

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 26: Jerome Baker
COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 26: Jerome Baker /

The ability to seize and maintain momentum will be key to the Ohio State football team’s success this season.

As the Ohio State football team prepares for the 2017 season, the keys to the Buckeyes’ success seem obvious.

Develop a consistent deep-ball threat.  Stay healthy.  Solidify the right side of the offensive line.  Replace three starters in the secondary.  Find reliable kickers.

Lost in the discussion is harnessing momentum.

Looking back at the most meaningful games played over the Urban Meyer era, the primary difference between winning and losing was seizing momentum at the right moment in the game.

Last year at Penn State the Buckeyes lost momentum with a blocked punt early in the fourth quarter setting off the Nittany Lions’ comeback win.

There have been few moments in Meyer’s tenure where I felt the team looked desperate.  This was one of them.

Anyone being honest about the Michigan game realizes that the Wolverines should have buried the Buckeyes in the first half.  Of course they failed to take advantage like Jim Harbaugh’s teams generally do.

Down 17-7 late in the third quarter with Michigan driving into Ohio State’s side of the field,  Jerome Baker’s interception changed the dynamics of that game.  The offense scored a touchdown a few plays later and the pendulum swung back in the Buckeyes’ favor.

Losing or gaining momentum is not unique to Ohio State’s successes or failures.  You see it all the time in college football.

Alabama had Clemson on the ropes in the College Football Playoff Championship game and then DeShaun Watson started making play after play taking control of the game in the fourth quarter.

The Crimson Tide defense was gassed and the Tigers’ offense pounced.  Game over.

Is it even possible to game plan for momentum?  I think it is, especially for a seasoned team with strong leadership.

This is why having Kevin Wilson and Greg Schiano will payoff with a championship this year.

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Wilson is bringing back tempo which is clearly the type of offense needed for J.T. Barrett to thrive.

How many times did the offense stand at the line of scrimmage for 15 seconds last year letting a defense rest or adjust?  This is not a productive way to maintain momentum.

Like Tom Herman, I think Wilson is a chess player.  He can see four and five plays ahead and slay a defense by moving quickly from one play to the next.

On the other side of the ball, Schiano’s defense plays aggressively with the goal of forcing turnovers and errant plays.  Getting 27 turnovers in 2016 was not luck.  It was by design.

I expect this style of aggressive defense will again pay dividends and the Buckeyes will be even more effective forcing turnovers this year.

I recognize the magnitude of all the other factors this team needs to accomplish its goals.  They are all important.

Next: 10 bold predictions for the 2017 college football season

Given the talent on this team though, I feel the glue that will make this season work is recognizing and capitalizing on moments when an opponent is vulnerable and remaining poised when plays are not working.