Ohio State football: Inside running game the key just as it was in 2014

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 11: Mike Weber /

Ohio State needs to run the football up the middle early and often.

For Ohio State to win the final two games of the regular season and the Big Ten Championship game, the inside running game must be emphasized. After all, that was a winning concept Saturday just as was for the Buckeyes’ in 2014. 

The designed inside run by Ezekiel Elliott became a staple of the offense in wins over Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon during the national championship drive. It was proven to be very effective once again with JK Dobbins and Mike Weber running the football in the Buckeyes dominant 48-3 win over the Spartans.

In 2014 it was out of necessity that Urban Meyer turned to that smash mouth power running game when JT Barrett went down with a season ending injury during the Michigan game. Cardale Jones simply wasn’t an option quarterback.

The Buckeye head coach obviously didn’t go away from the outside running game as Elliott’s long run that sealed the win over Alabama came on a sweep. And Urban didn’t abandon the read option either as Jones carried the ball often. But Zeke running the ball between the tackles behind “The Slobs” set the tenor of all three games, and allowed other aspects of the offense to be effective.

Against Michigan State, the Ohio State offensive game plan was a simple one. Hand the football to Buckeye running backs JK Dobbins and Mike Weber early and often on straight runs between the tackles, and just dare the Spartans’ front seven try to stop them. They couldn’t.

Dobbins ran the ball multiple times up the middle on Ohio State’s first series and it was effective. It gave the Buckeye offense momentum and then the freshman got a breather. That spelled real trouble for the Spartans.

Weber took the ball up the middle and ran 47 yards for a touchdown with 8:14 left in the first quarter. He also took an inside handoff for 82 yards and a score to give Ohio State a 35-0 lead with 6:16 remaining in the second quarter, and the Buckeyes never looked back.

For the game Weber gained 162 yards on 9 carries. Dobbins rushed 18 time for 124 yards. Since that was against the No. 3 rushing defense in the country, I think power football may work just fine for the Buckeyes the remainder of the season.

The offensive line deserves a ton of credit. They played inspired football to say the least.

But then why wouldn’t they, offensive linemen like nothing more than to be able to pin their ears back and flatten defenders. When they realized the inside run would be featured in the game plan, you know it had to be music to their ears.

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If Urban Meyer and Kevin Wilson continue to go to the power running game, it may once again lead Ohio State to a Big Ten Championship, and a possible birth in the college football playoff. Some may say that’s a longshot because there is no Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield and this year’s offensive line isn’t as good as the one in 2014.

However, think back to 2014 before Zeke and the slobs got on their roll. Elliott had a fine regular season but had rushed for less than 1,200 yards. His 696 rushing yards in the three postseason games were 37 percent of his total for the season. And that stretch of games vaulted the O line to legendary status among Buckeye fans.

Dobbins is on pace to exceed Elliott’s regular season total in 2014, and he and Weber have already rushed for 1,475 yards between them. I think it may be a good idea to continue to run these outstanding backs early and often, especially between the tackles.

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Who knows, it may be a winning formula once again just as it was at the end of the 2014 season. I for one would like to see it, and I know the slobs would too.