Why has the Ohio State football team been so bad on third and fourth down this season, and how can Ryan Day fix this moving forward?
There are several areas on the Ohio State football team that need to be corrected or improved in the next two weeks of practice and this week against Western Kentucky before the Buckeyes go back on the road in a big, national television showdown against Notre Dame. Now that Kyle McCord has clearly solidified himself as the starting quarterback, maybe some of those offensive shortcomings can start to be cleaned up.
With McCord more than likely being named the starting quarterback moving forward, coupled with the incremental improvements on the offensive line that are taking place, there is no reason why Ohio State’s terrible third-down conversion rate can’t be fixed.
The Ohio State football team is currently ranked 114th in the Nation on third downs. By the way, there are only 129 FBS schools, so that would make the Buckeyes one of the worst on third down in the country. Their 16.67 percent success rate is awful after only going 7/24 during the first two games.
That terrible conversion ranking doesn’t appear as bad as it seems because the Buckeyes have done really well on fourth down. They are tied for 28th best in college football at 66.67 percent after going 4/6 in the first two games. However, Ohio State’s combined 11/24 on third and fourth down isn’t acceptable.
So why has it been this bad? There are several factors one could point at, with the first being the personnel. Breaking in three new offensive linemen along with a new quarterback is a recipe for struggling on third and fourth down at the beginning of a season for anyone.
Then you have the fact that Ryan Day has had both McCord and Devin Brown coming into the game at different points, which has stalled the offense at different points. Also, the play calling on some of these drives has left a lot to be desired, especially in the opening game against Indiana where it was obvious that Day was purposely being basic in his play calling. All of these factors have added up to a bad start to the season on third and fourth down.
Moving forward, several factors will fix this issue. First, and most obviously, will be a consistent starting quarterback. No longer will anyone, including the players have to wonder who the leader of the offense is going to be. This is McCord’s team for at least the remainder of the season, barring injury or a complete meltdown.
The offensive line should continue to improve. As the starting five continue to gain valuable reps both in practice and during the games, they should automatically continue to improve. The left tackle position, which is currently being filled by Josh Simmons, has been the most glaring weakness on the line thus far, but this was the first two games Simmons has ever played at left tackle in college. It was bound to look a little wonky at first, but just like the line as a whole, Simmons should also continue to improve as the season progresses. As the line improves, so will the third down conversion rate.
Finally, as both the quarterback and offensive line positions improve, so will the playcalling. Day will feel more comfortable opening up more of the playbook as those two units gain more experience. Plus, they won’t fall behind schedule as much on first and second down, which has limited their plays on third down thus far during the first two games. Penalties have also played a part in negating solid first or second-down gains. Cleaning up the holding penalties on the line will also help.
Sustaining drives on third down indeed looks ugly right now, but that is one major fix that can change the success of the Ohio State offense. The Ohio State football team is taking a hit in the eyes of the national media because of lower offensive output. This small, but not so insignificant improvement, can begin to change that narrative overnight.