ATLANTA — Five members of the Ohio State offense, as well as Buckeye offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, met with reporters on Tuesday to answer questions and preview this weekend’s Peach Bowl matchup with No. 1-ranked Georgia.
The LSU Blueprint?
Much was made of Georgia’s defensive performance in this year’s SEC Championship Game. The Bulldogs won convincingly 50-30, which included a 35-7 lead. But the UGA defense also gave up over 500 yards passing, including nearly 300 yards through the air to LSU’s backup quarterback.
Obviously, Ohio State’s offense would see those stats and think that they may have a productive day ahead of them when these two teams finally meet on New Year’s Eve.
According to OSU offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, however, don’t get hung up on the yards. Look at the point differential and the win/loss column instead.
“You look at those stats, but the result of the game was they won the game by 20,” Wilson said. “So that wasn’t necessarily the formula to win the game, in making plays in both phases, third-down conversions, short-yard conversion. You look at the history of championship football games, there’s not a lot of 9 and 7, 13-10 ballgames. And we’ve got two great defenses going at each other. There’s play makers on the offense. And when you look at the big-time plays, you have to score points. We have to find ways to not only have yards passing and running. We gotta find a way to get the ball to the end zone if we want a chance to win this game.”
Several Buckeyes were asked about Georgia’s defensive performance in that game, and none of them took the bait.
“Georgia is here for a reason. We’re here for a reason, too, but their defense is very stout,” said running back Chip Trayanum. “So we believe we have to have our best game on offense. And I think we’re on pace to do that with the practices we’ve been having. Overall just from watching that game, LSU did some good things against them. So there’s definitely a chance. Coach Day always preached there’s always a chance — no matter how hard you work, there’s always going to be a chance when you show up on game day.”
Like Wilson, starting left tackle Paris Johnson isn’t necessarily looking at what LSU did to Georgia. He’s instead looking at what they could’ve done, but didn’t.
“I feel like the main thing that I look at is to do exactly what some teams — to do like the opposite of what the teams did,” Johnson said. “There was a lot of clips I watched where there was a breakdown in the run game immediately that resulted in the negative runs and maybe there was a lack of protection from one of the guards really early on. So I think looking at those, for me as a lineman, I like to look at the negatives as a lesson to learn before it happens. So I think those things that I saw from that game in particular were great lessons, not just for myself, but for the entire offensive linemen for this game.”
Deep Thoughts By CJ Stroud
When discussing Georgia’s 50-30 win over LSU, the Bulldogs’ secondary was brought up quite a bit. The Tigers hit some deep shots on the UGA defense and made a blowout a little closer than the game maybe should have been.
But it wasn’t just that game where the Bulldogs have been vulnerable to the deep pass.
When asked why he thought Georgia had given up so many big plays this year, Buckeye quarterback CJ Stroud dodged the question like it was a pass rusher.
“I don’t really think I’m in a position to talk about why they get beat deep. I’m not a coach,” he said. “But I mean, to me, like, college football is college football. I haven’t played anybody terrible in college football ever. Even playing against Toledo, I was walking in the hotel, and fans are like, ‘we’re gonna beat them by 80.’ We might, you know what I’m saying, but you’ve gotta go out there and play football. You don’t know what the dynamic is. It’s football. At the end of the game, we just go out there and win. You just go out there and play, and things just happen. So I don’t know why they get beat on some of the deeper balls and things like that. But I do know that they are good. And we have to be sound with what we do.”
Living On Tulsa Time
Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson’s days as a Buckeye are numbered since accepting the head coaching position at Tulsa. This is always a busy time for coaches with bowl prep and recruiting, but it’s doubly busy for a coach taking over a new program.
Wilson needs to start putting a staff together while making sure his duties as a coordinator aren’t suffering. He also needs to be in contact with his players at Tulsa while also not being hard to find for his current players at Ohio State. And now with game week upon us, Wilson’s focus gets dialed in even more.
“I’ve been here since last Thursday. So now I’m pushing about 12 days directly with the team all the time,” Wilson said. “And really what’s different from years ago is when there’s a coaching change, you have to recruit your team so everybody doesn’t jump on the portal. So that was the issue was like just trying to keep the guys on board. But I’m very compartmentalized. These guys know this.
“When I’m at practice, it’s all practice and it’s full throttle. When we’re in meetings, it’s all meetings. There’s probably 70 percent of the time is spent on this bowl game and the extra time has been late at night, last night about 9:30. We started this morning at 7:00 and got rolling. About 9:30 last night, I actually got to a couple things revolving about next year’s job. Everything is with these guys.”
Wilson has been at Ohio State since 2017 when he was brought in with Ryan Day to help make sure the Buckeyes never suffered another playoff shutout like they did at the hands of Clemson in 2016.
Wilson will leave Ohio State as part of a coaching staff that put more points on the board than any other in OSU history.
For Paris Johnson, however, Wilson’s legacy goes well beyond his days as a Buckeye.
“Coach Wilson has been a friend of the family since before I was born,” Johnson said. “He coached my dad at Miami Ohio. So I think for him — at least for me, you know, some people can say, ‘how could you leave Ohio State,’ but for me, I have the perspective of also just wanting to see people win. And I want people to be is happy and be able to continue to do what wakes them up in the morning.
“I think that’s a great opportunity for him and I’m excited for him with that. And I think definitely when he took the job down there and he came back to practice, you could just see the smile and the juice that he had to really just leave it all out there because this is his final run with Ohio State.”
Against The Entire World?
Ohio State is currently a 6.5-point underdog to Georgia in the Peach Bowl. It’s the first time the Buckeyes have been an underdog since the national championship game against Alabama to cap the 2020 season.
Ohio State was an underdog twice during those playoffs, in fact. They defeated a 7-point favorite Clemson by three touchdowns.
Overall, this is a pretty new feeling for the Buckeye players, especially considering only a handful were even involved in those games. Despite that, the mentality doesn’t really change for the players themselves.
“I always thought it was Ohio against the world, even before this game. So nothing really changes,” said sophomore receiver Marvin Harrison. “Me personally, I’m glad we can play them in Atlanta, in their kind of home arena. I always like being the villain and underdog going into the game. Really excited to be able to do that.”
While the Peach Bowl is supposed to be a neutral site, Atlanta isn’t all that neutral when it comes to the Bulldogs. But that doesn’t seem to bother the Buckeyes.
“This is how you want to play Georgia, here, at their home pretty much,” said left tackle Paris Johnson. “And, yeah, since I’ve been here, it’s pretty much been Ohio against the world. So I think this game exemplifies that as well with the circumstances.”
The Buckeyes were given new life after their loss to Michigan, so it shouldn’t matter if this game was being played on Georgia’s campus in the middle of September. The possibility remains the same, and the opportunity is too good to waste.
“I think overall, the team likes it a lot,” running back Chip Trayanum said of being an underdog. “At this point we have nothing to lose. So we’re just here for a reason. I think everybody counts us out, but at the same time, it’s what you take on the Buckeye name for. So we’re all here to put our best foot forward and go win the whole thing.”