This should read like a Billy Mays infomercial:
FOR ALL YOU BIG 10 COACHES: TIRED OF GETTING BLOWN OUT IN COLUMBUS? TIRED OF BEING STIFF-ARMED BY ANOTHER 5 STAR BUCKEYE RECRUIT? TIRED OF WATCHING JIM TRESSEL SMILE AND TALK ABOUT HOW YOU "PLAYED HARD" AFTER HIS TEAM MERCY KILLED YOURS BY FOUR TOUCHDOWNS?
Then read this article, written by THE RIVALRY ESQ, and maybe you can keep it competitive against the Scarlet and Gray this year!
Because frankly, the Buck's have been dominant ever since Tressel's system got rolling during the national championship season in '02. Boasting a 47-9 in-conference record and five conference titles (shared and solo), it's been quite a bitch to play OSU lately. [ed note: PSU fans, I know you smashed them last year, that was a helpful learning tool for making this list.]
Billy Mays, a Pennsylvania native, supports this article.
So what should your team be doing to prepare for a trip into Columbus or a visit from the Buckeyes? I compiled a general list of concepts...
Stop the Run
Easier said than done. Just to name a few solid offensive linemen that have excelled in Columbus the last seven years: Doug Datish, Kirk Barton, TJ Downing, Alex Boone, Rob Sims, Nick Mangold, Alex Stepanovich. These talented linemen, combined with NFL caliber backs, make stopping the bread and butter off-tackle run plays next to impossible. Terrelle Pryor's scrambling won't help either.
But, just like Penn State proved in 2008, the devastating running attack can be stopped. Two basic ideas:
Attack the guards. As WeWillAlwaysHaveTempe pointed out, guard play has been shaky last few years. Numerous times in 2008, the talented Penn State frontline beat the middle three of the OSU offensive line and made a play or disrupted things for a linebacker to clean up the running back.
Don't allow your linebackers to be intimidated: During the 2007 Illini upset in Columbus, J Lehman had 12 tackles, flying everywhere from his LB spot. In 2008, Navarro Bowman and the entire PSU linebacking corps made decisive tackles on Wells, the opposite of whatever Michigan State's defenders tried during the stiff-arm fest that happened in East Lansing. It doesn't hurt to put five defenders at the line of scrimmage, a formation that Illinois used with some success in '07.
The running game was held to 90 ypg in the Buckeye's nine in-conference losses since 2002, a telling statistic. The ability to slow the run will make Pryor have to look downfield, a preferable option to being pounded by the relentless rushing attack. And there is no Michael Jenkins or Santonio Holmes on the 2009 roster, a downfield threat you absolutely must account for.
Mix Up Your Offense and Generally Avoid Downfield Throws
Your not going to score a lot on the Bucks during Big 10 play. From 2005-2007, the Buck's allowed the least ppg each year in-conference, using a "bend but don't break" scheme featuring four down linemen, NFL caliber linebackers, and some talented defensive backs. No one has really had sustained success against this defense, but it certainly helps to do the following:
- Move your quarterback out of the pocket. It doesn't matter if it's a modified rollout or a scramble. The Illinois upset in 2007 showed a confused Buckeye defense lacking confidence in defending the movement of Juice Williams. When Penn State had any success throwing the ball in 2008, it was on rollout runs or throws. Hell, if you want to go back to 2004, Brett Basanez's scrambling helped light up the (admittedly weak) OSU defense for 444 total yards. Not since Michigan '06 and Michigan '03 has a Big 10 team with a straight dropback based offense put up big points on Tressel. And this year, there won't be a dropback offense talented enough to score 30...Look what happened when MSU and their vanilla O got smashed last year.
- Throw short and mid range passes effectively. Michigan did it with slants in '03, Illinois and Penn State did it with screens in '07 and '08. If you can hit the seams in front of the safeties or get seven yards on a screen, you avoid having to force the ball downfield against the likes of Malcolm Jenkins, Ashton Youboty, Nate Salley, etc.
Pray for Inopportune, Game Changing Turnovers...Or Cause Them
Troy Smith's headstand sack/fumble, TP's '08 fumble, Boeckman's three picks against Illinois. See a pattern here? There's a big, season altering distinction between giving Ohio State trouble (Wisconsin, 2008) and finishing the job (Penn State, 2008). Case in point - When Pryor ran in for the game winning touchdown against the Badgers, the previously solid UW defense was out of position and disorganized. When Pryor had the ball popped out while scrambling on third and one against PSU, Mark Rubin was broke down in position to make a play.
Here is Law Buck's 2009 Spring Preview of Ohio State, predicting an 11-1 record and an undefeated in-conference slate...Wow...11-1? I just don't see them losing to Navy, I'm sorry.
Here is BSD telling you OSU is overrated...