The Ohio State Buckeyes come into the season with great expectations, namely, a BCS Bowl or even a BCS Title. How they get either of those objectives will be up to the Buckeye offense, which proved that it could grind opponents into the dust when necessary (as in, pounding the ball 51 times for 229 yards against Iowa, and pounding it 51 times (again) vs Oregon for 153 yards). In the Iowa game, Ohio State used its rushing attack with great success, and late heroics by Iowa's Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and James Vandenberg barely kept the Hawkeyes in the game.
On the other hand, in an earlier performance in Ohio Stadium against Wisconsin, Ohio State was unable to bring its running game into play, finishing with only 97 yards on 27 carries. However, Ohio State didn't need its running game, instead relying on a pair of interception returns for touchdowns and a Ray Small kick return to win the game.
After the jump? The disparity in Ohio State's offenses, in the Wisconsin and Iowa games. In the meantime, sit back and enjoy the New World Symphony. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yctfXIqugXc&NR=1
The difference between the Iowa and Wisconsin games is simple: Pryor was ineffective against Wisconsin and effective against Iowa. How? Pryor completed just five passes on thirteen attempts against Wisconsin, and threw an ill-timed interception to to Culmer St. Jean that set up Wisconsin's only touchdown of the day. Now, I remember watching that game, and Pryor was running laterally far too much. Happy feet? Pryor scampered all around his own backfield and was taken down for some messy losses by Chris Borland and O'Brien Schofield. The Badger defense shut down Pryor for most of the day, and Ohio State's lone high point, offensively, was a long TD strike from Pryor to DeVier Posey near the end of the first half.
Brandon Saine ran for 55 yards on 14 attempts. Not exactly world-beating performance, but enough. Dan Herron handled the ball all of two times, and gained eight yards. Pryor, on the other hand, ran the ball ten times...and finished with a grand total of 35 yards rushing. Ick. Despite galloping twenty-seven yards on one play, Pryor was not an effective rusher that day, and was sacked twice, sabotaging what might have been a manageable rushing game. Ick, again.
Not that Pryor needed to be an effective rusher, as Jim Tressel's defense and special teams carried the game, but still, offensively, the Buckeyes had a hideous game. When your most effective rusher finishes with 4.0 yards per carry on just two carries, something is WRONG with your offense.
Ohio State had an idea of what to do when Iowa came to town. The Buckeyes got a major boost from Northwestern the week before, when Ricky Stanzi ran a naked bootleg into a charging Corey Wootton. Ouch. If there was a game I thought Iowa would lose big, it was this one. Why? Iowa HAD to start freshman QB James Vandenberg for this game. Vandenberg's first collegiate start would come in Ohio Stadium, a brutal place for even the most experienced quarterbacks (Daryll Clark KNOWS what I'm talking about).
Ohio State started by gashing Iowa for long gains on the ground. Instead of challenging Iowa's secondary, which was arguably the best in the Big Ten last year, Ohio State ran the ball. Even more importantly, they ran the ball effectively, opening the passing lanes for Terrelle Pryor to complete 14 passes on 17 attempts. While his yardage per attempt wasn't great, Pryor was far more effective than he had been against Wisconsin. The short completions grabbed first downs. Brandon Saine did an amazing job against the Hawkeye defense, running for 103 yards and two touchdowns on only eleven attempts.
Now, wait just a minute here!
Brandon Saine had only eleven attempts all game long. Herron, on the other hand, had 32, the most effective of which was a gut-punching 11 yard TD run that let Iowa fans know they were in for a slugfest. Pryor did well running the ball, with 29 yards on eight carries...BUT two messy sacks sabotaged his rushing efforts (again? yes, again).
At the end of the day, Ohio State's defense set up an overtime win. Despite the fourth-quarter heroics of Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Iowa was unable to prevent Ohio State from winning the Big Ten outright.
^ The only reason Iowa was able to fight back against Ohio State. The ONLY reason.
Ultimately, when I look back at what happened in arguably the two biggest games of the year for the Buckeyes, the disparity between effective QB play and ineffective QB play is quite evident. Effective QB play, as in Pryor's game vs. Iowa in which he completed 82.7% of his passes, helped the running game. Ineffective QB play, as in Pryor's game vs. Wisconsin, hampered the entire offense.
What do you think?
*Note: Buckeye fans, I tried to keep my personal feelings out of this one as much as I could. All my respect for Kurt Coleman was born in that game, and I feel he should have been a much higher selection in the NFL Draft. I really do.*