Ohio State vs. Florida Gator Bowl; A Tale of Two Offenses

Zack Boren talks about offensive improvement (via Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Throughout the better part of this season, I’ve been pushing the notion that our defense was our only saving grace. Coming into the Gator Bowl however, it is the offense that is going to win or lose this game.

Passing Improvement vs. Passing Struggles
When you look at these two offenses over the course of the season, they both pretty much sucked. However, when you look at the improvement of these two offenses over the course of the season a much different picture emerges. Most of the commentary and Gator Bowl predictions seem to focus on Ohio State’s offensive stats taken at their entirety. Florida blog “Alligator Army” is a perfect example. Although they provide a great analysis of a number of Miller’s touchdown passes, they conclude by saying, “It’s pretty safe to say that the Buckeyes aren’t very good at passing the football” and provide a link to season long stats as support.

However, as the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Doug Lesmerises points out, when we look to the end of the season and particularly the Michigan game, a different picture begins to emerge. By the second half of the season and the Michigan game in particular, Joe Bauserman is out of the picture and only in the Michigan game do we see the Buckeye offense at full strength. By Michigan, DeVier Posey back with a game under his belt and Miller is starting to find his passing form. He threw for a total 235 yards against Michigan and the Buckeyes put up 34 points. By the time the Michigan game rolled around we saw a confidence in the passing game that we had not seen all season. As Michigan managed to slow the run, the Buckeyes were able to adjust by throwing the ball.

Unlike the Buckeyes, the Florida offense has nothing to support the potential for improvement. Florida finished the season 0-5 against ranked opponents and Florida quarterback John Brantley threw three interceptions in his final showing against Florida State. Unlike Miller, who went through a huge learning curve this season, Brantley is a senior who will be playing in his last game as a Gator. He has two freshmen backups in Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel who may also see time.

Other than November wins against Venderbilt and Furhman (really, Furhman?!) the Gators need to go back to September to find a victory. Not a lot for Gator fans to hang their hat on.

So Turn to the Run
Up until the last few games of the season, the Buckeyes relied almost exclusively on the running game. Meanwhile Florida has struggled against the same. Add a mobile quarterback and Florida could be in for trouble. Vanderbilt’s Jordan Rogers exposed Florida’s weakness against a scrambling quarterback putting up 297 yards through the air and two touchdowns. If it wasn’t for Vanderbilt’s inability to stop the run, the Gators probably wouldn’t have squeaked past.

Now throw Boom Herron into the mix. Yes, Florida has seen some big backs and again, they have struggled. Alabama’s Trent Richardson managed 181 yards in 29 carries while LSU’s Spencer Ware and Alfred Blue combined for a total 179 yards against the Gators. That said, like the Buckeye offense the Gator defense is young and has shown some improvement through the season. If the Buckeyes can get their offensive line firing on all cylinders and get the push off the line, they could open some big opportunities for Herron, Miller and Jordan Hall.

With Florida’s struggles on offense, expect them to try to establish the run early. With inconsistency at the quarterback position, look for Chris Rainey and Jeffery Demps to do the majority of the offensive work for the Gators. Although again, they struggled against the likes of LSU and Alabama (understandably so), they have put up 1,300+ yards between the two of them this season.

By the time the Ohio State defense got to the Michigan game, it was looking more like a war of attrition. Andrew Sweat was out and Denard Robinson ran straight at injured freshman Ryan Shizier for most of the second half. The Ohio State defense should look much different come the Gator Bowl as both Sweat and Shizier are expected to be healthy and ready to play. The combination could give Buckeye fans one of the best defensive looks they’ve seen all season. A healthy Ohio State defense brings not only the potential to put some serious pressure on whoever steps in at quarterback for the Gators but also shut down a must have Gator running game.

Offensive Coaching
This is one of the more interesting story lines of the game. The Gators have lost their high profile offensive coach Charlie Weis and look to Brian White to call plays. The Gator Bowl is nothing short of a job interview for White and it will be interesting to see what he can do. For Ohio State, it is the end of an era as the Jim Bohlman/John Tressel era comes to and end. One would hope that in looking to go out with a bang, these two Coach Tressel holdovers could find it in them to unleash a powerful offensive attack. That said, I’m not holding my breath in the meantime.

So with a mere two point spread favoring the Gators, I’m giving it to the Buckeyes by at least a touchdown if not more. Even with a bowless 2012 season, there is just too much excitement surrounding the Buckeyes at this moment. A commanding win at the Gator Bowl would be the perfect spring board to a middle-finger-waving 2012 undefeated season.


  1. Tony the "Quacking Duck" says

    Side Note – Looks like the NCAA will have another OSU violations investigation. Thankfully for you folks there is no “t” in this one. It has been alleged that certain players from Oklahoma State University have been trading autographs and memoribilia/bowl swag for cash. A new nightmare begins for another university.

  2. msbuck says

    Gator Bowl should be a great showcase of what’s to come for Buckeye football. The offense has the experience now to be explosive, and the D will make a statement having a healthy Sweat/Shazier depth chart—and I hope it includes Christian Bryant (one of the best for run support and coverage)—he was also a huge loss when we played the “urine & blue”—-Bucks will “serve notice” with huge Gator Bowl WIN!!!

  3. Not Alan says

    Happy New Year Buckeye Bloggers (and TtQD and Gonzo).

    Thanks Jim for hosting this site. Here’s to you and the family the best for 2012.

    I hope you can capture TPB in FL. I hear he’s supposed to give a speech???