Going into this game, I though Oregon State would be the better matchup for Ohio State. However, after Oregon’s win over Oregon State, I like the way the Buckeyes line up against the Ducks. If the PAC 10 championship is any indication, beating the Ducks will come down to stopping the run.
As is typical of Ohio State these days, the game will turn on the play of our defense. Oregon State did a good job of containing the Oregon option threat for the first half but by mid-way through the third quarter, the Beaver defense had taken some hits, lost some players and in the end just couldn’t keep up.
Oregon’s running attack was all about deception–fake handoffs, receivers coming in on the snap count to run the ball and lots of misdirection. The Buckeyes have seen something similar this year against Navy. While the Navy triple option gave us a scare, it won’t be new and the Buckeye defense has come a long way since that day in early September.
The other thing I like about Oregon is that they are prone to handing over the ball. The Buckeyes like to force turnovers and turnovers could make the difference in a big game.
On the other side of the ball, Oregon’s defense looked quick and brought the pressure. Oregon State quarterback Sean Canfield did a great job at getting rid of the ball quick. The question remains if Pryor can do the same. Either our offensive line will need to do a much better job protecting Pryor then the Beavers did protecting Canfield (although he did a good job avoiding the sack) or Pryor will need to demonstrate much stronger decision making. Our offensive line and Pryor showed nice improvement in both areas during the regular season.
Expect to see more of the Tressel style offense we’ve come to expect this year. Tress will look to move the ball on the ground, roll out (safe) passing schemes and an occasional attempt at the home run. The Oregon defense is just too fast for Tress to let Pryor work from the pocket.
Let’s just hope that Tressel doesn’t over prepare this year. There’s been a sense of tunnel vision during post-season games of late with the Buckeyes failing to adjust as the game developed. Oregon Coach Kelly has come a long way in his first year and overcome a difficult start to the season (yep, LeGarrette Blount was back for the first time since his season debut.) He’ll have his team ready.
Finally, there’s something about the team from 1,000 uniforms that just rubs me wrong. Maybe it’s their flair for fashion (what, no wings on the shoulder’s?). Maybe it’s the cocky attitude that reminds me all to much of the Miami team we beat in 2003. Whatever it is by halftime, I was definitely routing for Oregon State. However, I would love to see the Buckeyes open a big ‘ol can of defensive lead beatdown come January 1.