So now that the Oregon fans have found us, it’s time for some serious debate. We can go back and forth about how Oregon beat Purdue and USC and we didn’t. We can point out the development of the Buckeyes over the last five or so games. We can even review the finer points of the Oregon RoboDuck and ask ourselves again, “What we’re they thinking?” All that’s well and good.
The time has come however, to throw down, to put your cards on the table, to play the virtual prognosticator. Since we can’t play this game tomorrow, we might as well talk about playing it.
What are the three keys to this game? What three things need to happen for either team to win. (Feel free to give me more but three’s a nice round number)
Here’s my take:
Oregon offense, meet Ohio State defense (and vice versa):
Oregon has one of the highest scoring offenses in the country. They’ve pumped out an average of 428 yards and nearly 40 points per game. They’ve got a smart option quarterback in Jermiah Masoli who is quick, can read the play and knows how to hide the ball. The Oregon attack is different then anything the Buckeyes have seen this season.
And while the Oregon offense may be known for running the score, they haven’t faced anything like the Ohio State defense. The Columbus Dispatch reported this morning that the Buckeyes have only allowed 11 touchdowns in the last 43 quarters. They’ve limited offenses to 83 yards a game and have scored an average of 12 points per game. They’ve posted 22 sacks this season and they have not let a single rusher gain more then 100 yards all year.
And right there is the number 1 key to this game. They Buckeyes will need to pressure Masoli and contain him when he tries to roll out. The Buckeye defensive front are monsters and are known for their aggressive play. They need to hit Masoli early and hit him hard — put the fear in him. They need to let him know on the first possession that he will pay and pay dearly for his missteps. He may be hard to catch but if they catch him early and shake his confidence, get in his head, then they have the potential to shut down Oregon’s high scoring offense.
There’s a good chance the Ohio State offense and Oregon Defense will balance each other out. This means the game will hinge on how well the Ohio State offense stacks up against the Oregon defense.
The Buckeyes will need to slow the game and in order to do that, they will need to keep the Oregon offense off the field. The best way to do that is through long, slow drives. And they get to the red zone, they’ll need touchdowns, not field goals. Both have been problems for the Buckeye offense. However, the Buckeyes did well in the latter part of the season pounding it right up the middle
Look for the Buckeyes to capitalize on the short running game. Both Stanford and Boise State did their damage by pounding it right up the middle over and over again. Wear the defense down, not from chasing you but from running over them. The Ohio State offensive line played a completely different game second half of the season then they did in the first. I don’t know how many sacks they gave up second part of the year but there weren’t many. They’ll need to physically out play the Oregon defense.
On the pass, look for Pryor to continue with conservative, rolling plays and short connections. Get him to the outside, give him some open field and he’s dangerous. Make the Oregon D think twice and we’ll put up the yards.
This is big. Like the Buckeyes, Oregon has had their fare share of turnovers, especially fumbles. However, as the season developed, the Buckeyes got their turnover situation under control. Oregon gave up three fumbles against Oregon State. As I mentioned earlier, the Buckeyes also like to score on turnovers. I haven’t talked much about secondaries but the Buckeyes have picked off 23 passes this season for a total 317 yards. Kurt Coleman accounts for 129 of those yards himself.
Put the fear in Massoli, force him to throw under pressure (yes, I know he scrambles well) and the turnovers will come. There’s no room for mistakes in this game and turnovers could make the difference.
You’ve heard my thoughts. How bout it? What are the three keys to this game? I look forward to hearing it from both sides.
(In an attempt to make some of these longer strings more manageable, I’ve set up threaded comments so feel free to respond to individual comments as well)