The Spartan offense was simply dominate with 456 yards of total offense, a plus four turnover ratio, a 27 to 13 first down advantage, and an overwhelming time of possession ratio, all which came to mean nothing in the heartbreaking defeat that saw the Spartans eventually spiral out of control after this game because of the devastating loss. Ohio State went on to have a 10-2 season despite being minus nine in turnover ratio for the year.
Coach Smith commented on this years Buckeye defense as opposed to last year's defense, "I didn't think we would see a defense as good as last year, which I thought was special, but these guys are pretty good."
This year the Bucks were faced with replacing several key personnel and most of their defense which included linebackers AJ Hawk, Bobby Carpenter, and Anthony Schlegel, defensive linemen Mike Kudla and Marcus Green, and several defensive backs in Nate Salley, Tyler Everett, Donte Whitner, and Ashton Youboty. On offense, there was big losses as well, as wide receiver Santonio Holmes opted for the NFL early, offensive linemen Nick Mangold and Rob Sims left, as well as tight end Ryan Hamby.
Fortunately for Ohio State, they are a team that simply rebuilds as Jim Tressel has put a fence around Ohio and has kept the best players heading to Columbus for the most part, and as this season goes on and they get more experience, they will only get better, and cleary, their defense is improving.
Added Smith, "There linebacking may not be as good, but this defense plays hard, plays with energy. I didn't think their secondary would be as good, but they play real good back there, and their front (defensive line) goes hard all the time."
These young players have surprised so far in shocking a Texas team on the road that had everyone back except for Vince Young. They mauled the Nittany Lions of Penn State. They also went into Iowa City and dominated the Hawkeyes in their own backyard, something that is difficult to do.
Not only that, but these defense that was suppose to be decimated by graduation had given up seven points or less four times, and Iowa with 17 points, has the top point total against them in the Buckeyes 6-0 start.
SCOUTING THE OHIO STATE OFFENSE
Troy Smith is a remarkable story. He came to OSU as an athlete and became the OSU quarterback and has done an outstanding job. He has good vision and has great mobility and has really improved in the passing game.
Coach Smith had high praise praise for Troy Smith as well, "He has had good coaching, and is a great competitor and has great ability. This year he is letting the offense work for him more, but if he needs to make a great play, he can. He's just a special athlete."
He led the Big Ten in passing efficiency last year with 16 touchdown passes and had just four interceptions. He also was 2nd on the team in rushing in 2005 with 722 yards and 11 more scores on the ground. This year he already has 15 touchdown passes with just two interceptions and is a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy, but has just 114 yards on the ground and no touchdowns rushing, as he has set out to prove he can throw the ball, which he has done quite well.
The Spartans with Sir Darean Adams and the other linebackers will have to be aware of his running ability and spy on him to prevent big gains. The Bucks have plenty of other weapons, and the green and white don't need Smith take over a game with his feet.
The wide receivers are among the best in the country. Ted Ginn Jr. is another Heisman Trophy candidate who has blazing speed, and he has hurt MSU in the past with receptions and punt returns for touchdowns. Last year Ginn hauled in 51 passes for four touchdowns.
Last year against MSU, Ginn took a pass 57 yards for a touchdown, and in 2004, Ginn scored on a reverse, a punt return, and took a pass 58 yards for another score against the Spartans. Both touchdown passes were short throws he took to the house after making defenders miss, and open field tackling by the MSU secondary will be crucial. Ginn has 33 receptions and six touchdowns this year.
Wide out Anthony Gonzalez has been a huge surprise after catching 28 passes ayear ago. He was especially effective against Texas as teams become more aware of Ginn. Gonzalez is also crafty in the open field and tackling will be an issue for the Spartans this week. Demond Williams and Greg Cooper must play strong games. Brian Robiskie is the other wide out and has has scored two touchdowns himself. Rory Nichol has caught seven passes for a touchdown and is the tight end.
The Bucks aren't running the ball as effectively as they did last year. Antonio Pittman ran for 1,331 yards for seven touchdowns last year, and in addition to Smith's yardage on the ground and Maurice Hall with his 221 yards they were more effective in th epast than the 2006 version so far. This year, Pittman still has good numbers and has rushed for 628 yards and seven touchdowns, but Smith's numbers are down as they try to contain his dangerous mobility out of the pocket. Chris Wells, the number one running back in high school a year ago, has rushed for 180 yards and a touchdown. The job here for the Spartans begin with the men up front and David Herron and Kalib Thornhill will have to fill the holes and stop the run for MSU to have a chance.
Nick Mangold and Rob Sims were big losses off the offensive line that rushed for 4.7 yards per carry in 2005 and allowed just 18 sacks. This year they are helping the offense to a 4.4 yards per carry and have given up eight sacks in six games. The left tackle is Alex Boone, a solid higly touted sophomore with great strength, benching 225-pounds 24 times and who blots out the sun at 6-foot-8. The right tackle is Kirk Barton, a massive man at 6-foot-7 and 325-pounds who has good speed at 4.81. Doug Datish is the center who has a 400-pound bench and has the versatility to play guard. At right guard is TJ Downing who had 12 starts a year ago and is solid. At left guard is Steve Rehring, a big sophomore at 6-foot-8 and 329 pounds.
This offensive line will be a challenge for MSU as they plug the middle and rush the passer. Cliff Ryan if healthy, Davids Stanton, and Ogemdi Nwagbuo will have to be at their physical best in not allowing the OSU line to control the game. MSU struggled with their pass rush at times against the Wolverines and will have to do a better job here.
One positive is the probable return of Cliff Ryan, adding Coach Smith, "Clifton will be ready to go."
This offense is averaging 32.7 points per game and has actually been more effective through the air than on the ground of late, and Troy Smith's passing to Ginn Jr. and Gonzalez has been impressive. Throw in Antonio Pittman and the mobility of Smith, and one of the better offensive lines around, and you can see why this offense gives opponents fits. It's also a team that converts a high percentage of third down plays, 44 percent to be exact. The Spartans are going to have to tackle well and be physical along the front to win this game.
Clearly injuries could be a factor in this game and Smith commented on that as well, "We're banged and bruised up front, but probably no worse for the wear than we have been."
Continued Smith, "(Matt)Trannon is probably a week away and I don't expect him to be ready. (David)Herron is dinged but will be ready. Kenny Shane should be ready as well."
So what is the mind set of the Spartans this week? "They hurt because of the loss (against UM)," said Smith, "but I don't think they are down by any means. I think actually, they are pulling together more so than we have (in the past)."
So what will it take to spring the upset against Ohio State? Smith added, "We tried to show them,'take a look at what we do when we play right, and we play catch.' We need more discipline and not have an offside penalty or a motion penalty to put us in the hole."
Smith mentioned would could happen if the Spartans play smart football, "We can play with people."
Hopefully, smart football will at least give the Spartans a chance for the upset.