OHIO STATE: THE BUCKEYE OFFENSE

We turn once again to well-known NFL draft Anaylst Josh Turel: <br><br> <b>THE OHIO STATE OFFENSE:</b> position by position, man by man. How does it stack up against the talented Michigan defense?<br>

Ohio State Buckeyes
2004 Record: 6-4, 3-4 Big Ten
Wolverines hold 57-37-6 series advantage.

Game Info: 1:00 EDT on ABC (Brent Musberger, Gary Danielson, and Jack Arute)

THE OHIO STATE OFFENSE
Returning starters: 4 offense, kicker
Offense: Single back spread

Starters:
QB: Troy Smith (So.)
RB: Antonio Pittman (Fr.)
FL: Santonio Holmes (Jr.)
SE: Roy Hall (So.)
SLT: Ted Ginn (Fr.)
TE: Ryan Hamby (Jr.)
LT: Rob Sims (Jr.)
LG: Doug Datish (So.)
C: Nick Mangold (Jr.)
RG: TJ Downing (So.)
RT: Tim Schafer (So.)
K: Mike Nugent (Sr.)
KR: Maurice Hall (Sr.)
PR: Ted Ginn Jr. (Fr.)

Injury report:
QB Justin Zwick (questionable)

Offensive Stat Leaders
Passing: Justin Zwick: 81/160 - 1020 yds - 50.6% -6 INT, 5 TD - 106.99 eff.
Rushing: Antonio Pittman: 63 att. - 387 yds. - 5.9 avg. - 1 TD
Receiving: Santonio Holmes: 47 rec. - 672 yds. - 14.3 avg. - 6 TD

Stat-Big Ten Ranking
Scoring offense (9th) 22.0 pts
Pass offense (11th) 167.5 yds
Rushing offense (8th) 132.6 yds
Total offense (12th) 300.1 yds
Punt returns (1st) 15.4 avg
Kick returns (3rd) 24.0 avg

Offensive Strategy:
After their well-known conservative approach offense failed to give the team a consistent and productive offense, the OSU scheme did a 360 last week against Purdue and is now a single back spread that uses anything from a five wideout set to the speed option. The philosophy is to better play toward the personnel the Buckeyes have: with the spread look, quarterback Troy Smith (6-0, 215) can better use his mobile skills and the system is flexible for using Ted Ginn (6-0, 170) in a variety of ways. Ginn will play a modified H back hybrid position; he lines up usually at quarterback depth and slot receiver alignment; look for the Buckeyes to roll out to his side on swing passes and you will see him get the ball on pitches and reverses from that H back type position. Ginn is usually the backside man on trips and twin formations and will run routes that can get him the ball with room to work, which is the whole point-get him the ball in space. You will see the majority of snaps taken out of the shotgun formation and there are plenty of quarterback draws and designed runs for Troy Smith.

Offensive Backfield: Freshman Antonio Pittman (5-11, 190) has shown flashes of ability this year; he's the team's leading rusher and the spread offense better plays to his speedy style. Maurice Hall should see reps; he's been semi-productive at times running the football but only touched the ball three times last week. Lydell Ross has had a total bust of a season, through the suspensions and lack of production, there's no reason to incorporate him into the offense.

Offensive Line: The offensive line has been average to say the least: they aren't getting much push at the point of attack and are more athletic, space players than they are drive blockers. Rob Sims has all the potential to be dominating but his progress has been slow and he's been injured as of late - but he should be ready to go Saturday. Doug Datish is another highly recruited player who's been rather average in run blocking but has shown some ability as a pulling guard. Nick Mangold has had the best season of the line, but that's not a grand compliment, as his play has hovered just above average for the lack of a big push up the middle. TJ Downing is a converted tackle playing guard, again, on film he's been un-impressive and has missed assignments. Tim Schafer is a converted defensive lineman who's handled the right tackle duties; Schafer has a lot of upside but his growing pains are evident. In general the line has lacked a great push up the middle and at the point of attack. The lack of running lanes in the middle has caused the offense to switch to a more outside running game and designed quarterback runs.

Quarterback & Receivers: Troy Smith stepped in for the injured Justin Zwick and has done what most would call a better job. Smith is a mobile guy who can be effective on adding another dimension to the offense. Smith has a pretty good arm and does his best work in the short passing game, but he needs improvement with his reads and patience. Smith is still learning to read defenses and on most occasions rushes his progressions and will force the ball to the primary receiver, hence the fact Santonio Holmes is by far the team's leader in receptions and other receivers have seen their receptions dwindle save Ginn. Santonio Holmes has been the teams most consistent receiver, however he's only had one 100+ yard receiving game, which may not be his fault. He's being used in the short passing game more often this year, something that doesn't exactly fit his downfield strengths, but given some space he can make plays. Ahh, then there's Ted Ginn Jr. Ginn may have let last week's game slip threw his hands (literally), but this kid can take it to the house any time he touches the football and Ohio State has been creative in ways to get him the ball. Roy Hall has been called the next David Boston by some but OSU hasn't really showcased his ability this year; part of it is inconsistency, but the focus of the offense has shifted from the big, speedy wideout to Holmes and Ginn. Ryan Hamby has seen his role decrease, in part from larger receiver sets and the lack of progressions from Troy Smith. Also look for freshman speedsters Anthony Gonzalez and Devon Lyons to complete the five wide receiver look packages.

How does the OSU Offense stack up vs. Michigan Overall?
Well, if Jim Tressel decides to continue the spread look offense, he will draw a better matchup against the Michigan defense which has struggled with that offense when it includes a running quarterback (remember MSU?). Running up the middle will be difficult for the Buckeyes Saturday; the OSU offensive line is rather soft up the gut and Gabe Watson will make a big impact in the middle drawing attention and getting penetration. The Buckeyes will try to establish the outside run, whether it's with the option, QB bootleg, or Ted Ginn pitch: the Buckeyes did show the ability to run effectively outside of the tackles against Purdue. It will be key for LaMarr Woodley and Pat Massey to stay disciplined and keep contain on the variety of outside runs OSU will throw at them. The Wolveines will be burned big time if they overpursue and lose contain on Ted Ginn going the opposite way. The Buckeyes will use mis-direction and fakes to confuse the Michigan defense and I would expect the Wolverines to run a good amount of zone coverage to keep the explosive Ginn and Smith in front of them rather getting turned around in man. Also consider that even though the new look Ohio State offense has moved the ball better than before, it has it's share of high risk and could create turnovers.

Special Teams:
The Buckeyes are equipped with the best kicker in the country in Mike Nugent, who's been perfect from inside the 40 and 5-6 in 50+ yard tries. Kyle Turano has been doing a solid job punting the football as of late, he's hitting a 42.9 average on the year and has placed 18 kicks inside of the 20. Obviously Ted Ginn has been electric on punt returns and could be the best return man in the country (in this Breaston-less seasn), averaging a mind boggling 25.4 yards a return and already taking three back for touchdowns on only 10 tries. Even worse, Adam Finley has been known to out-punt his coverage and hasn't been a real good directional punter. Maurice Hall has been un-explosive but solid and consistent on kick returns.

Josh's Game Prediction:
If this game was being played at the Big House it would be an easy pick, but the fact this game is in the Horseshoe puts a big spin on things. I've spent the last few nights undecided; you can make a solid case either way for which team will win this football game. For Ohio State it's going to be scoring points and putting together drives; for Michigan it's (on offense) Chad Henne's poise and (on defense) containing Ted Ginn and OSU's playmakers. I can see this game going either way and an Ohio State win would not surprise me a bit ... but there are too many advantages in Michigan's court. I see them winning a close one -- remember fans, unlike 2002, it's been the Wolverines who have won the close games this year.
Michigan 20
Ohio State 17


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