Cus Words: On The Run

Nearly a month ago, we though Ohio State would follow a high-powered passing day with some down and dirty running. That did not materialize until a 49-0 whipping of Purdue. To find out what that means and what to look forward to plus all the usual departments, check out this week's Cus Words.

What we learned this week: Ohio State can run the ball without Terrelle Pryor's direct help if the Buckeyes will only put their minds to it.

Of course, Purdue should not be confused with the Steel Curtain, but neither should Eastern Michigan or Indiana. The Boilermakers are the only one of that trio against whom Ohio State really tried to run the ball out of the I-formation, and lo and behold, the Buckeyes had great success.

Who'da thunk it?

Why did it take seven games and one loss to convince Jim Tressel and his coaching staff that was the way to go? Well, part of it had to do with Purdue picking its poison, probably.

By playing two high safeties for the majority of the game, the Boilermakers gave the Buckeyes good numbers to run against - seven blockers for seven defensive players - and Ohio State took advantage early.

While "establishing the run" is a phrase that has kind of taken on a negative connotation from football's equivalent of sabermatricians, there is some value to the idea. It is not entirely antiquated.

On one hand, Purdue was probably going to defend the Buckeyes that way no matter what. I don't think Ohio State's early running success really opened up the passing game in terms of causing the defense to do much differently than it intended to.

Perhaps the linebackers were a bit more likely to be caught leaning forward after Dan Herron had abused them in the early going, but as long as both safeties stayed deep, the mechanics of the defense did not really change. Yes, Purdue later brought some blitzes and filled the box that way, but I believe that's been a consistent part of the Boilermakers' plan all season.

I think the Football Outsiders study that supposedly debunks the "myth" of establishing the run depends on some faulty logic, but that's a discussion for another time.

Most opponents have started the game defending Ohio State as if the run was already established.

What the run seemed to do for the Buckeyes early Saturday was simply get them into a groove.

For another baseball analogy, I look at Herron as the table-setter. He saw some pitches, got on base and made things happen. That helped everyone else ease into their roles, too. (Does that make Terrelle Pryor the clean-up hitter? Hmmm.. maybe.)

Or on the flip side, all the lead draws and isolation plays the Buckeyes opened the game with were kind of get-ahead fastballs. They weren't going to blow the Boilermakers away, but they helped Ohio State establish a tempo and gave the Buckeyes something to play off even if down and distance (or the count) were still going to dictate what was best on future plays.

I never really doubted they could do what they did to Purdue if they just tried, but it was reassuring to see it happen.

What we can expect to learn this week: Just about nothing. If you think Purdue looked pitiful three days ago, wait until you get an eyeful of Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are by far the worst team in the Big Ten and have been all season. Outside of a pair of big, athletic receivers and one good-looking defensive tackle, there is not much worth salvaging on that squad.

Under the tutelage of deposed leader Tim Brewster, there was not much cohesion or fire from the group, either.

I suppose it still remains to be seen if interim head coach Jeff Horton is able to change that, but I'm not optimistic that's a switch that can be flipped in two weeks.

After all, a very offensively challenged Penn State team without its best (albeit young) quarterback scored over 30 points on the hapless Gophers.

Purdue put down Minnesota decisively, and we saw how the Boilermakers matched up with Ohio State.

I'm not sure what Ohio State can hope to get out of this game other than a little confidence that it can play well on the road, because we haven't seen that yet from this group.

Outside of a trip to Happy Valley to deal some revenge to Penn State, this team has not been at its best in three of its last four Big Ten road games going back to the middle of last year.

That is something that needs to change with a formidable Iowa squad on the schedule for Nov. 20.

All-Buckeye Beater Nominations: The final score was 49-0. Do I really have to pick anyone? I'm gonna go with no.

DVR Directions: I recommend finding a good seat in front of a television by 3:30 ET when No. 5 Michigan State travels to No. 18 Iowa. The Hawkeyes bumbled away a chance to help Ohio State last week with special teams miscues and pitiful clock management in a loss to Wisconsin, but they get another chance this week in what should be an entertaining contest.

The game worth saving for further review is Michigan at Penn State at 8 p.m. on ESPN with both those teams left on the OSU schedule.

Big Ten Predictions: I don't like Purdue's chances to bounce back this week at Illinois (Noon, ESPN2). The Fighting Illini throttled Indiana last week and should be able to handle the Boilermakers at home. A victory would move the surprising Illini to within one win of bowl eligibility.

In the other noon contest is tough to gauge. Northwestern has been a bit schizophrenic this season - How did Pat Fitzgerald's club lose to Purdue? - but Indiana seems to be reeling. The Hoosiers have lost eight conference games in a row, and I look for that to become nine on Saturday as Dan Persa takes advantage of the week IU defense and the Wildcats become bowl eligible.

What about the big one at 3:30? I know Ohio State needs Iowa to knock off Michigan State, but I don't see it happening. Iowa doesn't have the magic this year. Special teams mistakes have cost the Hawkeyes dearly in both their losses this season, and I expect that area to represent the difference this week with two teams looking pretty evenly matched on offense and defense.

In the nightcap, I am reversing a preseason prediction and going with Michigan to beat Penn State. I think the Wolverine offense will produce enough big plays to earn a win in Happy Valley, where a defense that was never that athletic anyway has been a disappointment. Michigan's defense might just be bad enough to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but there isn't much Penn State does well when it has the ball these days.

Record to date: 12-5

Cus Words Big Ten Power Poll (Week 8 ranking)

1. (same) Michigan State
2. (same) Iowa
3. (same) Wisconsin
4. (same) Ohio State
5. (same) Illinois
6. (7) Northwestern
7. (8) Penn State
8. (6) Michigan
9. (10) Indiana
10. (9) Purdue
11. (same) Minnesota

Marcus Hartman is a staff writer for and Buckeye Sports Bulletin. He can be reached for comment, cursing or questions via email at mhartman[at]buckeyesports[dot]com

For more from him, read his blog about Ohio State football and whatever else crosses his mind.

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