Xs and Os: Ohio State Offense vs. Minnesota Defense

With no Buckeye game tape to break down from last weekend, we take a look at the formations you can expect this week from Ohio State's offense and how Minnesota will try to defend them.

As the Minnesota matchup looms for Ohio State, both sides are finalizing their game plans for the primetime showdown in the Horseshoe.

Last week, we looked at Curtis Samuel’s 30 yard touchdown, but since the Buckeyes were off last week, we are taking a look at how the Golden Gophers might approach Ohio State’s base formations on both offense and defense.

For example, unless you haven’t been paying attention, the Buckeyes have suffered multiple injuries at the wide receiver position and have been forced to make adjustments on offense throughout the year.

One of the ways Ohio State has adjusted is by moving to a 12 personnel package. This means the Buckeyes have one back, two tight ends and two receivers. Most teams use this model when calling out personnel packages.

The first number is always the amount of backs, second number is tight ends, and the rest are receivers. The combination always must add up to five (Ex. 10 personnel would be one back, and four wide receivers).

It is a formation we have seen the Buckeyes almost exclusively run out of, as the Ohio State tight ends have combined for just nine catches, all by Nick Vannett. Four of those catches came in a 20-13 win over Northern Illinois.

Below, you will see the formation we have just discussed.


Ohio State has used this more and more as the season has progressed as Vannett and Marcus Baugh have been on the field early and often this season.

But how will the Golden Gophers line up to defend this package? Just look at last week’s loss to Michigan for the answer.


The Gophers show a 4-4 look, and dare the Wolverines to throw the ball. On this particular play, Michigan was stuffed for a short gain on a hand off to running back De’Veon Smith.

Another look that we will likely see more from Ohio State this week is Braxton Miller behind center with J.T. Barrett suspended.

This is also a look that Minnesota has seen before, as last week Michigan lined up star defensive back Jabrill Peppers behind center. The Wolverines ran a simple QB sweep with Peppers and he scored with relative ease against the Gophers defense.

For an idea of how the Gophers will line up in this look when Miller is behind center, here is a look at how they tried to defend Peppers last week. 

If you click the link here, you will see Michigan pull both the center and tackle on the sweep with tight end Jake Butt out leading the way.

Ohio State on the other hand, lined up in a different formation against Rutgers with Miller in the back field, and pulled just the right guard (Pat Elflein) and had the entire left side of the offensive line block down on a traditional ‘Power’ type run.

Rutgers stacked the box and Miller bounced it outside for a big play and near score. If you watch the play here, it is well defended by Rutgers, but Miller’s athletic ability was too much as he broke contain for the big play. 

In short, when the Buckeyes are on the field, I would expect a lot of Cover 1 or Cover zero, meaning the Gophers will play with one high safety or no high safety (much like Virginia Tech did against Ohio State) and dare Cardale Jones to beat them through the air.

Coach Urban Meyer said Wednesday that he believes Minnesota has two NFL caliber corners, so watch for the Gophers to play press man coverage for most of the game and load the box. 


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