The Buckeyes surprised everyone a little bit by coming out gunning against Washington. Craig Krenzel looked sharper than ever and OSU unveiled one of the deepest and most talented receiving corps in the country.
It seems logical that the Bucks will use the SDSU game to open up the passing attack even more. But, knowing what we know of Jim Tressel, chances are good that they will use it to refine the running game.
With Maurice Clarett possibly out for the season and with Maurice Hall and Lydell Ross turning in solid - but not spectacular - performances against Washington, you can bet that the offensive coaches are more concerned about the running game than anything else.
As for Krenzel, he likes getting more opportunities to showcase the passing attack, but knows the run always comes first in this system.
"We always want to establish our running game first," Krenzel said. "This week will be no different. We want to come out, establish the run and hopefully that will open up the passing game for us."
Krenzel is confident in his backs, even without Clarett in the fold.
"Maurice Hall and Lydell Ross are very good backs," Krenzel said. "They just need an opportunity and they are getting that now. You can see them getting better and more confident every day."
One of the reasons Krenzel is confident in the running game is the strong play of OSU's offensive line. Hall and Ross were not able to break many tackles against the Huskies (except for Ross' strong touchdown run), but the holes were usually there to run through.
As expected, Nick Mangold entered the game early at center and Alex Stepanovich shifted to guard. What we basically saw from the Buckeyes was a seven-man rotation on the O-line. It included starters Stepanovich, Rob Sims (LT), Adrien Clarke (LG), Bryce Bishop (RG) and Shane Olivea (RT), as well as backups Mangold and Mike Kne (G).
As a whole, the group played very well against a decent defensive line.
Bishop is kind of the forgotten man of the line, but he had a good game in the opener. Who would have thought at this time last year that we'd ever see Bishop and Clarke pulling? The guys are a lot more nimble on their feet, which opens up the playbook greatly.
Although we are expecting to see a lot of running from the Buckeyes this Saturday, the passing game will not be ignored. The jury is still out on the O-line when it comes to pass protection. It looked excellent in that area against Washington - Krenzel had all day to throw most of the time - but the line still has a ways to go before it can call itself a good pass pro unit.
So, you can expect a little bit of everything from the Bucks this week as they fine-tune for N.C. State, but probably more running than anything else.
We can also expect to see a lot of backups in the game early. Look for Scott McMullen to get some opportunities. Tressel's first reaction might be to get Justin Zwick, or Troy Smith, some meaningful playing time, but it is not likely to happen. If Krenzel goes down with an injury later in the season, McMullen will be the quarterback. Therefore, Tressel is going to try and get him as sharp as possible.
If the game is a complete blowout, we will see Zwick or Smith, but we'll see McMullen first.
Also look for a lot of carries from reserve tailbacks Ira Guilford and Roshawn Parker late in the game. The latter had less than an ideal debut as he fumbled on his first carry against Washington (Parker is a junior, but it was his first game action).
Guilford held his own and seems to be the third-string tailback right now. With Clarett's situation nearing an end (and the results not expecting to be good), the coaches are going to give Guilford a long look. Can you imagine what it is going to be like if Hall and Ross go down with an injury? A guy expected to be a reserve safety would be the starting tailback. If that happens, we might see Krenzel in the gun with five-wide the majority of the time. That sound you hear is Woody spinning in his grave.
It looks like Guilford and tight end Louis Irizarry will be the only true freshmen to play on offense this season. Irizarry will get more and more playing time as the season progresses. He would probably be starting on most teams, but he has two good players in Ben Hartsock and Ryan Hamby in front of him
The other young guys that are ready to make a splash are redshirt freshman receivers Santonio Holmes and Roy Hall. Holmes is the gamebreaker and Hall is living up to those David Boston body-double comparisons. That catch he made against Washington opened everyone's eyes. The defensive back was draped on him, but Hall is so big and strong that it didn't matter. He just went up and pulled it down.
Looking at the starting receivers, Mike Jenkins is the definition of solid and Drew Carter is going to give this offense exactly what it needs this year: a speedster than can stretch the field. There is a lot to be excited about with the receivers and that's even with Chris Gamble getting the majority of his plays on defense and special teams.
So, just how good can OSU's offense be? The Buckeyes were happy with their offensive performance against Washington, but they know there is room for improvement. They feel like they are on the verge of dominating.
"Watching the Washington film confirms that," Hartsock said. "We're just a couple plays away from really being the type of offense we want to be. A cut here, a little bit of a finish on a block there and it could have been a whole different ball game last week. We were more productive than we have been, but we didn't put up the numbers we wanted at all.
"I think everybody is anxious to try and come out and put on our best performance against San Diego State and everybody is working hard for that, just like we were today."