Captain's Corner: The Game Is Here

There's not much else that needs to be said -- the big OSU-Michigan game everyone has been talking about for weeks is finally here, and it doesn't get any bigger. Jerry Rudzinski gives some early thoughts on the game as well as some views on the Northwestern game in this week's Captain's Corner.

The lopsided Northwestern victory was a great tune-up for the big game. Anytime you only have 12 offensive plays in the first quarter and find yourself with a 21-0 lead, the route is underway.

You have to start with the defense creating turnovers. Laurinatis yanked the ball loose. Mitchell robbed one for a score. Homan showed off his athleticism. The turnovers were not an accident. This team practices turnovers during the week. How do you practice turnovers? You literally put aside five minutes at practice to work on pulling the ball loose from a ball carrier. You work on breaking on the quarterback's shoulders and emphasize catching the ball. You work on scooping up fumbles. You celebrate and reward players that create turnovers during practice.

Practice time is valuable but I sure am glad the defensive coaches make that such a priority. There is no such thing as hitting the switch during a big game and saying, "Lets get some turnovers today." It just doesn't work like that. It has to be preached and practiced from Day 1. OSU coaches want to score on every play. If they can't score, they want a turnover. If they can't get a turnover, they want to force a punt. Speed and nastiness tend to help your quest for turnovers, but the coaches and veterans need to live the turnover game every day they pull their car into the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Troy had a great performance to springboard himself into the Michigan game. I am big believer in rhythm, confidence, and positive momentum, especially for a quarterback. Troy needs to remember that feeling of touchdown strikes and his four TD's against Northwestern is a great way to end the first season and prepare for the next season…which is the Michigan game.

Beanie Wells and Mo Wells need to help carry the load as they did Saturday. They make Antonio Pittman more effective. They make our offense more effective. Beanie Wells is a key piece to the puzzle. Short yardage will be a big factor in the outcome of the Michigan game and he clearly gives us the best chance to convert those 3rd and 1's and 4th and 1's. Gonzalez seems to be fully recovered from his concussion as evidenced by his big catches and production. Ginn got back in the endzone. Hall, Robiskie, Nicol, and Hartline all appear to be playing their best football.

It will be a match-up of very similar teams. Michigan taking on Indiana looked like Ohio State taking on Northwestern. Both schools recruit linemen that can run block and pass block. Offensively, these two schools insist on balance. Both defenses pressure the quarterback and play disciplined pass defense in the secondary. Both defenses tackle well and it is obvious that Michigan and Ohio State begin their first defensive meeting of spring ball with emphasis on stopping the run. Assistant coaches want to coach at OSU. However, they have the same attraction to Michigan. Everything Michigan does well OSU also does well.

So the early week analysis only brings us to the usual generalities…

Red zone offense and defense. 3 or 6?

Do you prevent the gadgets plays from the opponent? I would bet the mortgage that both teams make that obscure play call a priority.

Finishing every series with a kick. OSU can't stop Michigan and Michigan can't stop OSU, but the defense that has more yardage separating the line of scrimmage and the goal line will win the scoreboard statistic over the course of 60 minutes. The field position battle will be instrumental.

The players have played their whole lives to play this game. It is no different for the coaching staffs. I promise the perimeter athletes will show up for both teams. Who wins the line of scrimmage though? The above "keys to victory" can be dummied down to the battle in the trenches. The more physical offensive and defensive front will play for a national championship on January 8th. Troy can run and throw if he has protection. He can't do either if Michigan gets penetration. Henne will connect downfield if his line gives him that extra second. Hart will run for too many yards if we don't make the ball bounce. Ohio State has to win the fistfight on the line of scrimmage.

Buckeye Leaves…

Chris Wells – Beanie and seams in a defense are a great combination. Nobody can stop this guy when his shoulders are square.

Ross Homan – The interception will earn highlight time on the newscasts. His run defense will earn him critical playing time against the No. 2 team in the country.

Troy Smith – The 3rd and 20 touchdown pass to Ginn in the closing seconds of the first half swayed a vote or two away from Brady Quinn.


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