As good as the Penguins have been under Jon Heacock, they are completely outmatched talent-wise. The Ohio State coaching staff is concerned about how their players will perform in the season opener. How sharp will they be? How do the offensive, defensive and special teams units perform as a whole? How well does the team respond to pressure situations? In other words, it's not so much how the Penguins do against a major Division I-A power, it's how the highly favored Buckeyes handle what should be an easy 2007 victory.
My six points to victory over the Penguins are as follows:
1. Solid Quarterback Performance
Todd Boeckman will get his first start as the Buckeyes signal caller. The coaches are looking for Todd to be a good decision-maker. He needs to make the right checks vs. the Youngstown State fronts and coverages. He needs to use the clock wisely and be a good, strong leader with the offensive unit. Todd knows the system and has been waiting his turn to be the starting quarterback. Even though Robby Schoenhoft will see plenty of action, Todd Boeckman has earned the right to be the No. 1 quarterback.
2. Balanced Attacks
The 2007 Buckeye offense will show a more balanced attack then the 2006 squad. More double tight end, two-back formations will be shown on Saturday. Even the spread formations will emphasize running the football as much as passing. Boeckman, unlike Troy Smith, is not a real running threat but the abilities of running backs Beanie Wells, Maurice Wells, Brandon Saine and Boom Herron should be enough to pound the Penguins. Offensive line coaches Jim Bollman and John Peterson will want to make a statement that the 2007 Ohio State offensive front is a hard-nosed, physical unit.
3. Efficient Passing Game
Even though Anthony Gonzales and Ted Ginn Jr. are gone, the Buckeye receiving corps is solid. Not only do the coaches expect Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline to continue their top quality level of performance at the wide receiver position, look for tight ends Rory Nicol and Jake Ballard to be a major part of the OSU passing attack. Freshmen Dane Sanzenbacher, Taurian Washington and Devon Torrence have been impressive this August and all should see action this Saturday.
4. Stop YSU Tight Ends
Penguin tight ends Louis Irizarry and Derrick Bush are very talented. They are good blockers and exceptional receivers. Youngstown State will run them on shallow crossing patterns, deep vertical routes, and option routes versus the Buckeye linebackers. The Penguins must use their tight ends in the passing game to have any hopes of controlling the ball and keeping the Ohio State offense off the field. Irizarry is especially dangerous going deep. He has the speed and ball skills to be an NFL tight end.
5. Control Zetts
Tom Zetts is a very productive quarterback, and he does a great job of running the Penguins offense. He is an excellent running quarterback from the shotgun formation. He does a superb job of putting the football in the running backs stomach and then reading the defense. He'll either give it to the back or pull it out and run the ball himself. He is also good at dumping the ball off on screens, shallow flood routes and crossing patterns.
6. Force Third-and-Long
The Buckeyes defense has the advantage if Youngstown State has to drop back to pass. The starting offensive line for YSU only averages 6-3 and 290 pounds, and the Ohio State defensive front is a lot quicker and more athletic. There is absolutely no way the offensive line of the Penguins can drop back pass against the Buckeye defensive front. If Ohio State can force Zetts into third-and-long situations, it's a definite advantage for the tall, agile and mobile front four of the Buckeyes.