Oklahoma State Offensive Line vs. Ohio State Front Seven
This matchup is huge because to win the game Oklahoma State has to run the football successfully. The Buckeyes are big, physical, and well disciplined on the defensive line and with their talented trio of linebackers. All-American A.J. Hawk at weak linebacker along with Anthony Schlegel in the middle and Bobby Carpenter on the strongside do a great job of coming up physical against the run and also covering their short zones in the passing game.
The Cowboys will do their best to get guards Sam Mayes and David Koenig out cleanly to block Hawk. That is the key to getting Morency or any of the other tailbacks in the clear. Mayes and Koenig are both looking forward to that challenge. One area the Cowboys could expose is to get a seal block on Buckeye defensive ends Simon Fraser and Mike Kudla and then get the tailbacks loose off tackle.
On pass rush situations the Ohio State defensive line is very aggressive and will space out and will give offensive linemen their backs in trying to spin off blocks. Oklahoma State should be able to handle that and maybe even give Donovan Woods major scramble opportunities. On the other hand Ohio State is very good and they will make plays.
Oklahoma State Linebackers vs. Ohio State Backfield
The Cowboys have shifted some of the responsibilities in certain situations that could open it up for the linebackers to play more aggressive. With Justin Zwick back at quarterback for Ohio State -- instead of the more dangerous runner in Troy Smit -- the Cowboys have one less option to worry about. The offense really doesn't change, it just losses the mobility at quarterback with Zwick.
The Buckeyes use lots of personnel in the backfield including Maurice Hall, Branden Joe, Lydell Ross, and sometimes speedy freshman wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. Ohio State has struggled running the football, and it is important that the O-State linebackers keep it that way. Look for Pagitte McGee to play a key role in the contest.
Advantage: OSU by a slight margin
Oklahoma State Secondary vs. Ohio State Wide Receivers
This is the key matchup of the game because the Buckeyes will be throwing the football with Zwick. Unlike the beginning of the season there are now plenty of weapons with Santonio Holmes, Roy Hall, and the trio of freshmen in ultra-talented Ted Ginn, Anthony Gonzalez and Devon Lyons. Holmes and Ginn are big time threats with speed and good hands.
The one good aspect of the matchup is that the Ohio State receivers, while some have size, are not overly physical which is something that has given the Cowboy secondary problems. Not having Darrent Williams may work to an advantage here as his sometimes presence and the possibility that he might play was bothersome to the rest of the secondary -- and the entire team for that matter. Turnovers could come here as Zwick sometimes makes mistakes, and remember, he hasn't played in a game since the sixth game of the season.
Oklahoma State Special Teams vs. Ohio State Special Teams
There is no defense for Mike Nugent. The Ohio State All-American kicker and Lou Groza Award winner is money from 55 yards in. The only way to stop him is by stopping the Buckeye offense.
Now for Ginn, who has an obscene 26 yards per return average on punts, the Cowboys have to be at their best on coverage. Joe DeForest says the Cowboys will kick to him and make the plays. A special teams touchdown could be the game winner in this kind of close game, so they have to make sure they keep Ginn in check. It would be nice if Prentiss Elliott could make the larger impression on returns to the sell-out crowd and ESPN audience.
On kickoffs you can go to the restroom or the concession stand because Nugent and the Cowboys' Cole Farden will be booming kickoffs out of the end zone with the windless indoor conditions.
Edge: Ohio State by a slight margin
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