Know Your Foe: Ohio State

Next up for the Oregon Ducks (13-1) are the Ohio State Buckeyes (13-1) next Monday, Jan. 12, at At&t Stadium, Arlington, Texas. The game will start at 5:30 p.m. Pacific and be carried on ESPN. Jeff Svoboda,, answers five general questions about the Buckeyes, to help Duck fans to know your foe.

eDuck: We've read and heard about the problems tOSU has had at quarterback and have been impressed with how Cardale Jones has taken over the reigns of the offense. Could you expand more on this sophomore who was seemingly buried on the bench has played so well when the opportunity came to him? Related note: there’s been some speculation that Braxton Miller will come to Eugene, is that just internet rumor, or do you think there is anything to it?

Well, Jones was barely beat out by J.T. Barrett during fall camp, so maybe we shouldn't be so surprised by his quick rise, though the situation in which he's done it is pretty impressive, obviously. Jones committed in the 2011 class (the same one as Braxton Miller) but went to prep school for a year, then arrived in 2012. He wasn't the most mature guy in the world when he got here nor was he the most refined passer, but he did boast excellent size, good mobility for a big guy and an absolute cannon for an arm. It's been a process to refine him from there, but he was the No. 1 quarterback all spring with Miller out before being usurped by a small margin in camp by Barrett. All Barrett did, of course, was go out and nearly win the Heisman, but Jones has seized the opportunity presented to him perhaps even better than most program insiders could have imagined. It helps that Ohio State has put together an offense it can tweak based on its quarterback's strengths, which for Jones include perhaps the best deep ball in the nation (it's that good), excellent arm strength and good straight-line speed.

As for Miller, he's been rumored to be going to every school from Oregon to Miami and everywhere in between, but time will tell what happens with Miller. He has a Buckeye tattoo on his arm and is from the state, but if he wants to be an NFL quarterback, he has to look over all his options given OSU's sudden depth.

eDuck: Many people will assume Ohio State is still the same team that folks on the West Coast would see on New Year’s Day at the Rose Bowl with Woody Hayes on the sidelines. What is this version of the Urban Meyers-led Buckeyes like? What do they do well and how did they win all those games?

This is not a "three yards and a cloud of dust" team, as they used to say about Hayes, but Urban Meyer still loves himself some power football. The Buckeyes just do it out of spread sets. OSU generally uses a one-back, shotgun offense, but pulling guards and multiple-TE sets are also in the playbook (see Ezekiel Elliott's game-clinching 85-yard run vs. Alabama as an example of how pulling linemen are still a staple of the playbook). The offense tries to isolate its playmakers in space and uses a lot of option runs and misdirection (the inside zone, outside zone, zone read, jet sweep and veer option are a big part of the offense). There are plenty of guys at the skill positions who can handle the ball, and the offensive line has improved immensely from the start of the season into a unit Hayes would like. Defensively, the Buckeyes run a 4-3 base can have struggled at times dealing with power run offenses but hasn't faced a unit quite like Oregon's that will test it with speed as well as option and misdirection. The defensive line can definite penetrate but time will tell if the linebacker unit is up to the challenge. The secondary, meanwhile, is young but talented and confident. On top of it, the Buckeyes respond to adversity better than any team I've ever seen, and it's a true team from A to Z.

eDuck: The Buckeyes and Ducks have had a bit of history going back the 1958 Rose Bowl and then over 50 years later the two teams meet again in 2010. In the Buckeyes last game, running back Ezekiel Elliott pounded out 230 yards on 20 carries with a long of 80 and Jones passing for 230 yards and a touchdown. This seems like a pretty balanced offense so my question is was that pretty much how tOSU had all of it success this season? (P.S. I noticed a defensive TD too.) i.e. key players on offense, defense and special teams.

Yeah, I'd say Ohio State's offense has been balanced. The Buckeyes have passed for at least 200 yards in 12 of 14 games and run for that many in 12 of 14, so expect them to try to have success in each facet of the game. Urban Meyer has described the offense as offensive-line driven, and the Buckeyes do run the ball on more than 60 percent of the team's plays, so expect them to try to establish the ground game and then play off of it with the passing game from there. The Buckeyes have become significantly more explosive as the season has gone on -- there have been three runs of more than 80 yards in the last five games. Much of that has been because of the development of first Barrett as well as Elliott, who really has matured into one of the better backs in the nation with 450 yards on 40 carries in two postseason games.

eDuck:The Ducks and Bucks have had one common opponent this season – Michigan State. Was there anything to be picked up in reviewing those two games that would give an indication how the Oregon-Ohio State might go?

I saw ESPN do a comparison of the games and found that Ohio State and Oregon ended up with very similar stats against Michigan State, so there might not be a whole lot to learn there, haha. Oregon won 46-27 and OSU won in East Lansing 49-37 (with MSU scoring a late TD) so the final scores were pretty comparable. Both teams were able to come back, as well, battling back from early mistakes and an early deficit with an offensive explosion that Michigan State simply wasn't able to handle.

eDuck: Dontre Wilson was a player that was a verbal commitment to Oregon, but when Chip Kelly went to the NFL, Wilson switched his commitment to Ohio State. How has Wilson progressed? He wasn't listed on Sugar Bowl participation report, was he injured or just didn't play for some reason?

Wilson started the season as a return man for the Buckeyes and also was the staring "H" (the hybrid wide receiver/running back, a la Percy Harvin, the Buckeyes use in the slot or the backfield in Meyer's offense) before suffering a broken bone in his foot during the Michigan State game. Wilson was leading the team in all-purpose yards at the time of his injury, though redshirt freshman Jalin Marshall had been splitting time with Wilson has been very good in a full-time role. Wilson says he'll be healthy enough to play in Dallas against his old team, and he has very good speed and quickness to go with six touchdowns in his career to this point.

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