Offense Against the Defense

The two football teams have spent a fair amount of time sizing each other up and during the media conferences that have been held for the 2010 Rose Bowl a general theme is emerging. Will Ohio State's strong defense be able to contain Oregon's potent offense particularly the Duck running game and quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, but will not knowing other players make any difference at all?

The facts show that Oregon scored 37.7 points per game. Ohio State allowed 12.2 ppg. Oregon rushed for 236.1 yards on average and OSU gave up 83.4.

That seems simple and straightforward enough. Since there are two common opponents, how do the season average statistics match up? Against Purdue, Oregon scored 38 points and Ohio State allowed 26. Against USC, the Ducks scored 47 while the Buckeyes surrendered 18 to the Trojans. The Ducks rushed for and average of 292 yards against the Boilermakers and Trojans while the Buckeyes held the two common opponents to an average of 99 yards.

Interesting the numbers come up similarly.

The Buckeyes know they want to stop Oregon's run and make the Ducks one-dimensional on offense. Oregon knows it wants to rely on its fast, high-paced tempo offensive game to wear down the very athletic Ohio State defensive unit. Oregon has done so all year against defenses such as USC, UCLA and Arizona State, teams with players who will end up in the NFL and in many cases be high draft picks.

"It's really fun to look at those guys and see how tired and have their heads down. I tell (Jeremiah) Masoli, ‘speed it up, say hut now," said LaMichael James on how the Ducks play offense. "It really is fun to be on the field and see it."

Masoli admits he watches for the other guys to start "huffing and puffing," standing with "hands on hips and "not able to get down in a three-point stance." When asked if Ohio State's defense is that much better than USC, UCLA or Arizona State's, Masoli couldn't say for sure without having been on the field against the Buckeyes, but he still has a lot of respect for OSU.

"Ohio State is a solid defense and there is not going to be any weaknesses in their scheme," admitted Masoli. "They play with a lot of discipline so it will definitely be a challenge for us."

One person who has a lot of respect for Masoli is Ohio State Defensive Coordinator Jim Heacock. Masoli is so dangerous that Heacock may assign two Buckeyes to keep track of the Duck signal caller.

"When you play a passing, drop back quarterback who is not really going to be running the ball, you can eliminate that aspect of it," observed Heacock. "When you're in practice you don't have to spend a lot of time in practice on scrambles and runs. With Masoli, he's very dangerous with the football in his hands, whether it is scrambling or running or reading and running. It just adds a dimension where you have to take part of your practice session and make sure you are spending time on it, a major portion of your time making sure you know where the quarterback is. The problem with him is that you'd better have two people there (to spy)."

Heacock, a native of Ohio is one of the few Buckeye coaches with coaching experience on the West Coast. He spent five years as the defensive line coach under Don James at Washington, 1983-87. However, that has been some time ago and one of the things that playing a team in a big game for both opposing coaches is that they really don't know the young men they have been watching film on personally. Oregon's Nick Aliotti made the point that when the Duck play USC, UCLA or ASU that he probably knows the kids on the other team's roster as he had met them while recruiting. Against Ohio State, he knows none of the players personally. Heacock agrees.

"You try and watch the Oregon offense against versus SC, we knew a little bit about them (USC) because we played them the last couple of years," Heacock said. "Obviously they (Oregon) played Purdue this last season, so we get a little bit of a feel for comparison but it's awfully hard to say how good is that guy at right guard because you don't know him. You haven't recruited him."

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