A Brief, Early Look at Ohio State

After looking utterly impotent against USC early out in Los Angeles, Ohio State plowed through all but one Big Ten opponent by creating an identity that its legendary coach Woody Hayes would appreciate. Current coach Jim Tressel is cut of similar cloth, and his team has found itself focusing on Buckeyes' basics.

One reason for that is the insertion of true freshman Terrelle Pryor, a highly touted recruit who somewhat surprisingly said no to rival Michigan's promises of spread offense heaven.

Pryor won't be mistaken for any of the pass-happy Big 12 conference quarterbacks, but he's ideal for Tressel's conservative nature, despite his rookie status.

Typical of that nature, the head coach relies on a combination of sprint-outs and handoffs to star runner Beanie Wells. It's no surprise, then, the Bucks had no offensive identity—or production—when Beanie-less against USC.

Wells leads rushing attack

Wells, for the season, ranks seventh with 121 yards per game, while QB Pryor adds another 46, even including sacks.

As mentioned, this team isn't going to regularly light up the airways, which means Texas' defensive coordinator Will Muschamp gets his wish of facing a team similar to several SEC members he once faced.

Ohio State's leading receivers, the two Brian's—Hartline and Robiskie—average a less than frightening 40 and 35 yards per game, respectively.

Pryor is elusive enough and certainly possesses the size (6-6, 235) to cause some problems, but it's easy to imagine Texas' combination of Roy Miller inside and outside terrors like Brian Orakpo and Sergio Kindle handling most of what the Buckeyes may run (not throw) at Muschamp's group.

Tressel's "attack" unit is best at holding onto the football and playing the field position game. Their 45 points against a decent Michigan State squad are deceiving: the Bucks garnered just 332 yards but eagerly accepted the Spartans' five turnovers.

While Ohio State's offensive identity is an extension of Woody Hayes-Jim Tressel, so too is the defense. And nothing oozes Buckeyes' ball more than rugged linebacker play. This year's rendition is led by senior standouts James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman.

At first glance, we see "The Ohio State University" in the top eleven nationally in several key defensive categories—pass efficiency, pass, total, and scoring. This isn't just a function of the Big Ten offenses remaining in the 1970s, though that undoubtedly plays a role. Still, Tressel's stop unit is ranked first or second in the conference in many areas and held all but one opponent well below its average yardage per game. USC rang up 35 points in early September, but one of those scores came on an interception return and the Trojans managed a modest 348 yards for the game. That total, by the way, was the most Ohio State allowed until mid-November against Illinois.

Though the Buckeyes won, 30-20, quarterback Juice Williams triggered an Illini attack that registered 455 yards, by far the most allowed by Tressel's unit.

Maybe the hint there is for Texas to give Colt McCoy the green light to run whenever he sees an opportunity. Even with the Buckeyes owning a typically tough defense, a true dual threat at quarterback combined with a precision passing game may be enough offense in what seems like a fairly low scoring Fiesta affair.

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