Know Your Foe - Ohio State

With No.18 Wisconsin ready to host No.1 Ohio State in front of a national prime-time audience, Badger Nation Publisher Benjamin Worgull talks with Buckeye Sports contributor Marcus Hartman for his take from the Buckeyes' sideline.

1, What's Terrelle Pryor status with his knee? We've seen him run plenty over the course of his career, but he was primarily a pocket passer last week in picking a part Indiana. Is his knee less than 100 percent or was that just what the game plan called for?

Hartman: His problem this season is a strained quad on his left leg, the same one on which he hurt his knee last year. By most accounts, he is doing pretty well. He said he was around 80 percent last week and the thought is he will be able to move around if he needs to this week. The coaching staff would prefer to avoid more than a handful of designed running plays such as options or quarterback draws, but they also count on him to be able to create big plays when he escapes the pocket. They want to see him run around 10-12 times with half being scrambles on pass plays. Against Indiana, his carries were converted to passes as opposed to runs for someone else, but with the Badgers boasting a better secondary than the Hoosiers, that may not be the choice this time around.

2, How has Ohio State's offense handled the blitzes this season and how strong has the offensive line been? Has OSU developed a screen play and if so, have they found a lot of success with it?

Hartman: The line has been somewhat inconsistent, but there's been very little middle ground. Ninety percent of the time, everyone does their job and good things happen, but 3-5 times per game they have a miscommunication or someone loses a battle that leads to a major breakdown and a negative play. A couple of teams they played were able to confuse them a handful of times with blitzes, so it will be interesting to see if that continues or gets shored up. When a blitzer comes free all is not necessary lost, though as Pryor is difficult to take down because of his size and quickness. We've seen a couple of screen plays but that hasn't been a big part of the game plans yet.

3, Ohio State hasn't played a lot of top competition, but where have opposing team found success/weaknesses on both sides of the ball?

Hartman: Until last week, I would have said the Buckeye secondary could be susceptible to giving up some chunks of yardage, but the DBs put forth their best effort of the year against a pretty good Indiana passing game last week. Still, that is probably the place to attack Ohio State. The cornerbacks have had problems in one-on-one situations, and the Buckeyes haven't seen a tight end like Lance Kendricks down the middle of the field. Aside from one long run by Miami and one drive by Illinois, the defensive front has been nearly impossible to run on, but, again, Wisconsin is something of a different animal this week so it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

As for the other side of the ball, everyone so far has opted to load the box to force the Buckeyes to pass, but they have done so at their own peril as Pryor is coming off the best passing day of his career.

4, The Buckeyes have four players over 100 yards rushing but it appears no players has dominated the competition. How big of a concern is the running game for the Buckeyes?

Hartman: The team doesn't sound very concerned, but many fans are in a panic. The stats were always going to be skewed because of Brandon Saine and Dan Herron sharing No. 1 tailback duties, but Saine's struggles this season have altered things further. He has been in a funk, so lately Herron has gotten a greater load of the action. Herron runs hard but lacks the typical size of a Big Ten back. He's been better at running to daylight lately than he was last season. The occasional breakdown in the blocking has exacerbated the problems, but the coaching staff seems pretty content that the running game has been effective enough to make teams want to take it away and take their chances with Pryor.

5, What has been the primary problem for Ohio State's special teams woes this season?

Hartman: The coverage problems have been cleaned up in the past three games, but the general consensus was the problems stemmed from inconsistent kickoffs by true freshman kicker Drew Basil and coverage guys who were getting out of their lanes at the wrong time. The staff has moved some people around on that unit, and that has produced better results. Basil has been hitting the ball with more authority, too.

6, What is Jim Tressel and the rest of the upperclassmen Buckeyes saying about the atmosphere they are going to be playing in on Saturday? How are the Buckeyes preparing for it?

Hartman: Tressel and the upperclassmen have both been recounting an electric atmosphere the last time they were at Camp Randall, and local media have made a lot of the Buckeyes jumping along to "Jump Around" at the end of the third quarter. Tressel said he tells kids in recruiting playing at places like that is a bonus of going to be a Big Ten school, and he looks for his guys to get some energy from the crowd. They have been heard blasting "Jump Around" and "On Wisconsin" over the loudspeakers at practice to get ready for it.

7, The last three games in Madison have been decided by a total of 15 points and this game seems like a budding rivalry with the two teams playing in the same division starting next season. What's your prediction for this game?

Hartman: The Buckeyes definitely look at the Badgers as more than just another conference team because of their physical approach and the recent close calls, and that respect figures to have Ohio State raring to go Saturday night. Wisconsin has the tools to win this game, but I see Ohio State as the better team. I think the Buckeyes will spread things out at the start to challenge the Badgers to match up with them in the passing game then let Pryor go to work with his new-found accuracy and consistency throwing the ball. Then he will try to take advantage of seams that could open in the running game. The pride of the OSU defense is still bruised from getting pushed around two years ago in Madison, so they should be a fired up bunch ready to take the Badgers' best shot. Scott Tolzien will have to avoid the mistakes he made last year for his team to have a chance.


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