Ohio State Football: 10 Things To Look For In Week Three Vs. Ohio
Saturday, for the 14th consecutive season (dating back to 1997) Ohio State will face an in-state foe, as the Buckeyes welcome the Ohio Bobcats to Ohio Stadium.
The last time the Bobcats came to town, in 2008, they gave the Buckeyes a run for their money, leading 7-6 at halftime and 14-12 with 14 minutes remaining in the game before Ohio State scored the last 20 points to win 26-14.
This time around, Ohio will be going for its 500th victory in program history and what better way to get it than by beating the No.2 team in the country and your mighty big brother, so-to-speak.
Although the Bobcats are led by 5th-year senior quarterback Boo Jackson, who did play in the 2008 game, and are gunning for their 500th victory, they are a 30-point underdog and Ohio State has not lost to a school from Ohio since 1921 when the mighty Yeomen of Oberlin defeated them 7-6.
This one just doesn’t have that upset feel to it.
While an upset may not be worth looking for in this game, here are 10 things that are.
1. Ohio State's Return Coverage
This is all that people in Columbus have been talking about this week—how poor OSU’s return coverage has been. It’s been all over the papers and the radio, and it’s even cost some fans a bit of their hair.
Through two games, the Buckeyes have allowed two return touchdowns and are giving up 27.1 yards per kickoff return and 40.5 yards per punt return. Both returns for a score came against Miami. In its history, Ohio State never gave up two return touchdowns in the same game, before last Saturday.
Part of the reason why the poor return coverage is such a concern is that it’s not normal.
Under coach Jim Tressel, the Buckeyes return coverage, and special teams as a whole, have been solid. They’ve never had an average per kickoff and punt return of more than 21.5 and 12.8, respectively, in a season.
Last season, they only gave up 49 yards on punt returns—total. This year they’ve allowed 30 yards more than that on one return, the 79-yarder by Miami’s Travis Benjamin for a touchdown.
The return coverage had better be better this week. Ohio State can’t win a national title allowing those kinds of yards on kickoff and punt returns.
2. Ohio State's Red Zone Efficiency
Good teams convert inside the red-zone. Ohio State is a good team. They have been in the red-zone 13 times and have came away with points 11 times, a conversion rate of 85 percent.
Championship-caliber teams score touchdowns inside the red-zone. Ohio State, RIGHT-NOW, is not a championship-caliber team.
In 13 red-zone trips, the Buckeyes have crossed the goal line only six times. Less than 50 percent of the time they enter the red-zone they score a touchdown (46 percent). Against Miami, they scored only three touchdowns in nine trips to the red-zone (33 percent).
Since 2004, five of the six BCS-Champions scored touchdowns on at least 60 percent of their trips inside the red-zone. The lone exception was Alabama last year. They scored six only 47 percent of the time.
If Ohio State can go 5-for-5 against OU, it will not only boost their red-zone numbers, but their confidence as well.
3. Ohio State's Ability To Convert 3rd-Downs
Other than, quarterback Terrelle Pryor running for the first, the Buckeyes don’t have a whole lot going for them on third down.
Ohio State is a mere 10-for-30 on 3rd-Down conversions, mostly converting because of Pryor’s athleticism on broken plays.
The Buckeyes have to be able to sustain drives by converting on third down.
It starts upfront. On third and long, the offensive line has to have discipline, hold their block and give Pryor time to survey the field and find a hole in the defense. On third and short, the O-Line has to get a good push off the ball and create lanes for the Ohio State running backs run through.
Also, keep an eye on the play calling on third down. Is it always going to be Pryor? Or are one of the backs going to step up and be that “give me the ball, coach, I got it” kind of guy?
4. Ohio State's Pressure on Boo Jackson
Where is the athletic, aggressive and dominating defensive line that was raved about coming out of spring practices for Ohio State?
In the first two games of 2010, the Buckeyes opponents have more sacks than they do (4 to 3). And the worst part is that neither defensive end, Nathan Williams nor Cameron Heyward, have a sack this season, defensive tackles John Simon and Dexter Larimore, along with defensive back Tyler Moeller, account for all three of Ohio State’s sacks.
Larimore and Simon definitely came up with timely sacks against Miami quarterback Jacory Harris, but there needs to be more consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback.
More pressure equals more turnovers, in most cases, and the Buckeyes defense has already shown they have no problem capitalizing on opponents’ mistakes.
Ohio quarterback Boo Jackson is the target this week. In 2008, Ohio State was unable to sack Jackson, but did force him to throw three interceptions.
Look to see if the Buckeyes defense can begin getting pressure on the quarterback, starting with a guy they couldn’t get to, two years ago.
Ohio State leads the nation in turnover margin at +3.5. Through two games their defense has forced seven turnovers and the offense has yet to turn the ball over.
The Buckeyes offense has greatly benefited from the defense’s superior play.
On six of the seven turnovers, the offense has received the ball from the defense inside opponent’s territory with the average starting position being the opponent’s 29-yard line.
Pryor and the offense have been converting on what the defense has given them. On the six turnovers they actually got the ball (linebacker Brian Rolle had a pick-six against Marshall), Ohio State’s offense has scored 27 points, scoring more touchdowns than field goals.
They have scored three touchdowns and kicked two field goals, and were unable to produce points from a turnover only once. That came when they got the ball at their opponent’s 6-yard line with 94 yards ahead of them—understandable they didn’t convert there.
The Buckeyes should be able to come up with a couple more turnovers against the Bobcats; they’ve turned the ball over six times in two games.
6. Ground Game
In its last seven games, dating back to last season, Ohio State has outrushed their opponent by over 1,000 yards—that is insane.
The Buckeyes have rushed for an average of 249.9 yards per game while holding their opponents to an average of 78.5 yards on the ground.
Furthermore, in those games, Ohio State has scored 15 touchdowns via the ground to their opponent’s one. Talk about an advantage.
With Ohio being outrushed by their opponents through two games and the Buckeyes’ numerous running weapons in Pryor, Brandon Saine, Dan Herron and others, look for Ohio State’s ground superiority to continue.
7. Dominant Silver Bullets
Ohio State’s defense is perennially in the top 5 of nearly every major defensive category, that’s no secret. Just how dominant they’ve been, might be slightly off the radar.
Since the beginning of the 2005 season the Silver Bullets have allowed the fewest 100-yard rushers (7), the fewest rushing touchdowns (39), the fewest touchdowns from scrimmage (93) and the fewest points per game (13.5) of any FBS school in that span.
They also have held an opponent under 21 points more than any other FBS school since 2005 (51 times).
As it stands now, the Buckeyes have a 25-consecutive game streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher. The last person to rush for 100 yards against the vaunted Silver Bullets was USC running back Joe McKnight in 2008 when he rushed for 105 yards.
Last week Miami’s Damien Berry came close to snapping the streak with a 94-yard performance.
This week, look to see if the Silver Bullets can make it 26 in a row without allowing a 100-yard rusher.
8. Orhian Johnson
With news breaking this week that sophomore safety C.J. Barnett is likely out for the season, it’s up to sophomore Orhian Johnson to fill the void.
Johnson was widely expected to be the starter coming out of spring practices, but was beat out by Barnett for the starting job before the start of the season.
He has played in 12 games for the Scarlet and Gray and has accounted for 10 tackles.
Hopefully, Johnson steps right in with no problem and is as energetic and ball hawking as Barnett, who had 4.5 tackles and a pass break-up before injuring his knee last week, was.
9. The Crowd
Not that this next item is a shock, but it’s definitely noteworthy.
If Ohio Stadium welcomes 100,000 through its gates, which is highly likely, considering they’ve had over 105,000 in each of the first two games, it will be the 58th consecutive game with over 100,000 people in attendance.
Now, the Buckeyes have one of the strongest followings in the country and it’s no surprise that they’ve had that many people attend games for that many weeks in a row, but a tip of the hat is in order for all of the personnel that work Ohio State home games.
That's everyone from the ushers and the security, to the nacho guy. It’s remarkable that, that many individuals can be in one place on a Saturday afternoon for so many consecutive weeks and everyone, for the most part, enjoys their experience.
Kudos to the Ohio State University and Ohio Stadium.
10. TP Passing Archie
The last thing to keep an eye out for Saturday is Terrelle Pryor’s chance to pass, arguably, the most famous Ohio State player in history on the “All-Time total offense” list.
Pryor is currently ninth on the list with 5,425 career-yards of total offense, 164 yards behind Archie Griffin.
Obviously, Pryor is a quarterback and has as opportunities to gain yards through the air as well as on the ground, but passing the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner on any list is an accomplishment in itself.
Pryor has a long way to go if he wants to reach No.1, and it would likely require him to return for his senior season. Quarterback Art Schlichter is No.1 in total offense at Ohio State with 8,850 yards.