Ohio State’s offense is scoring 40.8 points per game (sixth best in the NCAA) and averaging nearly 450 yards per game, but if it were a crucial 3rd-and-3, what would the Buckeyes do?
Would they hand the ball off to Dan Herron to pick up the first down?
Would they throw a quick slant to Dane Sanzenbacher over the middle for the first?
Would they have Terrelle Pryor rollout and have the option of running or throwing for the first down yardage?
Who knows? And that is where the problem with Ohio State lies—the offense has no identity.
If Alabama were in a crucial 3rd-and-short situation, the ball would be in the hands of reigning Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. If Wisconsin were in a similar situation, running back John Clay would be getting the pigskin.
Oregon would be running a zone-read play with quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James. Boise State would keep the ball in the hands of quarterback Kellen Moore and Auburn would let its quarterback, Cameron Newton, pick up the first by bruising his way right up the middle.
The Buckeyes do not have that go-to play, their bread and butter, if you will.
Their offense is like an all-you-can-eat buffet—there are so many options, but there isn’t one particular entrée or item that sticks out. It all kind of blends together.
Alabama’s, Oregon’s, Auburn’s, Boise State’s and Wisconsin’s offenses are like steakhouses—you know what you’re getting when you pick up the menu, you’re just trying to decide if your potato is going to be mashed or baked.
There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with a buffet—it’s going to fill you up the same way a steakhouse can, maybe more—but buffets can be duplicated and imitated. The great steakhouse downtown is usually one of a kind, it has an identity.
Unfortunately, the Buckeyes offense is like the often duplicated and frequently imitated buffet. Any team in the nation can run a “buffet-like” offense, it doesn’t take much—just keep trying things until they work, a la LSU and its quarterback situation with Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee.
Unlike LSU, there’s no question that the leader of Ohio State’s offense is quarterback Terrelle Pryor, but even he, like the offense he leads, is going through an identity crisis.
In his first 27 starts, Pryor threw for 250 yards or more only twice. He has thrown for at least 250 yards in two of his last three starts.
While his passing numbers are going up, his rushing numbers are going down. In his last three starts, he is averaging only 11.7 yards rushing per game, compared to 58.3 yards in his previous 27.
The statistics Pryor and the rest of the offense have put up are nice, and at times, it does look like they are scoring at will, but they lack an identity that the “steakhouse” offenses have.
If Pryor is going to be a run-first quarterback, so be it. Let him run wild. If he wants to be the pure passer who can extend plays with his feet, that is OK, too.
If the Buckeyes want to ignore Pryor and go back to the Woody Hayes “three yards and a cloud of dust” days and pound Dan Herron 35 times, that's great, do it.
But pick one thing, go with it and excel at it. Until then, Ohio State’s offense will not have an identity and will be just another commonly mimicked “buffet” offense.