Ohio State-Troy: Something Resembling a Preview

Buckeye CommentarySenior Analyst ISeptember 19, 2008

September 20, 2008
Ohio Stadium


What the Interweb is saying: Previews abound for the Buckeyes’ (lesser) epic tilt with Troy. Here a few: 11W, Ozone, Bucknuts (I am sure there is one somewhere on that cluttered site), ESPN, Yahoo, yadda, yadda, yadda. Absorb the knowledge.

Whom I talked with: Earlier this summer we had the pleasure of corresponding with Barry McKnight, the award-winning play-by-play guy for the Trojans, and Drew Champlin, sports columnist covering the Trojans for the Dothan Eagle. There are not two more knowledgeable people about Troy football save for head coach Larry Blakeney. Find the interview here.


OSU Run Offense v. Troy
I am going to start of with this: Ohio State will rush for at least 250 yards tomorrow, and I would not be surprised if they hit 200 by halftime.

Troy gets a lot of credit for facing major teams, and they should, but it should also be noted that they rarely prevent those teams for putting up astronomical offensive numbers.

The Trojans actually took out Oklahoma State at home last season (41-23), but in their three road contests against Arkansas, Florida, and Georgia, they gave up 149 points. Yikes! This is a chance for a new-look Ohio State offense to get some confidence.

In my opinion, Pryor is going to see the bulk of the action. If the coaches do not think Boeckman is good enough to play full-time and lead the team to victory what makes them think only playing half of the plays will turn out any better?

Tressel and Co. will cling to any glimmer of hope delivered by Pryor and leave him in. Those glimmers will come wrapped as 20 yards runs so smooth that Pryor appears to be in slow motion.

Last week, Herron and Pryor combined for 91 yards on 22 carries (4 ypc) against a stacked defense that knew Ohio State could not throw. I expect the ypc to increase by 50 percent tomorrow, at least while the first team is out there. If not, I think we all need to be worried.

Speaking of anxiety, it accompanies any mention of the offensive line these days. Now, LG Steve Rehring is out (with another undisclosed injury, no less!), and it sounds like Browning may move to his spot, with Shugarts stepping in at RT. Will this translate into new energy and focus or will the youth cause the timing to be (even) worse?

Most interesting will be Pryor’s scrambles and playmaking ability. Troy has sufficient talent at defensive end to get pressure and watching Pryor improvise will be informative.

OSU Pass Offense v. Troy
By virtue of the above description, I do not anticipate a heavy dose of passing. You will see bubble screens and swing passes, but those are glorified toss sweeps. Get used to this one:

That’s the run-pass option and it should soon become Pryor bread-and-butter. With his speed, this play can be deadly as a linebacker is forced to commit, ala the option, and then tackle Pryor in the open field.

One of the nice parts of this play is that sets up the deep ball across the field later in the game (right side above). Incidentally, it may actually get the tight ends involved in the offense again. (Don’t hold you breath.)

There will be some obligatory deep balls from Pryor but they will be on sideline routes, and the down and distance will most likely be second-and-four. Any third-and-long situations will almost certainly be answered with the above-diagramed pass-run option play.

Troy has some good defenders, namely Boris Lee and Bear Woods, but they lost CB Leondis McKelvin, who was the 11th pick in the draft. Suffice it to say, the back four is a little weaker this season.

Troy Run Offense v. OSU
Sophomore DuJuan Harris will get the majority of the carries when it is handed off, but QB Jamie Hampton will run it given the opportunity.

Troy’s spread will mean that the OSU defense will be sporting the nickel almost entirely. Because the Trojans throw so quickly I would think that the safeties can creep up and disrupt the running game.


Troy Pass Offense v. OSU
This offense is similar, but most likely better, than Ohio’s and we all watched OU’s back-up quarterback give the Buckeyes fits. I actually thought the defensive line played well against OU, but they just could not get their hands on Jackson.

Look for the defensive line to get some push, and the defensive ends to crash inside more to force Hampton outside instead of creating a lane up the middle. I think the defensive line will register a few more sacks this weekend after coming very close on multiple occasions against the Bobcats.

As mentioned, Troy dinks and dunks it down the field. Most of those dinks go to Jerrel Jernigan and Kennard Burton. This type of passing game leads to a high completion percentage (66 percent) but a horrible third-down conversion rate (9-for-29, 31 percent).

Getting one negative play per drive (sack, penalty, no-gain rush, or defended pass) is usually enough to derail a Trojan march. If the Buckeyes have a good tackling day, it will be difficult for Troy to sustain drives.


Special Teams
Let’s start with the positive. Ohio State did a nice job covering punts and kickoffs against USC and the kickoff return game only okay, considering they bobbled a couple.

We have seen Ray Small be productive on punt returns so that appears to be in good hands barring a turnover.

The Ohio State kicking game is another story. Trapasso is having the same year he always has, solid, if not great, averaging 41 ypp. You will have to excuse if I have relatively little faith in the field goal team.

On the bright side, Troy has two brand new kickers that may be susceptible to mistakes or nerves in front of 105,000 fans.


Motivational Picture:

Larry Blakeney (right) after beating the other OSU in 2007.

Imbue yourself with unearned confidence if:
¬ Terrelle Pryor starts
¬ Ohio State’s front four gets pressure on Hampton
¬ The game is not close at halftime

Despair unnecessarily because of amateur athletics if:
¬ The offensive lines penalties persist in the red zone
¬ Terrelle Pryor has less than 30 yards rushing at the half
¬ Boeckman ever runs the option again

Irrelevant Stat of the Week: Under Tressel, the Buckeyes are 14-2 in games following a loss, but those two losses are captured in one three-game losing streak in 2004. “So, basically what you are saying is that unless Ohio State has a three-game losing streak they are undefeated after losses?” “Uh, yeah.” Lame.

Irrelevant Annoyance of the Week: It is Troy University. Not Troy State University. It used to be, but the school changed the name almost five years before most of you even heard of the school. I bet the crack crew at BTN blows this about five times.

Three possibilities for me to look stupid:
1. The Buckeyes get zero sacks
2. The Buckeyes pass for 200+ yards
3. Troy has a special teams touchdown

The laws of the universe and blog ownership require me to predict: Ohio State 36, Troy 15

[/HT: mgoblog]


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