Mmmm…Tastes like Preview: Minnesota

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Mmmm…Tastes like Preview: Minnesota

MINNESOTA V. OHIO STATE
Sept. 27, 2008 - 12:00pm EST
Ohio Stadium

BEFORE YOU WATCH

What the Interweb is saying: Here is a quick tour of the relevant (and not-so-relevant) sites' perspective on the game: ESPN, Yahoo, 11W, Ozone, Bleacher Report, We Is Notre Dame.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

OSU Run Offense v. Minny: Until further notice, this is going to be the bulky section of the preview. Pryor can throw. We saw that last week. But with Wells in the backfield, the running game is front and center.

Many are saying that Wells will only get 15 or so carries, but I don’t agree. If he is only healthy, or conditioned, enough for that load, then he does not sound ready. I think he gets as many carries as needed. If this game is tight in the fourth quarter and Wells has already reached 15 carries, he had better be in the game.

I have mentioned this before, but Beanie is best suited to run out of the I-formation. His first step is not devastating and does not lend itself to a read option, shotgun set up. So, formations are of considerable interest. My guess is that pistol may be the best compromise.

I will posit another idea: run out of the I-formation with Beanie lined up at fullback. If they are going to continue to run the option there needs to be a threat up the middle. Beanie can certainly be that guy.

Even if they do not run the option out of this formation, Wells can take the dive, chip an oncoming rusher, and/or set up for the middle screen.

Finally, the combination of Pryor and Wells should help the red zone offense, which was actually better last week. Two excellent running threats should create much easier play-action opportunities.

Even without fancy formations, the Buckeyes should top 200 yards rushing for the first time since Youngstown State.

OSU Pass Offense v. Minny: Pryor’s passing skills were extremely opportunistic against Troy, as he was great at identifying receivers running free downfield, and that should continue against the Gophers.

One thing that will continue to happen with Pryor at quarterback is that safeties will need to play closer to the line. Linebackers will have their eyes on Pryor, but they have Wells, Herron, and Saine to deal with. Minnesota’s Kyle Theret will be needed in run support more than usual.

This, of course, jams up the middle of the field while opening up the deep third for Pryor, so don’t be surprised if the majority of Pryor’s throws seem downfield.

No matter what, you are not going to see difficult timing routes and out patterns. Pryor may get there later this season but those patterns take tons of practice. It will be interesting to see what the coaches dial up on third-and-eight.

Minny Run Offense v. OSU: Adam Weber has been going off, completing 72 percent of his attempts. More surprisingly, he is only ninth in passing efficiency nationwide (Sam Bradford is completing 80 percent). As a consequence, the running is a little blah.

Minny lines up much like Troy did last week, but they will work from the inside-out, while Troy worked outside-in. The Gophers will run approximately 60 percent of the time (57 percent so far), but contrastingly only net 40 percent of their yards on the ground (162 ypg).

The advantage of the ground-based spread is efficiency in the red zone – a category Minnesota leads at 88 percent in the Big Ten. The downside is that drives must be more meticulous. Case in point: Minnesota’s first scoring drive of the year was 18 plays for 90 yards.

The re-org that occurred along the Ohio State defensive line will receive considerable scrutiny but they may not get many sacks because of the quick throws from Weber. Keep an eye on tackles-for-loss, as that will be the bellwether stat for the front four.

Minny Pass Offense v. OSU: Let me summarize the Gopher passing game for you: WR Eric Decker. He already has 32 catches this season and almost half their receiving yards. Ohio State should put Jenkins on him full time and offer some safety help. Shutting down Decker will go along way towards shutting down Minnesota.

Ohio State will probably line up in the Nickel package because that appears to be the default defense. Considering how run-heavy the Gophers can be, I think the base 4-3 would be more effective stopping their spread.

Last week against Troy, the Ohio State safeties consistently played 15 yards off the line and were often not involved in the plays because of the lack of proximity to the line.

That trend will probably (read: unfortunately) continue this week. I have no good idea why they did it, but they held Troy to their lowest point total in three years so maybe there is something to it.

Special Teams: Ohio State’s special teams are not that special. The coverage units have been very good, but the kickoff return team is dreadful. Punt returns were looking up until Ray Small invoked the ghost of Ray Small and was placed in detention.

Interestingly, Small leads the Big Ten in return average. At this point, the best you can hope for in the return gameis no turnovers.

Minnesota, on the other hand, has a nice thing going with Troy Stoudemire on kickoff returns (31 yards/return). Marcus Sherels has been decent returning punts (12 yards/return). The Gophers are middle of the road in coverage stats so far.

INTANGIBLES

Motivational Picture:

RonJohnson
Last time the Gophers won in Ohio Stadium, it took a huge game from a Minny wide receiver.
Ron Johnson caught eight passes for 163 yards and one TD. That was enough to upend Ohio State 29-17.


Imbue yourself with unearned confidence if:
¬ Ohio State holds Decker to fewer than 75 yards receiving
¬ The new defensive line gets at least three TFL in each half
¬ Beanie has 100 yards rushing

Become unnecessarily upset because of amateur athletics if:
¬ The Buckeyes play a soft zone allowing Decker to get into a rhythm
¬ If Stoudemire continues to average 39 yards on kick returns
¬ Beanie re-aggravates his foot in any way

Irrelevant Stat of the Week: Tressel is 6-1 in Big Ten openers. Tressel has opened with Northwestern (3x), Indiana (2x), Iowa, and Penn State. The combined record of those teams for the respective year is 42-43.

Irrelevant Annoyance of the Week: Minnesota’s football “tradition.” Yeah, yeah, yeah…Minnesota won some national titles once upon a time, the majority of which occurred prior to World War II. They have not been to the Rose Bowl since 1962. Traditions can die. The Gopher football tradition needs a headstone.

Meteorologist for a Day: The forecast has a 30 perent chance of rain penciled in right now. I am not sure if this affects the game. The field is designed to drain and provide traction in wet conditions and footballs stay relatively tacky in the rain.

I am having a hard time remembering the last home game where weather was a factor. It could simply be my faulty memory, but it seems like it has been a while.

Three possibilities for me to look stupid:
1. The Buckeyes run the option successfully without an inside threat
2. Minnesota gets quick strike touchdowns
3. Hartline or Robiskie look decent returning punts

The laws of the universe and blog ownership require me to predict: Ohio State 34, Minny 14

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