Ohio State Rolls Over Gophers, Prepares for Badgers

Buckeye CommentarySenior Analyst ISeptember 30, 2008

Tim from Varsity Blue (or is it Maize?) is back for his weekly thoughts on the Buckeyes. Head over to his site to see my views of Michigan's big win over Wisconsin, the Buckeyes' next opponent.

What I saw
Ohio State absolutely took care of business against a team that is expected to be among the bottom-feeders in the conference (despite their previously-unbeaten record).

The return of Beanie Wells helped the offense run a lot more smoothly, though once the Buckeyes started building a formidable lead, they let the offense shut down a bit, and eventually gave Todd Boeckman some pretty significant playing time.

The defense came away with a few key turnovers to help the offense get the ball in good field position for a couple of the scores, and keep Minnesota from establishing anything consistent on their offensive possessions.

I also think that, though it may not have been statistically superior, this was a better performance by Terrelle Pryor.

Last week, he seemed at times to just be going through the motions most of the game. We saw that some this week, too, but we also saw the reasons he’s called “the next Vince Young.”

What I didn’t see
Any trick plays, too much blitzing (though there was much more of that than there had been in any game so far except USC), or anything particularly aggressive from the OSU coaching staff.

When you don’t need to do it to win by a convincing margin, why not just keep the bag of tricks close to The Vest?

Minnesota didn’t put up too much of a fight, and the final margin wasn’t really indicative of the degree by which OSU outplayed the Gophers.

However, beating the crap out of somebody can also help you become complacent with your faults (which I think hurt the Buckeyes against USC), though they didn’t seem to make too many mistakes in this game.

Who I watched
Near the end of the first quarter, Glen Mason said something that perfectly describes Terrelle Pryor thus far in 2008: “There’s no substitute for experience: unless it’s talent.”

He does run a little scared sometimes when he’s in the open field, going to the ground pretty quickly when he gets approached by a defender, rather trying to run through the guy or juke him out.

However, when he’s already gained 40 yards on the play, how badly can you fault him? He also pitches it on the option play a little too often, but that might be a lack of trust in a somewhat sketchy offensive line to hold their blocks.

Passing, he’ll still miss a wide open guy every now and then, and sometimes he doesn’t feel the rush coming, but those are probably things he’ll grow out of over the course of the season. I still maintain that some of his touchdown throws are really easy to make, but that’s more a credit to the coaching staff than a ding on Pryor.

The offensive line is still something of a liability, though having Pryor AND Beanie in the backfield definitely does quite a bit to compensate for a weakness. Once the Buckeyes started building up a pretty good lead, things got much easier on the OL, and they seemed to do a bit better during the course of the game.

Beanie was back, and though he had the early fumble, that can be mostly attributed to the fact that the guy hasn’t even dressed for the past three weeks, much less played.

He gave the Buckeyes a simultaneously physical and explosive option in the backfield, which really helped make things easier for the OL and Pryor.


What I expect to see next week
Ohio State and Wisconsin are like mirror images of each other, two of the last three Big Ten teams sticking to a mostly pro-style offense.

However, the Buckeyes now have a dynamic player in the quarterback role, and if they aren’t going to the spread per se, they certainly count it among their offensive options.

Wisconsin’s defense looked pretty good against Michigan, but Ohio State is infinitely better than Michigan on that side of the ball at this point in 2008.

The Buckeyes defense, on the other hand, seems to struggle with a super-mobile quarterback (a la Boo Jackson), but should be able to line up man-for-man with the Badgers and not have it shoved down their throats.

I think the Buckeyes will continue Wisconsin’s losing streak by mostly shutting down the running game and controlling the tight ends with a good linebacking corps.


What this can tell us about The Game
First things first, it tells us that the Ohio State offense is far better with Beanie in the backfield. If he can stay healthy through the entire year, OSU shouldn’t have any more struggles like they did in the three game stretch between Ohio and Troy.

It also gives us our first chance to see an opponent that Michigan and Ohio State will have in common in 2008. Sure, you can’t compare boxscores side-by-side, but you can (eventually) see who actually played a better game against the Gophers, taking all factors into account.

Still, Ohio State didn’t look overly physical yet again (though better than they did against Troy), and I wonder if they’ll snap out of it during the course of the season.

If not, is it possible that they’ll lack physicality against the Wolverines, or (the more likely scenario) be a little TOO physical and aggressive, either being susceptible to misdirection or liable to commit penalties (the “Sparty, No!” syndrome, as it’s known in Ann Arbor).