Tastes Like Preview … Wisconsin

Buckeye CommentarySenior Analyst IOctober 4, 2008

Beginner Level: Doug Flutie Preview

Intermediate Level: Anderson Russell

Advanced Level: Trev Alberts

OSU Run Offense v. Wisconsin: This section is going to sound like a broken record. With Pryor and Wells in the backfield the Buckeyes have one of the most explosive running games in the country. Essentially, this is the Wild Hog Offense being run with a quarterback. Pryor’s talent is that good.

So each week, the question simply becomes, “Can [insert Big Ten team] stop this rushing attack by making Ohio State one dimensional?” Let’s be honest, at this point, all Ohio State’s opponents defensive gameplans look like this:

1. Stop the run
2. Stop the run
3. Make Pryor pass

Even though talented defenses get to have such a single-minded focus, my enthusiasm for the 2/28 Offense will not be abated … even tonight in Madison.

Since we know what Ohio State is going to do, let’s look at what Wisconsin has done:

So far, their numbers are not great and they cannot say they have faced a great running team other than Michigan, and the Wolverines were struggling mightily prior to the game (and still rank 84th nationally in rushing).

And the numbers are not skewed because of one game:

As the talent level and competition increased so did the rushing yards given up by the Badgers. The Buckeyes will provide the two most talented runners Wisconsin will see all season. According to the above trend, 200-plus yards is in the Buckeyes’ rushing forecast.

If you are the type of fan that likes to focus on particular matchups, then keep your eye on the treatment the Badgers give Brewster. He may be the most talented lineman on the team but he has not had the benefit of being in the weight room or at the training table for a full year. Despite the meltdown, the Wisconsin defensive tackles held their position and got up field often enough for Rodriguez to call it “embarrassing.” If Wisconsin is going to apply pressure to the Ohio State running game it is going to come up the middle.

Finally, I know Nicol is out but I am not sure that will affect the running game. Brandon Smith may be used more often in an H-back position, but I do not see that limiting his time at fullback, however rare.

OSU Pass Offense v. Wisconsin: Normally, I would label this discussion “offensive afterthought,” but Pryor has impressed and, last week, the Wisconsin pass defense did not. In the second half, Michigan’s receivers were constantly wide open at yardages of 10-15 yards. It was bizarre. The Badgers were playing them as if the deep threat was constant. It wasn’t.

Ohio State’s deep threat is not significantly better, but is their receivers are, so you have to figure Wisconsin will play the same way. Perhaps, Wisconsin went into a prevent mindset because they had so little faith in Michigan’s offense, but it is not like they were winning 30-0.

I think we would all like to see a few more passes on first down, but what I would mostly like to see is Second Down and < 5 yards. If Ohio State has short yardage second downs they will be able to run rollout and play-pass options all night, which are very difficult to consistently defend, and incidentally, open up the deep routes.

Wisconsin Run Offense v. OSU: There is plenty of conflicting evidence out there. Last season, Wisconsin was tied with Ohio State at 17 in the fourth without PJ Hill. Conversely, last week Wisconsin had all their running backs at their disposal and was not able to muster any rushing attack in the second half. Despite that lack of success in Ann Arbor, the Badgers have no choice but to focus on the run.

I am fairly certain Wisconsin has one of the most advanced bioengineering labs in the country as they constantly have cloned mammoth offensive lineman and short, rotund running backs. The fact that Zack Brown is back there is proof positive that science is not flawless. The linemen average 320 lbs. and their entire strategy is to simply wear opposing defenses down. If they run the ball less than 40 times I will be surprised.

This is the first conventional offense Ohio State has seen since Southern Cal and we all know how that ended. But Wisconsin’s talent level and scheme are light years behind the Trojans. I swear Evridge’s audibles sound like, “Ok, change to run right; we are going to run to the right. Hut! Hut!” The Ohio State defense should never be confused, which means if the defensive line hold their ground or gets any kind of pressure it should be a long night for the Badgers.

Wisconsin Pass Offense v. OSU: There is good chance some dictionary has “Wisconsin passing game” as the definition of Achille’s Heel. It is not horrible, but for a team that consistently has Big Ten title dreams, and sometimes more, they have never seriously cultivated any aerial relevance. Allan Evridge is not going to change that.

Evridge is completing 57 percent of his passes, which is a marked improvement over his last stint as a starter at Kansas State (48 percent). Evridge is mostly to blame, but not entirely. His protection is iffy and there are no legitimate perimeter threats. In fact, their best receivers – Travis Beckum and Garrett Graham – often line up in a three-point stance. Oh yeah, and Graham is still not ready to go. Not good.

Not that we will see this full time but Jenkins, Chewka and Washington are more than capable of playing the Wisconsin receivers one-on-one. The coaches have fallen in love with Hines, for good reason, and it will be interesting to see how they work him in today. The nickel will rarely be needed but if you see it you can be certain that it is officially Ohio State’s base defense. Otherwise, Hines would have to replace Russell or Coleman, or even Homan. I would not be shocked to see Jenkins line up with Beckum any time he is split away from the line. There is a size disadvantage but Jenkins is an excellent tackler and, besides, you do not need to tackle if the receiver does not catch the ball.

Personally, I view Evridge as a turnover waiting to happen but beyond his game against Michigan, the stats do not support that theory. His only other turnover was an interception against Akron. Still, I think too many third-and-longs will create some mistakes by Evridge.

Special Teams: Until the Buckeyes do something interesting (good or bad) on special teams there is nothing to talk about. Wisconsin has only returned 5 punts all season and they have a decent kickoff return average (25 ypr).

The Badgers do have a freshman kicker but he seems to be doing fine (8/10) with a 52-yarder versus Michigan. He has one missed extra point and one of his missed field goals was from 50 yards. He may be a liability this week under the lights, but there is no evidence to support that other than he is a freshman.

Motivational Picture:

Ohio State did not have a participant in the 110 Hurdles at the 2008 Big Ten Championship.
Looks like we have ourselves a two-sport Beanie.

Imbue yourself with unearned confidence if:
1. Ohio State’s interior line is winning the line of scrimmage
2. The Buckeyes are able to play man defense and commit eight guys to the run
3. Ohio State returns a kickoff past midfield

Because unnecessarily upset at amateur athletics if:
1. Ohio State’s defensive tackles are ineffectual
2. Evridge is able to hit downfield receivers
3. Brewster struggles with a hostile environment

Irrelevant stat of the week: Ohio State has not won in Madison since 2002. Oh yeah. Well, do you know how many times Ohio State has lost at Wisconsin in the last 20 years? Three! In that span, they have an 8-5-1 record in Cheeseland with the other two losses coming in 1992 and 1987.

Irrelevant annoyance of the week: This is part and parcel with the above stat, but I often hear that Madison is the toughest Big Ten venue. Personally, I think Ohio Stadium is the most difficult but even if I take them out of the equation I think Penn State is far more difficult than Madison. Did you see that White Out last week? And, of course, there is the issue of Wisconsin’s most rowdy – their band – fans being suspended for this game.

Meteorologist for a Day: The temperature at kickoff is scheduled to be 50 degrees and quickly dropping into the 40s. This will have very little impact on the game but it will be nice to see some old school Midwestern football weather in early October.

Three possibilities for me to look stupid:
1. Evridge audibles and hit a deep pass
1(a). Evridge does not commit a turnover
2. Ohio State runs the option successfully more than once
3. Ohio State plays nickel all game

The laws of the universe and blog ownership require me to predict: Ohio State 24, Wisconsin 14

[HT: mgoblog]


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