Friday, January 1, 2010

Rose Bowl Preview: Final Thoughts

For further discussion to Ohio State Scout's 'Ask the Insiders' Board. 

Gameday...and some last minute thoughts before the Rose Bowl:

Special Teams
  • I never focus enough, relative to its importance, on special teams.  I believe that special teams could be a factor in multiple ways today.
  • Oregon's kick-off return unit has been fairly successful this year, averaging 24.5 yards per return.  Ohio State's kick coverage unit, by contrast, has been susceptible to allowing long returns, most notably against Iowa.  Ohio State must do a better job containing Oregon's kick-off returns--the last thing you want to allow a dynamic offense like Oregon have is the equivalent of 1 or 2 less first downs to make per possession.
  • On the flip side, Oregon has been susceptible to giving up sizable kick-off and punt returns.  Ohio State, without Ray Small, must find a way to take advantage of this and get some positive plays out of the return game.  Even if they cannot get a play as impactful as Small's first return against Penn State, they must get their offense a few free first downs.
  • It will be interesting to see whether OSU uses Aaron Pettrey or Devin Barclay to kick field goals.  Oregon has been highly successful in the kick game this year, and Ohio State must be able to match them. 
Final Thoughts
  • I have said it before, but I will say it again:  turnovers will be critical.    In particular, Oregon has been susceptible to fumbling and Ohio State's defense must force turnovers.  OSU's defense has been successful all year at causing turnovers and they need to continue that trend today.  By contrast, OSU must protect the football.  OSU's defense can be successful against Oregon, but they must be kept out of unwinnable situations.
  • As Nebraska and Wisconsin reaffirmed this week, physical, dominant defense can stop good offenses, especially if they control the line of scrimmage.  Ohio State has the chance to do exactly that today.  Everything for Oregon starts with the zone-read play, and if Ohio State controls the frontside of that play they can stymie everything else Oregon does.  The zone read is not a true option play, so Oregon's line must still establish the front-side zone play to be successful.  Or as Chris Brown states:
[On the zone read] the initial read is of the backside defensive end; but even if he stays put, the success of the playside inside zone play still depends on however the blocks turn out, as opposed to the true triple, where you know it will be a success because you have double teamed everyone and the only threat is the man you're optioning off of.
 Therefore, if Ohio State can stalemate Oregon's line and control all the gaps on the line of scrimmage,  Ohio State can shut down everything Oregon does, because everything is predicated off that initial zone action.
  • Offensively, Ohio State must stick with their gameplan and not panick, even if they fall behind a score.  Wisconsin got down early 7-0, but did not let that change their plan coming into the game against Miami, which was to hit them in the mouth, run the ball down the field, and hit play-action off of it.  
  • Look for Ohio State to take advantage of Terrelle Pryor's health by getting him on the edge fairly often, and by using schemes that take advantage of Oregon overly focusing on Pryor. 
  • Ultimately, this game may come to the intangible factor of who establishes their tempo, their style, and controls the football game.  We saw Wisconsin impose their will and dictate against Miami.  Ohio State has a similar opportunity today and must establish their will. 
For further discussion to Ohio State Scout's 'Ask the Insiders' Board. 

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