Game Time – It is on.
No way today would be productive to work in any way shape or form. I have Ducks on my mind. Tomorrow is the game that can send us fully into basketball season with either a feeling that a great weight has been lifted off us or in the event of a loss another an off season of debating why a team (and staff) that does so well in conference play has not been able to find bowl magic since the 2005 season. Pundits are calling for another Big Ten bonk, hell even some of the diehards have their doubts – but when it comes down to it I am sure that everyone in the Buckeye Nation will be pulling for the boys tomorrow. And for the cynics out there who would prefer to be on the “I just can’t handle another let down train” I offer this – before Barclay was sent in to kick the game winner against Iowa the former soccer player turned placekicker said Tressel kept telling him “I believe in you and you can do it”. Just saying – it can’t hurt to adopt that philosophy for the next 36 hours or so.
With that said I offer up the below, most of which has been discussed, debated and driven into the ground by now but this blog was never about breaking news scoops – it is to provide my own take on things.
1) Stopping the running game. Okay well maybe just contain it and slow it down. Regardless of how awesome I think our defense is I still think that Oregon has a great offense (2000+ yards rushing / 2000+ yards passing) that executes the spread with an obscene precision. Masoli may be small but he is thick and can run through arm tackles, not to mention the ill ball fakes which are pretty much the best you will see. James is a little dude too but can flat out fly so and “Hitman” Blount is not as fast but is a bigger short yardage type back that has proven in his few games back from the sucker punch suspension that he still has “it”. The Silver Bullets have to be really disciplined and wrap up these guys to force them to earn every yard. Although there are some Buckeye sites that are saying that a “spy” on Masoli is not a great idea I disagree. The argument is that in a passing down a spy takes a defender out of coverage – I think the spy provides enough value to stifle his running ability that on passing downs the spy becomes a blitzer to pressure him into a quick decision. His reading a blitz and making an accurate throw is not really as much of a concern in my opinion as him hurting us with his legs. Besides – can you name an Oregon receiver? Me either. A look at their stats says that the primary targets are 6’1”/175 lb Jeff Maehl at wide out and 6’5”/243 lb Ed Dickson at tight end. Dickson may prove to be a tough matchup for us because of his size but I can’t see a tight end beating us.
2) Executing Tressel ball. I don’t mean by firing squad either. As I mentioned above Masoli and Oregon execute the spread offense very well and it made them the most potent offense in the Pac-10. Their two losses to Boise State and Stanford though was a result of the opponent being able to run the ball against their defense. Similarly if our defense can slow down that potent offense it keeps them off the field. Also the better our kicking game the longer field for the Ducks, the harder for their offense to score a lot. So – power running, ferocious defense and solid special teams is a good recipe for the Buckeyes. All season long we have been pained by Tressel-ball but for once if the Vest can come out and execute his game plan – it may just mean a W.
3) Bizzaro Bowl Season. So far it has been a little different than what we have seen the past few years. The Mountain West is undefeated, Big Ten has taken more than they have dropped, and the Pac-10 and SEC have looked less than stellar. I mean the same Arizona team that took Oregon to double OT and scored 44 points on them was shut out by Nebraska while the Nebraska who could barely score at all during the season dumped 33 on the Wildcats. Just the other day Wisconsin mashed the power running game and played solid defense to win against the Hurricanes. This could be the year where all the haters out there underestimate the Big Ten.
4) Winning the big play battle. This means anything from turnovers to big plays on offense. You watch film of the Ducks and a lot of their scores come from long runs or Masoli scrambling on pass plays. Likewise our defense has saved games and put games out of reach by takeaways, and our two losses were against teams that won the turnover battle against us. If we can force the Ducks to make some turnovers, limit their big plays, and maybe even have Pryor connect on some long bombs to Posey like he did in Happy Valley – the Buckeyes will come out smelling like a rose.
Nothing left to do but play the game. Here’s to a Happy New Year!