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Preview: Ohio at Ohio State
Preview: Ohio at Ohio State
The Bucks play their second tuneup game for the Trojans on Saturday when the Ohio University Bobcats visit the Shoe for a noon game on ESPN. As he will do each week for us, Buckeye Dan previews the Buckeyes opponent, and also gives us the inside scoop on Beanie Wells Toe gate as well as what we should expect to see from Terrell Pryor this week after his successful debut as a Buckeye. GO BUCKS!!!!
September 6, 2008
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
Ohio State vs. Ohio University
No, he's not going to play.
Was there anything else you wanted to know about Saturday's Buckeye game against Ohio University? Okay, the time and channel are listed above.
Seriously, there hasn't been this much buzz about toes since Dick Morris worked in the Clinton White House. But information on the condition of the right big toe of OSU running back Chris Wells has been harder to get than an early scoop on the Republican running mate. The OSU program under Jim Tressel virtually locks down injured players, and speaks on their condition only through the vaguest of Coachspeak, a language of which Jim Tressel is the undisputed master.
What we do know about Toegate is that there are no broken bones...that Coach Tressel has actually seen and talked with Beanie, and that he says "he feels great". Beyond that, Wells has been seen by reporters walking without the brace/boot, and he is reportedly walking gingerly, but without a limp. All the rest is speculation, because after all, national security is at stake here.
Wells will be rested and treated this weekend, in preparation for the crucial USC clash the following Saturday night. In Columbus, it's hard not to look ahead. OSU fans seem about as focused on this game as the Trojans are on their opponent this Saturday...and they're idle. But Tressel will surely not allow the Buckeyes to mail it in against the Bobcats. Ohio U. is a much better football team than YSU brought to the Horseshoe last week, and the Bucks have lots of things to work on before they head west.
For anyone who thought this game would be meaningless, consider this milestone; Ohio State will be going for their 800th victory in the history of the program on Saturday, trying to become just the fifth school to win that many games (That School Up North, Notre Dame, Texas, and Nebraska are the others.) I suppose they would be trying just as hard to win if it were No. 793 or No. 804, so it's notable, but...well...meaningless.
Ohio University comes to Columbus for the first time since 1999, and will be playing OSU for the sixth time overall, still looking for their first ever win over the Buckeyes. Prior to the 1999 game, however, the series had been played over a century ago, (which means that Joe Paterno was still an assistant at Penn State.) The Bobcats are coached by Cleveland native Frank Solich, who is 19-19 overall in his fourth year in Athens. Ohio U. was 6-6 last season, and they dropped their season opener last week at Wyoming 21-20.
Bucks Offense vs OU Defense:
The strength of the Bobcat defense appears to be up front, where senior defensive end Jameson Hartke, an All-MAC performer, returns along with junior Conor Reilly at the other end, and 2006 starter Ernie Hodge comes off a season missed due to injury, at one of the tackle spots.
Outside linebacker Michael Brown is a converted safety, and he and Jordan Meyers will flank newcomer, sophomore MLB Noah Keller. Three of the DB's are also returning starters for the Bobcats, so they are much more experienced in the back seven than in 2007.
The Ohio U. defense has had a hard time stopping the run in recent years, so they are no doubt relieved not to be facing Chris Wells on Saturday, despite saying all the right things on the topic. Coach Tressel has indicated that senior Maurice Wells will get the start Saturday in place of his namesake, as the result of a move up the depth chart after fully recovering from some training camp injuries that had slowed him down. Mo looked as good or better than the other two backup running backs in the YSU game, gaining 32 yards on five carries, and showing some quickness and elusiveness in his limited opportunities.
Brandon Saine (YSU - 5 carries, 21 yards) and Dan 'Boom' Herron (YSU - 5 carries, 17 yards) will rotate in as well, the plan being to get each of the three about 10-12 carries in the contest. But the leading Buckeye rusher in this game may not come from the tailback position, if last Saturday was any kind of realistic look into the future.
Finishing second in rushing to Beanie's 111 yards in the YSU game was freshman QB Terrelle Pryor, with 52 yards on 9 attempts. None of the backup tailbacks were picking up rushing yardage in chunks of 14, 18, and 21 yards as Pryor did in his first ever college game. Now that he has a vague idea of what's going on, and has the first game jitters out of the way, we could be witnessing a breakout game for the kid. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if he led the team in rushing, maybe even cracking the 100-yard mark against a relatively weak rush defense.
Look for the Bucks to work hard at establishing the ground game with the backup tailbacks though. The competition to be the primary replacement for Beanie Wells should provide all the motivation these three guys need to step it up on Saturday.
Starter Todd Boeckman had a good opener as well, spreading the ball around to the backs and tight ends, as well as to his deep receiving corps. He'll be working to polish up his reads and his timing with an eye toward the big game against the Trojans. Look for Joe Bauserman to get some field time too, as Tressel has indicated that all three QB's will play, as they did last week.
The Ohio U. game should also provide another opportunity to get the young offensive linemen onto the field for some seasoning. Freshmen tackles Mike Adams and J.B. Shugarts, and center Mike Brewster are being groomed to take over in 2009, and along with Conner Smith and Andy Miller, they can use all the reps they can get while the situation permits it.
It should be interesting to see if the coaches continue to use four and five receiver sets a good percentage of the time, allowing the depth of the OSU receivers to shine, with the likes of Ray Small, DeVier Posey and Taurian Washington joining Hartline and Robiskie in the passing attack. Watch to see if last week's promising trend of featuring the backs and tight ends in the passing attack continues against Ohio U.
Bucks Defense vs OU Offense
It looks as if the Bobcats will be a pass-oriented offense this season, largely because the loss of three-year starter at running back, Kalvin McRae (4398 yards in 3 seasons) leaves them without a proven rusher in 2008. Last week in the Wyoming game, their leading rusher was Chris Garrett, with 30 yards, and they rushed for just 41 yards total. It's reasonable to assume they will fare little better rushing the ball against the Buckeyes on Saturday.
Theo Scott will be the quarterback for Ohio, a junior who took about a third of the snaps in 2007, and had a pretty good game passing the football in the Bobcats' opener, completing 26 of 35, for 224 yards, with both a touchdown and an interception. His primary target was Hilliard's Taylor Price (#23), a wide receiver who had a big time game with 14 catches for 139 yards.
The other player to watch in the Ohio offense is tight end Andrew Mooney (#81) a talented guy with a nose for the end zone. Mooney had 34 grabs in 2007, including nine touchdowns. He started off the season with a TD catch against Wyoming last week.
On defense for the Buckeyes, there is one injury to report, and two players return who were held out last week. Backup OLB Brian Rolle suffered a concussion last week and will not play against the Bobcats, but starting strong safety Kurt Coleman is cleared to go, and Andre Amos, one of the first subs at cornerback, will also be back in action.
It would be nice if the Buckeye defense could be playing a sophisticated pro-style passing offense this week, as a tune-up for USC, but it looks like a team forced to pass because they can't run very effectively will have to do. It's hard to imagine the Bobcats scoring in double digits against the Buckeyes, with no credible rushing attack to take the heat off the passer. OSU defensive ends Lawrence Wilson, Cam Heyward and Thad Gibson could have a big day.
Marcus Freeman seems to have taken to the strongside linebacker position like a fish to water. He was very impressive against YSU, along with Tyler Moeller, who was moved around to a number of different roles on the defense. It would be good to see their running mates at linebacker, James Laurinaitis and first-year starter Ross Homan, make their presence felt a little more this week.
I don't think the Bobcats cross the goal line against the OSU defense, but two consecutive shutouts would be rare indeed. I'll project it at 41-3.
OSU Athletic Dept. Game Notes (pdf)
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