Ohio State Football

OSU/Michigan Preview: Ohio State Offense vs. Michigan Defense

11.14.06 | Comment?

In this entry we’ll take an in-depth look at the OSU offense and the Michigan defense. Let’s start with the Wolverine defense.

As stated in the previous entry comparing the Michigan offense to the OSU defense, it all starts upfront with the line. And what a line the Wolverines have this year. Lamarr Woodley and Alan Branch at end and tackle respectively are ably assisted by Rondell Biggs and Terrance Taylor at end and nose tackle respectively. Let’s skip the hyperbole and get right to the stats: 40 sacks, 77 tackles for loss, and holding opponents rushing attack to 30 yards per game (#1 ranking nationally.) Impressive, definitely the strength of an overall strong defense. If there is a weakness, it’s that there is not the rotation seen in other defensive lines and fatigue may play a factor later in the game as a result. This is clearly one of the best, if not the best, defensive line in the country.

The linebacker corp for Michigan is fast, physical, and smart. David Harris, Prescott Burgess (projected to return from an injury,) and Shawn Crable are a formidable trio in run support, blitzing the passer, and are adequate in pass defense. No doubt where this unit has shined the brightest though is in run defense, no one really has been able to run on them (Minnesota put up the season high to date, 115 yards in a 28-14 loss to Michigan.) The linebackers have also played a leading role in holding opponents 3rd down conversion percentage to 25% on the season, good for the #1 ranking in this category in the country. Clearly, Michigan is fielding a talented linebacker squad. Overall, the front 7 is among the strongest in the nation.

The secondary brings alot of experience to bear with cornerback Leon Hall leading the charge. Morgan Trent is the other starting corner who is joined on the field by free safety Brandent Engelmon and strong safety Jamar Adams. Here are the results this unit has produced season to date: 202 yards per game, 11 interceptions, #11 ranked in passing defense efficiency. As has been true with OSU’s defense, this is all the more impressive as Michigan has often been so far ahead teams are passing constantly. However, if there is a relative weakness to this defense, the secondary is it. Ball State (#14 rated passing offense in the country) managed to consistently beat Michigan’s secondary.

Overall, the Wolverine defense is ranked 5th in the country in scoring defense allowing 12 points per game. The high point total surrendered was 26 to Ball State late in the season. Overall, the defense is giving up 231 yards per game. This is a fast, physical, smart, and effective defense. Coordinator Ron English gets huge credit here as these are many of the same players on last year’s 7-5 team.

Shifting our focus to the Ohio State offense, again, it starts in the trenches with the big guys. The heart and soul of the Buckeye line is center Doug Datish (6’5″ 295 lbs SR) with support from tackles Alex Boone (returning from injury) complemented by Kirk Barton and guards Steve Rehring and T.J. Downing. As with the defensive line, OSU substitutes freely (and often the entire first unit for the second unit) meaning Jim Cordle, Tim Schaeffer, Ben Person, Jon Skinner, and Tyler Whaley will play and have an impact. The Buckeye rushing attack is putting up 180 yards per game and the line has only given up 13 sacks season to date. These statistics show a capable line producing well in run and pass situations.

With the strength in the Buckeye passing game, the run sometimes seems to be an afterthought. It’s not, Antonio Pittman (1,032 yards, 12 TDs) carrys the load in this phase for the Bucks aided by Maurice Wells and Chris “Beanie” Wells. The fullbacks are Stan White and Dionte Johnson (former Buckeye linebacker Pepper Johnson’s son) making holes for this stable of backs. Overall, the rushing attack has put up 2,125 yards and contributed 22 TDs on the season. If there is one concern about this unit, it’s ball security. Beanie Wells has put the ball on the ground 4 times this season with each fumble costing the Bucks a scoring opportunity.

The passing game is led by Heisman Trophy candidate, senior quarterback Troy Smith. Smith is 24-2 as a starter and isn’t just a quarterback slinging it from the pocket, he can hurt you with his feet as well. Smith’s targets in order of production are, Ted Ginn Jr, Anthony Gonzales (Gonzo,) Brian Robiskie, Brian Hartline, Rory Nichol, Roy Hall, and Ray Small. Overall, this unit has produced 2,440 yards passing, 27 TDs, and given up 4 interceptions. This offense is diverse, it does it all – power, option, spread, stretch, screens, reverses, ends around, option pass, play action, etc. You name the play, it’s been shown this year by the offense.

Overall, OSU’s offensive production has been 4,414 yards and 53 TDs or 401 yards per game and 36 points per game. This is a complex, diverse, and capable offense. Aside from one half in the Illinois game when the coaches went conservative and the Penn State game played in the wind and rain on a muddy field, nothing has even slowed this offense. It was expected losing 9 starters on defense that OSU would be involved in track meets where the Bucks would have to outscore opponents in shootouts, that hasn’t been the case with an average 28 point differential in wins.

The key matchups in these phases of the game are the Michigan front 7 vs. the OSU offensive line & RB/FBs. This is the best defensive line the Bucks have seen since Texas. If the Michigan front 7 overpowers the Bucks, it’s going to be a long day for them. Except, this has to happen without losing contain on Troy Smith who can just as easily kill you with his feet as his arm. The more pressure you see, the less the differential between the Buckeye receivers and Michigan secondary can be exploited. If Smith gets on average 3-4 seconds to make his decision and pass, it will be a very long day for Michigan ala last year’s Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame.

This is strength vs. strength in the Michigan defense vs. the Ohio State offense. It’s unreasonable to expect that OSU won’t get points against this defense, but I don’t think they’ll meet their average score of 36 points per contest. Nor do I expect Michigan will hold the Bucks to their 12 points yielded on average. It’s going to be a battle. Watch the trenches, look for penetration. By the middle of the second quarter we should have a good idea how those battles are going and what impact they’ll have on the game.

4 days to OSU/Michigan
Ohio State’s 2006 record: 11-0 Next up: Michigan 11/18
Tune: What I Got by Sublime
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