Yes, it is possible for teams besides Florida, LSU and Illinois to beat Ohio State, but they must execute very well and do the following the 7 things if they hope to slow down and beat the Buckeyes. The Ohio State football team is one of the most fundamentally correct coached college football teams in the country today, but because they play so “correct” so often, their orthodoxy becomes one of their major weaknesses. Any good football head football coach always has a coach or graduate assistant “self-scouting” his own team to try and pick-up tendencies that other teams could exploit, and as we watch Ohio State play we see dozens of places where they are just a very predictable football team. Of course, when you have more talent than almost every team on your schedule, as Ohio State does, it is very easy to be predictable, but when the Buckeyes come up against a team that has as good or better talent, and just as good of a head coach, the Buckeyes are very vulnerable. If a small group of college football fans in the San Francisco Bay area can very easily pick up on the tendencies of the Ohio State football team while only watching one viewing of their game each week, we can only imagine what opposing teams and coaches can pick up with the amount of tape that they must watch. The reason that Ohio State has struggled so much in recent national title games and against a team like Illinois is that they were the only teams on their schedule that had the same or more talent, and when that happens, the Buckeyes then have to perform on a level playing field and their very predictable offense and defense can be taken advantage of. Many of the head coaches that play Ohio State must be thinking in the week leading up to the game with the Buckeyes, that if I only had their talent we could make this a good game, because I pretty much know exactly what they are going to do. On Tuesday night here at Coaches Hot Seat we pulled out three Ohio State football games during the Jim Tressel era and before each play on offense we paused the action and had the 7 people watching the game predict what the Buckeyes were going to do next, and our consensus guess of the next play was correct 65% of the time (and we mean calling not only run or pass, but what type of run or where and who they were going to pass the ball to)! Talk about being predictable, Ohio State and Tressel might as well put up on the video screen a preview of the play coming, because plenty of people must be able to guess what is coming anyways. Of course, if you have twice the talent of your opponents you could tell them the play and they couldn’t stop you, but that will not be the case with the USC Trojans.
With all of the above in mind, here are the 7 KEY THINGS YOU have to do to both slow down and beat the Ohio State Buckeyes.
1. Stop the running game – Jim Tressel is the son of a very good football coach (Lee Tressel) and thus from a very early age Jim Tressel was taught that the first fundamental of an offensive team is to have a balanced offense, split as closely as possible between run and pass. Jim Tressel was also taught that the run sets up the pass, and thus a very strong running game is needed to open up the field, to score lots of points, and to win football games and championships. During Tressel’s time at Ohio State he has successfully utilized this “run to set-up the pass” philosophy, except when he has come against teams like Florida and LSU with equal or superior talent and with great speed on the defensive side of the ball, and those teams were able to effectively shut down the Buckeye running game. Therefore, the first key component to beating Ohio State is to stop their running game. If the Buckeyes’ running game is stopped or severely kept in check, the pressure to move the ball is transferred to the Ohio State quarterback, and the OSU quarterbacks under Jim Tressel are coached to manage a game, not win one. Since the Ohio State quarterbacks are not really prepared to take the entire Buckeye football team on their shoulders when the running game is stifled, what ends up happening is that Tressel without an effective running game starts to take chances and that opens up the opportunity for big plays by the opposing team’s defense. Therefore, stop the Ohio State running game and you will go a long way to beating the Buckeyes.
2. Play very aggressive man-to-man press coverage on the Ohio State receivers – With the Ohio State running game being the main cog in the Buckeye offense, when the running game is stopped or slowed down severely, the pressure moves to the OSU quarterback and wide receivers. With the running game stopped Jim Tressel moves down his call sheet and looks for passing plays that might get a few men “out of the box” so that he can get the running game going again. The first thing that Tressel looks to, especially if his QB is getting pressure (see Key #3), are short passes to his receivers and running backs out of the backfield. The way that a defense can counter the Ohio State passing team is to be very aggressive with the OSU receivers by playing tough man-to-man press defense and by not allowing the Buckeye receivers to get where they want to go. The play that Tressel will go to if things are really getting bad is the inside slant to the wide side of the field and this play can be defeated if the cover back refuses to allow the OSU receiver to get to the inside and in front of him relative to the QB. If the inside slant pass play is not working for whatever reason, Tressel will then look to pass the ball out into the flats, and will generally avoid the middle of the field beyond the linebackers, and the opposing defense can take advantage of that because there are huge chunks of the field that Tressel will not challenge. Jim Tressel’s main thought when the game is still close and the Buckeye running game is getting shut down is to find plays that will hopefully allow Ohio State to move the ball, but not a play that could lead to a turnover and a big play by the opposing team’s defense. That lack of taking chances and giving the Ohio State quarterback an opportunity to attack the defense’s secondary, allows the defense to keep a lot of men at the line of scrimmage and to keep blitzing the QB aggressively. Therefore, the second key to stopping Ohio State is to play very aggressive man-to-man press defense on their receivers and their running backs as they come out of the backfield.
3. Attack the Quarterback and hit him every chance you get – One of the main keys to stopping the Ohio State offense, beyond stopping the running game and shutting down their receives with aggressive play, is to get after the OSU quarterback in a very aggressive manner. Anytime during the Jim Tressel years at Ohio State when the OSU QB has been under lot of pressure and getting hit often during the game, the Buckeyes struggle mightily on offense. Florida and LSU made a concerted effort to get after the OSU quarterback and that coupled with a shutting down of the Buckeyes’ running game brrought the Ohio State offense to a standstill. Very few teams that Ohio State plays against, even in the Big Ten, make a concerted effort to get after the OSU quarterback and it is then very easy for Todd Boeckman to throw the ball to receivers (who are rarely covered in an aggressive way) or to hand the ball off to runners that are often not tackled at the point of attack in an aggressive manner. Therefore, the third key to stopping the Ohio State offense is to aggressively get after the OSU quarterback and hit him every chance you get.
4. You know where the Ohio State defensive players will be at, so take advantage of that – Ohio State plays one of the best fundamentally coached 4-3 defenses in the country, but because they are so well coached, they are also very predictable. The Ohio State defense is set-up to eliminate big plays, cover as many spots on the field as possible (they have the best defensive spacing of their players we have ever seen), and to make tackles of ball carriers at or near the line of scrimmage. The OSU defense often looks like 11 automatons out on the field because they are almost always in the right spot, but that also means that a good offensive coordinator can take advantage of that predictability by creating and executing plays that will go to spots that the Ohio State players are never at. The Ohio State defense is particularly vulnerable to teams that send multiple receivers all over the field that cause the OSU players to get themselves out of position, and to a very aggressive running game that uses traps and pulling plays that also takes advantage of the predictability of the Buckeyes. Therefore, another key to beating Ohio State is to take advantage of the predictability of the OSU defense and to aggressively attack the Buckeyes all over the field.
5. Attack their special teams – Just like the rest of the Ohio State football team, the OSU special teams are well coached and they are generally set-up to eliminate big plays and to give their special teams when they are receiving the ball and opportunity to make a big play IF everyone executes on the play. What Ohio State rarely faces is a team that aggressively attacks the OSU punt and field-goal/PAT teams both going for blocks and setting-up possible long returns. It is not easy to attack Ohio State on their special teams, but so few teams every aggressively challenge the OSU special teams, that when someone comes along and does it; it will be a surprise to the Buckeyes. Therefore, another key to beating Ohio State is to attack their special teams.
6. Attack them deep down the field – A place where Ohio State is particularly vulnerable against a team like USC that has very fast and talented players at the skill positions is when they are aggressively attacked down the field. USC has proven they have the ability to strike deep against any team in the country and the Buckeyes will already be very concerned with trying to stop the USC running game and that will often leave the OSU cornerbacks on single-coverage with little safety help and that is when big plays can happen. Therefore, another key to beating Ohio State is to aggressively attack the Buckeyes down the field.
Smack them in the Mouth – As we all saw in the last two national championship games, if a team comes out and smacks Ohio State in the mouth, the Buckeyes are thrown off their game and do not know quite how to respond. If we were getting a team prepared to play Ohio State we would emphasize with our players, especially with our line players, that the first few series would be critical to make sure that the Buckeye players knew that we were going to get after them on every play, that every yard by their offense would have to be earned, that we are going to hit their QB very hard as often as possible, and that we are going to line up on offense and run the ball right down their throat. Until it is proven to be wrong, the one sure way to beat Ohio State is to smack them in the mouth from the opening kick-off and just watch them crumble. There is only one team that can change that reality, and that is the Ohio State Buckeyes, and we will be fascinated to see if they can do just that.
There you have, the 7 Keys to slowing down and beating the Ohio State Buckeyes. Don’t think for a second that Pete Carroll doesn’t know all these Keys, and many more that never occurred to us!
We just hope for the sake of Jim Tressel and the Ohio State football team that at the conclusion of the game with the USC Trojans on Saturday night that the Buckeyes are not saying the…..
“….Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
’relax,’ said the night man,
We are programmed to receive.
You can checkout any time you like,
But you can never leave!”