As the saying goes, games are won in the trenches. Cliche or not, a dominating offensive line can take a team to the next level. See: Wisconsin.
With three senior returning starters to anchor the line, Ohio State has the makings of domination in 2011.
Unfortunately, we haven’t reached the point in these ‘way too early’ previews where I don’t have to mention suspensions. Mike Adams, the returning starter at LT, will be serving a suspension to begin the year.
Scratch one of the senior anchors… at least for a few games.
The suspensions go a bit deeper than that for the offensive line… indirectly. With a new QB, inexperienced receivers, and a deep and talented backfield, the trenches will become even more important than usual for the Buckeyes.
Whether it is protecting an inexperienced QB for an extra second or opening holes for dynamic young runners, the offensive line will be the crucial group of players that can get the team through the suspensions without a loss.
Here’s a look at those players. Read More
And now we need to go on the road and play better than we’ve played on the road. We head to Minnesota and it will be the first time for any of us on our team to ever have seen the stadium let alone play in it, so that will be exciting for us. And it’s an evening primetime game, and our guys will get excited about that. So now we’ve got to go back to work and understand that we’re facing a veteran quarterback in Adam Weber. We had him in youth camp. I thought he was outstanding then, and 10,000 yards later I think he’s still outstanding. And I think the school career passing record for us is a little over 7,000 and he’s got 10,000, just to put it in perspective what he’s been able to accomplish and he’s a heck of a player. He’s a competitor. He’s a senior. You can just hear in his comments that he doesn’t want to hear about coaching transition or this or that, this is still the 2010 Minnesota Golden Gophers and still the same team it was at the beginning of the year who has a passion to get some good things done, and through his leadership, you can be sure that they’ll never stop, and that’s the kind of leader that you want to have. And he leads a young group of receivers who I think are getting better and better and they’ve done a good job of giving you a lot of different formation looks, a lot of different personnel groupings.
Over on their defensive side, they were very young when they began, now they’re eight or nine games into it and they’re no longer — you no longer talk when you talk about a team of so and so had this many starters returning because that’s irrelevant now because they’re going into this point in the season.
And they seem to have dialed up a little bit more of their pressure package in this last game or so than they did earlier in the year. They did a similar amount against us a year ago, so it’s not like we haven’t seen it. It’s not like it’s anything brand new, but they are bringing good pressure. I think they’re playing a little bit loose and getting just excited to go out and hit somebody and see if they can create turnovers and so forth, so it will be a great challenge for us.
Special teams, we always say, is the key when we go on the road and I think if anyone has an interest in Big Ten football and doesn’t think that the special teams had maybe the biggest impact on last weekend, Wisconsin’s fake punt was probably the turning point in that game. Michigan State’s fake punt was probably the turning point in that game. I think Iowa missed a field goal, which was big, and an extra point, perhaps. The Cleveland Browns, I didn’t see it, but the little reverse pass or whatever they did was huge in their game, and on and on and on. Missouri, I think, didn’t they bring the opening kickoff back?
So special teams is something that we’ll never stop talking about and you’ll never be able to convince me of its relative impact on the emotion of the game, and football is an emotional game. And so we’ve got to make sure that despite the fact that we’ve had to go with a lot of different lineups due to injuries in the linebacker and DB areas, we’ve got to get better at special teams, especially on the road. It’s a huge impact. Purdue found that. Go full circle, Purdue found that out, coming over here, you can’t make two big special teams mistakes and think you’re going to win in someone else’s stadium.
I apologize. It was disguised as a pooch.
Everyone will be (and has been) focusing on the battle at left tackle this fall camp between Mike Adams and Andrew Miller, and for good reason. Ohio State has been searching for an answer at LT for two seasons, and inconsistency at the position has been an issue for longer than that.
Having the urge to be original, I am going to take a slightly different angle when looking at the line. The twist? It doesn’t matter who plays left tackle this season. Read More
Hmmm… I wonder if Woody was onto something heroic?
In my last update I briefly looked at the defensive line. To summarize, they are really good.
As it turns out, Oregon’s rushing attack is pretty good as well, which is going to make the battle between Oregon’s offense vs. Ohio State’s defense a hot topic in the weeks to come.
Well, I made a few pretty charts to look at this battle of strengths, and since games are won in the trenches (and I am trying to make the point that Ohio State’s biggest advantage in this game is going to be the offensive and defensive lines), I narrowed my look to just rushing offense versus rushing defense.
Side note: these stats aren’t complete, as this weeks games aren’t factored into the rankings yet, but I just couldn’t wait to start looking into this, and I figure one extra weeks worth of stats for a few teams isn’t going to change things all that much.
Okay, so here is my first chart. The blue line represents how many rushing yards Oregon had in each game. The red line represents how many yards their opponent gave up on average each game. Finally, the rank of each opponents rushing defense is in parenthesis.
So, my nifty little chart shows a couple of things. First, the toughest rushing defense Oregon faced was last night against Oregon State at 13 (even though that will probably go down after last night) and second, Oregon consistently rushes for more yards than the opposing defenses usually give up.
Okay, on to the next chart. Same idea, only this time I charted how many yards Ohio State’s opponents averaged rushing this year (red line) versus how many yards they gained against the Buckeyes (blue line). Once again the opponents offensive rushing rank is in parenthesis.
Ohio State has held every team they have played against (except Minnesota??) to significantly less than their usual production on the ground, including Navy with their 3rd ranked rushing attack.
The unstoppable force versus the immovable object. A top 10 rushing offense versus a top 5 rushing defense. I’m willing to call it a wash. Even though Ohio State has a better defense than Oregon has played against all year and I have my personal bias that would lead me to say that Ohio State is going to smash Oregon in every way, what the hell, let’s just call it a wash.
The match up between Oregon’s offense and Ohio State’s defense really isn’t what I am interested in however, and I just did those graphs for fun (also because I really don’t want to write my finals papers).
The match up I am most looking forward to is Ohio State’s rushing attack versus Oregon’s defense. I mentioned in my look at the defensive line that the offensive line has been kicking some serious ass lately, well here is a graph to show that ass kicking visually.
Same set up as before, but just so no one gets confused, Ohio State rushing in blue, what the opponent averaged giving up on the ground in red.
The chart shows that Ohio State had mixed success at the beginning of the year (shocker), but after the Purdue game (bleh) Ohio State has been doing some serious work on the ground, with the crown jewel being the performance against Penn State’s 10th ranked rushing defense.
And now for Oregon’s defense.
It’s not quite as pretty as the OSU defense, is it? With a few exceptions at the beginning of the year, the Oregon D has been allowing apposing offenses to rush for pretty close to their season averages.
The crown jewel of this chart is Stanford’s #11 ranked rushing offense and the 236 yards they gained on the ground against Oregon, which of course led to a 51-42 defeat of the Ducks.
The good and still improving #17 rushing offense (198.92 ypg) against the #40 rushing defense (130.64 ypg) that gives up basically whatever the offense wants to take.
Sounds good to me.
Establish the run game, keep the ball out of Oregon’s hands (even though our D is probably going to slow them down significantly anyways), and get that W.
That’s the game plan.
But enough with numbers and charts, its time to talk about the players.
I already went over who will be shutting down Oregon’s rushing attack, so here are the big fellas that will be establishing our rushing attack.
What a trip it has been. From the uncertainty of the preseason, to pleasantly surprised after USC, to ‘what the hell is going on here’ after Purdue, to confidence and anticipation heading into the Rose Bowl. Those have been my basic feelings regarding the offensive line this year.
Despite the ups and downs, things are definitely up right now for the offensive line(did you see the chart? no?? go back and look, I spent a lot of time on that) and they couldn’t have picked a better time.
We’ll start, once again, at left tackle. Not only is it one of the most important positions on the line, it is also (somewhat frustratingly) the one that has the most question marks surrounding it going into the bowl game.
At the beginning of the year, LT was a two way battle between Mike Adams (SO #75) and Andy Miller (RS JR #55). Several injuries and a flu bug or two later and journeyman Jim Cordle (RS SR #64) somehow found his way into the conversation at LT.
I would imagine that Cordle will be the starter for the bowl game, but I would also think that both Miller and Adams (if healthy) would receive playing time as well. The upside of the frustrating lack of consistency at LT this year has been lots of game experience from three players who are all serviceable.
Miller started at LT against Navy, USC, Toledo, and Illinois.
Adams started at RT against Illinois and at LT against Indiana, Wisconsin, and Purdue.
Cordle started at RT against Navy and USC, and at LT against Minnesota, New Mexico State, Penn State, Iowa, and Michigan.
So yeah, not much consistency, but lots of experience at least.
It seems that the resurgence of the running game has coincided with Cordle moving to LT, so that looks like a good thing.
Cordle graduates after this year, so it looks like it could be a two way battle between Adams and Miller for the starting spot again next year.
On the other hand, there is a very real possibility that all world high school phenom Seantrel Henderson could be making a debut at LT for the Bucks next year, so stay tuned for that.
But for now, it looks like Cordle is the man at LT for the Rose Bowl.
Cordle (remember him) started the year at RT, but an injury caused him to miss some games, allowing J.B. Shugarts (SO #76) to step in and he never looked back, which, coincidentally, allowed Cordle to move over to LT.
Shugarts has started at RT in every game since week 5 against Indiana (minus the Iowa game due to injury) and he has done very well to say the least. RT looks to be in great shape for the next few years.
Backing up Shugarts at RT is true freshman Marcus Hall (#79). It looked liked Hall was going to take a red shirt this year, but apparently the coaches were so impressed with him in practice that they couldn’t keep him out of the game (it also didn’t hurt that the injury bug hit the line in the middle of the year).
Starting in week 5 against Indiana, Hall has been getting game time at RT, and he even got the start against Iowa.
I think ultimately Hall will end up sliding down to guard before his time in Columbus is over, but where ever he ends up, he is pretty damn good and provides valuable depth along the line.
So I am going to clump these three positions together.
(RS JR #65), Mike Brewster (SO #50), and Bryant Browning (RS JR #70) have been the starters from left to right on the inside for basically the entire year (minus an injury here or there) and they have also performed at or above expectations for basically the entire year.
Apparently there were some communication issues along the line early in the year (culminating in the disaster at Purdue) between Brewster and the rest of the line, particularly when it came to pass protection schemes, but it looks like things have been sorted out and as I have mentioned previously, things are looking good.
There are also some backups at these positions, but all three of the killer B’s are coming back next year and I have been writing for a long time, so I will just leave it at that.
So that does it for the offensive line. They have been giving Pryor time in the pocket, they have been opening up running lanes to the tune of 200+ yards per game, and they will be facing on Oregon team whose defensive line lacks first round draft talent (unlike the previous three years’ bowl games).
Oh, and did I mention that four of the five lineman are coming back next year, along with practically the entire offense.
Yeah, things are looking pretty good for the Rose Bowl and beyond.