Reading the Buckeye Leaves: Oklahoma Week

Ohio State Football Helmet

It’s officially football season when I spend more time than is necessary figuring out ways to defeat the opponent. Urban Meyer must have lost my number. None-the-less, here are a few plays that could make a big difference Saturday night.

When Oklahoma Has the Ball

The Sooners, like most teams, look to run the ball on first down to stay ahead of the chains. With a noticeable drop off from last year’s production in the backfield and no true starting running back to dominate most of the carries, look for Oklahoma to take some quick shots over the middle on first down.

In the clips below, quarterback Baker Mayfield does a nice job of selling the fake while reading the play-side linebacker or strong safety depending on the coverage. This hard play fake causes the linebackers to react to the run while tight end Mark Andrews slants towards the middle of the field in the vacated area. Last week, the Sooners used this play to precision and provided the Mayfield with a single read and easy throws.

UTEP made an adjustment to the play fake on first down, reacting to the run instead of anticipating or predicting the run. This allowed the linebackers to fall into a shallow zone, which eliminated Mayfield’s initial read, forcing Mayfield to throw deep, resulting in a 50/50 ball.

When Ohio State Has the Ball

Ohio State ran an odd amount of Run Pass Option plays versus Indiana, including 13-straight to finish the ball game. Early on, J.T. Barrett would hand off on the inside zone while the H-Back would flare to the wide side of the field. Barrett did not show much thought of actually throwing the ball in these instances, but the numbers advantage was there and it would have made for an interesting stat line should the passes have been made.

The final drive, however, consisted of Barrett purposefully looking to throw out of these formations resulting in a 13-play drive, covering 87 yards and taking over six minutes off the clock.

Look for Marcus Baugh, Parris Campbell, and K.J. Hill to have success out of these formations on the outside, while running backs Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins capitalize on the widened defense to attack the middle running lanes. Keep in mind, last season versus Oklahoma the Buckeyes attacked the middle of the defense on 45% of their snaps.

Oklahoma’s Most Dangerous Play

With good overall offensive line play and an All-American left tackle in Orlando Brown Jr., naturally Oklahoma likes to run to the left side. Where Brown struggles is his ability to block in space. Oklahoma is able to use this to their advantage by slanting their blocking scheme to the left while Mayfield rolls away from the play side motion.

The Sooners run this play from the left hash, providing Mayfield with the wide side of the field to read and either pass or keep it himself, but also rolling to his strong throwing side. He is much more accurate when rolling to his right, and this gives him room to operate while limiting Orlando Brown’s ability to miss a key block in space.

In the clip below, Oklahoma runs the play in the red zone, resulting in an easy touchdown. Look for the Sooners to pull this play out anytime they are shaded to the left hash, particularly if they are struggling in their running game.

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