Finding a Running Game
Ohio State’s defense was put on skates last week and pushed down the stairs, and if that happens again this week, the Buckeyes will need to find a running game in order to control the ball and slow things down for a defense that might be reeling.
Finding a running game, however, is not very easy to do against Michigan State. The Spartans have the No. 3 rush defense in the nation, and they don’t take kindly to folks trying to run the ball on them.
“Coach Dantonio’s background is a defensive guy,” OSU offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. “He’s committed to stopping the run in culture and mindset and committed to stop the run in structure. They’re going to be very, very stern in their approach. They’re not going to change as far as where they put guys and why. Sometimes that stresses their coverage, but Coach Dantonio is also a DB coach and he understands how to coach those DBs and help those guys out.”
The Buckeyes will need to throw the ball over the top of MSU’s coverages, but it will be the running game that keeps the Buckeyes out of third-and-long situations. Without the running game, the Ohio State offense will become one dimensional, and that’s never a good plan of attack against the Spartans.
“Their coverages have changed over time. They’re much more exotic on third down,” Wilson said. “Their run defense is stout. Always has been. That’s why it’s the foundation of their program. We’ve got to find one this week. It’s going to be hard. We’ve got to find a way to stay with it, but it’s also going to be very, very difficult to run the ball.”
Expect the Unexpected
After most losses at Ohio State, the coaches or players will lament one or two things that the opponent did that caught them off-guard.
Against Iowa, it didn’t look like the Hawkeyes were doing anything different on offense than what they’ve done over the last 40 years, but that’s not true.
OSU defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said they got a look from Iowa that they had only shown about eight times this season, but against the Buckeyes they ran it 26 times and they were never able to adjust properly to it.
“At Ohio State and places where you have really good players, you have to expect things that have not shown up on tape,” Schiano said. “I didn’t do a good job of getting our guys adjusted during the game. It’s disappointing, but as a coach and especially as a coordinator, you have to be able to get things fixed faster than we did.
“But when you really look, no matter how long you do it, it’s an incredibly hard thing to swallow and to get over. We had our opportunities to get off the field and we didn’t do it. when you don’t get off the field on third down, often times you live to see a lot of plays that you never needed to see. We need to get all of it fixed. And it falls me and our coaching staff to get that done. We have great players, we have to get them in position to go make plays. We’ve got to get it right fast.”
Asked if he needed to perhaps simplify things for his players, Schiano paused for a moment before answering.
“I don’t think it’s simplify, but probably needs to be a little different,” he said. “College football is a little different. I don’t think it’s simplify, I think it’s focus. If that makes any sense.”
What About the Linebackers?
Against Oklahoma and Iowa, there were many problems with Ohio State’s defense, but perhaps the group that stood out most was the Buckeye linebackers. It was not their best effort, and fell well short of their collective performance against Penn State just one week prior to the Iowa debacle.
The disparity from week to week is never a good sign, but when asked if the position was playing at a substandard level, Greg Schiano didn’t necessarily agree.
“I wouldn’t say that, but I would say we struggled with a couple of things Saturday,” he said. “Again to me that comes back to us. We have good linebackers. We have to get them to do their job. If not, then you have to examine the why, and that to me is coaching. It’s why you coach. It hurts, but that’s our job. You look in the mirror and figure it out. Unfortunately we lost one because of it.”
And now a much more potent offense comes to Ohio Stadium. Michigan State can do things that Iowa did — and probably will, but they can also do a whole lot more.
“They’re as multiple as any team we’ve played this year,” Schiano said. “So we really have to be on point. They do everything from the gun-run game, to what we saw the other day with multiple tight ends and heavy people and unbalanced sets, all the way to what we do – gun-run and spread. And everything in between. So this is a final exam for sure. We’ve got our work cut out for us. We’ve got to make sure we’re prepared when we enter that game Saturday.”