December 16, 2009
It's all about tempo
Other teams on Ohio State's schedule may run more offensive plays than the Oregon Ducks do but there are few teams that can match the tempo that Chip Kelly's offense runs its system. In a lot of regards the only thing that stops the Oregon offense is the Oregon defense which has spent 864 plays on the field (compared to 832 offensive plays).
In the Big Ten there are teams that will employ a hurry-up style of offense and in past years the frantic pace that a team like Illinois will run its offensive sets has caused the Buckeyes trouble and prohibited the Buckeyes from being able to roll players in and out the way that they may like, especially on the defensive line. But the Buckeyes know that the Rose Bowl game is going to up the ante and everyone better be ready and not surprised by what they will see.
"Yeah, it definitely gets teams, because you'll see a lot of times on film, even the camera guy sometimes missing it and they'll snap the ball and you'll see the middle of the play," Ohio State safety Anderson Russell said. "Or a lot of times you'll see defenses not completely lined up."
Northwestern led the league in offensive plays with 919 but the Buckeyes did not line up against the Cats this year due to the conference schedule structure. Wisconsin came in second with 853 offensive plays and the Buckeyes were on the receiving end of 89 offensive plays in their 31-13 win, a game that saw the Badgers hold the ball on offense for more than 42 minutes. Ultimately Ohio State won that game with two defensive scores and a special teams score which proves that you can't always judge a book by its cover.
But nevertheless the Buckeyes will have to be ready more of the speed of play rather than the number of plays that will be coming at them.
"There have been a few teams we played this year who had fast tempos," Ohio State cornerback Chimdi Chekwa said. "Even last year, Texas was really fast when we played them in the bowl game. It's not something that we haven't seen before. It's something we have to practice against and get ready to play again."
Knowing that it is coming is one thing but is there any chance of trying to slow it down?
"You're not really going to slow down their tempo," Chekwa added. "They're going to keep on going fast. But what you've got to do is make sure you're set when they snap the ball and make sure that you have good communication before the play begins."
The Ducks have differing speeds when they get to the line and the Buckeyes have been looking into all of them as they prepare during the long layoff.
"They run a look-look offense and then they will change up the speed whether they will run a no-huddle or the look-look and going at their own pace," Ohio State safety Kurt Coleman said. "Slowing them down is getting them off the field as fast as possible and not letting them catch a rhythm because that's what the offense thrives on. As soon as they get the rhythm, we will see Oregon march down the field in a couple of plays."
So the Buckeyes have been putting extra effort in preparing for the inevitable and while it is not feasible to do that solely with the ones vs. ones the Buckeyes have found ways to work around that in order to get the proper simulation.
"We have been going rapid fire on defense putting in the ones, putting in the twos and going play after play after play," Ohio State defensive lineman Doug Worthington said. "It is good for conditioning and it is good for getting your mindset right when you are tired and when you are fatigued because fatigue makes cowards of us all."
Even if you are mentally prepared there is still the task of being able to contain the offense. It is well chronicled that if you take away one aspect of their scheme they will just attack you with another.
"They're, I think, fairly simple in how they attack you, it's just hard to tackle them and cover them and do all the things that they do, but they do it so quickly and they do it with a good feeling for what the next answer is," head coach Jim Tressel said.
And with Oregon holding the answers it will be up to Ohio State to keep the Ducks at bay.
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