A coach whose team played Ohio State this year sizes up the Buckeyes leading into Monday's national championship game against Oregon.
Even though Cardale Jones has started all of two games, he understands the offense and he’s a big, athletic quarterback who can create when things aren’t there. That’s where Ohio State’s been pretty good in the past with quarterbacks Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett before they got hurt and now with Jones. When they are behind the chains and have to throw, they can turn an average play into a big play with their feet.
The biggest keys are to stop the run -- they’re one of the premier running offenses in the country -- and to contain the quarterback. They try to split the defense by trying to run one play to one direction and a quarterback counter another direction. It’s a power run one way, but instead the quarterback will read the backside defensive end instead of the frontside defensive end and he may pull it. They try to make four, five or six defenders stop one side, but you need to have your others defend the other side of the field. You’ve got to contain Jones on runs, but it’s also him creating the play when things aren’t there.
When you load the box to stop the run and quarterback, you must eliminate the explosive plays down the field. They’ll hit a few, but you’ve got to keep them to a minimum. If you get them behind the sticks, you can attack their pass protections, but they’ve really improved on their offensive line since the beginning of the season. The same goes for their running backs, especially Ezekiel Elliott. He’s been a big part of their growth as the season has gone on.
Defensively, Ohio State is really stout up front, obviously. There’s a reason defensive end Joey Bosa and all those guys are getting all the publicity, and deservedly so. They’re a physical group. They’re used to seeing Oregon’s kind of offense because they face a similar attack every practice. You’ve got to keep Ohio State’s front seven off-balance with a quick passing game. You can have some success running the ball against them, but you have to be patient. Balance offensively is important. It’s imperative to be in second-and-manageable, not second-and-long or third-and-forever against any team, but especially them. Though you can make some plays on the back end of their defense.
I’ve got a lot of respect for Urban Meyer and what he’s done. Obviously Ohio State is one of the true college football powerhouses, but at the same time, Urban has a system. He loses Miller before the season and in comes a phenomenal athlete in his replacement in Barrett, who grows into a Heisman candidate before he goes down with a season-ending injury. Yet the team doesn’t miss a beat bringing in Jones. Urban has done a great job with his system and sticking with the plan. He did a great job not letting his kids listen to the negative chatter and they got better and better. It’s all indicative of their mental toughness that they’ve used to battle through the season. Like when they fell behind 21-6 against Alabama in the semifinal, that deficit is nothing compared to losing your starting quarterback -- twice. They’ve just got that resolve. They’re not supposed to be here anyway. The pressure is on Oregon, not them.