What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
If nothing else, the Ohio State Penitentiary University has for far too long been amongst the elite of the Big Eleven Ten. Thanks to the “Crazed Librarian,” since 2002 the Buckeyes sport a 47-9 mark in conference play, leading to five conference titles and a national championship. In short, tOSPU has been a royal pain in the ass.
But much like the advance of technology, little bits of knowledge eventually develop into revolutionary concepts. Much like the development of the electronic device on which you are reading this evolved from several other known technologies, a strategy for reliably beating the Buckeyes needed the vision to combine all the right pieces. Luckily for other teams in the Big Eleven Ten, that vision came from a set of bottle-thick glasses.
There are two essential ways to beat tOSPU. One is to simply outrun them. This was demonstrated by Florida, Texas, LSU, and USC. But for all you Big Eleven Ten teams for whom this is not an option, the Paterno formula has been proven to work in big games, and even in Columbus.
I. Stop the Run
This may be the most daunting to achieve, but is it absolutely crucial. Buckeye history is littered with two things – great offensive linemen who paved the way for great running backs. This combination has always been the fuel powering the engine that is the Buckeye off-tackle running game. But Penn State showed the way to slice tOSPU’s fuel lines.
a) Allow your linebackers chances to make plays: The Buckeyes love to get their guards down the field on running plays to engage the linebackers. When Illinois upset the Buckeyes in 2007, a key was J Leman flying everywhere from the linebacker spot, notching 12 tackles and generally being a monstrous pain in tOSPU’s ass. The next year, Paterno built on this by getting his defensive lineman to screen Buckeye linemen off the entire PSU linebacking corps. The result: tOSPU’s sputtered for only six points.It doesn’t hurt to put five defenders at the line of scrimmage, a formation that Illinois used with some success in 2007.
b) Attack the guards: Get your defensive linemen to beat tOSPU’s interior line. Use five of them if you must, but you must control the line of scrimmage. Not only does this help the linebackers, but it wreaks havoc on the passing game the Buckeyes use as a bail-out.
The measure of success is keeping the Buckeyes under 100 rushing yards. In all nine of their conference losses since 2002, tOSPU couldn’t crack this mark.
II. Use a Balanced, Ball-Control Offense
Learn from Purdue – trying to fill the skies with footballs isn’t going to work. Northwestern caught lighting in a bottle once with this approach, just enough to keep all the lovers of the Joe Tiller “Wing It and Fling It” approach convinced it can work. The Buckeyes are always amongst the leaders in points per game allowed, and they do this by not giving up big plays downfield.
a) Move your quarterback out of the pocket: But Tiller was right about one thing, getting the quarterback moving around gives tOSPU absolute fits. Juice Williams had Buckeye coaches ripping their hair out in 2007 when his mobility systematically broke the Buckeye defensive scheme. Daryll Clark mirrored this in the Penn State win in Columbus in 2008, using designed rollouts to set up play-action passes or off-tackle sprints into the secondary.
b) Throw short and mid-range passes. Being effective off the play-action is the trick here. Michigan used the slant pattern in 2003, while Illinois and Penn State did it with the more traditional Big Eleven Ten screen pass.
c) Keep the safeties away from the play. You’ve got to run the ball to control the clock, and you have to use the running game to keep the defensive backs honest. If you are throwing slant passes, run the ball off-tackle. Conversely, screen and slant passes dictate you run the ball up the gut. Buckeye DBs love to overpursue; this must be exploited.
d) Get a Positive Turnover Ratio. Troy Smith’s fumble in 2005, Todd Boeckman’s three interceptions in 2007, Terelle Pryor’s fumble in 2008…need I say more?