Week 4: Colorado Buffaloes Preview

A decade ago, new OSU head coach, Jim Tressel was coming off of his first loss, and Buckeye Nation was depressed.  Sure, the loss was to UCLA, a ranked team, but one that ultimately finished 7-4.  The fans were more disappointed in the fact that the team’s offense looked abysmal, with quarterback, Steve Bellisari going 5-23 for just 45 yards in the game, not completing a single pass in the 2nd or 3rd quarters.  Any of this sounding familiar? 

For the most part, the comparisons between the two games end there.  Tressel had a solid contract and time to build, while Fickell is coaching on potentially borrowed time.  He needs wins and needs them now, as a 7-4 season for him (like Tressel’s first regular season) with almost certainly result in the loss of his interim role.  That team came back the next week and beat a decent Indiana team by two scores for a much needed victory. 

Likewise, Buckeye Nation currently needs a convincing week 4 demonstration of true OSU football, or else some of the diehard fans like myself might curl up into the fetal position for the next 3 months.  If I have to rely on Sundays to be my positive football day, as a Browns fan, there’s a good chance that I won’t make it out of this season.  Ok, that’s a bit dramatic, but we need a win against Colorado and we need it bad.  So, what can we expect from one of the new members of the Pac 10/12/16? 

Offense

The Buffalo offensive attack is led by senior gunslinger Tyler Hansen, who is currently averaging over 300 passing yards per game on roughly 36 attempts per game.  The air approach will undoubtedly be Colorado’s primary method for coming after the Silver Bullet defense, but Hansen has the ability to take off and run as well, with over 800 rushing yards for his career.  His completion percentage is just 55% after three games, but he obviously controls and protects the ball with smart decisions, as evidenced by his 7:1 TD to INT ratio.  Hansen has started in games in each of his previous three seasons, but is hoping to have a breakout senior year now that he has fully recovered from a ruptured spleen injury in 2010. 
   
Colorado’s leading rusher is senior, Rodney Stewart (no relation), who is a Columbus native and graduate of Brookhaven High School.  Stewart makes OSU’s Jordan Hall look like George Foreman, measuring in at 5’6″ and 175 lbs, but he is speedy and his low center of gravity makes him tough to find behind the O-line and difficult to bring down.  This touchdown run against Baylor last year proves just how elusive he can be when he touches the ball.  The offense may not center around the run game, but it certainly focuses on Stewart who has over 220 yards from scrimmage both as a runner and a receiver thus far in 2011.   
 
The Buffaloes’ main threat for the big play on offense is sophomore receiver Paul Richardson.  The 6’1″, 175 lbs WR, Richardson was a standout freshman, and is already picking up where he left off last year.  He has 360 yards receiving in just three games, 4 TDs, and the ability to break off a big play at any time, but can be stopped, as was demonstrated in the most recent game against Colorado State.  He was the focus of the defensive secondary and was held to just 4 catches and 27 yards (think about what happens when you don’t keep an eye on him – 14 catches, 333 yards, and all 4 TDs in the fist two games).     
  
Defense/Special Teams
 
The Colorado defense is currently giving up 28 points per game, and is not a big play/intimidating group by any stretch of the imagination.  They are led in tackles by sophomore DB Parker Orms, and another Columbus native, LB Douglas Rippy.  Linebacker Jon Major has the team’s only interception to date.  As far as a defensive preview goes, the Buffaloes simply have a bend but try not to break philosophy, and win their games by getting involved in a shootout in which they come up with a few necessary stops.  They have given up 14 plays of 20 yards or more in three games, but have combatted that with 13 of their own. 
 
Unfortunately for Buckeye fans, Colorado’s special teams play has been perfect…literally.  Freshman kicker, Will Oliver is apparently oblivious to pressure or the big stage of college football.  He has come in and made all nine of his extra point attempts and is 5-5 in field goals as well, including a 52 yarder.  Oliver is making a solid run at an amazing college kicking career, but The Shoe should be able to double their average crowd size in Saturday’s game and be a bit more hostile than the laid back atmosphere of Hawaii.  Not to be outdone, their freshman punter, Darragh O’Neill is averaging over 45 yards per attempt.  The return game has been just average, but don’t look for a missed field goal of shanked punt for field position, as these two kids are rock solid and reliable. 
 
9/24 OSU vs. Colorado
Ohio State bounces back from their horrible loss with a not-so amazing or exciting victory over Colorado, and I’m forced to use one of my least favorite lines again, “a win is a win.”  This game should not be short on field goals, as Oliver can hit from anywhere on the field, and Basil showed that he is no longer allergic to 3 pointers as well. 
The keys to this game will be keeping our young defense focused and on task.  If they get depressed or shocked by a big play, then the flood gates will open for many more like it, but if they can brush themselves off and overcome a big gain or two they will be fine.  Offensively, OSU needs to get Miller into the game and use his athleticism to get him comfortable out there.  Similarly, we need to use Hall, Hyde, and Berry to supplement Miller’s running plays and regain the swagger both on the line and in the backfield.  As grateful as I am for the occasional first down passing attempt and variation from our past decade of Tressel-ball, in this case, we need to stick with what we have, and that is talented, eager running backs.  THEN, once we’ve got them leaning forward and crowding the box, we can try a deep ball to Devin Smith, Verlon Reed, or Philly Brown.  OSU 27   Colorado 16

Topics: Bauserman, Braxton Miller, Colorado Buffaloes, Paul Richardson, Rodney Stewart, Tyler Hansen, Will Oliver

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