After opening the season against Minnesota, the Ohio State football team has had a little extra time to get ready for Oregon. Coaches firmly believe a team makes its biggest improvement between its first and second games. That should mean OSU will be even more of a handful for the Ducks. Here are three things I think the Buckeyes need to do to come away with a win on Saturday.
Run the ball well – You want to render a pass rush ineffective? Run the ball well and stay out of long-yardage situations. Led by defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who is considered a potential top-five pick in next spring’s NFL Draft, the Ducks have a formidable pass rush.
They had four sacks last week against Fresno State and that is with Thibodeaux playing less than a half because of an ankle injury. His status for this week is very much up in the air. Oregon held Fresno to just 75 yards rushing and a lot of that came on a 45-yard run.
But, Fresno does not have an offensive line like the Buckeyes and I expect OSU to be able to push around a unit that was mediocre against the run last year (Oregon finished 70th nationally in run defense). Pound their front seven, stay in manageable third-down situations, and the Buckeyes will not have to worry about that pass rush.
Contain Anthony Brown – Oregon’s quarterback is considered more of a game manager, but he can hurt you if you’re not careful. Against Fresno State, he scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on a 30-yard run when the Ducks had a fourth and two.
Brown is a decent but not great passer by any stretch-he’s completed less than sixty percent of his career attempts. The Buckeyes will want to make him throw the ball. Don’t let him get outside the pocket and extend the play or scramble for yardage. Fresno sacked him three times, so it is possible to get to him. OSU’s pass rush needs to do that often.
Tackle better – I have harped on this point for a week now. Ohio State’s defense simply must do a better job tackling. While Oregon doesn’t have a Mohamed Ibrahim to carry the ball (trust me, nobody else on OSU’s schedule does either) they have better weapons overall than Minnesota.
The Buckeyes can’t miss tackles and allow the Ducks’ playmakers to run wild in the open field. Don’t give up those extra yards. They’ve worked on improving it this week. On Saturday it is going to be time to show that work has paid off.
The Ducks are considered heavy favorites to win the PAC 12. Putting a beating on Oregon is going to turn a lot of heads across the college football landscape and give the Ohio State football team a quality win to impress the College Football Playoff committee.