BIG 10 CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW – OSU vs MSU

Posted: December 7, 2013 in UME 2013
maxresdefaultOSU  12-0      MSU  11-1
The Showdown: OSU Offense vs MSU Defense
This was the obvious matchup everyone talked about immediately. It is interesting. A top Power Spread Offense run by one of the PS originators from the early days in Urban Meyer vs an aggressive PS type of Defense by MSU. The difference is that MSU’s PS Defense is really a recent development.
 
Dantonio has always been great with aggressive defensive schemes going back to his time as OSU’s Defensive Coordinator during their Championship run under Tressel. A PS defense, though, is more than just aggressive. The object in slowing down top PS offenses is to lead them to decisions and space on the field that they do not want to be. I call it the “Land Mine” effect. This requires delicate balance and deception through mixed pressure, zone blitzing and mixed coverages. 
 
This year in particular Dantonio and his defensive staff, led by DC Narduzzi, have employed a lot tight man coverage by their Cornerbacks, enabling the other 9 players to get in the box to stop all this PS option running and mix and match in coverage and blitz schemes to slow down the spread passing. It’s risky, but proactive. In the end, PS Defense HAS to be proactive. The days of “read&react” are over. 
 
Again, though, the deception and balance must go along with the proactive approach. Showing your cards or over aggression will lead to big easy plays by the PS Offense. OSU’s Defense got burned by being too out of balance and over aggressive last week. Similarly, the same thing happened to Rocky Long’s over aggressive D, when we played them in Week 2. 
 
MSU may sell out to stop the run early on. The question will be Miller’s effectiveness at all the different passes he will be required to throw after not doing a lot of it since the Big 10 part of the schedule started. He has hit some beautiful passes in the last couple of games and also missed some easy ones. This is one game where Urban will finally need to take the reigns off his OC Tom Herman and let the man do his thing. Herman has shown a great talent at pass design schemes and wise play calling in the past and I expect he will be up to the task. It’s up to Miller and the receivers to execute.
 
Many out in Internet Land thing that OSU is going to go wide and short, not only in the passing game, but in the run game as well. I have also seen analysts predict us going deep sideline against the man coverage. How about Intermediate middle or hash? Both with Miller in the pocket and on the move. Miller missed a big one rolling left to Smith (Spencer?) early in the UM game. I would think there was a lot of time devoted this week in practice to these kind of intermediate passes as MSU will expect and sell out against anything short. They will also have some mixing of coverages for the deep stuff. 
 
I think OSU will need to hit the intermediate passes to open up the run game and wide screens and short passes. Then the middle will be soft for the POWER. Then from their the deep passes will be open and the final dagger can be applied. In a perfect world, right? 🙂
 
The adjustments throughout the game will be interesting to see. Like Borges last week, Dantonio/Narduzzi will need to be at their best or hope for errors from Miller and the Bucks.
 
INDOORS!
This has been mentioned some throughout the week and sort of bypassed by Urban in his press conferences. I think it is HUGE. Right away, my first thoughts about this game were that MSU will sell out to stop the Buckeyes running game – how will the weather effect Miller and the passing game? Oh wait… there is no weather. A fast track with no wind, no cold, no rain. Not good for the Spartans. 
 
OSU’s team speed is better. The MSU defense is fast – but players like Wilson and Miller are faster. That’s not even it, either. The PS scheme puts fast players in fantastic space. Add in the 3D element of passing and this Space opens up even more. This possibly could be the best game offensively for OSU under Urban Meyer. 
 
If that happens, there’s no way MSU will stay remotely close.
 
ANXIETY!
The pressure is on for the Buckeyes. While Meyer is a master at these situations, there’s no denying that the underdog has a big edge in this element of the game. “Nothing to Lose” is always a big plus to have on your side. 
 
The Buckeyes are veteran players with a veteran coach. This should be enough. Their practices have supposedly been much better than UM week, where they were overconfident. This is a chance of a lifetime and they should be ready. We will see…
 
Is MSU’s Offense any good?
To be honest, not really. Look, for the 1980s – or even 90s– this is actually a top notch Offense. There is some good talent, cohesion of play calling and nice mix of PS and Pro Sets like UM last week. The difference from UM is that the QB, while mobile, certainly isn’t a burner and there’s no big stars in the receiving game. 
 
MSU does some nice things on O, but it’s still a plodding mistake free offense designed for ball control. Keeping OSU’s offense off the field will be premium. That means mixing in some intermediate throws on 1st Dn, to set up some running power to move the markers and eat the clock. Also, 3rd down conversion will be huge. 
 
I expect Cook to actually play well and for MSU to control the chains and clock for a large part of the 1st half. The problem will be if they get more than a TD down in the 2nd Half? Then what? 
 
Unlike UM of last week, I do not think we will see another late comeback from 2 TDs down.
 
How bad is the Buck’s D?
All this talk about Fickell is a little silly. A lot of input is going into the Defensive side of the ball – including Meyer. Fickell did a heckuva job for Tressel after basically taking over for Heacock in 2008. His defenses now don’t always look the same as they did under Tressel. They have become very predictable – either Passive or Aggressive with not much zone blitz deception, mixed coverages or fake pressure. Even predictable based on the down and distance and timing/positioning in the game. 
 
Fickell is better than this. Something else is going into the equation that all of us “outsiders” don’t know. It could simply be the demands of these amazing modern Offenses. Not only the opponent, but our own prolific offense. It also could be too many ideas and complication from a lot of smart assistant coaches. Combine that with Meyer’s dismay at some of the defense’s performances and it could be somewhat a mess. 
 
If there seems to be one thing Meyer understands better than most it’s the idea of KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid. I really think that whatever went on in the meetings this week, keeping it simple was at the forefront. We should see a better mix of Passive Aggression against an Offense that simply isn’t among the elite in College Football. 
 
PREDICITON
I really think we will see a somewhat close game early. Many think OSU could jump up right away – I don’t think. After initial nerves, though, watch out!  
 
While nerves could get the better of us and we could definitely lose, I just don’t see it happening. The fast Indoor Track should also be a big help. Outdoors, I would be much more worried about a landslide of anxious mistakes – especially in the passing game. I would also be more nervous of Meyer’s penchant to pull back the reigns on Herman and get too conservative.
 
Our Defense should play great with a lot of speed and better, “hidden” schemes to lead MSU into some mistakes and maybe even a turnover or two. It may take some time to figure it out, but eventually Miller will hit the passes he needs to open up the running game. We go middle, they cover that. We go wide, they cover that. Then run up gut. They get aggressive. We hit Deep and crush their spirit. It’s going to be a game of adjusting.
 

THERE HAS NEVER BEEN AN OFFENSIVE CONCEPT AS FLEXIBLE AND VARIABLE AS THE POWER SPREAD.

Maybe we are up 14-7 at half, but it ends up…
OSU 35-17  (A late TD by MSU for Posterity)
 
Comments
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