Thursday, September 13, 2007

Washington vs Ohio State Preview

Washington faces off against #10 Ohio State in Husky Stadium on Saturday in front of national TV audience on ESPN. Both teams are undefeated with 2-0 records heading into the game. Ohio State started the season with wins over Youngstown State, and Akron. Washington has victories over Syracuse, and Boise State.

When Ohio State has the Ball

When you play Ohio State you know exactly what you are getting, and that is run first, and pass second. The Buckeyes are going to come out and play power football, and that means they are going to try to establish the run against a veteran Washington defensive front that is backed by the best trio of linebackers the school has had since it's glory days.

Ohio State isn't going to come at Washington with the multitude of formations we saw last weekend against Boise State. What you are going to see is straight forward possession football where you pit your big guys, against their big guys and see who ends up dominating the line of scrimmage. Look for the Buckeyes to line up a couple of power backs and let it rip.

The key for Ohio State is simply moving the pile and picking up chunks of yardage at 5-6 yard clips. The key for Washington on defense is to shut down the run and force the Buckeyes and their rookie QB to start throwing the ball. Expect the Baer defense to give them the easy one's underneath, and let the LB's who are extremely fast get a chance to cover, tackle, and minimize those gains.

Todd Boeckman is a promising QB who can throw the ball when he needs to, and has a good handle on running his team. I'm not sure if he is better than the QB we saw last week, Taylor Tharp, but he is going to be forced to make the same type of plays Tharp did to keep the Buckeyes moving against the famous Baer soft zone. Boeckman isn't a runner, he is fairly immobile, and Washington is going to need guys like Rayford, Gunheim, and Teo Nesheim to pressure him during the day to force some mistakes. UW has done a very good job just rushing four in the first two games, and don't look for that to stop unless Ohio State finds a way to solve it.

I don't expect our LB's to blitz much, or at all despite the temptation to attack a QB who doesn't have great wheels. Look for UW to be content keeping everything in front of them. UW hasn't used much of it's defensive playbook this year, expect to see some different looks just to keep the Buckeyes honest.

Washington knows they have the type of defense that can keep the Buckeyes from scoring enough points to beat them if they can stop the run. Ohio State turned the ball over five times last week against the mighty Akron Zips, they can't do that and stay in the game against Washington.

When Washington has the Ball

The eyes of the football world are beginning to follow Jake Locker who just might be the most exciting new player in college football. Jake is going to be going up against a much tougher obstacle this week when he faces the Ohio State defense. What Ohio State brings to the table is great athletes, and lots of depth. While they don't have the experience that past teams have this unit can really thump.

The first thing you look at is the linebacking corps anchored by James Laurinaitis. Syracuse, and Boise State didn't have a player like him. Locker has eaten up the LB's the past two games, but the strongest part of the Ohio State defense is the LB corp, and they are going to be keying on Jake.

What Washington needs to do is open up the playbook and get some help from positions like Tight End, and Fullback which have been sparingly used over the last two weeks. The offensive line also needs to open some holes for Louis Rankin so he can hit the crease more and use his speed. Count on the Buckeyes to bring eight in the box to stop that running game from the get go. Count on Washington to finally open up a longer range passing game to try to keep Ohio State from cheating forward. When you play an opponent like this you need balance to counteract what they are doing.

Ohio State is very good at creating turnovers so Locker, and Rankin need to hold onto the ball better this week. Ohio State hits hard, they go for the ball, and they know how to complete their tackles.

UW pulled a trick play out of the hat last week against Boise State and was successful with it. Willingham isn't above using trickery because it keeps the team you are playing, and future opponents on their toes. In other words you slow opposing defense down when you make them think too much.


Ohio State is used to playing in loud venues because they play in one of the loudest in the Midwest, however Husky Stadium is probably the loudest in the country when it gets rocking in there. Ask any opposing quarterback and he will tell you that it is difficult to even hear yourself think down on the playing field.

So much of college football is emotion, and to have a No. 10 team come in to your place, when you're unranked but feeling good about yourself ... well, it will be loud and a tough environment for the Buckeyes, many of whom have not played a big road game yet.

Ohio State is likely to play both of its QBs again --- starter Todd Boeckman and backup Robby Schoenhoft. Baer said Schoenhoft appears to be a little better runner but that for the most part, things don't change much based on which QB is in the game. "You don't change how you play by which QB is in the game,'' he said. "You can't do that.''

Tim Lappano said he may throw more on the plate of Jake Locker this week in terms of throwing the ball. Lappano said he hasn't wanted to call any plays that Locker hasn't been comfortable with, but that Locker told him this week "don't worry about appeasing me, do what you've got to do to win the game.'' Lappano said he thinks Locker has thrown the ball well in the two games. "I thought his downfield throws were pretty good,'' he said.

OSU ranks last in the Big Ten in rushing offense (171.5 yards per game), yards per carry (4.18) and total offense (390.0). And this despite playing a Division I-AA team and a Mid-American Conference team. The Buckeyes have had back-to-back gains of 4 yards or more on just six of their 26 possessions.

Baer was asked about looking at tape of what Florida did to Ohio State's offense and said "you have to take some things off of some of those games,'' and pointed out that he's good friends with Greg Mattison who is a co-defensive coordinator at Florida. "I've talked to him quite a bit,'' Baer said. Mattison was on Tyrone Willingham's staff at Notre Dame.

Tyrone Willingham had no real update on any of the team's injured players from what he had said Monday other than indicating that he expects CB Byron Davenport to be able to play. "We got one great play out of him last week so this week we'll hope for two great plays.''

In the Akron interview room after the Buckeyes downed the Zips 20-2 no one came right out and said it. But the inferences were obvious. Offensively, the Buckeyes are not a top-10 football team. The Buckeyes gained 363 total yards and rushed for 196, but no one who actually could see the game felt the OSU offense was anywhere near where it should be. Tailback Chris Wells rushed for 143 yards in 20 carries, but three of his carries gained 25-, 40- and 24-yards, or 89 of his total yards. The other 17 carries? 53 yards.

Five turnovers three lost fumbles, two interceptions -- are going to add up to a struggle in the best of circumstances for any team, and Ohio State did that against the Akron Zips. You do that against Washington and you lose by at least three touchdowns.

Defensively, the Buckeyes are as good as anyone in the country. The Zips mustered only three first downs, three yards rushing (on 19 attempts) and 69 yards total offense. The Ohio State record for fewest yards allowed was 27 by Michigan in 1950.

Willingham said Ohio State will unquestionably be the best defense UW has seen to date and "probably could be the best defense we'll face all season," a statement he may reprise in a few weeks when USC thought by some to have the best defense in the nation comes to town.

Washington made it's first field goal attempt of the year against Boise State, but had the other one blocked. Perkins needs to get the ball up in the air a lot quicker to avoid that from happening against Ohio State in a game where three points could be the margin of victory.

Why Ohio State Will Win

Ohio State will win if they can control the line of scrimmage and run the ball on Washington, it is simple as that. The Buckeyes have a big power back named Chris "Beanie" Wells who is around 6'3 230 pounds who is going to try to batter the interior of the Washington line. If the Buckeye offensive line proves to be better than Washington's front seven we are going to be in trouble.

As I said earlier the Buckeyes are very good at creating turnovers, and turnovers usually create good field position, or take potential points off the board. If tOSU can force Washington to make mistakes it is going to take a lot of pressure off their offense and put them in a good position to win the game.

Ohio State isn't going to win this one from the air, it isn't going to happen, but if they can control the time of possession with their running game and get down to the red zone to score they are going to be able to beat Washington.

Why Washington Will Win
Washington will win the game because their defense is going to be able to stop the Ohio State running game, and pressure their young quarterback into making mistakes that will result in turnovers.

The UW offense needs more balance this week, plus they need to eliminate the drive stopping turnovers they had last week. Louis Rankin needs to hit the holes fast and hard this week. He is going up against a big, strong, and fast defense, and he isn't going to be able to out juke these guys.

Marcel Reese is just getting warmed up, if he eliminates the drops, catches it, and just runs there aren't many secondaries, including Ohio State's that can eliminate big plays when he gets isolated on those smaller players.

Washington simply has more firepower on offense with Jake Locker running the controls of the Husky offense. That simple fact is enough for UW to have enough of an advantage coupled with a strong defense to win the game.

What Do I Think?

I think the Washington defense has proven that they can be a force this season even though they are light in the defensive backfield. I think they will be able to hold the Buckeye offense out of the end zone enough to win the game.

Boise State has a very good running game, and a Heisman back running behind an offensive line with plenty of experience and honors. Washington was able to hold Johnson to under 100 yards and that was a big key in that win. If you make Boeckman beat you, just like last week when we put Tharp in the hot seat, UW should have no problem with these guys.

Offensively the Huskies are a much better team than the Buckeyes which simply means they have the ability to put more points on the board. While Jake Locker will be pressured more this week, I don't think any defense can shut him completely down. You can key on him all you want, but once plays break down he has the ability to turn sacks into fifteen yard gains.

Ohio State is a four point favorite going into this one based on reputation only. Observers in the Midwest haven't been impressed at all with this team and are predicting a Washington victory. The Buckeye defense is good, but they simply won't be able to hold back Washington enough to win the game because their offense won't be able to score enough points.

Take a very good look at what happened to Ohio State in last years BCS Championship game, and also take a good look at what Oregon did to Michigan in Ann Arbor last week. A mobile quarterback has the potential to kill Big Ten teams this year, and there aren't many mobile QB's better than Jake Locker at this point.

I am predicting a thirteen point Washington victory that will wake up the nation.

UW 27 Ohio State 14.


Joey K. said...

I agree completely. I am sure that a few midwesterners will bash your pick but you are right. Jake Locker is the real deal but it isn't just him. The Husky defense is much improved.

Health Insurance Expert said...

Thanks for posting Joey! Ohio State has a very good defense, so does Washington at this point.

What seperates the teams is Washington's efficiency on offense, and that efficiency is in no place more evident than the QB position with Jake Locker.

I am sure Ohio State has been holding some things back for this game, but they haven't been turning the ball over, and not running the ball on purpose to lull UW to sleep.

We had a few Boise fans last week who thought I was crazy, and I am sure there will be a few Ohio State fans who feel the same way.

Anonymous said...

WOW, I must say these are rather bold predictions.

I am currently working on my final preview of the game on my blog, which will be posted tomorrow morning, but I'm thinking it's going to be a rather low-scoring affair.

Ohio State has two preseason All-Americans on the top-rated defense in the nation.

Granted, everyone points to Ohio State's game against Florida, and while Washington runs a similar offense, the Huskies do not have anyone as good as Chris Leak, Percy Harvin, Dallas Baker, etc.

I agree that Locker is going to be a special player, but he needs a supporting cast, and its just not there.

Washington's win over Boise State is not overly impressive based on the fact that BSU isn't the same team that won the Firsta Bowl last season.

I'm predicting Ohio State 20, Washington 14.

Health Insurance Expert said...

Hi Matt, thanks for posting. I will have to check out your blog.

Respectfully when you play Akron, and Youngstown State your defense should rack up some pretty good numbers. The offense however struggled, and was error prone.

I have seen both Washington games, and both Ohio State games, and I don't think your team is capable of scoring twenty points against UW unless your defense scores 14 of them.

Jake isn't just a runner, he's a I guess we just have to wait till they play to see who is correct.

Health Insurance Expert said...

Matt that is a great blog...nice job!