Get ready to add yet another offense to the wide assortment of offensive styles the Buckeyes will run up against this season. First it was Navy's option, then USC's pro style sets, then Toledo's spread offense and then who knows what out of the Illini. Saturday night, Bill Lynch's Hoosier Pistol will be just the latest challenge for a wicked-looking Ohio State defense.
You wouldn't imagine a team that had parted ways with the talented Kellen Lewis would be running such a formation, but after suffering through a 3-9 (1-7) season last year, Lynch and his staff paid an offseason visit to Nevada to learn about the offense Chris Ault had developed and used with great success. In 2005, the first season the Wolfpack operated out of the Pistol, the offense improved its numbers by 30 yards and nearly five points per game. More importantly, Nevada's record improved from 5-7 to 9-3. Lynch is hoping for a bit of that magic, so he can, you know, continue to collect paychecks.
As you'll soon see, the Hoosiers are operating out of a true Pistol, with the quarterback in a shortened shotgun formation and a tailback immediately behind him. This differs a bit from the Pistol that was toyed with in Columbus last year in that the Buckeye version featured a back lined up next to the quarterback replacing the third receiver in the formation.
Though it more closely mimics the formations pioneered at Nevada, the Hoosiers do not, in fact, utilize their starting quarterback as rushing threat. Chappell is a capable passer, but his best rushing day of the year is a three carry, two yard outing against Eastern Kentucky in the opener. He's only looking to do two things back there: handoff to the running back or fake a handoff and throw.
The offense itself features a lot of motion and misdirection. It should be reminiscent of what Navy brought, including the ability of the offense to run downhill through the center of the line. Rich Rodriguez, offensive philosopher, compares it to an I-formation running out of the shotgun. It will be challenging to stop, especially in the early going. It's no surprise that the Hoosiers are averaging nearly 11 minutes of ball time in first quarters alone. Expect the Buckeyes to take a bit to adjust to the Hoosier offense, but thankfully, as mentioned above, Chappell isn't quite the threat Navy's Dobbs is on his feet.
At various points in the game, Ohio native Mitchell Evans will come in from wide receiver to take snaps in the Pistol. He was part of a brilliantly executed option to Tandon Doss that resulted in the Hoosiers' first touchdown in Ann Arbor last weekend (the first time they showed that all season). Though Evans isn't really a threat to throw the ball, he has passed from the set on three occasions this year and should be able to keep the Buckeye defense at least a little honest.
Through four games, the Hoosiers have already matched their win total from last season. They put up nearly 500 yards of total offense against the Wolverines last Saturday and the Pistol alone should probably put them into position to win more games than their talent by itself would seem to suggest (though the new offense stumbled a bit out of the gate). I'm not quite ready to go into "oh-noes-upset-alert" mode, but I do think the absence of Coleman will be felt against this offense as strong safety play is vital to stopping their mid-line thrusts.
On the topic of offense, reader BuckNasty charted the Buckeye offense from the Illinois game and Pryor took every single snap from the shotgun until about eight minutes remained in the fourth.
Further findings include the fact that the running game performed better rushing behind the left side of the line (Adams/Miller/Boren) than the right (no real surprise here):
Pryor's rushing numbers were even more skewed towards the left side of the line. On runs to the left, he picked up 45 yards on six carries, while on runs to the right, he was held to two yards in the red on four attempts. Conversely, but not unexpectedly for a right-handed thrower, his passing numbers were much better to the right side of the field than the left.