|#6 Ohio State 0-0, 0-0 Big Ten Roster | Schedule||September 9, 2009 12:00 PM ET - ESPN —— Ohio Stadium Columbus, OH||Navy 0-0, 0-0 Ind. Roster | Schedule|
It's finally here. College football in Ohio Stadium. The opponent: the Midshipmen of Navy. The mission: execute a flawless game plan en route to (an injury free) victory in game one of the season.
It will certainly be hard for Ohio State to not look ahead to next week's revenge armageddon, but playing Ken Niumatalolo's disciplined Navy squad will be enough of a handful for an opener. A possible record crowd is expected at the Shoe and Buckeye fans are on the edge of their seats anticipating what the football gods have in store for the 120th season of Ohio State football.
A military academy enters Ohio Stadium for the first time since 1931, when Ohio State defeated Navy 20-0, the second of three games in the schools' histories (OSU leads 3-0 all-time). The last time the two schools met was in the 1981 Liberty Bowl, a 31-28 squeaker out of Earle Bruce's boys. It will certainly be a special and unique day for Bruce and the rest of the fans attending the game on Saturday as the first 75,000 fans in attendance will receive mini-american flags to wave during pre-game festivities, which includes celebrating Armed Forces Appreciation Day with a fly over by F18 fighter jets. If that's not enough, former Navy Surface Warfare Officer Mike Lanese is the game's honorary captain and former Marine pilot John Glenn will join an ultra-select fraternity when he dots the I at halftime.
The Buckeyes enter their first contest of the 2009 campaign with a lot of youth, as 22 players in the two-deep are either freshmen or sophomores. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor and the "Baby Buckeyes" hope to make Jim Tressel's ninth season at OSU a special one. With a record of 83-19 in eight seasons in Columbus, Tressel hopes to build upon last year's 10-3 mark in search a trip to Pasadena in some form or another. The Buckeyes have not lost a home opener since 1978 (19-0 loss to Penn State), and if they want to continue that streak they will have to find a way to stop the pounding Navy rushing attack.
Navy enters this season with four straight national rushing titles and don't expect anything to change in the near future. Going 8-5 last season and making an appearance in the inaugural Eagle Bank Bowl (29-19 loss to Wake Forest), Navy too looks to build upon its recent successes in Niumatalolo's second full season as head coach. Running a triple-option attack, Navy uses a combination of play action and chop blocking1 to both fool opponents at the line of scrimmage and create space to run in the second level. They are a very disciplined team that rarely misses an assignment and will take full advantage of any mistakes made by the Buckeyes this weekend.
Ricky Dobbs is the anchor of the offense at quarterback, but don't be fooled by thinking the junior can only do it with his legs. Dobbs did run for 495 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2008, but analysts and even Jim Tressel have been raving about his ability to throw the football as well. This makes Navy an even more dangerous threat because it takes away the Buckeyes' ability to stuff the box and prevent the run for fear that a play action pass could lead to big play points.
Marcus Curry, Bobby Doyle, and Alexander Teich make up the rest of the Midshipmen's four-headed rushing monster. The three did not get much playing time in 2008 and combined for only 193 yards, bringing inexperience to a unit that requires a strong knowledge of the offensive system. Wide receivers Mike Schupp, Mario Washington, and Greg Jones are inexperienced as well, with Washington leading the group with just three receptions last year.
Navy's defense will also be a unique look for the Buckeyes as they bring a 3-4 attack to Columbus. Linebacker Ross Pospisil and safety Wyatt Middleton are the stars of an undersized unit that will look to stop Pryor and the Ohio State balanced (we hope) offensive attack. Navy will certainly have to bring its A+ game if they are going to try and stop the Buckeyes on Saturday and those two players will be crucial to doing so. The Midshipmen will most likely be better off trying to slow down the OSU attack, rather than stop it, so that their offense can try to get an early lead and eat up the clock with their running game.
Ohio State returns five starters on the offensive side of the ball, as well as regular players such as Ballard, Small, Sanzenbacher and Saine. Add in Justin Boren who sat out the year after transferring from Michigan as well as maturing Posey and Taurian Washington and the Buckeyes have themselves a pretty good base to build off when it comes to scoring points in 2009.
There has been a lot of hype this week about what OSU will show and what they will keep in the cat box for the USC game, but the Buckeyes must have an all-out mentality when it comes to their game plan on Saturday. Knowing Tressel that will not be the case, but it is important to go full speed ahead when taking on Navy this weekend so that the team is prepared to face the Trojans on September 12. The fate of this game, unlike the rest of the season, will not necessarily rest on Pryor's shoulders, so look for The Vest to use plenty of Boom on the ground to control the clock and keep the ball out of Navy's hands.
It will be interesting to see what the Buckeyes do on the defensive side of the ball, as most players on the team have never faced the triple-option attack that Navy brings to the table. Defensive captains Worthington, Spitler, and Coleman will be key in stopping the heavy rushing attack at the line of scrimmage, second level, and with run support respectively. I'm also interested to see what kind of pad-destroying mentality Rolle brings to the field when he's in. The defense will have to play smart -- at Jim Tressel's press luncheon, Coleman discussed the importance of making sure all of the defensive assignments were covered, saying that if one person misses their assignment, the chances are good the play will end with Navy in the end zone.
Chekwa, Amos and Torrence will likely not face many passes through the air, but their help in run defense and ability to sniff out a run from a play action will prove to be an important role in the outcome of the game. Torrence has looked better than Amos in run protection so don't be surprised to see him more often on the field than off, while for Chekwa, this is also a significant test of his ability stopping the run. Also, look for Jermale Hines, a former linebacker, to see plenty of action at the STAR position. His skill set is perfect in efforts to stop Navy's offense and he will be one of the most important players on the field when the Midshipmen have the ball.
This is no Youngstown State (much respect Penguins) and Navy will certainly give the Buckeyes a tough test in week one of the season. The Buckeyes last opened up against a bowl team in 2005 when they played Miami (OH), and while they skated past the Red Hawks, that may not be the case against the Midshipmen.
While the competition of Navy will be a good tune-up in terms of toughness and playing speed, the unique offense and defense of Niumatalolo's team is certainly not what you want to face the week before Southern Cal. Jim Tressel is sure to keep things close to the vest (no pun intended) and will try to squeeze this game out with what is probably going to be bland and vanilla play-calling. That being said, we still think the Buckeyes will be able to take this one decisively, even if the score doesn't show it at the end of the day.
Ohio State 30, Navy 10
- 1 Chop blocking is a dirty, dirty part of football. The way we see it, if you are giving four years to the military after college, you've earned the right to throw a chop block or two. Doesn't mean we have to enjoy it, though.