Like any person, there are things I want to do before my time ticker reads double zeros. Walking in the land of the pharaohs among the shadows the Pyramids, gawking at the Roman ruins, getting lost in the Louvre and devouring a Thurman burger are all on my list. You read that right, I still haven’t been to Thurman’s despite living all of twenty miles from the front door. And, to bring this topical, another one of my dreams is to experience the over exuberance of Jump Around in Camp Randall stadium. For a minute or two, I want to be an idiot without a conscious, full of life and watching my favorite team battle another who wants nothing more than to knock them off their top ranking, if for no other reason.
Deep down I have an unhealthy love of the way Wisconsin plays football especially on the offensive side. It’s a salt of the earth type that almost always features a talented line, a big back and an effective play action game often targeting an underrated but supremely gifted tight end. You won’t find crazy formations or passing offensive fads and, unsuprisingly, this year is no different.
Wisconsin features a script similar to last year but with a few changes. John Clay returns but he now has a really good change of pace back this year in James White. Scott Tolzien is a quarterback that Tressel gushes over, mostly because he’s the cerebral type who takes care of the ball - generally speaking - while he gives it to his teammates to do the damage. And, wrapped around this cast is an offensive strategy that will feature a couple staple plays we are sure to see Saturday night. Let’s look at each one in sharper focus:
Power with John Clay
With some similarities to our Dave play, Wisconsin enjoys running power when they feel they can. Many times it features a tight end in motion that follows a pulling guard, each clearing the path for bowling ball John Clay.
Other times, Wisconsin will use double tights in a sort of unbalanced look but not pull a guard. The offensive line is extremely physical in the drive blocking:
The key will naturally be how our defensive line plays. Last year they were able to get penetration which really disrupted Clay. If you can get him going east/west and keep him from squaring up, the defense will be in advantageous position. If Ohio State can’t do that, somewhere inside Clay’s 30lbs of excess weight is a polished running back that can punish defenses. Run blizes could be effective here so it will be interesting to see how Jim Heacock and Luke Fickell strategize.
As with any run first team, playaction is going to be a staple of the passing attack. In the clip below, Wisconsin again uses two tight ends in I-formation. Miami linebackers are leaning forward to read run but the Badger’s catch them with a simple pattern to TE Lance Kendricks.
Ohio State is likely going to be in the same position as Miami – keying on run in hopes playaction won’t bite them. Getting a good bump on Kendricks at the line of scrimmage should prove helpful throwing off the timing and allowing our defenders to make up for any lost ground.
Use of Tight End
We’ve already touched on Kendricks above but he’s so skilled Wisconsin involves him in many ways. First, he’s a better blocker than his size would indicated (just over 240lbs) and secondly, I envision them looking his way on key third downs as we see below:
The Badgers will align him in a variety of ways including traditional, split wide and/or bring him in motion. They will also occasionally put him in the slot which is what we saw above.
David Gilreath End Around Mania
I call it an end around but others may know it as a fly sweep. One thing is for sure, Wisconsin loves this play with WR David Gilreath. They loved it so much last year the Badgers ran it at least three times against us including on back to back plays. Three clips are below in succession. The formation varies depending on personnel but the general play is the same:
What will be key are our defensive ends getting a good upfield push to force Gilreath to bounce higher or our corners and Star to get off blocks and make the play. At the very least, turning him inside rather than letting him get the edge is paramount.
The media is making a lot of this game being a statement opportunity for Ohio State. In some ways I agree and I can’t help but draw comparisons to the 2006 night game in Iowa City. Ohio State came in top ranked, led by a Heisman contender at quarterback and facing a team hellbent on handing them their first L. The result was a fullscale beatdown that made Bob Davie repeatedly say “Wow” and “Did you see that?” Save the unknown outcome and having Davie in the booth, all of those things are true for Saturday night.
Obviously, I’d love to see Ohio State win another national title. Wisconsin is the next step in the process and they’ve done everything in their power to make it has hard as possible on Ohio State. After all, they have even called upon the karma of Lee Evans as the honorary captain. So, more than anything, if Tressel’s team is championship worthy, we’ll see a little Jaime Escalante from Stand and Deliver on the field. We’ll see ‘want to’. We’ll see desire. We’ll see “Ganas” from the Silver Bullets. And to start it off right, I may just head to Thurman’s Saturday afternoon.