Trench War Key To Stopping Pig Sooie

By Alex on January 3, 2011 at 1:00p

The Big Ten took an absolute whoopin' this weekend, losing five games on January 1 after Iowa and Illinois did the conference proud to kick things off this bowl season. To make things worse, three of the five losses were against the SEC, Wisconsin lost in a BCS game against a "little sister of the poor", and at a 2-5 mark, the conference has clinched a losing record when the 2010 college football season concludes a week from today.

The Buckeyes have a shot tomorrow to at least bring a little respect back to the Big Ten by beating Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, but that feat will not be easy. Arkansas is a much better team than many Buckeye fans are giving them credit for. The Hogs have a very good offensive line, stellar running game, and quarterback who is a sure-fire first round pick in April's NFL Draft. Their defense gets at it all game long, having a non-stop motor, and likes to attack the opposition's offensive front with a multitude of formations that include various blitz and rush schemes. Most importantly, like most SEC teams, the Razorbacks beat teams by dominating the game in the trenches, and if OSU wants to get off the 0-9 schneid, they are going to have to do something their Big Ten brethren failed to do Saturday and beat Arkansas up front.

Looking at Bobby Petrino's offensive line, they are first and foremost a big and powerful group. At an average size of 6-5/315, they are going to give the Buckeye defensive line plenty of problems in both the running and passing game. This group is the key to Ryan Mallet doing his thing through the air, and also have been the main cause for Knile Davis's emergence as a budding star in college football at the running back position.

The Buckeyes defensive line technique is very simple. Stay low, stick to your gap, and leverage your man so you can get off a block and make a tackle or allow linebackers to roam free to clean up the play. Without an elite pass rusher in this year's group, it is essential that the Bucks stick to their guns and wear down the Arkansas front five throughout the game. If they can do this they will be able to shutdown the Razorbacks' running game early, forcing Petrino's team to become one-dimensional through the air, and thus allowing for Jim Heacock to give Cameron Heyward and Nathan Williams a little more slack in the pass rush. The Arkansas offense is extremely explosive when they are balanced, so it is pertinent that the OSU defensive line at least hold even with Razorbacks', something they could not do in their only loss of the season at Wisconsin earlier this year.

Like most SEC defenses, the Arkansas defensive linemen and linebackers are very quick getting off the blocks and getting to the ball carrier. While Jim Tressel's use of Terrelle Pryor as both a runner and passer can help off-set any size or speed mismatches with any team in the nation, it will ultimately be up to the offensive line to set the tone early on the ground so that the Buckeye passing game can be effective as well. 

This could be the o-line's biggest challenge of the season though, as Arkansas doesn't have one elite star, but rather a group of very good players that feed well off each other's successes. The defensive line had 19 total sacks as a unit, lead by DE Jake Bequette's 7 in that category. The linebackers combined to bring down the quarterback another 16.5 times, and the star of that group was Jerry Franklin who had 6.5 sacks to go a long with a team-leading 93 tackles. In summary, this group does pass rushing well, allowing just 182.3 yards per game through the air. If the Bucks want to be successful in executing a balanced offensive game plan, "Block O" is going to have to step up and give Pryor time in the pocket to make some plays.

Against the rush, the Hogs' defense is allowing 157.4 yards per contest. That's not an eye-popping number, but it's not a self-damaging figure either. The Buckeyes have averaged 219.7 yards on the ground during this season, so this may have to be the area to establish early tomorrow evening. The bread and butter of OSU's offense can always go back to the old reliable "Dave" running play, and in 2010, running it behind Justin Boren and Mike Adams has brought Boom Herron plenty of success. That should not change no matter who the opponent is, so despite the stellar front seven of Arkansas, expect to see the line trying to pave the road for Boom and maybe some Zoom in the opening possessions.

Owning the game in the trenches will always be something important in trying to win a football game. Look at Ohio State's season. The one game they didn't win upfront was Wisconsin and we all know how that game turned out. In their 11 victories, the defensive line was able to shut down the running game and get some pressure on the quarterback, while the offensive line was able to give Terrelle Pryor plenty of time to throw and also created big lanes for the running backs to move through. The Sugar Bowl will be no different. Yes, the opponent may be a little different compared to what they've faced before, but if Ohio State's big men up front can do their jobs on both sides of the ball, I really like the chances of the Buckeyes coming out winners tomorrow night.


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Buckeye Black's picture

Hopefully Hankins can get in there on obvious passing downs to wreak some havoc.

Alex's picture

Yeah Big Hank is going to have an integral part in being disruptive. He needs to take up two blockers on every play he's in so that the rest of the guys' lives can be a little easier...I have a good feeling about him after solid bowl practices

O-H Kee Pa's picture

6'5'', 315? Sounds an awful lot like a Wisconsin O-line...

buckeyedude's picture

That's exactly what I was thinkin'. Hogs seems pretty appropriate. In watching some of the games on the 1st, it seems SEC teams blitz so much more than BigTen defenses. I hope Heyward has a big game and gets a couple sacks(at least) on Mallett.



tampa buckeye's picture

 Blitzed their way to giving up 65 points vs Auburn.  Pryor could have a huge game if they bring the blitz.  

65 points to a very pryor like qb.  We have to win this game, and Its going to take a solid effort.

I hope we have kick coverage ready to roll that is our biggest weakness.  

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Great post, Alex. You're right, as usual, the game will be decided, first and foremost, in the trenches. Really, it's trench play + special teams + turnovers + big plays (JT rules!). 

If Ohio State's defensive front-7 is shutting down the run and wreaking havoc in the backfield, Mallett and Arkansas' celebrated receivers might make a few plays, but the Bucks will make them look pretty ordinary for much of the game.

Likewise, TP and co. will have a rough time if Arkansas' aggressive defensive front is spending too much time in the Buckeyes' backfield.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Off topic: if Harbaugh takes the Michigan job, us Buckeye fans should be quick to remind him of his responsibility in promoting academic excellence among the student athletes at UM . . . 

Back in 2007, he said, "Michigan is a good school and I got a good education there, but the athletic department has ways to get borderline guys in, and when they're in, they steer them to courses in sports communications. They're adulated when they're playing, but when they get out, the people who adulated them won't hire them."

Let's never stop asking him about his progress in rectifying the above situation. Once he's succeeded in making Michigan's football program sort of like "Stanford West" - which would involve introducing more stringent recruitment and academic standards - then we will know that he is not a hypoctite and/or insincere.  

Denny's picture

Stanford West = Peking University


Run_Fido_Run's picture

Good catch. I'd like to say that I was going for a "travel east by going west" global wrap-around effect. But, no, just a brain freeze. 

At least I got find out about the selective removal of the edit function.        

Denny's picture

No, no - stick with the reacharound thing.


Matt's picture

that's what he said

buckeyedude's picture

Don't most schools do that Fido(steer borderline kids into hotel management and basket weaving)? They ALL do it for some kids.  And I also believe that the fans of TTUN would forgive JH if he turned that program around. And I think you meant "Stanford East." ;)

Also read in the Toledo Blade that Harbaugh was born in my hometown, Toledo. As Johnny Carson would say, "I -did-not-know-that."



Run_Fido_Run's picture

Yes, most major football schools would help to "facilitate" many of their football players finding their ways into less demanding majors, etc. By brining it up, I was trying to be the first one to get in a shot at the (possibly) new TTUN coach - but, yeah, I was being a wise azz, as I don't really believe that Michigan should be held to a higher standard than other BT schools.

The point was that, sure, if/when Harbaugh took the Michigan job, the Michigan fans would forget all about (or forgive) his 2007 comments, but that those comments could provide fun ammo for rivals - i.e., let's hold 'em to his own words (wink, wink) . . .  

And, again, my "Stanford West" thing was a temporary brain implosion, as I admitted in a response above.    

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

Getting nervous.  Big game for tOSU, the Big Ten, and the Brew Crew.  I hope the seniors go out winners tomorrow,  I would actually be more proud of them beating an ELITE SEC team in a BCS game than Oregon in the title game. Sucks that the rest of the conference went down in flames on New Year's Day.  I hope our boys can get some credibility back to tOSU and the conference.  Hope we all get to bask in the same glory we were enjoying last season around this time.  Go Bucks!!!

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

741's picture

I have concluded today that Mallett will throw 2 INT, one of which will result in a defensive TD. Buckeyes win 31-25. That is all.

buckeyedude's picture

I like your thinkin' 741.

Here's what I'm thinkin':

What's the difference between a zoo in Ohio and an Arkansas zoo?
On the cage in an Ohio zoo, it will have the name of the animal and the scientific name in Latin. An Arkansas zoo will have the name of the animal and a recipe.


Did you hear about the Arkansas man who passed away and left his entire estate in trust for his beloved widow?
She can't touch it till she's fourteen.



tampa buckeye's picture

Heyward goes L.T. on Mallet's leg.  Buckeyes 103-Ark 12

Matt's picture

Who doesn't love ominous omens portending Arkansian doom?


741's picture

What comes next - the frogs or the locusts?

Irricoir's picture

Just like in Mexico boys, DON'T DRINK THE WATER FROM THE SPIGOT!

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

Poe McKnoe's picture

heard they we're eating buckeyes.  damn poisonous nuts.

RoweTrain's picture

I love it when fans of other teams say "Oh our {insert animal mascot here} will eat the Buckeyes!"  Little do they know who will get the last laugh.

"Just bow up and go out and play." ~ D. Lee

"As it stands right now, I know I am the best athlete in college football." ~ B. Miller

Colin's picture

Unless they are the flying squirrels.

JakeBuckeye's picture

How could I almost forget about the Shark? Shame on me, but here's what he said on Twitter today:

"Respect to Pryor for having balls to continuously feud w/ Herbstreit. Might buy his jersey now. Anyone know when he's gonna put it on eBay?"

Bucksfan's picture

Going to be a good game.  Go Bucks!  Show them who's boss.

JakeBuckeye's picture

Good read ^

Braxton says he's not redshirting. He was told this by Tressel. If you ask me I think we may be seeing a dose of MILLER TIME as soon as next season.

Powers's picture

But i will miss Bauserman so much!

Colin's picture

Yes, what will we do without that 60s style comeover that makes him look like he's 50.

JakeBuckeye's picture

But I always loved the way his hair and skin tone matched our away uni's.

Matthew's picture

Kenny G wont let Miller pass him on the depth chart. Not next year, at least.

Class of 2010

Colin's picture

But is Kenny G really that good? Even with the extra experience Kenny has, I can see it happening.

Buckeye in Athens's picture

I'm not saying Kenny g isn't good or even great, but I don't think we can know at all if he is or isn't. We've seen him for like 15 plays of game time and a decent spring game

Colin's picture

That's why at this point I think it's possible. If Braxton Miller is as good as all the experts say, he could jump quite a few spots on the depth chart in a short period.

Buckeye in Athens's picture

No disagreement from me. I'm trying to temper my hype somewhat and not expect TP 3.0 from the moment he steps on the field, but I do believe it is possible. If TP can come in and start over a senior, then I don't doubt that Braxton could win the job ahead of Guiton, Bauserman, or Graham.

JakeBuckeye's picture

Ok, am I the only one that really deep deep deep deep deep down inside wants Michigan to get Harbaugh? I mean, I just feel like he can bring back an intensity to the rivalry that Rich Rod can't provide, and even an intensity stronger than when Carr was there.

Kurt's picture

I want Michigan to be great again, no doubt, but I think it'd be a mistake to go after Harbaugh.  About 3 years ago hiring him as the head coach with Rich Rod as the OC would've been a match made in heaven...

I'm not impressed with Harbaugh's offense, I don't think it can succeed long term, it's too reliant on an amazing qb. 

And tonight we saw that Beamer/Foster defense is ridiculously over-agressive, they had 8 or 9 guys in the box, safety too far up...

Bucksfan's picture

Is it too reliant on an amazing QB?  I mean, Luck is surely a special player.  But Stanford runs a pro-style pound it in your face offensive attack.  Last year their RB should have won the Heisman over Ingram in this fan's opinion.  This year they're 17th in the nation in rushing with 211 yards, while they were 29th passing the ball.

They also play ridic defense.  Oregon game excluded, they posted 3 in-conference shutouts...hard to do in any league.

It actually looks remarkably like the Michigan teams that Harbaugh was part of.  So, they'd be exceptionally dangerous to get a guy like that at this juncture, someone who IS Michigan football.  If there's anyone out there I'd fear in terms of a recruiting battle, it's that guy.  He will get players out of Ohio, period.

JakeBuckeye's picture

It has been 2,600 days since we last lost to Michigan.