Ohio State v. Florida A&M Offensive Breakdown (and a Bit of a Wisconsin Preview)

By Ross Fulton on September 24, 2013 at 12:45p

In what was effectively a glorified scrimmage, the Ohio State offense took advantage for positive plays early and often. The Buckeyes used the first quarter to work on its passing game before turning to the ground to finish off the victory. 

The primary challenge for the Buckeyes now is for Braxton Miller to quickly shake off the rust. Assuming Miller can play it will be the first game this season that Ohio State's offense has its full complement of personnel.

That personnel will face a new look Wisconsin defense. Basing from a 3-4 look, the Badgers are far more likely to blitz and play aggressive fronts then in previous years. 

Below I address how Ohio State approached playing the Rattlers and the Buckeye passing game. I will then discuss how the Buckeyes may respond to Wisconsin's defense.

We Talkin' About Practice

Ohio State first quarter game plan was reminiscent of a Spring Game. The Buckeyes self consciously threw the football on nearly every down. The plan was perhaps designed with the thought that Miller would play the first quarter, allowing him to sit in the pocket and get game reps. Miller could not go, however, and Kenny Guiton was the beneficiary, more often then not making good decisions and putting a nice touch on the football.

Ohio State largely worked on two elements of their passing game. The first was play-action passing. The Buckeyes have shown an increasingly diversified waggle and half-boot game with Guiton at quarterback. Below the Buckeyes fake inside zone from the pistol and throw a triangle stretch snag route for the touchdown.

Ohio State has been very efficient off play action, which threatens the defense with the Buckeyes inside run game. The Buckeyes should continue using a heavy dose of play action when Miller returns. 

Ohio State also worked its shallow crossing game against the Rattlers oft-used man coverage. In so doing, the Buckeyes combined coverage beaters. The coaching staff combines a shallow cross or double slant from one side with a vertical route by the opposite wide receiver such as a comeback route. Below the Buckeyes used a switch route in combination with the shallow cross.

Working the underneath routes provided numerous Buckeye receivers opportunities to catch the football. No one benefited more than Jeff Heuerman, who continues to develop into a all-conference level tight end.

Not your daddy's Wisky

Under new Head Coach Gary Andersen the Wisconsin offense looks similar to years' past. The same can not been said about the Badger defense. New defensive coordinator Dave Aranda Wisconsin has installed a 3-4 front. From the 3-4 the Badgers generally blitz at least one linebacker and play aggressive fronts. The Badgers often stay with that look even against spread personnel.

The Wisconsin defense against Arizona State provides an apt example. Like Ohio State, the Sun Devils base from 11 personnel (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB). Wisconsin often remained in its 3-4 against this grouping, with the weak side linebacker splitting the difference between the tackle and slot receiver.

The Badgers often blitzed the front inside linebacker on run downs. Behind that front Wisconsin generally played cover 4 or cover 1 in the secondary. To go nickel, the Badgers simply insert a defensive back for the weakside linebacker and often play the same fronts.  

Aranda likes employing a UFO front on third down in an attempt to disguise blitz packagse. Arizona State gained several first downs running inverted veer on third and long against this look. The Badgers also like using Chris Borland as an edge rusher in passing situations. 

Last season the Badgers had success against Ohio State using an aggressive cover 4 look. The safeties would quickly come up on run action, with the goal of containing and preventing Miller from getting to the edge. Look for Wisconsin to take the same approach this season in an attempt to force Ohio State to beat them with players other than Miller.  

The Buckeye offense is more diversified this season, however, providing them options against such an approach. One primary method is to use inverted veer to attack the edge . The Buckeyes did not have a non-Miller edge threat last season. They were nonetheless able to get past Wisconsin by giving to Carlos Hyde on the play to win in overtime. This year the Buckeyes can use Jordan Hall and Dontre Wilson and put the cover 4 safety in a bind. The Buckeyes must also continue to utilize wide receiver screens if the Badgers leave slot receivers uncovered. 

More generally the Buckeyes must successfully throw the football. The Buckeyes are an improved passing attack from last year's poor showing in Madison. Last season Wisconsin tried to force Miller to remain in the pocket. The Buckeyes must continue to use play action and movement passing to change the launch angle and draw Wisconsin's safeties up to beat them over the top. Against cover 1, Buckeye outside receivers Corey Brown and Devin Smith must win their matchups. Look for the Buckeyes to utilize many of the same man beater routes in an attempt to force the Badgers out of their run focus.

The Buckeye goal is likely to use up-tempo early to attempt to establish a lead and take Wisconsin out of their comfort zone. The biggest question remains Miller's health. As good as Guiton has played, Miller brings added dimensions to Ohio State's offense. The biggest piece remains Miller's ability to create explosive run plays. But Miller's arm strengths also permits Ohio State to throw 15-20 yard routes. Assuming Miller is healthy, Ohio State should be able to run its full spread read and QB designed run game for the first time this season.


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BUCKfutter's picture

Now, if we can just get the refs from the ASU game, we'll be all set

the kids are playing their tail off, and the coaches are screwing it up! - JLS

MN Buckeye's picture

Every time I read one of your comments, BUCK, I hear the Sean Connery voice from SNL Jeopardy saying it.

BUCKfutter's picture

Only on account of villainy!

the kids are playing their tail off, and the coaches are screwing it up! - JLS

AndyVance's picture

That's not what your Mother said last night, Trebek.

Seattle Linga's picture

Nice write-up Ross. I really think this will be a good test for our offensive weapons and with a healthy Carlos and serious play makers, I know scoring won't be the issue. Defensively, everyone has to step up and frustrate them in their running game. Grant has to be intimidating along with the run stoppers. This is the game where Bosa's athletic ability and high energy will be noticed.


Meyer said Miller has been practicing hard which tells me he's running at near full speed. If he's wearing a brace I wonder how much that affects his top speed. Enough to make the difference between running the plays we need to beat them and the ones they can stop? It's safe to say that the changes and upgrades to our offense is what will make or break this game. We cannot allow Wisky's defense to bottle us up again. Braxton get well quickly. We need you.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

One Bad Buckeye's picture

I'm of the opinion our QB's should wear a brace on their stepping leg no matter what.....damn the .001 seconds/40 yards.  
I'd rather have our QB healthy all season and risk him getting run down on a long run once in a while than deal with lack of continuity at that position....imagine if we didn't have Kenny G.  
We have so many other weapons to take it to the house now, Miller should only be running designed runs every so often, not often enough to justify forgoing the brace in my opinion.  

"I'm One Bad Buckeye, and I approve this message."

Ross Fulton's picture

It's interesting because I have seen the OSU QBs practice multiple times with a brace on their lead leg. So Miller should be used to it.

idontsmellgood's picture

Man I love Tuesdays now.

"This kid scares me a little bit because I've seen him on film drop back and ...boom, boom, boom." Tuberville moved his head, mimicking Barrett checking through his progressions. "That scares me right now. Has all week."-Tuberville on JT Barrett

Buckeye.383's picture

This year we have a lot more options on offense, with more speed. I think Wisky will have a tough time with the likes of Miller, Hall, Wilson, etc. on the field at the same time. They may have been able to contain Miller last year, but containing all of those guys will be a tough task. 
If we can do a good job of stopping the run and eliminate big plays this will force Wisky to throw the ball and then we'll be in good shape.  

Born, raised, educated, and will die a Buckeye ~ BuckeyeNation

d5k's picture

We don't even really need them on the field at the same time to change the arithmetic from last year.  Last year the better defenses were able to stop our inside run game by scraping and blitzing on the edge with 8-9 guys stopping the run.  Against some teams we could still run really well against these defenses once we understood how they were attacking us.  But my understanding is it is much easier to beat them with play action passing or getting the ball to the perimeter (where 1 or 2 good blocks + a playmaker having the ball should be easy chunks of yards if they sell out like last year).

BUCKSOMIES's picture

I think our front 7 have been improving every week so far.  Keeping in mind that we have been playing generally passing teams so far, I believe that wisky's run oriented O will be just what our young front 7 need for a breakout peformance.  If we stop the run then we have them right by the short hairs.  I don't think they will be able to pass on us consistantly.

Hamer's picture

I also believe the key to the game is Smith and Brown (along with QB ability to get them the ball) in the vertical passing game. If they can burn them on a couple of go routes and make them respect the vertical passing game. I think OSU wins comfortably. I would also like to see a few of them swing passes to DW or JH to pull more of those defenders out of the box. This could serve the purpose of WR screens, since our outside WRs seem to be much better blockers than YAC gainers.
I'm not as worried about the defense, the lack of a consistent passing threat + a good secondary will allow us to gamble more in the run game. I also think home field advantage and night game atmosphere will be huge in getting the defense fired up.