Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson has been around the Big Ten conference long enough that he knows what to prepare for and when.
Having spent three seasons as an assistant at Northwestern (1999-2001) and another six as Indiana's head coach (2011-16), Wilson seems to be comfortable with preparing for certain things.
For example, Saturday's game against Rutgers will be the fourth time Wilson has had to prepare for a Chris Ash-coached defense. At Indiana, Wilson faced off against Ash twice when Ash was Ohio State's defensive coordinator from 2014-15 and prepared for the Scarlet Knight defense last season after Ash became the head coach in Piscataway, N.J.
Regardless of what team Ohio State is playing, Wilson said the Buckeyes are expecting to see much of what Ash ran in his time in Columbus: plenty of press-man coverage.
"You are playing in the Big Ten now. They are going to play man coverage, on the outside in particular on almost every play," Wilson said Wednesday. "Saturdays in the Big Ten, every play is going to be challenged."
The counter to press-man coverage, of course, is hitting the deep ball, something Ohio State hasn't done much this season. Starting quarterback J.T. Barrett's longest throw completed through the air this season was a 31-yard toss to Austin Mack in a 31-16 loss to Oklahoma. Outside of that, most of Ohio State's big plays this season have come on yards after the catch.
"Saturdays in the Big Ten, every play is going to be challenged."– Kevin Wilson on preparing to see man coverage in conference play.
Wilson said that while the Buckeyes have yet to consistently take the top off of opposing defenses, he is pleased with the progress Ohio State's passing game is making.
"We have worked to get it downfield, and we will," Wilson said. "I do think we lead the conference in passing, and we are doing OK. We didn't play well against a great team, and we have to play better in those games. If that line plays well and the running game gets going, then all those pieces work together."
While teams like Army have played a deep zone to prevent deep passes, Wilson said he doesn't expect that from Big Ten opponents, especially the top-tier teams in the conference.
Ohio State has resorted to a number of run-pass option plays in its two games since the loss to Oklahoma, and it has been effective. In the last two games, the Buckeyes have accounted for 790 yards through the air between Barrett, Dwayne Haskins and Joe Burrow.
The concern from fans has been whether or not Ohio State can continue to be successful with RPOs against more evenly matched teams such as Penn State or Michigan.
Wide receiver Johnnie Dixon said Tuesday he believes Ohio State can continue to use those plays against Big Ten opponents because of the blocking skills in the wide receiver room.
"I think those plays can work against anybody," Dixon said. "I say that, because I think we are one of the best perimeter blocking receiver groups out there. That's all it is. You block well out there, as soon as a guy like Parris (Campbell) touches the ball, you see what he can do. Give him the ball in space, it's lights out."
Dixon added that the horizontal passes will help Ohio State eventually hit a deep pass because defenses will have to honor players like Campbell on shorter routes.
"It makes people more aware. You have to come up and attack the bubble (screen) hard," he said. "I think it will be big once we get to hitting them."