Rose Bowl week is finally here.
And before Friday's game between Ohio State and Oregon, I get my final question in today of Buckeyes fan Noah Litton (check back later this week for our predictions of the final score.) in our running Q & A
about each other's teams.
Today's question: Stanford pounded Oregon by running the ball with Toby Gerhart. Is Ohio State capable of doing the same thing to the Ducks?
Here's Noah's answer:
I think Ohio State's ability to rush on the Oregon defense will determine this year's Rose Bowl. The Big 10, and Ohio State in particular, is still known as a rush-first conference, and this season has been no different. But the biggest change for Ohio State this season has been a run-by-committee effort.
In the past, coach Jim Tressel could always rely on a single workhorse (Maurice Clarrett, Antonio Pittman, and Beanie Wells.) This year, the offense has come together towards the back half of the season around a punishing rushing effort by the trio of Dan "Boom" Herron, Brandon "Zoom" Saine, and Terrelle Pryor. I actually think all three have been consistent throughout the season —it just took eight games for the offensive line to come together, avoid costly penalties, and actually create some daylight for the backfield.
Herron will likely get the majority of carries against Oregon, and he is solid in accumulating short to mid-range yardage. He suffered a late-September ankle injury and missed all of October but still accumulated 558 yards and seven touchdowns
in this, his sophomore season. Herron's midseason injury led to increased playing time for Saine, the more explosive of the two backs.
In his first start against Indiana, Saine ran for 113 yards, including a big 30-yarder. He also topped 100 yards against Iowa in the defacto Big 10 championship, and averages 5.3 yards per carry. He racked up 694 yards and four touchdowns
on the season. He will see fewer carries in the Rose Bowl, but expect Saine to rip off much larger chunks when he does get the ball. His season long was a 49-yard beauty agains Iowa. Both Herron and Saine are great at protecting the ball: neither has fumbled all season.
And of course Pryor is always a threat to take off running whether by design or by default. I can't count the number of plays and drives he has kept alive simply by scooting to the outside of the line and gliding up the sideline. Tacklers often misjudge their angle of approach to him because it truly doesn't look like he is going that fast, but his long strides chew up ground quickly. And before you know it, he's at the flag for another first down. Pryor is the season-leader in rushing
for the Buckeyes, and he topped 100 yards against Toledo and Minnesota. Expect between 8-10 carries for him in the Rose Bowl.
The game plan for the Buckeyes is simple: rush, rush, rush. It plays into Tressel's conservative, ball-control offense, and if it keeps working, he'll keep after it. It's no understatement to say that against Penn State, Iowa, and Michigan, everybody knew what Ohio State would do all day long, but no one could stop it. The Buckeyes topped 225 yards per game on the ground throughout that stretch.
And if they can get it going against Oregon, it could be a long afternoon for the Ducks defense.