Friday, October 15, 2010

GAME PREVIEW: NO. 1 BUCKEYES HEADING TO HOSTILE CAMP RANDALL

MADISON, Wis. — Last week against Indiana, the Ohio State Buckeyes had to prepare for one of the best passing attacks in the nation. This week, it's all about stopping the run.

The No. 1 Buckeyes (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) grounded Indiana's high octane passing game last Saturday by getting after quarterback Ben Chappell and making him throw under pressure. Chappell came into the contest averaging 343 yards and three touchdowns per game with only one interception. He left Saturday's 38-10 defeat with 106 yards passing, no touchdowns and two interceptions.

This Saturday night in Madison, the Buckeyes take on the 16th ranked Wisconsin Badgers (5-1, 1-1), a team that doesn't try to go aerial in their attack, but instead pounds the football on the ground with brute force.

As great as the Buckeyes played against the pass happy Hoosiers last Saturday, they'll admit that this week's showdown is more to their liking.

"This is my type of game because it's going to be physical," OSU senior linebacker Brian Rolle said. "That's the type of game I love to play in. It's toe-to-toe, they're not going to try the trick play, they're going to line up toe-to-toe and play tough.

"That's the type of game we want."

 (The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
The Buckeyes are second in the Big Ten against the run giving up just 78.7 yards per game this season. They have surrendered a meager 2.7 yards per carry and have given up just three rushing touchdowns.

They must continue that dominance in Madison on Saturday night, because the Wisconsin tailback duo of junior John Clay and freshman James White — who have 1,193 yards and 17 touchdowns combined thru six games this season — are as dynamic of a backfield as they come in college football. One will pound you, the other will run past you.

Clay, in particular, is the battering ram. The 6-foot-1, 255-pound junior has gained 699 yards and nine touchdowns this season, and he's done it by wearing down defenses with his powerful style.

Ohio State senior defensive end Cameron Heyward said that Clay is a beast in the backfield.

"(Clay) doesn't even look like a running back," Heyward said. "He's a linebacker. He's a great player. He does a lot for that team. He's so explosive you don't even know it, but sometimes the team can be feeling down and he makes one big play and he can turn around the game.

"He's a game changer and it's going to be a great challenge we have this week."

Stopping White isn't exactly a walk in the park, either. The 5-foot-10, 198-pound freshman is more of a slippery, quicker back who can be off to the races with just a little crease. He's a tempo changer.

"I think he's a little more shifty," Heyward said of White. "But he can be explosive as well. It's going to be critical for us to contain both of them. It's going to be a hard task and it's not just going to be one guy, it's going to take the whole team swarming to the ball."

OSU head coach Jim Tressel warns that Wisconsin isn't just about the running game — their senior quarterback Scott Tolzien, according to the Buckeyes mentor, actually sets the offensive tone.

"I think their offense starts with the toughness that (Tolzien) shows," Tressel said. "Their quarterback stands in there and holds that ball until the last second when the receiver is ready to break and runs when he has to run. He kind of plays a little bit in the shadow of their running game ...

"(Tolzien) just kind of does whatever the team needs him to."

It can be argued which player makes the Badgers offense go, but there is no doubt which man the Buckeyes will be looking to light the offensive fire — junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

Last week against Indiana, Pryor had a career day passing going 24-of-30 for 334 yards and three touchdowns. Pryor, who came into the game nursing a strained left quad which he suffered at Illinois, didn't attempt to run the football in the victory over the Hoosiers. Of course, he didn't have to run.

"We had a good passing plan," Pryor said. "We didn't have to run the ball. The offense was playing well and the O-line was blocking real well. This week it's full go.

"I'm as healthy as I need to be to carry the ball."

That's of utmost importance to the Buckeyes offensive attack.

"We feel going into every game that we need the two-way threat because sometimes the best decision that a quarterback makes is to tuck it and take off," Tressel said. "It just so happens when (Pryor) tucks it and takes off, it could be for 60.

"So that's huge to us, having that ability."

Pryor understands the offense goes as he goes — and he loves it that way.

"I know some of the offense revolves around me," Pryor said. It's great whenever I touch the ball to represent this university. I'm always trying to make a play and the lead the guys the best way I can."

OSU head coach  Jim Tressel, left, speaks to quarterback Terrelle Pryor (2) during the Buckeyes 38-10 win over Indiana. (The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
Bottom Line

As great as Wisconsin has been running the football this season, the fact is, teams can't just pound the rock and expect to make a living on the Buckeyes defense.

Yes, the Badgers are physical and have worn down opponents with their brutal running style, but unlike those teams which Wisconsin has faced this season, Ohio State brings a much deeper and more talented front seven than they are accustomed to playing against. They must be able to throw the football or it's going to be tough sledding for the home team.

On the other side of the ball, the Badgers have been a little vulnerable against the pass this season, giving up 200 yards a game with 10 touchdowns. Look for Tressel to come out in the same fashion he did against Indiana, throwing the football around and loosening up the defense in order to run the ball more effectively.

Pryor went into hostile Camp Randall Stadium as a freshman in 2008 and led the Buckeyes on a game-winning touchdown drive.

Pryor won't have to repeat his heroics on Saturday night, as he and the top rated Buckeyes make a major statement to the rest of nation that they're not going to relinquish their No. 1 ranking anytime soon.

"I'm not going to let us lose," Pryor proclaimed. "I'm going to push myself and whatever I have to do (to win)."

Lee's Call: OSU 27-17