Former Buckeye and Founder of Harley In The Huddle
The Rose Bowl sets up to be a fantastic battle of imposing wills.
Will Oregon's offense impose their fast break tempo on Ohio State, or will it be the Buckeye silver bullet defense that flexes it's muscles to pound the Ducks into submission?
There are tons of questions surrounding Oregon's spread offense, and more importantly their bread and butter: the read option.
What are the keys?
What are the reads?
How do you defend it?
First of all let's review the spread offense. The main goal of the spread is to stretch the field horizontally, forcing the defense to defend from sideline to sideline. The offense is looking to stretch and distort the defense to open up multiple creases, thus giving themselves multiple options.
Offenses want to put the pressure on defenses to make quick decisions, and most importantly defend in the open field. In fact decision making and open field play is the crux of the read option on BOTH sides of the ball.
The one thing to keep in mind about Oregon is that they love "smoke and mirrors," tons of movement and misdirection to get the defense out of position. The hard part is seeing this for what it really is, mainly window dressing covering up a familiar option attack.
Every option play leaves one defender unblocked that the quarterback will option off of (keep, pitch, or dive), and the Ducks' read option is no different. It may vary who they leave unblocked at times, either the defensive end or defensive tackle, but the plan remains the same. Force the defender into jumping one of the options, leaving the defense out leveraged with little time to rally to the football.
The reason Oregon has been so successful is because QB Jeremiah Masoli has done a superb job making good decisions, and hitting the defense where it hurts. The Ducks' offense is like a metronome staying on pace and chipping away at opposing defenses, forcing them to play perfect on every play. They know that one defensive mistake can lead to big gains and big points.
Which leads us to stopping this seemingly unstoppable attack.
To be honest there's no real secret—dominating the trenches is paramount. Don't allow horizontal creases, and the offense won't have any options. Then the defense has to put the pressure back on the offense by forcing the quarterback to be perfect under duress.
I'd bring heat early and often to make things happen quickly, now the creases don't have time to become huge gaps. When things happen fast the defense can resort to old fashioned football...see ball, hit ball. The last and most important part is being able to rally to the football.
Relentless pursuit covers up all mistakes, when someone misses their assignment there's four more guys to clean up the mess. It has to be eleven defenders playing with one heart beat, nobody trying to make "the big play." You try to do too much or be the hero, and that's when the Ducks strike.
Football is a simple game—forget about all the exciting schemes and you're left with fundamentals. The team that dominates the trenches and wins the run game, is almost always victorious. Win your one on one battles on each play and you'll ultimately win the war.
Can the Buckeyes find a way to slow down this juggernaut attack? Will the Ducks waver amidst the silver bullets flying?
The Rose Bowl approaches...