The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about the Ohio State and the rushing attack? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
I know it's Maryland week, but does Penn State have the potential to be the team that finally slows down the Buckeyes rush offense?
— Will Schneller (@WSchnell3) November 3, 2019
Two of the best rush defenses in the country have already taken their shot against Ohio State. Neither did all that much to even slow down perhaps the most dynamic attack in the country, and neither Michigan State nor Wisconsin really left many clues about how that could even be done.
Could Penn State do it? Maybe, because the Nittany Lions certainly have the personnel up front to put up a fight. But the problem for teams trying to game plan against the Buckeyes right now is that the target is always moving thanks to the versatility of the scheme and the impressive array of dynamic athletes at Ryan Day’s disposal. If it were just as simple as loading up the box to limit J.K. Dobbins, both the Spartans and Badgers probably could have done that — but they had the same problems that Maryland will this week and Penn State and Michigan figure to down the stretch.
It’s not just Dobbins. It’s not just a vastly improved offensive line that has rediscovered a nasty streak and is owning the line of scrimmage. It’s also not even because the Buckeyes are deep enough to follow those punches up with knockouts from hard-charging Master Teague off the bench. Those factors are usually enough against most opponents, but the reason some of the best around are struggling against Ohio State is because Justin Fields has changed the equation and opened up even more ways to put pressure on a defense.
And the scary part as the championship race heats up in November is that the Buckeyes still have more pages left in the playbook that they haven’t even opened yet.
Just for starters, the Buckeyes have spent much of the season trying to play it safe with Fields and limiting the amount of designed runs for the quarterback. There was good reason for that as Ohio State tried to develop him more as a passer while also trying to keep him healthy with uncertain depth behind him, and sometimes the mere threat of his blinding speed was enough to put defenses off balance. It’s not by coincidence that he carried a career-high 13 times in the win over Wisconsin or 11 against Michigan State, and when the competition level gets higher, Fields will be called on more to add another element to the offense.
Beyond that, Ohio State could potentially add more wrinkles with a couple Run-Pass Option looks that have started to emerge in Big Ten play. And there are a handful of ways it could start to use the H-backs on jet sweeps or ghost motion that could complicate the looks for defenses even more.
There’s no such thing as a truly unstoppable offense, of course. But with a passing game to complement the ground attack, no shortage of flexibility with a creative scheme and one of the deepest collections of athletes in the country, the Buckeyes might be the closest any program can get. If anybody in the Big Ten can slow them down, it would most likely be Penn State — but that’s the same thing that was said about Michigan State and Wisconsin.
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