Buckeyes Look to Ground Cal’s Bear Raid: Preview

The sub par performance of Week 1 set a spark under the Buckeyes, going in to their match up in Week 2.  Now, Ohio State is 2-0, and about to embark on their first serious road trip of the 2013 season.  The Buckeyes first road trip last season, a win against Sparty, was the catalyst of Ohio States undefeated season.  Will this Cal game be the catalyst Sparty was for us last year?  Maybe, maybe not.  Whatwe do know is this, California will present a great challenge for the Ohio State defense, and a great opportunity for the Ohio State offense.  However, the more interesting match-up of those two will be how the OSU defense handles the Cal “Bear Raid” offense.

The mastermind behind the Bear Raid Offense: Head Coach Sunny Dykes

The Golden Bears were put under new management in the off-season.  Head coach Sunny Dykes, is the new man in charge in Berkley.  He is a disciple of Mike Leach’s air raid offense, and has implemented part of that philosophy, in to the Cal football program.  Waiting for Dyke upon his arrival, was shiny, new, four star, true freshman quarterback, Jared Goff.  Goff won the quarterback competition, in camp, and he, and the coaching staff, have not looked back since.  Dykes also inherited a dangerous running back duo, in junior Brendan Bigelow and sophomore Daniel Lasco.

Dykes, like our own Tom Herman, is an offensive genius.  While many fans will assume that he is a pass first play caller, his offense last year, at Louisiana Tech, was one of the most balanced in the nation.  Dykes air raid philosophy is exemplified more in the wide receivers route combinations, and than in the play calling aspect of his offense.  Do they lead the nation in pass offense?  Yes.  However, that is more due to their inability to run block  effectively, not Dykes play calling.  The Cal offense is averaging a pretty pedestrian 110 yards rushing per game, which has put pressure, to carry the offense, on the shoulders of their frosh quarterback.

Goff is already making in impact for the Golden Bears offense.  While his stats are impressive (935 yards, 4 touchdowns), his comfort level in this offense, is a major contributing factor to his early success.  Goff has a very accurate arm, and is very comfortable with staying in the pocket, spreading the ball out to his young, talented wide receivers, and racking up the yardage.  He has great feet, and can get you a few yards, as a runner, if he has to escape the pocket.  The only area of Goff’s game he struggles in, is his inability to consistently drive the ball down the field.  Therefore, a lot of Goff’s passes are screens, drags, slants, and quick outs.  Those type of route combinations, give Goff the ability to take three steps, and quickly get the ball out to his play-makers.

Cal’s young play-makers will be a handful for the Ohio State secondary.  Cal did lose their leading receiver, Keenan Allen, to the NFL draft, this past off-season.  However, the young group of wide receivers they have replacing him will, through a group effort, make up for the loss of production.  In their first two games, the Golden Bear receiving corp, has had three wide receivers register 100 yard plus games (Bryce Treggs, Chris Harper, Richard Rodgers).  They have also had as many as 10 different receivers register receptions.  Treggs, Harper, and Rodgers are the three main threats, however, Cal will lineup several different types of receivers, and will find a way to get them all the ball.  This is not only due to how much depth and talent they have, but also due to the tempo of offense they run.

The most alarming thing about Cal is the amount of plays this team runs.  In their first two games, Cal’s offense is averaging 97 plays per game.  Allow me to put that in to perspective.  Oregon is only averaging 70 plays per game so far this season, and averaged 83 plays per game last year under Chip Kelly.  While this number is staggering, it is misleading, due to the inefficiencies Cal has scoring points.

The only slight on this offense is that they don’t score as often as they should, running this many plays.  This offense is only averaging 33.5 points per game.  While they don’t have the amount of talent as an Oregon, or Ohio State, when you run that many plays, in my opinion, your offense should be averaging around the 40 to 42 point per game total.  They rank 9th in yards per game,averaging 582.5 yards per game, but 55th in points per game, only averaging 33.5.  Compare that to a team with a similar offense, like Texas Tech.  Texas Tech is ranked 6th in yards per game, at 596, but here’s the difference- they’re ranked 9th in points per game at 51.  Once Cal improves its ability to finish drives, this offense will be extremely dangerous, until then they’re a lot of bark with no bite.

So how does the Ohio State defense deal with this Cal offense?  Expect the Ohio State defense to be in a lot of Dime package this weekend.  Specifically, expect the Buckeyes to roll out their 3-2-6 dollar package.  In the Buckeyes base Dime package, Ryan Shazier is the single linebacker, and Corey Brown comes in at the Mike.  This weekend, if the defense lines up in the Dollar, there will be two nickel backs, or stars, on the field.  That may give way for freshman Vonn Bell to see some playing time, however, Corey Brown may get the nod over the true freshman early on.  These two looks will allow the Buckeyes to get more speed on the field, to deal with the empty look Cal often lines up in.  The Buckeyes certainly have the personnel to match-up with the Bear Raid, but there are a couple areas the defense will need to excel at, in order to properly shut down Goff and the Golden Bears.

I expect our defensive front to stuff Cal’s inept run offense.  The Bear Raid averages only 110 yards rushing per game, and I don’t expect them to get to a 100 yards rushing against our front four this week.  Therefore, that leaves this defense with two major goals going in to this game:  decrease yards after catch; by wrapping up receivers and gang tackling, and get pressure on Goff.

So far this season, our secondary has been above average in the tackling department.  Against Buffalo, young defensive backs like Armani Reeves, struggled to consistently wrap up and prevent yards after catch.  However, the secondary seemed much more aggressive and efficient with their tackling against San Diego State.  Much of that can be accredited to the return of Roby and Barnett, and a healthy Shazier.  The pass rush should find some success this weekend as well.  Cal has forfeited nine sacks this season, and their offense also gives pass rushers several opportunities to get after the quarterback, with how often they pass.  This game will be a good opportunity for the pass rush to really get going, and potentially catapult itself in to a successful 2013 campaign of wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.  If Ohio State does those things well, then expect a low scoring game from Goff, and his Bear Raid offense.

Now if the Bear Raid is grounded this week, expect the Buckeye offense to take advantage of any possessions Cal leaves on the field.  Cal’s defense has allowed, through their first two games:  530.5 yards per game, and have relinquished 37 points per game.  Even without a 100% Braxton Miller, this offense should have an enormous amount of success against Cal.  The Golden Bear defense doesn’t do much well on defense.  They give up a lot of yardage on the ground, and through the air.  It will be vital for this offense to get rolling early, and have a good performance against a below average defense like this.  This will be a great opportunity for aspects of our offense, that haven’t been as sharp as anticipated, to improve and really catapult themselves, as we are two weeks out of conference play.

The Buckeye run game has looked okay, but there has not been much of a power aspect to it.  Last week we saw a lot of speed options to Dontre, which was fun to watch, but this offense is missing its bread and butter, inside zone run.  Rod Smith and Warren Ball should get that opportunity early in the game this Saturday.  Since it is our first road game this year, I’m expecting the play calling to be a little conservative to start the game out, by establishing the run and silencing the crowd.  Once the crowd is taken out of it, start to see the Buckeye offense open things up.

This trio will need to bring a little more punch to the Ohio State offense. (From left to right: Jordan Hall, Brionte Dunn, Rod Smith)

.Jeff Heuerman made a brief appearance last week, but expect to see more of him and Nick Vannett this week.  As we face tougher competition, I would expect Coach Herman to open up the play book a little more, and more, as we go along through the season.  Expect our tight ends to get some touches this week.

Also, I would like to see Dontre, Ezekiel, Philly, somebody, break a few tackles and take a 7 yard route, or an option pitch, and break it for a 40 or 50 yard touchdown run.  I feel like this offense is growing very rapidly, but they are not very good at breaking tackles.  All of those guys listed above, were touted as guys who you can put in open space, and they can make guys miss.  Dontre has done that some, Philly hasn’t done it enough.  The Buckeyes will have the opportunity to make some electric plays this Saturday.  Let’s hope they capitalize on those opportunities.

Final Score- Ohio State 52 California Golden Bear 17

 

Comments

  1. Therefore, a lot of Goff’s passes are screens, drags, slants, and quick outs. Those type of route combinations, give Goff the ability to take three steps, and quickly get the ball out to his play-makers.

    These are the exact same passes that drive Buckeye fans (specifically those that don’t understand the defense Ohio State is running) bonkers. I expect to see a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth as Goff dinks and doinks his way down the field, but the lack of a downfield passing threat and a weak running game should stall a lot of their drives.

    Great preview, Ronnie. Definitely looking forward to see how that dollar package looks and to see if we can get some turnovers off the pass-happy Cal Bears.

Trackbacks

  1. […] explained in the preview post to this game, Cal runs a lot of plays and throws the ball often.  Cal ran 90 plays, to Ohio States […]

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