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3 Ohio State

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OPPOSING COACH'S TAKE

To stop their offense you've got to stop the run, then limit their explosive plays in the passing game. [Quarterback] J.T. Barrett took a beating [as a junior]. If he gets back to where he was two years ago he could win the Heisman Trophy. He's that talented.

Their scheme is a bit of a mystery: Are they going to run packages that they've run before, or are they going to go all-in on [new coordinator] Kevin Wilson's offense? The [5'10", 214-pound sophomore] running back MIKE WEBER is really a good player. No disrespect to the guys that matriculated out, but Ohio State's going to be fine. I'm not going to have a sympathy card sent to Urban [Meyer].

It's coordinator Greg Schiano's defense: They do a great job taking the ball away. They're going to play man coverage with a free safety and plus-one you in the box. He was a little more multiple coverage-wise last year than I thought he would be, because he had the cats to play just man if he wanted to. Defensive end Sam Hubbard [a 6'5", 265-pound junior] is a high-motor, high-energy guy. He's got a great first step and really uses his hands well.

The third phase is their secret sauce—they play really hard in the kicking game. I don't think they get enough credit for that.

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS (1 TO 128)

[The following text appears within an illustration. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual illustration.]

THIRD-DOWN CONVERSION % (17TH)

YARDS PER PASS ATTEMPT (87TH)

COMPLETION % (24TH)

YARDS PER CARRY (17TH)

SACKS ALLOWED (71ST)

TURNOVERS LOST (5TH)

POINTS PER DRIVE (25TH)

YARDS PER PLAY (47TH)

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS (1 TO 128)

[The following text appears within an illustration. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual illustration.]

THIRD-DOWN CONVERSION % ALLOWED (11TH)

YARDS PER PASS ATTEMPT ALLOWED (1ST)

COMPLETION % ALLOWED (3RD)

YARDS PER CARRY ALLOWED (12TH)

SACKS (54TH)

TURNOVERS GAINED (10TH)

POINTS PER DRIVE ALLOWED (4TH)

YARDS PER PLAY ALLOWED (3RD)

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RATING

49

The Buckeyes host Oklahoma (9/9), and they also face two of the East's toughest outs, Penn State (10/28) and Michigan State (11/11), in the Horseshoe—though the trip to Iowa (11/4) in between reeks of a trap game. No matter what, the showdown with Michigan (11/25) looms.

THE PLAYER TO KNOW

The Buckeyes are replacing three starting defensive backs for the second straight season. Expect junior cornerback DENZEL WARD to take full advantage of his newfound playing time and set the tone for the secondary. Ward thrived in a rotational role last fall, when he flashed the closing speed and impeccable timing to make up for a 5'10", 191-pound frame that doesn't stand out on a roster filled with taller blue-chip recruits. Despite coming off the bench he tied for the team lead with nine pass breakups, and he is the safe bet to emerge as Ohio State's most reliable corner. Playing behind a star-studded quarterback-harassing front seven will only help.