While the Ohio State offense is dynamic and will present the opposition problems all over the field, its defense is a bit of a different story.
The Buckeyes defensive personnel might be the best the Ducks will face from an athletic standpoint, but the scheme itself won’t be anything quarterback Anthony Brown hasn’t faced before.
It’ll be a basic 4-3 defense with one hybrid position the Buckeyes call “Bullet.” It’s a linebacker that has the size and toughness to play the regular linebacker position and has the speed and agility to help out in the secondary.
Sophomore Ronnie Hickman played that Bullet spot and led the Buckeyes with 11 tackles in the 45-32 win over Minnesota.
Like Hickman, Ohio State’s linebackers and secondary are all fairly new as starters and if Oregon wants to have a chance at the upset, this is where the Buckeyes might be vulnerable.
Ohio State did play against Minnesota in Week 1 without starting corners Cameron Brown and Sevyn Banks, and their status is still unknown for the Oregon game. If Ohio State has to play with two inexperienced corners, the Ducks have the players to exploit that and score points.
In their absence, Ohio State had to rely on second and third-string cornerbacks, Denzel Burke and Ryan Watts, against Minnesota and the Gophers were able to make a lot of plays downfield.
Starting safety Josh Proctor came out of the Minnesota game with an apparent shoulder injury and his status is also a question mark. Buckeyes’ coach Ryan Day doesn’t give out injury reports or even a depth chart, so it’s anyone’s guess as to who will go out on the field for the Buckeyes defense. But according to defensive coordinator, Kerry Coombs, his guys will be a physical group.
“I think it starts with a certain physicality. You have to be physical here because practice is very physical,” Coombs said. “I think these kids have come through some incredible situations over the last two years that I would say speaks volumes to their mental toughness.”
In order for the Ducks to challenge that mental toughness, they’re going to have to play ahead on the scoreboard and put the worry of an upset in Ohio State’s mind for as long as possible. It almost worked against the Ducks against Fresno State as the Bulldogs hung in there the entire game.
The lack of experienced personnel on the Ohio State defense could put them in the exact same position.