COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer knows just what kind of challenge Army presents, especially for a team coming off a tough loss.
“Army, very unique issues you deal with,” he said in his Monday news conference. “They are very good on offense. Second in the country, I believe, rushing. The wishbone creates its own identity of issues and unique issues. And then on defense, like some of the service academies I’ve coached against before, they’re 3-4, all over the place and play extremely hard and a very good team. They beat Navy last year.
“And I’m just a big fan of the service academies. So I follow that very closely. And so we’ve got to move forward and move forward fast.”
Here are three keys for the Ohio State-Army game, followed by predictions from our three Land of 10 Ohio State writers.
The quickest way to get exposed as a defense with assignment problems is to play a service academy. The unique style of offense used by teams such as Army forces defenses to play fundamental, assignment-based football. Any mistakes will be exposed, likely for big gains. As Michigan showed against the Buckeyes in 2013, successful misdirection can keep lesser teams hanging around better opponents. But one need not look that far back for an example. The play fakes used by Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield gave the Ohio State linebackers fits last week, leading to big gains over the middle. If defenders are too aggressive against a team like this, it could lead to a frustrating afternoon for the Silver Bullets.
Time of possession
Army is going to try to bleed the clock dry and limit the number of possessions the Ohio State offense will have over the course of the game. The Buckeyes not only want to win but also want to give themselves as many chances as possible to fix their flagging offense. To do that, the defense needs to find a way to get off the field. If Army is able to keep the Ohio State defense on the field, it could turn this into an ugly game that frustrates a team looking for a blowout.
Army’s only chance to stay in this game is to break off occasional big plays on offense because the Buckeyes run defense is too good to give up 3-4 yards at a time over 80 yards. Likewise, Ohio State’s best chance to turn this into a laugher instead of a nervy second-half contest is to hit some home runs on offense. You can imagine the fan frustration if the Buckeyes are going three-and-out in a game where the Knights are holding the ball for huge chunks of time. Whichever team is able to rip off the most big gains is likely to determine just how close the final score is.
Ohio State-Army picks, score predictions
Can Ohio State cover a 30-point spread against the Black Knights? While all three Land of 10 Ohio State beat writers see the Buckeyes winning relatively comfortably, none have a blowout of that magnitude. Ohio State is still working through some things offensively, and if Army has any sort of success on offense, its clock-controlling triple option could keep the Buckeyes playmakers off the field long enough to avoid getting routed.
Jeremy Birmingham: Ohio State 41, Army 13
Ryan Ginn: Ohio State 38, Army 13
Austin Ward: Ohio State 34, Army 10