Friday, September 11, 2015

#Buckeyes Preview 9.11.15: #Hawaii Rainbow Warriors @ Ohio State

By @jddisantis

After a big win Monday night against the Hokies, the Buckeyes have a short week as they host the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors Saturday in their home opener.  Ohio State will be looking to extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 15 as Hawaii will look to go 2-0 after beating Colorado last weekend in perhaps the weirdest ending of week 1.  In what should be a rout, I will do my best to make this game sound interesting and let you in on a couple things that I will be keeping an eye on come this Saturday.

1.  Play calling and Zeke:  One of the biggest changes for the Buckeyes this offseason was the loss of offensive coordinator Tom Herman to the head coaching position at the University of Houston.  Herman received a lot of credit for helping prepare third string QB Cardale Jones and the rest of the Buckeye offense for the three monster wins in the Big Ten Championship, National Semifinal and National Championship.  When Herman left for Houston, Ohio State promoted then offensive line coach/ co-coordinator Ed Warinner to offensive coordinator.  Ed Warinner also took over play calling duties. 

If you follow me on Twitter (shameless plug coming: @jddisantis), you would've known that I wasn't exactly thrilled with the play calling Monday night against the Hokies.  The Buckeyes threw it 19 times while running it 37. At first glance nothing about those numbers look out of the ordinary but if you look deeper you'll find that Cardale Jones led the team in rush attempts with 13 while Heisman hopeful Ezekiel Elliot only ran the ball 11 times.  After the game Urban Meyer was quoted when referencing the Bear Zero defense by Va. Tech, “cause you hand the ball off, there’s two extra guys in there. … They dare you,… you have to be able to bust through that first level.  That’s why Zeke only had 11 carries.  That’s not enough, we have to get him 20 touches.” 

2.  How much will J.T. play?:  I was surprised to see J.T. play as little as he did Monday night.  Although I prefer a single QB team, I expected to see J.T. get more action than he did.  The biggest reason behind that was I felt the game better suited him.  (see no. 1) 

I will be keeping an eye on how much read-option they run against the Rainbow Warriors.  Coach Meyer can say that Cardale and J.T. have similar skill sets till he’s blue in the face but he’ll be wrong every time.  Cardale is a 6’5, 250lb monster with a cannon for an arm.  J.T. is smaller but much more athletic, fast, and cerebral.  The game plan seemed to fit J.T.’s style more than Cardale’s.  Either way this game has the potential to get out of hand quickly so I expect J.T. to get more “real time” action this weekend.   

3.  Can Max Wittek find success against Ohio State’s secondary?:  Max Wittek left the sunshine and beaches of USC for the sun-shinier beaches of Hawaii.  Expected to compete with Cody Kessler for the starting job for the Trojans, Wittek ended up transferring to Hawaii.  Head coach Norm Chow has compared Wittek to Carson Palmer saying, “If you had to make a training tape, you’d make it with Carson Palmer.  This guy would be second… He has a good touch, a quick release and great anticipation.  Most young kids don’t have that.  They’ll wait till the guy is wide-ass open.” 

Max Wittek got off to a good start this year as he was 19 of 38 for 202 yards and three touchdowns and two interceptions in Hawaii’s 28-20 upset win against Colorado.  Despite his modest success against Buffs, Wittek will have a much tougher test at The Shoe on Saturday. 

The Buckeyes were taken advantage of by Hokie QB Michael Brewer for 156 yards and 2 touchdowns before going down with a broken collar bone in the third quarter of Monday night’s game.  Through misdirection and wheel routes Brewer was able to exploit the Buckeyes lack of discipline in coverage.  Wittek will have his hands full trying to find open receivers while becoming intimately familiar with an angry Joey Bosa and the rest of the Buckeye defensive line.  He could be in for a long Saturday afternoon. 

4.  Will the Buckeyes play down to their competition?:  Many times in sports we watch a team play up, or down, to their competition.  With the Ohio State schedule lacking many challenges will they get complacent or lazy against the likes of a Hawaii?  With a betting line of -40, Ohio State will have to stay disciplined and focused on their current opponent.  After a big win and a short week of preparation this could set up perfectly for the Buckeyes to stumble out of the gates and let Hawaii hang around in this game.  The Buckeyes will try and get out to a quick start, clean up some of the mistakes against Va. Tech, and blow the doors off of Hawaii.

What: Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at Ohio State Buckeyes
Where Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
Time September 12, 2015, 3:30pm EST
TV/Radio Big Ten Network (BTN), WKNR/Cleveland 850

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