This week's gridiron clash features the Aggies' first ever trip to Columbus, Ohio. We got the scoop on the Ohio State Buckeyes from Columbus Dispatch Ohio State beat writer Ken Gordon.
The Buckeyes and Aggies meet for the very first time on the gridiron this Saturday. What's the current state of the Buckeye squad?
This has been something of a transition year for the Buckeyes, particularly offensively, as they lost most of their skill-position players and entered their first full year with QB Terrelle Pryor at the helm. They have definitely suffered some growing pains, including a shocking upset at Purdue two weeks ago. They rebounded with a solid win last week, and defensively, they've been very solid all year, but overall, this is far from a juggernaut.
With the big showdown (albeit slightly less big since OSU and PSU both have losses in Big 10 play), what chance is there that Ohio State looks past New Mexico State entirely and sleepwalks through this game?
Slim and none, mainly because they just found out what happens when you sleepwalk through a game -- that 26-18 loss at Purdue I mentioned. Purdue was 1-5, and OSU players admitted afterward they took them lightly. So in that respect, the Aggies are a bit unfortunate. This is a Buckeyes team that still is a bit ticked off.
What are Ohio State's strengths this season on offense and defense?
On offense, it starts with Pryor. He is a 6-6, 235-pound guy who has deceptive speed. He stride is so long and easy, defenders take bad angles on him, and he turns the corner. He already has more than 1,000 career rushing yards, and he has only started 17 games. He is far from a polished passer, but he has been connecting regularly lately with fellow sophomore WR DeVier Posey. On defense, the Buckeyes are deep, particularly on the defensive line. They have a blend of power and speed-type linemen, and they go 8 or 9 deep up front. They have a top-notch cover cornerback in Chimdi Chekwa, and a possible All-American at safety in Kurt Coleman. OSU has intercepted at least one pass in every game this season, and 11 different players have picks.
What will Aggie fans see when the Buckeyes have the ball and what can they expect to see when the Ohio State is on defense?
OSU is multiple on offense. Coach Jim Tressel craves balance. The Buckeyes operate mostly out of the shotgun, with one back, but they will show a variety of formations throughout the game. Tressel loves to establish the run, then go deep, if he can. Defensively, OSU can get pressure from its front four without blitzing a lot, so that makes things tough for offenses. They will blitz some, but rarely with more than one player at a time.
For NMSU fans who are making the trip to Columbus, what are some of the must see places around town on gameday and since this is an early day game, where should they go after the game?
I'm no tour guide, but there are several nice nightlife districts for after the game, both of them within a short distance south of campus. Go south on High Street (the main drag) and you'll come to the Short North, a trendy, artsy type neighborhood with galleries and restaurants. Farther south, as you come into downtown, there is the Arena District (named after the hockey arena), which has a number of sports bars and restaurants.
Ohio State is famous for their pageantry and tradition in college football, what are some traditions that fans might not know about?
Fans will definitely want to be in their seats at least 20 minutes before kickoff. That's when the Ohio State band makes its famous "ramp entrance" and the crowd really gets into it. If you're lucky, the band will do "Script Ohio" featuring the coveted "dotting of the I." Just the whole Ohio Stadium scene is pretty remarkable, with the towering stands and 105,000 people on hand.
Who are some key players to watch, who is the best player on offense and
defense for OSU?
Again, some of the players I've already named. Pryor is clearly the best player on offense. Keep an eye out to see who plays at tailback for OSU. They've had injury issues. If Brandon Saine (No. 3) plays, that's a good sign for the Buckeyes. If it's Jordan Hall (29), then OSU is down to its third-string back. Defensively, No. 90, Thaddeus Gibson, is coming off a three-sack day against Minnesota and can be a real nightmare. Coleman is the best defensive back.
What does OSU need to do to come out of this game with a win?
Show up. I mean, seriously, this is a game OSU's backups could probably win. OSU is focusing not just on winning, though, but on getting better and not playing a lackadaisacal, sloppy game. The Buckeyes should be fine if they avoid early turnovers and get some sort of run game established. The defense should not have much problem controlling their side of the ball, I believe.
What does NMSU need to do to Ohio State to come out with a win (or at least keep the score respectable)?
Put some pressure on Pryor. He is prone to making some poor decisions and turning the ball over when he's under duress. So that's a huge key for NMSU.
Prediction and Final Score?
As I said earlier, it's sort of a bad time to catch OSU. The Buckeyes aren't a dominant team, but they want to get there, and they're hungry for a feel-good game. I'll say Ohio State 48, New Mexico State 3.