Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, January 8, 2015
Eddie George never won a national title while he was at Ohio State. He took home the Heisman in 1995. Still, he yearned for big team goals. The type of goals the 2014 Buckeyes have in range.
Ohio State will play Oregon on Monday night in Arlington, Texas, for the national championship. George will be there in various media capacities. I caught up with him to get his thoughts on the Buckeyes.
Q: Were you surprised Ohio State beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl?
A: The first drive of that game, you could tell Ohio State was going to win with the way it dominated the line of scrimmage. Ezekiel Elliott was able to hit the edge and pound Alabama between the tackles-getting three, four, five yards. That opened things up for Cardale Jones and took pressure off him and allowed them for the most part to stay in manageable third downs.
No doubt, a big reason for Ohio State?s success in the Sugar Bowl was because they were winning one first and second downs. Alabama usually wins first and second downs on defense, putting you in a bad situation on third downs where it?s hard to convert.
Q: What does Ohio State have to do to beat Oregon?
A: They have to win the war in the trenches, dominate the line and establish the run game. What they can?t do is turn the ball over. That is how Oregon puts its foot on your throat and crushes you, taking advantage of turnovers. You can?t give them opportunities to run the up-tempo, exposing your defense.
Ohio State needs to take a page from the blueprint of Arizona, the only team to beat Oregon. Arizona was able to establish the run, control tempo and limit the amount of time Oregon?s offense was on the field. And on defense, Ohio State has to win the turnover battle. They have to create turnovers, get in the lanes and bat down passes to give themselves a chance.
Q: How do you contain Marcus Mariota?
A: If I knew that, I?d be the richest defensive coordinator in America. Look at what Arizona did. They didn?t give up big plays and they had a bend-but-don?t-break mentality. They knew Oregon was going to make plays, but they limited the big ones and held them to field goals at times. You can?t allow Mariota to run wild.
(Ohio State defensive coordinator) Luke Fickell was on the coaching staff when Ohio State played Oregon in the Rose Bowl a few years ago. Oregon isn?t running anything differently, but Mariota is running it now and he makes a world of difference. Luke understands what it takes to stop that offense or slow it down. He just has to find ways to win in certain situations.
If you look at how Ohio State?s offense is built, they have some athletic guys that can almost shadow Mariota. They will have to try, but it?s tough to do. At the least, Ohio State needs to mix things up on defense-bring pressure at times and back off on others. Go dime, play more athletic guys to limit the spaces for Mariota to run. Once he figures out your weakness, he?ll expose it and keep doing it until it?s the end of you.
Q: How is the Ohio State offense different with Cardale Jones at quarterback?
A: His decision-making the last few weeks has been very good except for the one interception vs. Alabama which I think was the result of a miss communication with the receiver. He is so efficient from the pocket. He probably throws the best deep ball of the three quarterbacks. He?s very accurate. He?s not as dynamic as Braxton Miller.
I think J.T. Barrett understands the offense the way Kenny Guiton did. But Cardale is a big, confident quarterback with a strong arm who isn?t afraid to run it and run it through you. Each has their own strength. The staff has done a good job playing to the strengths of each guy.
Q: Could the 1995 Buckeyes beat this team?
A: I don?t know. This team is putting up some serious numbers on offense. They have a lot of weapons. We had Terry (Glenn), Rickey Dudley ? we were a different offense, a run-first offense, a smash-mouth offense. A lot of pressure was on our run game. Today, it?s a quarterback?s game. They want the QB to be a runner now. When you have a quarterback, a back like Ezekiel Elliott, Jalin Marshall ? you have a lot of deep threats. You will see them rotate receivers in to wear out the secondary. There is a lot of speed that?s starting to come around.
We haven?t seen the depth of this team. Think about it. This offense is just now finding its rhythm under its third quarterback. Wait until next year when everyone is back. That?s gonna be scary. Think when these guys really understand what they are doing next year. This may be one of the most prolific offenses we ever see at Ohio State.
Q: What will happen at quarterback in 2015?
A: I don?t know. I would give all three guys 15 reps each over a three-week period. Whoever excels, wins it. They all have shown they can play. They all have been or look like Heisman candidates. It?s going to be a tough battle.
|About Tom Dienhart||BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|
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