Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, January 10, 2015

DALLAS — The Oregon offense offers myriad issues. And it all begins with quarterback Marcus Mariota.

He is one of the nation?s most dynamic signal-callers in recent years, taking home the Heisman this season. Name a record-most any record-and Mariota holds it in Oregon annals.

How does Ohio State try to stop a guy with 2,198 career yards rushing and 10,463 yards passing?

I talked to Buckeyes co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash about it as he prepped for Monday night's big test.

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Q: What issues does this offense-which averages 47.2 points and 552.9 yards–pose?
A: They have speed on offense. They also have tempo that everyone talks about. They execute their offense at a high level. And that sticks out. They are well-coached. The players have a great understanding of their offense and what they need to do. And they don?t make a lot of mistakes. They are gonna make you beat them.

Q: Does Marcus Mariota remind you of any quarterback you have seen this year?
A: Not that we have played. The closest thing I have played against was Braxton Miller when I went against him. We have not played a quarterback as dynamic as him by any means this year.

Q: It has to help your preparations to face a similar offense in practice, right?
A: Absolutely. Oregon does go at a quick tempo. But it?s not fast all of the time. Our offense goes fast, too. And when it goes fast, they go just as fast as Oregon. We may not do it as much, though. That?s the biggest difference. They do it probably more than we do on offense. So, what Oregon does isn?t foreign to us. We see it all the time.

Q: How do you hope to contain Mariota?
A: He?s too good of a player to say we are gonna stop him. No one has done that. We aren?t gonna pull out some magic game plan that will stop him because someone else would have tried it before. What we have to do is try to limit his ability at big, explosive plays. If we can keep him contained ? he?s gonna make some yards and plays, but we have to limit the explosive plays he gets. We have watched every Oregon game from this year, last year and the year before that.

Q: What has been the one game plan you saw on film that worked best vs. Mariota?
A: Stanford has done a great job vs. the Oregon offense the last few years. We spent a lot of time studying them. But we are looking for defenses similar to our structure. It does us no good to look at a defense that?s different from ours that did well vs. Mariota. Arizona did a good job this year, but its defense is different from ours. We aren?t gonna change our defense in 10 days. We look at defenses like ours, the problems they presented and how we can limit those problems.

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Q: What team that plays your style of defense has done well vs. Oregon?
A: A team we studied was Kansas State from a couple of years ago when they played Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. Their defensive structure is very similar to ours, so we studied them a lot. In the Pac-12, there aren?t a lot of teams similar to ours because the styles of offenses are different. We had to dig deep into the files to find some teams that are gonna look pretty similar to us on defense.

Q: Will you put a spy on Mariota?
A: The problem is, I don?t know if we can catch him. We have some fast linebackers and they will need them to make some big plays on Mariota. Everyone talks about spying a quarterback. But if you spy him with someone who can?t catch him, you aren?t helping yourself. You have to be very smart when you do that. He?s a good player.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, 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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