Ohio State defensive Nick Bosa sacks Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield in OSU's 31-16 loss. The Buckeyes are preparing for Army's pesky option offense on Saturday. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
COLUMBUS — The massive talent discrepancy between Ohio State and Army is obvious.
Indeed, the Buckeyes are 30½-point favorites against the Black Knights for Saturday’s game at Ohio Stadium. Army coach Jeff Monken said Tuesday that Ohio State “may be the most talented football team Army has faced in program history.”
However, the Black Knights employ one of college football’s great equalizers: The dreaded wishbone.
Army is second in the country in rushing offense, averaging 417.5 yards through two games, in starting 2-0.
While the full-time option is relic for most of college football, Army still is running it and running it well, creating an arduous week of preparation for opponents.
One of the foremost difficulties in preparing for the system is its difficulty to replicate. In the span of a week, a scout team usually cannot run the option as quickly or efficiently as Army, and defenses often don’t see the full-speed wishbone until the game.
A week after losing to Oklahoma and its efficient deep passing game, Ohio State (1-1) now will face the complete opposite: A Black Knights team that has attempted 10 passes in two games.
As soon as Ohio State rewatched the loss to the Sooners, it moved immediately to readying itself for the option.
“Then it was right on to Army,” Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. “You need to spend every waking moment from here until the foot hits the ball preparing for the wishbone.”
Army’s option has been on Ohio State’s mind for months. Meyer said at Big Ten media days in July the Buckeyes planned to dedicate some of its summer practice time to the option in an effort to prepare Ohio State’s defense as much as possible for this week.
Ohio State has natural advantages at almost every position. Three of Army’s starting offensive linemen weigh less than 300 pounds, and the unit will go against an OSU defensive line loaded with future NFL players.
“We don’t match up physically with anybody they have,” Monken said. “That’s a simple fact.”
Still, the misdirection created by Army’s offense can negate size and speed. Meyer said he and defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, a former head coach at Rutgers, have gone through this before and have an idea how to deal with the option.
“Coach Schiano has coached against wishbone teams. I have too,” Meyer said. “It’s a unique week.”
Army and Ohio State never have played before, but the Black Knights’ rival almost pulled off an upset at Ohio Stadium in 2009. Navy, which runs a similar offense, was a two-point conversion away from tying the game late in the fourth quarter. Buckeyes linebacker Brian Rolle picked off a pass and returned it for two points to save Ohio State in a 31-27 victory.
Monken noted Army will face a number of disadvantages against Ohio State, but said he thinks his team could create issues for the Buckeyes.
Army’s hopes to win are a long shot, but Monken said the Black Knights are heading to Columbus thinking they have a chance if they play well.
“It’s going to take our very best effort out of every one of our guys and certainly us as coaches to have our team prepared, and to even have a chance to be in the ball game with these guys,” Monken said. “We’re going to give it everything we got this week.”