Ohio State football: Charting the offense, Michigan

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Here is our weekly look at the snaps played by Buckeye skill position players while analyzing the ways in which they were utilized.

In the final regular season game of the season, the Buckeye offense ran 60 plays. The team finished around the middle of the FBS (67th), averaging 73 plays per game during the regular season. When people think of Urban Meyer's high-octane spread offense, they think of the pace of play and getting snaps off at an Oregon-like pace. They do not huddle, but that doesn't mean they need to run plays every few seconds. Running a no-huddle offense and getting to the line of scrimmage does not allow the defense to make substitutions which is important when running a power run game because it wears the defense down and keeps them on their heels.

The offense took a huge step forward this season in both the passing and running game and it will be interesting to see how they play against Michigan State's stout defense and then another top defense in a BCS bowl.

Now, let's take a look at how the offense looked versus Michigan:

Quarterback Number of plays
Braxton Miller 60

  • Braxton Miller was once again excellent in the read-option game, as the Buckeyes ran the ball right down the throat of the Michigan defense. Miller finished with 153 yards and three touchdowns on only 16 carries. Carlos Hyde finished with 226 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.
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  • This was just one of the many examples of Miller being patient at the mesh point and reading the read defender correctly. He is not pre-determining plays as much as he did last season or earlier this season, and you can actually see his head looking at the read defender while at the mesh point on almost every read option.
  • On the other hand, the passing game has taken a step back in the past two to three games after showing vast improvement in the middle of the season. Miller's accuracy has been off when it comes to making intermediate throws and he forced the ball downfield on numerous occasions. It opens up the entire playbook when Miller can hit open receivers and it makes the offense even more unstoppable.
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  • For instance, on the first drive, the Buckeyes faced a 3rd and 9. Miller had time in the pocket and forced a ball into double coverage in the end zone that should have been intercepted. With the safeties back in coverage (most likely Cover 4) he could have checked the ball down to Ezekiel Elliott after he chipped a linebacker. He would have had the first down and potentially, even more yardage on the play.
  • I noticed they did not use the screen game at all, whether it be the bubble screen or just the basic WR screen. This was a bit surprising, considering that they have used these plays all season. I didn't see Michigan in press coverage much throughout the game so it is unusual that they didn't take advantage of the cushion that they were giving the receivers.
  • Looking forward, Michigan State has a tough, hard-nosed defense that will challenge the Buckeye running game. Miller needs to make the Spartans respect his arm or they will just put eight in the box which will make it tough for Miller and Hyde to find any room to run.
Running Backs Number of plays
Carlos Hyde 51
Jordan Hall 6
Ezekiel Elliott 2
Dontre Wilson 2
  • As everyone knows, Hyde was a workhorse on Saturday and he displayed the complete package. He averaged 8.4 yards per carry and offense line dismantled the middle of the Michigan defense.
  • Hyde lined up in the Pistol Formation a season-high 12 times.
  • When Hyde and Miller are executing the read option at such a high level, it opens up play-action.
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On Miller's touchdown pass to Jeff Heuerman, play-action opened up the middle of the field.
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Michigan came on a cornerback blitz, which pushed the safety over to Devin Smith. Then the linebacker on Heuerman's side froze on the play-action which left Heuerman wide open in the seam.
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The safety on the other hashmark should have been closer to Heuerman, but this is what an effective run game does for an offense, it opens up play-action which leads to easy throws for Miller.

  • With Dontre Wilson ejected from the game in the early second quarter, Jordan Hall and Corey Brown filled his role. With Hyde and Miller gashing the Wolverines, the perimeter role was not needed as much, but it will be in the next two games. Wilson will be back for Saturday's B1G Championship Game.
Wide Receivers Number of plays
Corey Brown 53
Devin Smith 52
Evan Spencer 49
Chris Fields 19
  • As mentioned earlier, Miller struggled throwing the ball, missing a couple of open receivers on the day. If I had to grade this group I would give them an incomplete due to the low volume of looks and catchable balls.
  • The snaps went back to normal, with Brown, Smith and Evan Spencer getting the majority of the looks. Fields subbed out all three receivers and played on short yardage situations.
  • Brown ran 42 of his snaps out of the slot, eight plays out wide and three plays next to Miller. Here is an example of Brown lined up next to Miller in Wilson's role:
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Brown motioned into the backfield from the slot and joined Miller and Hyde in the backfield.
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Miller ran the outside zone read with Brown and the read defender sat, expecting Miller to hand the ball off to Brown.
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Corey Linsley and Pat Elflein doubled the defensive tackle and the defensive end extended out of the play with Brown. This left a gaping hole for Miller to exploit for a huge gain.

Tight Ends Number of plays
Jeff Heuerman 55
Nick Vannett 10
  • Heuerman had the big touchdown catch and led the team in receiving with two grabs for 59 yards.
  • Although Heuerman played the majority of the snaps, Vannett saw the field on a couple of third downs and in passing situations. He is a perfectly capable back-up to Heuerman, as he is an able blocker and could also be a mild receiving threat.
  • They ran out of the double tight end set five times, all in short yardage and goal line.
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Here is the double tight end look that the Buckeyes used again on Saturday. This is their 12 grouping (2 WR, 2 TE, 1 RB) with their best WR blocker lined up in the flex (Fields).
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Tom Herman has to love his chances with his excellent offensive line, the two tight ends, Fields and Hyde. They basically make a pocket for Hyde as he waltzes into the end zone.

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