If there was one word to describe Wisconsin’s offense, it would be... unimpressive. When watching Wisconsin play Michigan — albeit one of the best defenses in the country -- the offense as a whole was underwhelming, inefficient, lacked explosiveness and were unable to execute. The offensive line does not play at a typical Wisconsin-level, the quarterback misses throws on the regular, and although they have a solid running back in Corey Clement, their running game is not well-executed.
Just looking at the statistics, quarterback Alex Hornibrook threw for 88 yards on the day and they rushed for 100 yards on the ground. Hornibrook turned the ball over three times and looked uncomfortable against Don Brown’s Wolverine defense.
Let’s look at the tape:
Alex Hornibrook vs Michigan
|Designed Runs||Dropbacks||Completions||Incompletions||Total TD||Scrambles||Overthrows||Throwaways|
|Pressured||Sacked||Hit||Pass Break-Up||Batted at LOS||Drops||Turnovers||Defensive PI|
Talk about an extremely poor display by both the quarterback and offensive line. On Hornibrook’s 31 dropbacks, he was pressured an astounding 14 times, was hit eight times and sacked three times. The majority of the pressure came through the interior of the Wisconsin offensive line, where the two guards and the center lost numerous one-on-one battles. Michigan did a good job blitzing off the edge to create pressure, but their interior defensive line was able to whoop Wisconsin inside.
Here’s an example of the right guard, the right tackle and the running back all failing on 3rd down. They got manhandled even though they had a three-on-two personnel advantage on the play.
When looking closer at Hornibrook, his mechanics, arm strength and pocket presence are all pretty underwhelming.
From a throwing standpoint, he has a long, slow throwing motion, which results in limited arm strength. Here’s a throw where Hornibrook tries to complete a 12-yard out to the opposite hash, which easily gets picked off by the defensive back.
There weren’t many bright spots in the quarterback’s 9-of-25 passing effort on the day, but his best play came on a pre-snap recognition, where he dissected Michigan’s safety blitz and took advantage of a switch. Wisconsin had a wheel-route dialed up, which would have been covered by the Wolverine strong safety. Don Brown sent the strong safety on a blitz off the edge, creating a massive mismatch between running back Taiwan Deal and a Michigan middle linebacker. Hornibrook quickly saw the mismatch and lobbed a nice ball over the linebacker and right into his running back’s hands for a score. Nice play.
In regards to the skill positions, Buckeye and Big Ten fans should be very familiar with running back Corey Clement. In the past, he was used as a change-of-pace back. In 2013, he was used sparingly behind Melvin Gordon and James White. In 2014, he was paired with Gordon, and last season, his season was cut short due to injury. He’s a dynamic speedster who like Gordon, tends to bounce runs outside and does most of his damage on the edge.
Even though the interior of the line is a weakness, they continue to dial-up plays in the A-gap. They called three fullback dives (#B1G) and constantly used Clement on dives and power. They do not call many plays to his strength. Because Clement is their only true playmaker at running back, they do not use him like they used Melvin Gordon. In 2014, they were able to put Clement at tailback and Gordon at a flex position, and run jet sweeps. In 2016, Clement is the opposing defense’s main key, so it’s tough to be creative with him and find a way to get him into space. When they do run end-around, it is typically with wide receiver Jazz Peavy (No. 11), who has pretty good speed.
Overall, Ohio State’s defense should completely dominate this offense. Ohio State’s talented defensive line should live in the Wisconsin backfield. Michael Hill and Nick Bosa have been excellent since they have been inserted into the rotation and expect them to make a few plays behind the line of scrimmage.
Ohio State's top 8 DL-men (Hubbard, Jones, Holmes, Lewis, Hill, Bosa, Landers, Hamilton) have combined for 93 tackles and 1 missed tackle.— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) October 12, 2016
Ohio State freshman DE Nick Bosa has made 8 of his 13 tackles at or behind the LOS this season— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) October 12, 2016
What will benefit the Buckeye defense is that they won’t have to bring extra pressure to get to the quarterback, and they don’t have to worry about Hornibrook getting out of trouble with his legs. He did not scramble, even though he was pressured 14 times against Michigan. Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley will be able to lock-up their wideouts in man-coverage and not worry about having their back to the quarterback.
Without bias, it will be tough for the Wisconsin offense to rack up 225-plus yards of total offense and/or 17-plus points. The Ohio State defense is too fast and too talented to let Wisconsin beat them through the air or on the ground.