Sunday, January 1, 2012
Gator Bowl: Three keys for Ohio State
By Adam Rittenberg
Let's take a look at three keys for Ohio State as it takes on Florida in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl.
1. Free Braxton: Ohio State saw what Braxton Miller could be in the Michigan game, as the freshman quarterback accounted for 335 yards (225 pass, 100 rush) and three touchdowns against one of the Big Ten's best defenses. Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman must continue to take the reins off of Miller against the Gators. What does Bollman have to lose? He's not coming back next season, and the offense showed a lot of life against Michigan with a more relevant passing game. Ohio State will attack a stout Florida defense on the ground, but Miller should take some shots downfield against the Gators, particularly with top wide receiver DeVier Posey on the field.
2. Turn the defensive line loose: Florida struggled to protect quarterback John Brantley at times this season, surrendering 23 sacks. It's important for Buckeyes star John Simon to get in the backfield along with fellow linemen like Johnathan Hankins and Michael Bennett. Simon, who leads Ohio State with 15 tackles for loss and seven sacks, goes against Florida tackle Matt Patchan, who colleague Michael DiRocco reports has had some difficulties with speed rushers this season (Simon is more of a power guy, but he can scoot). Ohio State's pass rush disappeared down the stretch as the team recorded only two sacks in the final three games. The Buckeyes need a stronger effort to prevent the Gators offense from gaining confidence.
3. Make Florida pay for mistakes: Florida's defense doesn't generate many takeaways (12 all season, tied for 115th nationally) and has committed 23 turnovers, putting the team 113th nationally in turnover margin. Ohio State has been more disciplined with the football, and the Buckeyes need to capitalize on any Gator giveaways. They failed to do so in losses to Michigan State and Miami but were more opportunistic in a win against Illinois. Florida also is one of the nation's most penalized teams, ranking 113th in penalties per game (7.75). Translation: the Gators will hurt themselves, but the Buckeyes must cash in.