Ohio State's Five-Wide Offense
Ohio State shocked the Michigan defense by aligning in a no-back, five-wide receiver empty set. It was in this formation 24 snaps in the game on Nov. 18 in Columbus. The Buckeyes ended up having 503 total yards of offense on 70 plays. Troy Smith was 29 of 41 passing for 316 yards and four touchdowns. In the 24 snaps using the empty five-wide formation, Smith had 15 completions and was able to keep the Michigan defense spread out and off-balance. The reason the five-wide set was so effective for Ohio State was because of the great depth it has at wide receiver. For example in the Michigan game, Ted Ginn, No. 7, had eight catches for 104 yards, Brian Robiskie, No. 80, had seven catches for 89 yards and Anthony Gonzalez, No. 11, had four catches for 50 yards. Combine these excellent wide receivers with a Heisman Trophy -winning quarterback and you can see why empty was such a difficult formation for Michigan to defend.
Florida will not be surprised by the five-wide receiver set as Michigan was, but how the Gators defend it will be a key in the national championship game.
How Ohio State Aligns
Against Michigan, the Buckeyes aligned in their five-wide set with their two best wide receivers, No. 7 Ted Ginn and No. 11 Anthony Gonzalez, to the same side. To the strong side, No. 80 Brian Robiskie was the outside receiver with No. 8 Roy Hall and No. 9 Brian Hartline as the inside receivers.
OSU vs. 2-Deep Coverage
If Florida decides to rush four and play a two-deep zone coverage, you can expect Ohio State to get the ball to the inside receivers on short option routes. In two-deep zone coverage, the linebackers must adjust in space to cover down on the inside slot receivers. This is a tough matchup.
OSU vs. 1-Deep Coverage
If Florida decides to play man coverage with only one safety deep, expect the ball to be thrown to the outside wide receivers because the corners do not have help.
A key X & O matchup in the national championship game will be how Florida decides to defend Ohio State's five-wide receiver look. With Ohio State's talent and depth at wide receiver, this is a difficult formation to defend. Michigan was surprised early in the matchup in Columbus. Florida will be prepared but it is still difficult to defend.
Florida's Trick Plays
When you face Florida, you always must be prepared for trick plays and reverses off of its base offensive play. Urban Meyer always has done a great job setting up reverse-action plays and gimmicks particularly against fast, aggressive defenses such as Ohio State's. Florida always will have a game-plan with a couple of "deceptives," or special plays, off of its most frequently run offensive plays. For example, the Gators always have run a lot of speed or down the line option so the reverse off of the option often has been a weapon. This year they have used Tim Tebow in their short-yardage offense as a power runner at quarterback. Against Arkansas, they ran a reverse pass off of their quarterback zone lead play. We will take a look at the speed option reverse and also the quarterback zone lead reverse pass they used against Arkansas in the SEC championship.
Florida Speed Option Reverse
This has always been a favorite of Urban Meyer-coached offenses. The reverse is run to the wide receiver and comes off of their basic speed option play.
Zone Lead Reverse Pass
This reverse pass comes off of their quarterback zone lead run which Florida uses with Tim Tebow in short-yardage situations. This play was a 12-yard touchdown pass against Arkansas in the SEC championship.
Ohio State is well aware that Florida always has a couple of gimmicks in its offense. The problem is you never know which one and when it is coming. What this does is slow a defense down and forces it to play extremely disciplined football.
Editor's note: As architect of Texas A&M's Wrecking Crew defense (1989-93) and Notre Dame's defensive coordinator (1994-96) and head coach (1997-2001), Bob Davie has been recognized as a top X's and O's coach.