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What To Expect: Ohio State Offense vs Cincinnati Defense

The Buckeye's boast one of the biggest offensive lines and one of the deepest fleets of running backs the Bearcats will face all season. But through three games the offense has struggled in spots behind a shaky offensive line and a quarterback who is starting his fourth game at the college level.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The trouble spot's for the Bearcats defensive line and the Buckeye's offensive line really do align very well. The Bearcats moved Brad Harrah inside to defensive tackle from his defensive end spot in part because they needed more production from that spot. The Buckeye's can't yet decide who their five best offensive linemen are and have been giving up sacks and tackles for loss at an alarming rate. The Bearcats will have to win that match up to have a chance to pull the upset.

For me that is the key to this game. The Bearcats have to be able to keep Ohio State off schedule offensively. Despite the explosion of offense against Kent State a defensive coordinator will still want J.T. Barrett throwing the ball in straight drop back situations. That is essentially the attitude that Virginia Tech took to the game. They rolled their corners up on the outside receivers, played Keyshon Jarrett 20 yards off the line of scrimmage in deep center field and put 8 in the box. Cincinnati is obviously a different team with a different philosophy who will approach the game differently. But the underlying attitude of "make Barrett beat us" will be the same. If Barrett beats you that way you shake his hand say good job and live with it.

But that can only work if the Bearcats limit OSU's efficiency on the ground. The lack of cohesion up front has done a good job on that front in and off itself. They rank 62nd in rushing S&P according to Football Outsiders hardly what you would expect against an Urban Meyer coached team.

For all the formations and window dressing Where Ohio State gets really dangerous is if they can make their play action game work. In all but look the Buckeye's are a conventional mid 90's pro offense. They want to run power, counter, lead draw etc. Old school football. If they can run the ball successfully enough to make the defense respect the running game they can create one on one matchups deep down the field. The Bearcats don't need to dominate the Buckeye running game to have success today.

For the first two games of the 2014 season the Cincinnati Bearcats have not shown a ton of variation in their defensive scheme. That is by design as the old riverboat gambler has surely keep a few things deliberately under wraps. I expect that to change this week as the Bearcats will probably unveil a defensive look that Hank Hughes used frequently at Connecticut that really suits the Bearcats defensive personnel. But no of that will matter in the least if the Bearcats don't clean up some of their communication issues, particularly in the back end. If UC can do that they could, in theory, keep the Buckeyes off balance and behind schedule enough to play to a draw on third downs. That would be the start of a winning recipe for the Red and Black.