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What To Expect: Ohio State Defense vs: Cincinnati Offense

For all the talk about the Buckeye's improved secondary the simple fact of the matter is that they have yet to play a passing offense that will challenge them the way that the Bearcats will.

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Lets start with this. The way that Ohio State wants to play defense in pass coverage is to play cover 4, the en vogue defense to combat today's hyper modern spread and shred concepts. This piece on the Bearcats offense from Eleven Warriors has been making the rounds of late. It is general a fine and fairly well researched piece explaining the in's and outs of the Bearcats base concepts and formations. Where it falls short is with this kind of assertion.

The Buckeyes have all the tools you'd want to shut down this Cincinnati attack. But the onus falls on players like Doran Grant to show that they're capable of executing. If Grant can neutralize McKay on the outside, staying true to his responsibilities and not gambling or guessing, the Buckeyes can slowly dismantle the UC attack, piece by piece.

OSU might have all of the physical ability in the world with their personnel, but for years the sum of their pass defense has been less than the sum of it's parts. Until they prove otherwise I am going to attack that secondary as often as I can. I fully expect the Bearcats to attack that cover 4 look deep whenever they see it. From Eddie Gran's perspective you will take your chances with Gunner Kiel throwing the football to Mekale McKay, Chris Moore, Shaq Washington, Alex Chisum when they are matched up one on one with anyone on Ohio State's roster. If the Buckeyes win the majority of those matchups they will probably win the game easily. If UC wins the majority of them they will be in the game from start to finish, regardless of what is happening with the Bearcats defense.

But for that to work the Bearcats need to keep the pocket clean enough for Gunner Kiel to operate. That doesn't mean that the pocket has to be spotless, spotless isn't going to happen against Joey Bosa, Michael Bennett and the like. But the best thing about Gunner Kiel is his ability to ignore the pass rush and find room within the pocket. Unlike Zach Collaros and late era Brendon Kay, Gunner is not looking for an escape route at the first hint of a rush. He stays in the pocket with his eyes down the field regardless of what is happening with the rush. Tonight the Bearcats need to keep the pocket clean enough for Gunner to find spaces to move into a throw the ball down the field so that he can exploit that de facto man to man deep down the field.

The flipside of that is the the Bearcats have to be able to run the ball with some efficiency. To do that they need to skip the low percentage first down runs in obvious run personnel. I am throwing a brick through a window the first time I see 11 personnel in a pistol set on first down. Most of all they need to be smarter about running the ball when the numbers are favorable. I don't think the Bearcats need run for 150 yards in this game to win. But they need to run often enough and well enough against 6 man fronts to make OSU think twice about dropping a 7th guy into the box.

Make no mistake, it will take the Bearcats best game of the season to win this game in columbus. But this Bearcats team is capable of delivering that against this Ohio State team. The only question is will they?