As usual, there wasn’t much to learn from a season opener against a cupcake team. Regardless if the Buckeyes dominate or play down to the level of their opponent, history has shown that these games generally don’t mean anything. Yes, the defense looked good. Yes, Terrelle Pryor had a solid statistical game. But really, how much can you take away from beating up on a team who didn’t even compete? We have no idea what team is going to show up against Miami next week.
With all of that said, I think we can start wonder if this offense is going to look completely different than last year, and be centered around Brandon Saine. Saine has always been a fan favorite, clearly out-playing Boom Herron as the back-up running back last year. This year, Saine was given the honor of being a team captain, and grabbed the starting spot. He’s not going to let that spot go.
Think about this: Last year, the zone read play from the shotgun was OSU’s bread and butter. For those unfamiliar with what that means, it’s when the quarterback stands in the shotgun, and makes the decision to hand the ball of to the running back or keep it himself based on the defensive scheme. Pryor led the Buckeyes in rushing yards last year behind this style of offense. Against Marshall, they lined up under center much more, and built the game around pounding the football. In all, they rushed the ball 41 times for 280 yards, and only 17 of those yards came from the feet of Terrelle Pryor. Compare that to a win against Toledo last year. Similar rushing numbers (46 rushes for 247 yards) but 110 came from Pryor.
We’ve seen this before. In 2005, Troy Smith ran the ball a 136 times and ended the season with over 600 yards on the ground. In 2006, his Heisman year, Troy had 64 fewer rushing attempts totaling 204 yards for the season. I’m not suggesting that Pryor will win the Heisman Trophy, but I am suggesting that this offense might take on a new look.
What does this mean for the Buckeyes? It’s hard to say, but we know what it did in 2006. The offense looked more consistent, and Troy Smith was protected from injury by standing in the pocket more often. The way they lined up against Marshall on Thursday night could have been a smokescreen…an attempt by Jim Tressel not to tip his hand before a big game. Either way, I’m excited to see what this new look offense can do. It’s well documented that lining up under center is much more difficult than lining up in the shotgun, so this would show maturity and development from Terrelle Pryor. Putting this sort of trust in Pryor shows that Tressel thinks this team is ready to take the next step towards a national title run.