By Tim Chapman Writer/Analyst


Washington Pass vs. Ohio State Pass Defense
Slight Edge: Washington

The big match-up to watch is Reggie Williams vs. Chris Gamble. Two Heisman Trophy candidates will be vying for national spotlight in the national spotlight. Okay, but what about the rest? That'll be the difference. The Huskies are a little thin at WR, but have one of the best QBs in the nation. The best way to beat Cody Pickett is to collapse around him and force him into unwanted situations. The Buckeyes, with one of the country's best defensive lines, will consequently beat back the Huskie's passing attack. Pickett should get just enough protection, but the majority of his success will have to come on post patterns, TE run routes, and hook/curl zones throws. The Buckeye LBs are all adept at defending the pass, and Pickett will find that out the hard way in the early going. I see Cowboy Cody putting up big yardage, but his performance will be marred by a few INTs and a low TD total. The inexperienced Buckeye safeties will see a lot of work in the deep-middle, and in turn get burned a few times - only natural. Also, look for Washington "Athlete" (and reserve QB) Isaiah Stanback to be inserted for some sort of trick play to catch the Buckeyes off-guard. They'll need something to throw off the strong OSU pass rush.

Ohio State Pass vs. Washington Pass Defense
Edge: Ohio State

Interestingly enough, I'll take the Buckeyes in this category. The passing game has been tweaked this off-season and has shown some encouraging results. Craig Krenzel was a pretty accurate passer, making his living by throwing low-risk passes and letting his receivers do the dirty work- and ya know what? It works! We'll see the emergence of Santonio Holmes, Bam Childress, and Drew Carter, only adding to the stardom of Michael Jenkins. Throw this in - with the TE assets the Buckeyes carry - and Washington will have its' hands full. Krenzel is a smart QB, so allowing him to sit in the pocket behind such a strong offensive line will just eat away at any defense. The Huskies should employ some man-to-man press with their quick, physical corners, thus baiting Krenzel into throwing over the top and hoping their safeties can be there when the ball arrives. With or without Clarett, I think this is the Buckeyes' strongpoint (in this game) and will ultimately be the poison that does in the Huskies.

Washington Run vs. Ohio State Run Defense
BIG Edge: Ohio State

The Huskies are still looking for a true number one running back. Freshmen Kenny James and Shelton Sampson appear the front-runners, with former starter Rich Alexis in at #3. The Huskies' 2002 rushing offense was repulsive, averaging only 2.1 ypc (out of 117 I-A teams, one of only six that didn't reach 1000 rushing yards as a team!) Pickett needs much better production from the men behind him if he is to beat this defense. Don't expect any miracles. If experienced, star-studded backs struggled against not-as-good-a unit last year, what hope does a pair of redshirt freshmen have? Kenny James will be a good back, but he'll have quite the initiation. I revert back to the Isaiah Stanback insertion in that the Huskies will get his athleticism on the field and we could see a bit of option work from him against this defense, especially in the red zone. Expect to hear a lot of the "Buckeye Battle Cry" (you'll know what I mean when you hear it) produced by some TFLs in this dimension.

Ohio State Run vs. Washington Run Defense
Slight Edge: Ohio State

You lose Maurice Clarett, you lose a force in the run game, no matter how good Ross and Hall are. I think the big edge for the Buckeyes in this area is the offensive line. Four starters come back up front and the non-starter, Rob Sims, saw a considerable game time in 2002. They will create the necessary push needed to get that couple of yards each down. The Huskies faired extremely well against the run (ranked 11th in 2002), allowing only 2.8 ypc, and did not give up more than 158 yards in a single game. What should help the Buckeyes at times will be the balance and uncertainty that the improved passing attack brings, which will force the Huskies to spread out defenders and keep them from crowding the box. Hall and Ross have both been bothered by injuries and could be a step slower than expected. That accepted, we should see true frosh Ira Guilford thrust into action in the late stages of the first quarter. OSU only carries a slight edge in the running realm. So, again, the passing game will need to be the variable that makes the offense flow. If poor, the running game will suffer, too.

Special Teams
Edge: Ohio State

The Buckeyes bring more experience and talent in their special teams units than the Huskies and therefore have the edge. Mike Nugent has proven his consistency and strength. Santonio Holmes and Bam Childress are fantastic kick returners, and Gamble adds a breakaway PR to the mix. The Bucks of late have spent a healthy amount of attention to blocking kicks and have done so adequately in practice. With Washington breaking in a walk-on punter and having an equal inexperienced kicker, I expect a block somewhere along the way. Who'll be the man to do so? Look for Drew Carter or Derek Fox.

Final Thoughts
At the end of spring, this game was setting up to possibly be The Game of the Year. A gambling-induced firing and an academic scandal-illegal gift investigation later, this national spotlight spectacle has diminished to just a key non-conference matchup. Still, this Pac 10 - Big Ten grudge match will give us a fine start to the season. Ohio State will set the tone early and carry a two TD lead into the half. Pickett will be controlled in the first half, but you can bet he will figure a way to eventually get past the OSU secondary. Looks like it will be too little too late, though. Ohio State is tougher up front and should get to Pickett many times. And Washington's lack of a run game will have them trying to get out of too many second- and third-down(s) and long to succeed enough to win. Even without Clarett, the Buckeyes' offense will run smoothly and we will see the beginning of a more open passing game from OSU. Herbie will be smilin' after this one, seeing his Buckeyes string up them Huskies in "The Shoe".

Chappy's Pick: Ohio State 27 Washington 16