Ohio State has been a solid defense this year, but not without its flaws. In this post we are going to point out some of those flaws and look at them in the context of MSU, and how MSU can run certain plays within their playbook to take advantage of these weaknesses.
Power O to the Nub
First, let’s define what the nnub is to get that out of the way. The nub is a side of a formation without a WR. A nub side can have a TE or a TE and wing, just as long as there is no one split out wide it is considered a nub.
Generally, teams that run cover 4 will convert the nub side of their defense to a cover 2 while maintaining a cover 4 look to the other side. This is typically known as a cover 6 or a quarter-quarter-half coverage (this because of the deep defenders).
OSU runs quite a bit of cover 4, but they don’t adjust their front a whole lot and instead just check into their cover 6 defense. This tends to put a DB, particularly a CB, as the outside leverage defender.
As far as Power O is concerned, this means that the CB is the EMOL that the FB is kicking out. Because OSU’s CBs struggle to be physical at the point of attack in run support (or at most points tackling) this tends to lead to the FB heavily controlling the CB. The CB, shying away from the physical necessity of playing leverage defense, will try to step around the block. If they step outside and maintain leverage, they are easily kicked and driven wide to open up a large hole. They also tend to remain occupied as they aren't adept at taking on blocks and getting off of them to make a play on the football. If they step inside they are easily sealed and pushed back into the wash, preventing flow from making it to the RB and forcing a lone safety to make a play in a lot of space.
Power O being MSU’s favorite run play this year, expect them to go to it when running to a nub side when the ball is centered or to a boundary side the majority of the time they wish to run the ball.
Attacking Underneath Coverage
Running this cover 4, as well as when they run any other zone coverage, forces the LBs to cover space underneath. This has been a sore spot for OSU’s defense, as while the LBs are athletic, they often get stuck coverage grass in their zone rather than a man that is entering their zone. Much of this is eye discipline or struggling to properly drop.
MSU doesn’t really have the jitterbug type for the slot position. Kings is a quick player, but not really a player that has enough experience to be extremely dangerous working underneath. So much of what MSU will have to do is work from the outside-in or inside-out with their possession type receivers and occasionally their TEs. Dig routes on the hash when the #2 runs off the deep coverage, or some seam passes such as those MSU ran against Michigan with the #2 receiver – but instead of completing the seam, find the void and sit – can be really effective ways of stressing the LBs in coverage, especially if the run game is working.
I don’t think you want to get to far into the center of the field, as I don’t think Cook has developed to the point where you want him picking between small windows where there is all the congestion and confusion happening, but anything from the hash out, from 10-15 yards deep (up to 20 yards only if deep coverage is run off well) is where you would feel more comfortable on a regular basis.
I’ve talked about it in a post about MSU’s jet sweep package, but OSU is an extremely athletic defense but isn’t always discipline. They are attack oriented, first move they attack, both run and pass game. Now, recently, the Spartans have developed a bit more of a counter attack, and this will be helpful for the run game.
In many ways, that’s the double move equivalent for the run game. But for now let’s focus on the double move in the pass game. Players like Roby have probably as much or more athletic ability than any CB in the country. But OSU’s CBs are extremely aggressive to try to make the big plays. What this means is that they tend to bite on first movement.
What this means – particularly if MSU starts hitting on some of the intermediate gains when attack underneath coverage – is that the Spartans can pull out some of their double moves and find success. The key is going to be protection up front. MSU’s interior OL has been very strong this year. If OSU can pick and choose their blitzes correctly, though, particularly their pass blitzes, they can take advantage of MSU on the edge of their OL. Stunts and outside twists have been effective at rushing Cook, but those same blitz types often leave LBs out of position in the run game. So again, establishing the run game and putting yourself in a position for third and manageable rather than third and long is key.
Here’s an example of MSU running double move on a Michigan CB in their cover 4:
Note here that the CB plays this often how an OSU CB will play this. I went into detail at one point about the mistakes this CB committed in coverage, but in general he was being aggressive in an attempt to make a big play. It bit him as MSU ran the right route at the right time. That will be key. Also key is Cook’s improvement. In the throw against Michigan he’s a bit late almost allowing the defense to recover. OSU is a bit faster on the backend than Michigan currently is, so even a play that is breaking open may require a bit better timing that Cook has at times shown as the season’s progressed.
These sorts of things are what I’ve referred to as the match up advantage for MSU. I do think OSU is more talented, and I do think they would probably fare better against most teams than MSU would, but I really like the way MSU’s strengths align with OSU’s weaknesses, and how OSU’s strengths don’t align as closely with MSU’s weaknesses. On both sides it will start up front, as both teams need to establish the run in their offense. It will be interesting to see how often MSU takes advantage of the things I’ve noted above in this session of film review.
I have watched more film than just the OSU-Wisconsin game and the MSU-Michigan game this year. Unfortunately, my source for a lot of my videos got compromised and so I’m stuck without them for now. So this is the best I could come up with. Sorry for the inconvenience.