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Theater of Operations, Florida Vs. Ohio State: Previewing Ohio State's Defense

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The third and final part of our look at the Ohio State Buckeyes before the Gator Bowl on January 2, 2012. We've previously looked at the passing game and running game of the Buckeyes.

The Ohio State Buckeye defense, is somewhere in the middle, when compared to other defenses the Florida Gators have faced this season. The Buckeyes currently rank 23rd nationally in terms of total defense. While that is a very respectable number, it certainly isn't near the level of say, Alabama, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina or Florida State's (who all rank in the top 6) either. To get a better idea of Ohio State's defense, think of the Vanderbilt Commodore defense.

In terms of scoring defense, Ohio State ranks 27th overall, giving up just over 20 points per game. The Gators also give up just over 20 points a game (but are ranked higher than Ohio State by mere percentage points), so that should give you an idea of the points scored. When it comes to stopping the pass, the Buckeyes rank a very good 15th nationally. As a result, the chances you beat the Buckeyes by throwing the ball, are very slim.

The way to beat the Ohio State defense, is by running the ball. Which just so happens to be the Gators' offensive bread and butter. The Buckeye defense stops the run at a pace that ranks 54th in the country. Yeah, if there is a way to beat the Buckeyes, that's how you do it.

Play No. 1: John Simon sacks Russell Wilson of Wisconsin:


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

What's great about this play, is that John Simon (yellow circle) understands his role here, very well. He times his rush perfectly, by waiting until the tight end for Wisconsin (green circle) begins to run his route.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

After Russell Wilson (green circle) takes the snap and begins to roll to his left, Simon (yellow circle) is still checking inside to see what the running back is doing. More than likely, he is keeping an eye on a possible pitch.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

At this point, Miller (yellow circle) is committed to rushing the quarterback. Wilson (green circle) is trying to figure out if a) he can throw it, or b) he can run with it.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

The only point during this play, where a throw from Wilson (green square) is possible, is right now. His target (green square) has a yard or two on the defender, but due to Simon (yellow circle) closing in fast, the window of opportunity closes rather quickly.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Russell Wilson tries to avoid the rush from Simon by reversing his direction (yellow square), but it doesn't work. He is sacked for a loss of 6-yards and is ruled down at the 40-yardline.

Play No. 2: Travis Howard's interception on Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase:


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

The receiver for Illinois, Ryan Lankford (green circle), is just going to run a deep route. Travis Howard (yellow circle) is going to be right there with him, step-for-step.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

As the ball (red circle) comes into the screen, you can see that Howard (yellow square) has great underneath coverage on Lankford.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Howard (yellow square) makes a great play on the ball and comes down with the interception. He also ends up returning the ball to the 35-yardline.

Let's look at the play from a different view:


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Here you can see get an even better view of Howard (yellow circle) and Lankford (green circle).


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

As the ball is being released, Howard (yellow square) is still with Lankford, step-for-step.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

As Howard makes the catch for the interception (yellow square), it is clear as to why he is able to play underneath on the coverage. It's because of the safety help over the top. Still a fantastic catch by Howard.

Play No. 3: Jonathan Hankins sacks Taylor Martinez of Nebraska:


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Jonathan Hankins (yellow circle) is going to get past two defenders to make the play.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Of course, it does help if the left tackle doesn't even bother trying to block on the play.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

It also helps when the running back (green circle) can't block at all either.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Hankins (yellow circle) makes a really nice play to get Martinez.

Play No. 4: Michael Bennett sacks Taylor Martinez of Nebraska:


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

The Buckeyes on this play, will blitz the two linebackers (yellow circles) in this defensive set.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

The only player who looked like they were going to rush, is the defensive end who is now covering the running back out in the flat. At this moment, the offensive line is holding up.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Right as the linebacker (single yellow circle) gets into the backfield, Martinez (green circle) attempts to take off up the middle. However, Bennett (double yellow circle) is just breaking free from his blocker.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Martinez runs right into Bennett (yellow square) and doesn't get away.

While Ohio State's defense is by no means elite, they still have the potential to disrupt the gameplan of the Gators. What that gameplan is exactly? I'm not so sure anybody knows, but what I do know, is that it'll be a lot of Rainey and Demps.

For more in-depth coverage of the Ohio State Buckeyes, be sure to check out SB Nation's Ohio State blog, Along The Olentangy. Also, remember to follow @Gator_Bowl on Twitter for behind the scenes information before, during and after the game.