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Ohio State’s defense still dominates discussion on conference call

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A week after giving up 49 points to Indiana, No. 7 Ohio State (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) will host Purdue (3-3, 0-2 Big Ten) this weekend. OSU coach Urban Meyer addressed the team’s struggling defense and improved offensive line at the weekly Big Ten football coaches teleconference.

Meyer addresses the defense
Earlier this week Meyer indicated that he would be more involved with the team’s defense. The first-year coach provided insight on what exactly he will be doing to improve a unit that has allowed an average of 43.5 points in the last two games.

“It’s my job to prepare the team and we are having some struggles on defense,” Meyer said.

Though his fingerprints will likely be more prominent on this week’s defensive game plan, Meyer indicated that he is not trying to undermine his coaching staff.

“In no way am I going to go in there and change what we do,” Meyer said. “I’m just going to support our staff and support our players.”

Meyer said the defense’s performance was “painful to watch,” against Indiana, and admitted that when the Buckeyes recovered an onside kick late in the game to secure a victory, he had trouble enjoying the moment.

“Instead of the joy of victory, it was relief that the whole thing was over,” Meyer said.

An Improved Offensive Line
The defense might be struggling, but Meyer said that he is very pleased with the team’s running game, and in particular, with the play of the offensive line.

Meyer said that the unit has come a long way since he took over as OSU’s coach.

“The area that’s most improved is our offensive line play,” Meyer said. “They are not playing perfect, but they’re playing much better than they have since our staff’s been here. (I’m) very pleased with that so far.”

The offensive line was instrumental in the Buckeye’s 52-49 win against Indiana, as OSU rushed for 353 yards.

“The offensive line is giving them a chance,” said Indiana coach Kevin Wilson. “I think (it’s) one of the reasons they are playing at a high level and scoring points.”

Badgers like the Buckeyes?
This might be the first and only time you hear someone say the Buckeyes’ spread offense is similar to Wisconsin’s smash-mouth style.

Both teams would prefer to run than pass, but OSU tends to line up in the shotgun, spread out with multiple receivers, while Wisconsin plays tight, I-form football.

Purdue coach Danny Hope said, however, that there is a glaring similarity between the two offenses.

“Wisconsin is a physical football team with great backs and Ohio State is a physical football team with great backs,” Hope said.

Purdue didn’t fair well against Wisconsin’s “great backs,” last week. The Badgers gashed Purdue’s defense for 467 yards rushing while senior running back Montee Ball rushed for a career-high 247 yards.

This weekend poses, perhaps, an even tougher challenge for Purdue’s defense, as they travel to Columbus to face the nation’s eighth best rushing offense. The Buckeyes average 263.6 yards per game on the ground this season.

“We’re going to have to tackle somebody,” Hope said.

Dual-threat Déjà vu
Michigan and Michigan State will face off in their annual meeting this weekend, in a contest with major conference implications on the line. The Spartans are 1-2 in conference play, and a loss to their in-state rival would effectively eliminate them from the race for the Big Ten title.

Michigan State has won the last four meetings against Michigan, but the school has never won five in a row against the Maize and Blue.

In order to capture this historic victory, MSU will likely need to contain Michigan’s senior quarterback Denard Robinson. The Spartans faced a similar challenge on Sept. 29 against OSU, when sophomore Braxton Miller torched the MSU defense for 136 yards rushing.

Miller and Robinson are both athletic quarterbacks who can extend plays that would otherwise end in losses, and then turn them into big gains.

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said that in order to win, his Spartans have to tackle Robinson when they get the chance.

“It’s those loose plays, when you have a guy bottled up, it’s those plays that cause you a lot of anguish,” Dantonio said.

Miller currently ranks as the nation’s sixth best rusher with 912 yards on the season. Robinson trails him with 804 yards, but the senior has played in one less game.  

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