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First Team To 50: Why Toledo Is A Trap Game For The Buckeyes

Tim Cary

Everyone in Ohio is talking about the wrong game this week.

Buckeyes fans can't get over a heartbreaking loss to USC, spending their spare time discussing Jim Tressel's game management, conservative style, offensive scheme, and in some extreme cases, the names of suitable replacements.

I'd suggest moving on...pronto.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Ohio State

Mostly because Ohio State will have its hands full again this weekend with the surprising Toledo Rockets and their high-powered offense.

The teams are meeting in Cleveland Browns Stadium Saturday afternoon, and if there's one certainty about the matchup, it's that the scoreboard operator will get a workout.  Most likely, the first team to score fifty will win this track meet.

In case you haven't heard about Toledo's offense yet, let me lay out some of the staggering numbers for you.

The Rockets scored 31 points against Purdue in Week One, then followed that up by hanging 54 on Colorado last Friday.  That makes Toledo the only team in the country to score at least 80 total points while playing a pair of BCS-conference schools.  

Quarterback Aaron Opelt, a four-year starter for the Rockets, is the dual threat that makes the offense tick.  Against the Boilermakers, Opelt attempted a whopping 67 passes...but he rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns the following week.

Although Toledo's 54-point outburst against Colorado surprised many experts, the Rockets were actually playing SHORTHANDED on the offensive side of the ball.  Toledo didn't get a single catch from injured senior wide receiver Stephen Williams, the star who merely led the team with 15 grabs for 185 yards and two touchdowns in the Rockets' opener.  He should be ready to go this weekend against the Bucks.

Convinced yet?  Just wait.  

There's another Williams that the Buckeyes should worry about.  That would be Morgan Williams, Toledo's sophomore running back that was suspended for the first two games.  The Rockets' leading rusher a year ago has big-time talent - he racked up a school-record 330 rushing yards against Miami (Ohio) in 2008.  Let that soak in for a second...what other team in the country could average 42.5 ppg against a pair of BCS schools without their best running back?

The trick to stopping Toledo's offense is making them one-dimensional and forcing crucial turnovers; that's how Purdue posted a 52-31 win.  In addition to taking away the Rockets' rushing attack, the Boilermakers forced a trio of turnovers and converted them into points.  

The question this weekend in Cleveland is if the Buckeyes can do the same.  With Morgan Williams reinstated, Opelt showing he can be a 100-yard rusher, and DaJuane Collins (who had 160 yards against Colorado) all in the backfield, rookie head coach Tim Beckman has plenty of ball-carrying weapons at his disposal to keep the offensive play-calling balanced.

Speaking of weapons, Toledo has a freshman wide receiver named Eric Page that could create nightmares for Ohio State.  Page set a school freshman-record with 12 catches for 128 yards in his very first game, and followed that up with 138 receiving yards in Week Two when Williams was injured.   With Page and Williams playing together, the Buckeyes' secondary will have a stiff challenge trying to slow down both wideouts.

Opelt...Williams...Collins...Page... the other Williams...Toledo's attack is a classic case of "pick-your-poison".  Any fan, player, or coach that overlooks the Rockets simply because they're a MAC team is just being na├»ve...and probably needs to have a quick friendly discussion with the folks in East Lansing.

Now, all of the Rockets' offensive firepower doesn't necessarily mean Toledo can beat the Buckeyes.  Notice we haven't discussed Coach Beckman's defense at all..mainly because there isn't much defense to speak of.  

Toledo has given up an average of 45 points per game so far, and outside of safety Barry Church (who could become the school's only four-time First-Team All-MAC defensive player), the talent level on that side of the ball isn't up to par.  

Can you say "shootout"?  Terrelle Pryor and the Buckeyes' offense will need to have a big day on the ground and through the air for Ohio State to get past the pesky Rockets.  When the past week here has been spent vilifying the OSU offensive attack, that's not a comforting thought for scarlet and gray supporters.

USC v Ohio State

Jim Tressel and his players have spent a lot of time answering questions about their program, their identity, their game-planning, and their failure to beat the country's elite teams.

If they haven't spent as much time focusing on their upcoming in-state opponent as a result, it will show in Cleveland Saturday afternoon.

First team to 50 wins.  Gentlemen, start your offenses.



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