Ohio State Jim Tressel, left, and Oregon coach Chip Kelly have their teams ready to meet in today's 96th Rose Bowl.
<Jae C. Hong / AP
West versus Midwest does not appear to present some great chasm between two divergent cultures. So can Ohio State and Oregon, who will share the same football and the same patch of grass here Friday afternoon in the Rose Bowl, be all that different?
PASADENA, Calif. - West versus Midwest does not appear to present some great chasm between two divergent cultures. So can Ohio State and Oregon, who will share the same football and the same patch of grass here this afternoon in the Rose Bowl, be all that different?
"It's contrasting styles, that's for sure, but basically it's still the same game," Ohio State senior defensive back Kurt Coleman said just before the Big Ten champion Buckeyes were sequestered while they prepped for the matchup with the Pac-10 champion Ducks.
"Teams do what they do best, and I feel like we got here by playing great defense, running our offense, and being sound on special teams. Oregon did their thing, and it obviously worked very well for them. There's a lot of different ways to get to a championship."
On the surface, it appears to be high-speed rail against the Baltimore & Ohio freight route. The Buckeyes will have to put bends in the tracks and find the air brakes to keep Oregon from turning this into a battle of express runs that Ohio State likely can not win.
"You could look at it that way - our defense has to respond to the challenge and do what nobody has really been able to do since early in the season, and that is slow the Oregon offense down," Coleman said. "We like challenges, and this is a big one."
The Ducks run a rapid-fire, no-huddle, spread-option offense. The hyphens alone can leave you a little dizzy. In its final six games of the season, Oregon scored less than 40 points just once - in a 37-33 win over rival Oregon State.
"The problems they present are schematic. They do a lot of different things and give you a lot of different looks," Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said about the Ducks.
"They attack every area on the field, there's a lot of misdirection, and they have the talent to fit the scheme. Then there is the tempo - all of a sudden it's fast and then it changes."
The Ducks had 20 scoring possessions this season of a minute-and-a-half or less. They scored 15 times on plays of 20 yards or more. When they have the football, the Ducks try to run three plays per minute.
"We want Ohio State hurrying, we want them scrambling to keep up, and we want them tired," Oregon tight end Ed Dickson said. "That's a great defense we're going up against. It's our strength moving the ball versus their strength stopping people. The faster the pace, the more it works to our advantage."
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said Oregon's offense will undoubtedly fatigue his team.
"Chasing Oregon around is going to make them tired," Tressel said. "So it's going to be a great challenge."
Tressel said the Ducks don't have a robust time of possession in each game, because of their explosiveness on offense.
"That's because they score so quickly," he said. "Where I think they're so good is that they're in concert. Their offense does what their defense needs, and their defense does what their offense needs."
Oregon coach Chip Kelly said he has looked at the Ohio State defense and wondered why it has not been a regular topic of national conversation.
"I think it's the best defense that we're going to face, and I don't know why they're underrated. They have the fifth-ranked defense in the country," Kelly said.
The Ohio State defense gave up just 12.6 points per game, with Navy scoring the most points of the year in a season-opening 31-27 loss to the Buckeyes. Ohio State had three shutouts this season, and allowed just 48 points over its final five games, including a 27-24 overtime win against Iowa that gave the Buckeyes a fifth consecutive Big Ten championship.
"They don't give up many points - that's a fact," Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli said, "and we've been scoring a lot lately. That's definitely a solid defense with not too many weaknesses. We are going to have to stick with our game plan and be able to execute."
Coleman said the Buckeyes have pushed the tempo in practice and used a number of mechanisms to try and mimic Oregon's offense and its pace. When the Ohio State defense is on the field this afternoon, and Oregon turns loose its frenetic spread, both teams will feature their strengths, and the outcome of the Rose Bowl will be determined somewhere in the middle of all that.
"We have stuck to what we do best," Coleman said. "Oregon spreads it out and does a lot of trickery, and it works well for them. They are different styles, but they each work."
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