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Analyzing the Rose Bowl’s burning questions

Andy Gottesman / The Lantern

1. How will quarterback Terrelle Pryor be used, and how effective will he be?

The better question might be, will he have an opportunity to?

Pryor fought through an ankle injury for the majority of the second half of the season, and coach Jim Tressel compensated for his hampered mobility by calling more rushing plays. Pryor attempted 17 passes in each of Ohio State’s last three games, victories over Penn State, Iowa and Michigan. In those contests, the Bucks ran the ball 49, 51 and 53 times, respectively.

Now, Pryor revealed that he has been suffering through a torn ligament in his knee, though both he and Tressel have firmly maintained that the injury won’t limit him Friday.

“He’s very healthy,” Tressel told the media Thursday. “He can move around very, very well.”

Centering on the ground game certainly benefitted the Buckeye offense, however. The team rushed for at least 225 yards in each of its last five contests, all wins. Pryor, who threw just four interceptions during his freshman campaign, tossed nine in the first eight games this season.

But ever since the Bucks reverted to a run-heavy attack, Pryor has committed just one turnover in four contests.

Pryor has apparently cleaned up his mechanics after a sloppy start to the season, with help from a dependable rushing attack. Whether or not he will be asked to carry more of the offensive burden lies within Tressel’s trust of his progressing quarterback.

2. Can the Buckeyes slow down an up-tempo Oregon offense?

The Ducks posted 37.7 points per game during the regular season, even after being limited to eight points in a season-opening loss at Boise State.

While the Buckeyes tend to methodically inch toward the end zone, the Ducks rarely waste any time putting points on the board.

In its 47-20 victory over USC on Oct. 31, Oregon recorded three drives covering 80 or more yards. Each series resulted in a touchdown, and each lasted fewer than three minutes.

When the Ducks piled up 42 points in a Nov. 7 loss to Stanford, they continuously struck immediately. Oregon scored a touchdown at the end of a 93-yard drive that lasted just one minute and 16 seconds. The Ducks scored five touchdowns following that lengthy drive, the five drives lasting eight seconds, two minutes and 43 seconds, one minute and 46 seconds, two minutes and 43 seconds and 52 seconds, respectively. That’s six touchdowns in eight minutes and 59 seconds. In the longest of the six drives, which persisted for two minutes and 43 seconds, the Ducks squeezed in 12 plays.

Clearly, the Oregon offense moves rapidly and effectively.

Still, Tressel believes that if necessary, Oregon could sustain a lengthy drive just as successfully.

“All you have to do is go back to their last game [against Oregon State], and they needed to keep the ball for five or six minutes,” Tressel said. “They can possess the ball if they’d like. And in that case, the game ended where I don’t think Oregon State got another chance with the ball.”

 

3. Will Ohio State suffer from the absences of Ray Small, Duron Carter and Rob Rose?

“We are definitely going to miss them,” receiver DeVier Posey said. “But we still have a game. I love those guys to death, I miss them on the trip, but we still have to play.”

The trio were suspended for the Rose Bowly. Small and Carter, the team’s No. 3 and No. 4 receivers, respectively, during the regular season, only combined for 28 catches. In their place, Lamaar Thomas and Taurian Washington, both frustrated about their lack of playing time, will see the field.

“They got an opportunity now and they’ll show up,” Pryor said about his new set of weapons on offense. “They’ll catch the ball.”

Along the defensive line, the Buckeyes have plenty of bodies to rotate in to replace Rose’s production. Defensive tackle Dexter Larimore will return from a knee injury, and defensive coordinator Jim Heacock can substitute a number of players at the end position, where Rose typically lines up.

“We got [Defensive lineman] Garrett [Goebel] stepping up and Johnny [John Simon] is playing a little end,” senior defensive end Lawrence Wilson said. “We got guys stepping up and filling in [Rose’s] place. We should be fine at the end spot.”

 

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