Thursday, November 15, 2012
Picks to click: Bucks to watch vs. Badgers
By Austin Ward
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A look at three Ohio State players who will be critical as the program prepares to hit the road and take on Wisconsin with a chance to clinch a division title on Saturday at Camp Randall (TV: ABC, 3:30 p.m.).
Ohio state senior defensive lineman John Simon will look to pad his sack total this week against third-string Wisconsin quarterback Curt Phillips.
The basics: The senior defensive lineman is obviously going to play a critical role in stopping a high-powered rushing attack, but his biggest chance to potentially swing the outcome could come when Wisconsin elects to pass. Simon has just missed on some big opportunities to pad his sack totals, but even when he hasn’t got individual credit, he’s still been making critical contributions with his tireless effort chasing the quarterback.
By the numbers: The career record at Ohio State was always going to be a long shot heading into his senior season, but Simon certainly could have used a conference title game and a bowl appearance to continue his climb up the charts. Heading into his last two outings with the Buckeyes, Simon already has 39 tackles for loss on his resume -- and if he can find a way to produce 6.5 more, he’ll finish in the top-five all-time for the program.
Opportunity for impact: While there isn’t much film to work off for the two-time captain, the Buckeyes have seen some mobility in third-string Wisconsin quarterback Curt Phillips -- and that could work in Simon’s favor. Since shaking off some nagging injuries, Simon has been increasingly difficult to block, and when passers have tried to extend plays out of the pocket, linemen have had even less success keeping him from breaking loose and delivering a hit or forcing a bad decision. If Simon can continue that trend, the secondary could see some benefits against an inexperienced passer.
He said it: “Their strength is their run game and their power game, and that’s what they do best. It’s our job to stop that, and their quarterback is still a very good quarterback, makes plays for them. He’s definitely a threat to us, too, but if we can stop that run, that will be big for us.” -- Simon
The basics: With one exception, the Buckeyes have consistently been able to count on the junior to be something of a third wheel for the spread offense. That number is also significant since Brown has got involved with at least three catches in every game aside from his shutout at Penn State. It was his fourth and final grab against Illinois, though, that has the Buckeyes more convinced than ever that he can be a weapon in the open field after his 37-yard, catch-and-run touchdown.
By the numbers: The two guys in the backfield have a clear edge over Brown on the all-purpose yardage scoreboard, but that’s not from lack of effort. The perimeter playmaker has averaged 71.8 yards per game thanks to his rushing, receiving and returning work -- which has bumped his career mark up significantly after coming into the year with just 441 yards.
Opportunity for impact: The Buckeyes found success on the ground even against the best units they’ve faced this season, but they surely won’t be able to count on that alone against the stingy Badgers and their conference-leading rush defense. Wisconsin can still pose problems with its defense against the pass, but it hasn’t been nearly as consistent when the ball is in the air and ranks just No. 7 in the Big Ten in that department. Brown should again see some chances to get the offense moving, and his involvement could be critical in opening some others for Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde on the ground.
He said it: “I mean, Ohio State, we should be better than we are. But his development, we should have four guys like [Brown]. We should have four guys that can take a curl, make a guy miss and accelerate away from people.” -- coach Urban Meyer
The basics: Maybe the sophomore isn’t a finished product, but the work in progress at linebacker is still pretty impressive. If not for the bye, Shazier might have been on the way to winning his third consecutive conference defensive player of the week award last weekend given the streak he’s on making tackles from sideline to sideline while continuing to get his hands on the football in some form at least once per game.
By the numbers: Shazier is only two tackles shy of 100 for the season, though he’s got several other numbers that might be more impressive. Here’s just one that sum up his versatility -- with two games left, he’s already in double-digits in both tackles for a loss and passes broken up, the only player in the Big Ten who can make that claim.
Opportunity for impact: The top priority for the Buckeyes is stuffing the run, and Shazier is certainly going to play an integral role in that as he comes up from the second level looking to make tackles in the backfield. He might have more opportunities to do that with senior Etienne Sabino expected to return to the starting lineup, a boost that would allow the Buckeyes to line up more in their base 4-3 defense with Zach Boren at middle linebacker and perhaps free up Shazier to roam around in search of the football.
He said it: “I still have a lot of room to grow. I didn’t really play a good game [against Illinois]. It might not have shown with the stats and everything, but I really didn’t play that good.” -- Shazier after earning his second consecutive Big Ten defensive player of the week award