Ask the Oregon State football offensive coaches and players about facing No. 5 Ohio State’s defense and it’s obvious they understand just what they are up against in Saturday’s season opener.
“Very impressed,” offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren said. “They are probably one of the best defenses I’ve ever seen on tape. They’re really active up front and they’ve got some first-round draft picks up front, talented secondary and the linebackers run and tackle.”
While Lindgren’s assessment is true, it all starts with defensive lineman Nick Bosa, who is expected to be a top draft pick in April.
Ohio State’s 6-foot-4, 263-pound junior had a team-high 8½ sacks for 61 yards and ended with 16 total tackles for loss.
“They’ve got a lot of good guys,” offensive line coach Jim Michalczik said. “Nick’s a really complete player. When you watch guys, you look at their moves and how they rush the passer is the No. 1 big thing. That’s where you get the one-on-one battles. He’s a complete player, he’s got a lot of different things and he can expose you pretty quick.”
Trying to minimize Bosa’s impact on a game is difficult enough, but the Beavers will try to do it on the road in the opener.
“As if it were difficult enough to block him, you’ve got to do it in the Horseshoe in front of 100,000 people that are yelling,” Lindgren said. “It’s going to be a tough environment to play in, one of the toughest in college football, Game 1, there’s always a little bit of that issue.”
Lindgren said Ohio State’s defense compares to the Michigan one his Colorado Buffaloes faced in 2016 in the Big House.
Colorado went into that game with the mindset of playing loose with nothing to lose and the Buffaloes jumped out to a 21-7 lead after the first quarter before falling 45-28.
“It’s going to be an enormous challenge for all of us but I’m excited,” Lindgren said. “I think it will be a great opportunity for us and I look forward to watching our kids go compete in that venue.”
The challenge may seem to be a bit daunting for a young Beavers’ team.
“Obviously they’re a really good team,” left tackle Blake Brandel said. “It’s Ohio State. I have a lot of respect for their D-line but we just have to trust our technique, trust our assignments and keep this guy off the ground and we’ll be good.”
With so much attention, Bosa expects to get some double teams, especially early in the season.
“With all the hype people are making of me, right off the bat I’ll probably get the double teams and the chips and stuff like that,” Bosa said. “But once Chase (Young) is coming off the other edge and Dre’Mont (Jones) is on the other side rushing three tech, if they slide to me it’s going to be a sack on the other side.”
Bosa has plenty of confidence in his fellow defensive linemen. They talked in the spring about being better than last season even with some key losses off the line last season.
“Third down is going to be scary,” he said. “We just have so many guys who we can change up and throw in there with speed. It’s going to be tough. It’s tough for our O-line so I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like for others.”
Bosa said he has gotten faster and refined his moves heading into this season.
“It’s just the same stuff, just a little bit quicker, little bit stronger and a little bit smarter,” he said.
The Buckeyes have a chip on their shoulder with all the off-the-field issues that have taken place since the start of camp.
“Hate always drives you,” Bosa said. “And when people are hating, you just want to prove them wrong even more.”