The Buckeyes are eventually going to run into an offense that tests every aspect of their defense.
That won’t happen this weekend, of course. Ohio State hosts Iowa, which has scored just seven touchdowns offensively through six games this year. The only thing the Hawkeye offense has tested this year is Iowa fans’ patience.
But there are offenses out there that are designed to stress defenses in every way imaginable. If the Buckeyes are going to achieve their goals this season, they will eventually run into an offense that scores seven touchdowns per game, like maybe the Tennessee Volunteers.
Tennessee defeated Alabama 52-49 last weekend, compiling 567 yards of total offense against the Crimson Tide, and capturing the attention of the nation in the process.
And even capturing the attention of Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.
“I saw them, yeah,” when asked on Tuesday if he saw the Vols on Saturday. “My daughter went to Tennessee, so I sent a lot of money to Tennessee. She made me keenly aware with the ‘LFG Vols’ texts that she sent me all the time.”
Surprisingly, the game almost made him feel at home. Seeing the way the Volunteers were unrelenting on offense brought some memories back of Knowles’ days at Oklahoma State. But it also reminded him of another offense he sees every single day.
“Yeah, that is a lot of what I went against in the Big 12, right? That kind of attitude of offense,” he said. “The kind of attitude that our offense has, right? It’s like, we’re trying to score every play. I think that’s what you saw out of Tennessee. So, systematically, I really built things for that kind of offense,” he said. “And now the adjustments come in terms of more tight ends and fullbacks and those kinds of things, but it’s more of what I used to [see], what you saw on the Tennessee game.”
So far this season, the best offense the Buckeyes have faced is Toledo. The Rockets have the No. 68 total offense in the nation. Iowa is currently ranked dead last at No. 131. The rest of the schedule only gets slightly better. Penn State ranks No. 63, Northwestern ranks No. 76, Indiana ranks No. 97, Maryland ranks No. 31, and Michigan checks in at No. 22 nationally.
The Terps and the Wolverines will be the first real test for the Buckeyes this year. That is, if you don’t include the tests that they face every day in practice. Eventually, however, this Ohio State defense is going to face the likes of a Tennessee or Alabama, and the Buckeyes are going to have to show their work.
But as Knowles said, he designed his defense with those kinds of offenses in mind. Practice is not the same as a game, but Knowles is confident that what he’s seen his defense do against the Buckeye offense in practice is a solid indicator of what they’ll do when facing some of the nation’s other best offenses.
“I think it’s accurate, I do. I think that’s why I enjoy and appreciate every chance we get to go against our offense,” he said. “And we make those cut-ups against our offense in terms of teaching because it is what we’re gonna face. So I think it’s really accurate. You get a judgment. I’m pretty hard on them when we go against our offense, where other guys might just be like, ‘well, we’re just kind of getting speed of the game,’ but I think it’s very important how we do against our own guys because that is the best offense in the country.”