Friday, September 14, 2012

GAME PREVIEW: BUCKEYES LOOK TO HOLD OFF UPSET-MINDED BEARS

David Perkins, left, and Devan Bogard
TBT/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell
COLUMBUS — Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller has been ripping opposing defenses apart this season with his dual-threat capabilities, racking up 664 yards of offense and seven touchdowns in just two outings.

This Saturday, the star sophomore should be licking his chops, as the 12th-ranked Buckeyes host California (1-1) — a squad who has had major issues containing athletic signal callers in 2012.

In their season opener against Nevada, Cal was throttled by Wolf Pack quarterback Cody Fajardo, who recorded 327 yards and a score in their 31-24 upset win over the Bears in Berkley.

Cal head coach Jeff Tedford stated that Miller and Fajardo are quite alike.

"Not a lot different," Tedford said. "Miller is athletic, he's fast, and very physical as well."

Not to mock Tedford's comparison, but stating that Miller and Fajardo are "not a lot different," is like saying there's not much different between playing Magic Mountain Putt-Putt and Bethpage Black. The former is challenging ... the latter will make you rip your hair out and ponder quitting the game.

Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer admits that he has watched a lot of film of the Bears' loss to Nevada — being that the offensive schemes of OSU and the Wolf Pack share a lot of similarities.

"Nevada's a really well-coached team, good players," Meyer said. "They do run similar schemes and so we are learning from that. We also studied Oregon the last few years. One year (Cal) defended really good, I think it was 15-13. They won, so we're really studying that.

"When you see a team have success running similar type plays, you have to kind of get ahead of their defensive coach and say, 'what adjustments will they make?' Nevada did execute at a very high level ... and with a little lesser talent than Cal had."

The Buckeyes' coach noted that the Bears run an unorthodox style of defense and states that with the inexperience on his offense, he has a little concern about how his troops will react come Saturday.

"Very unusual defense," Meyer said of Cal. "They run like a bear — which is a 46 — where they play the nose and then two, three ends. It's a very unusual defense. Very good players. They led the Pac-12 a year ago on defense.

"It's an unorthodox style of defense. Our guys right now were put in a new system. We made errors against a very traditional defense last week, very traditional.

"My concern is making sure we have a tight enough package because sometimes there's a lot of rule breakers, so we have to really tighten it down. If you have a big veteran group that's done this for three or four years, then go. But this is not that kind of group."

Defensively, the Buckeyes have been challenged in the first two weeks of the season, allowing an uncharacteristic amount of big plays to the opposition. Meyer said it has to begin with the pass rush — something that's been nonexistent thus far for the Buckeyes.

The Buckeyes defense will be facing a formidable three-year starting quarterback in Zach Maynard (34-of-53, 474 yards, 3 TD, INT) and one of the top pass catchers in America in wide receiver Keenan Allen.

Meyer said this week that Allen — who had 98 receptions for 1,343 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore in 2011 — may be the best receiver the Buckeyes will face all season long.

The OSU defense must play more disciplined in the secondary this week if they hope to prevent Allen and the Bears from hitting the dreaded big plays.

Bottom Line

No matter how untraditional the Bears' defense can be, the fact is, they have been extremely porous this season, allowing 31 points and 410.5 yards per game — including 149.5 per contest on the ground (71st in FBS).

Miller may surpass that season average himself.

Look for the Buckeyes' defense to tighten the screws, while Miller powers the offense to another multiple-touchdown victory.

Prediction: OSU 48-14