Friday, September 21, 2012


TBT/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell
COLUMBUS — If you ever get an opportunity to spend much time around Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, you will discover fairly quickly that he enjoys being in the presence of an average football team about as much as a field mouse likes being in the company of a hungry honey badger.

Perhaps that's what makes him a great coach. He is the type who expects to have the headset off at half time, not sweating out victories against inferior opponents.

"We're an average football team right now," Meyer said of his 16th-ranked Buckeyes, who are currently 3-0 on the season. "At times we're playing fairly well. I like our guys, I like our team. I like the fact that we have faced adversity.

"But I'm ready to have some non adversity games."

If numbers truly don't lie, the Buckeyes will be in for one of those "non adversity games" this Saturday when they host the University of Alabama-Birmingham (0-2), a team which has given up an FBS-high 44 points per contest this season.

Of course, Meyer and the Buckeyes aren't looking at the matchup against UAB as a tune-up for the conference opener next week at Michigan State. They are preparing as if the Blazers are from Tuscaloosa — not Birmingham.

"I see guys walking around here, loading up their iPads and they understand the seriousness of where they're at right now," Meyer said. "We're attacking this one.

"We understand there are good athletes on that team. They had a tough game themselves. But we have to find a way to get to 4-0. That has to happen."

Offensively, the Blazers have had their struggles through the first two games of the season. They have averaged just 363 yards per game as a team — just 34 more per contest than Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller has compiled this year. 

The Blazers have gained just 161 yards on the ground in 2012 — 80.5 per game (117th).  

However, the Buckeyes' defense has been surrendering big play after big play through the first three weeks of the season. In their 35-28 win over California last week, the Buckeyes gave up scores of 81 and 59 yards.

Meyer stated that he can't recall an Ohio State defense ever giving up more long yardage plays than this year's team. In fact, he said that if the Buckeyes don't shore up the issues, they will not remain unbeaten for long.

"A good piece of it is poor tackling," Meyer said. "That's not acceptable. That is the most alarming thing. I can't remember an Ohio State defense — I've watched them for a long time — I can't remember the defense that I've been around that's given up this many (big plays). 

"We've got to stop or we'll lose a game."

On the other side of the football, the Buckeyes have countered the defensive woes by making big plays of their own. They have recorded nine plays this season of more than 30 yards, including three for 72, 65 and 55 — all scores.

However, most of the big plays have come from Miller and wide receiver Devin Smith. Meyer said it's imperative that others step up as well.

"We're trying to figure out who can touch the ball and take it a little bit ... " Meyer said. "We need to see some highlight reels from some players other than Braxton Miller and Devin."

Bottom Line

Even if the Buckeyes play "average" football, it still won't be enough for the Blazers to keep the final score within 40. 

The Blazers possess one of the worst defenses in the country. There's just no other way to say it. They have surrendered 477 yards per game (104th in FBS), including 220.5 on the ground (109th). 

That certainly doesn't bode well when facing the human video game Miller.

Look for the Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback to have another eye-popping performance, as the Buckeyes take the Blazers to the woodshed for their fourth win of the season.

Prediction: OSU 56-7