Thursday, September 5, 2013

GAME PREVIEW: BUCKEYES TRY NOT TO 'DISAPPOINT' VS. AZTECS

(AP photo)
COLUMBUS — There were moments during Saturday's season opener against Buffalo where Ohio State (1-0) certainly looked like the second-best team in the nation, scoring and generating yardage as if they were playing in a video game against "rookie-mode" competition.

At other times, the Buckeyes didn't look like they could be the second-best team in the Ohio Athletic Conference.

The Buckeyes came out in the first quarter and put up 23 unanswered points and more than 200 yards of offense, behind the arm of junior quarterback Braxton Miller and the legs of senior tailback Jordan Hall.

However, the following two quarters for the Buckeyes were riddled with mistakes, sloppy execution and an apparent lack of enthusiasm — being outscored, out-gained and outplayed by the inferior Bulls in the second and third quarters of play.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, who is 13-0 as the mentor of the Buckeyes' football team, said he envisioned a much different performance coming into the game, expecting four quarters of dominance from his troops — not one-and-a-half.

"I want to score every time we touch the ball," Meyer said Monday during his weekly media luncheon in Columbus. "I'm disappointed if we don't score.

"We have some talented guys. Our coaching staff has been together and we should have been better. We came out of the gate the way I kind of envisioned, and we finished the game kind of like I imagined we would, too ...

"I think we graded very average for this game."

This week, the Buckeyes host San Diego State (3:30 p.m., ABC), a team coming off a shocking upset loss to Eastern Illinois out of the FCS.

The Aztecs (0-1) were beaten by three touchdowns in the opener, and do not appear to be a team that would command the attention of the second-ranked team in the country.

But Meyer said trying to find motivation shouldn't be hard this week because of the "average" performance against Buffalo. Simply said, nobody is talking up the Bucks this time around.

"I think complacency is certainly not a problem this week," Meyer said. "There's been times where you smoke a team and then all of a sudden, you're going on Tuesday and you start trying to get after them and they are looking at you because they have just been told how great they are.

"It's a great opportunity for us to coach them hard and get better Tuesday and Wednesday."

A place where the Buckeyes need to improve greatly this week is on the offensive front, especially on the right side. They were exposed by the Buffalo outside rushers last week, most notably Khalil Mack, who finished with a game-high eight tackles, 2.5 sacks and a 45-yard interception for a touchdown.

"Well, we got beat a couple times and it gets exposed," Meyer said. "You just can't get exposed.

"The player they had (Mack), his stock in the draft just went up a little bit after playing against us. He did a very good job. He manhandled some guys and did a good job. So whenever that happens, what do you do? You go back to your fundamentals and keep working and keep grinding. 

"I have the utmost confidence in our offensive line ... but give credit where credit is due. There was issues, and the biggest issue is a fantastic football player that I mean, he could play anywhere at any school in America."

If the Buckeyes are to live up to the high preseason expectations, the right side of the offensive front must be shore up this week in practice.

Bottom Line

The Buckeyes will be looking to expose an Aztec defense which gave up 533 yards to Eastern Illinois last week, including 361 yards and three scores through the air.

Ohio State must generate more yards and big plays in the passing game this week than they did in the opener. Miller began the game on fire against the Bulls, going 7-of-8 passing for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter alone.

However, the remaining three quarters saw Miller go 8-of-14 for just 61 yards, no scores and an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Miller will surely be determined to get back to his Heisman form in the Buckeyes' second outing.

Also, with the return of All-American cornerback Bradley Roby (suspension) and senior safety C.J. Barnett (injury) to the secondary, the Buckeyes should be more stout against the pass this Saturday, after surrendering two scores in the air against Buffalo.

Ohio State will not "disappoint" this week. The Buckeyes will dominate the visiting Aztecs the way the second-best team in the nation should ... even if they are No. 3 now.

Lee's Prediction: OSU 63-17