Wednesday, September 11, 2013

GAME PREVIEW: NO. 4 BUCKEYES TRY TO REMAIN PERFECT AS CAL AWAITS

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COLUMBUS — When Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller left the game on the opening series of last week's tilt against San Diego State with a knee injury (sprain), those on hand at Ohio Stadium simultaneously suffered from a case of atrial fibrillation.

Of course, Buckeyes backup signal caller — and captain — Kenny Guiton played the role of defibrillator, injecting electricity into the hearts of Buckeye Nation, leading the hosts to a 42-7 rout of the Aztecs.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said he is not surprised that Guiton answered the call with vigor.

"To have our quarterback go down early in the game on that first drive was a blow, but our team responded," Meyer said Monday during his weekly media luncheon in Columbus. "It's an incredible case study. Arguably one of the greatest that I've been around as far as your backup quarterback being elected captain. I think that would be, once again, an interesting case study.

"I wonder how many times that's happened, the backup quarterback is elected captain, and there's no real surprise internally; maybe externally it is, but internally he was one of the leading vote getters. 

"There's a lot of respect for Kenny Guiton about everything; the way he handles his business, and where he's come from, once again, an incredible case study what Kenny has done for this program in our brief tenure here."

But let's face it, he isn't Braxton Miller, and Meyer knows it. That's why there will be no quarterback controversy when the Buckeyes travel to Berkeley this Saturday to take on the high-octane California Golden Bears (1-1).

"If he's healthy to play and play like Braxton plays, he'll certainly go," Meyer said. "We are not saving him or holding back. It will take everything we've got to win this game."

Last season against Cal at Ohio Stadium, it took some late-game heroics by Miller to take down the visiting Bears, as the athletic Buckeye signal caller scrambled away from intense pressure to hit receiver Devin Smith deep down field for a 72-yard touchdown pass and the seven-point victory.

The Buckeyes may need some more of that Miller magic this Saturday, because unlike OSU's prior two opponents, Cal can keep pace offensively with Ohio State — just as they did a season ago.

In fact, the Bears — under new head coach Sonny Dykes — have shown even more offensive firepower this season, leading the nation in passing yardage through the first two weeks of the 2013 campaign.

OSU co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers said the Golden Bears — who nearly upset the Buckeyes last season behind 512 yards of offense — are a whole new animal this time around. A more dangerous animal at that.

"Different offense that we are playing, and I think different personnel and different scheme," Withers said of Cal. "I think this offense is totally different than last year's offense. You know, I think Coach Dykes is more of the fast-paced, get the ball out quick type offense, so we have to have a little bit different plan than last year's plan. 

"So I think it's different, I mean, obviously I don't think we even looked at last year's tape."

Bottom Line

Points are going to be scored in this one.

It just all depends on whether Miller will be able to shake of the knee injury to regain his Heisman-like form. Again, unlike their first two opponents — Buffalo and San Diego State — Cal has the ability to put enough points on the scoreboard to actually come away with a victory.

They nearly pulled it out last season in Columbus before Miller flexed his muscle in the waning moments to claim victory.

I don't think Miller will be needed for such late-game heroics this time around, but will be greatly needed nonetheless.

Lee's prediction: OSU 45-27