Saturday, September 27, 2014

BUCKEYES' DEFENSE MUST RISE TO CHALLENGE VS. KIEL, BEARCATS

COLUMBUS — With one quarter of the 2014 season in the rearview, the 22nd-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes have not played at the standard they have become accustomed to, especially under third-year head coach Urban Meyer.

Many will point out the Buckeyes (2-1) are starting a freshman quarterback, a revamped offensive line, and a defensive back seven with very little college football experience.

One person who will not point out those facts, however, is Meyer. 

"I hope you guys feel we are not a big excuse program," Meyer said Monday during his weekly media luncheon in Columbus. "We don't blame. I try to never go there. I warn our staff, I hear that when I say 'how are our players doing?' Well, we have a new quarterback. No you don't. He's a veteran player now. We try not to go there. 

"I don't read or listen to a lot of stuff, but if Jerry says Coach Herman or Coach so and so is making a lot of excuses for lack of experience, then I'll sit with that coach. I've never really had to do that. I think those are long gone. If it's coming, it's certainly not coming from this building."

After struggling in the season opener against Navy, and then losing to a less-than-stellar Virginia Tech squad in the second game, the Buckeyes took out their frustrations against an inferior Kent State team that put up about as much resistance as a middle school program taking on the Seattle Seahawks.

This Saturday evening (6 p.m. BTN), the Buckeyes will have a much stiffer challenge on their hands, as they host unbeaten Cincinnati (2-0) — and their ultra-talented quarterback, Gunner Kiel.

Kiel, the nation's top QB prospect coming out of high school in 2012, has come into his own this season for the Bearcats, throwing for 689 yards and 10 touchdowns in just two outings thus far.

The sophomore signal caller out of Indiana will be the greatest test to a defense which has struggled mightily this season — minus the junior high scrimmage against Kent State.

"I see a strong guy, he looks big," Meyer said of Kiel. "Big, strong arm, courageous player that throws into the oncoming pass rush. 

"I see one of the top quarterbacks in the country."

It isn't just Kiel that the Buckeye defense will have to contend with on Saturday evening in Columbus. The Bearcat skill players are as good a unit as they will face all season long.

Junior receivers Mekale McKay (12 rec., 215 yards, 3TD) and Shaq Washington (11 rec., 125 yards, 1TD) give Kiel and the 'Cats a one-two punch on the perimeter that will keep the struggling Buckeye secondary from getting much sleep in the days ahead.

"Like most really good quarterbacks, he has really good personnel around him, really good," Meyer said of the Bearcat receivers. "The one thing that I remember (UC head coach) Tommy Tuberville saying is that they're the best group of receivers he's ever coached.

"That struck a chord with me because I know what he's coached, some good teams and good players. So we have to be at our best Saturday."

Bottom Line

The Buckeyes defense possesses a ton of potential. But as Bill Parcells would say ... "Potential just means you haven't done anything yet."

In order for the Buckeyes to come out victorious on Saturday evening, that potential needs to morph into production. They need to stifle the Bearcats' attack, because the Buckeye offense just isn't experienced enough right now to win a shootout.

I know Coach Meyer doesn't like excuses, but it's the reality they are facing right now in Columbus.

The outcome of this game will be dictated by the play of the OSU defense, most especially the secondary.

From what I've witnessed over the first quarter of the season, that doesn't bode well for the Scarlet & Gray.

Lee's Prediction: Cincinnati 31-24