|Welcome to tBBC’s inaugural football game preview for the 2013 season. We plan to do these each week right up through the National Championship Game. Yes, we are an optimistic group this season.The format of the series will generally be: “Introduction” (some comments in general to set the context for that week’s opponent), “Ohio State on Offense” (my thoughts on OSU’s match-up against opposing defense), “Ohio State on Defense” (my thoughts on OSU’s match-up against opposing offense) and “Wrap Up” (a catch all for any other thoughts/comments and how I see the game playing out).This week’s comments will be a bit longer than usual, since the Bulls are the “name” NCAA team here in Buffalo. And, my wife and I live 4 miles from their stadium, so that’s pretty local.|
Ohio State opens up the 2013 season against a Mid-American Conference member by hosting “The State University of New York at Buffalo” Bulls. Evidently their new Athletic Director sees fit, in an effort of rebranding, to come up with this unwieldy name. For the remainder of the article, I‘ll refer to them as either “University of Buffalo”, Bulls or UB.
In 2012, the Bulls, finished 4th in the MAC East (3-4, 4-8). Under 4th year coach Jeff Quinn have made small, incremental improvements in its results since Quinn’s arrival. The Bulls made a late season quarterback change (more below) and finished the season winning 3 of their last 4 games to end the season on a bit of an up note.
Despite the woeful records of previous years, there is a high level of energy and interest in the UB football program this year. Since I’m been in Buffalo, this is the highest level of coverage the team has received from the local newspaper, The Buffalo News. Their sports staff is doing a great job with coverage, and hopefully will generate more community enthusiasm.
A few days ago, a friend of mine asked if Ohio State’s suspension of their top two RB’s would have any effect on the game. I told him, “Probably not”. The Buckeyes bring a wealth of talent at the skill positions into this game. After averaging 37 points per game last year, I expect it to improve in 2013, and this week’s game is a good place to start.
The Bulls, under Defensive Coordinator Lou Tepper (remember him from Illinois?) finished 2nd in the MAC in total defense in 2012, allowing 364 YPG, utilizing a base 3-3 alignment. They bring an experienced, ball-hawking Secondary (4th in MAC, 13 interceptions) to Columbus, led by DB’s Naija Johnson (1st in MAC, 5 INT’s) and Cortney Lester (2nd in MAC, 4 INTs).
The key to UB’s defense is Senior LB Khalil Mack (6’3”, 248) who is on the watch lists for the Butkus, Chuck Bednarik and Lombardi Awards and the Nagurski Trophy. This young man is the real deal. Here is a highlight clip and interview, from a year ago:
Fortunately for Ohio State, one of the team’s strengths is its offensive line. And depth, both at line and at running back. The Buckeyes are in a position to roll in fresh, talented players as often as needed on Saturday. This will be a game of attrition.
I’m a bit less concerned about UB’s offensive match up against OSU. The Bulls will start sophomore QB Joe Licata, who engineered the late season surge last year, and behind him are some pretty good RB’s; Brandon Oliver (5’8”, 208) and Youngstown OH native Devin Campbell (5’11”, 205). Although he missed 5 games last year, Oliver still rushed for over 800 yards, so he knows how to run. Notice his patience and low running style.
One interesting match-up will be the line play. The Bulls return quality experience at C, LG and LT, but the right side is “under construction”. The Buckeyes bring inexperience, in terms of game-time, but impressive talent across their D-line and LB’s. I’m guessing that when UB gets in a “must have” running situation, they run to their experienced, their left side. I’m also guessing that Ryan Shazier will be locked on Brandon Oliver. He’d better be.
The Bulls may find some early success with their passing game. Licata has limited, but big game experience under his belt, and he has three really capable targets in WR Alex Neutz (6’3” 205) and TE’s Jimmy Gordon (6’5”, 255) and Mason Schreck (6’5”, 229). With Schreck, think Jake Stoneburner type of player. Alex Neutz is on the Biletnikoff watch list, so he brings skills and performance to the game. Don’t be surprised if we see some double tight end formations, or some plays with Schreck as a wide out. With this set of receivers, OSU’s red zone defense could be interesting.
I expect that the Bulls will come out fired up, ready to earn their million dollar payday and possibly make a statement regarding themselves for this season. I expect the Buckeyes to need a couple offensive series to get synchronized to appropriate game speed. I expect this to be well in hand by halftime. As a local, there are really a lot of things to like about this UB team, and I think they’ll do well in the MAC in 2013, but at some point on Saturday the talent differential will show. To be honest, if the Buckeyes were coached by any of several previous coaches, I’d by mildly concerned that the game would be “closer than expected/wanted”. With Meyer at the helm, I don’t have that issue. I think he has OSU playing at a different level of aggressiveness and tempo that what we’re used to seeing.
According to Certain Professionals, for informational purposes only, Ohio State is favored by 36 points and the O/U is 55.5. Thus the CP’s expect this game to end up in the vicinity of 46-10, or so. I hope they’re right. I think OSU will begin to dominate sometime in the 2nd quarter and build momentum from there. The only thing that I see will keep it closer is if Meyer decides to pull the plug early and give 2nd and 3rd teamers substantial game time.
On a related note, the Bulls’ stadium seats 29,000 and last year the attendance averaged 13,246. Yes, you read both of those numbers correctly. Playing in front of over 105,000 fans, most of whom will not be supportive, will be a very different experience for the Bulls.
Bonus Trivia: According to our neighbor, while both were in high school, UB’s quarterback was her younger daughter’s boyfriend. It’s his loss, on both accounts.