The #4 Ohio State Buckeyes (7-0, 3-0) host the Penn State Nittany Lions (4-2, 1-1) for a Saturday evening game in Columbus.
After winning the first two games of the season, the Nits have alternated L’s with W’s, with their last game an exciting 43-40 win over TTUN two weeks ago. Penn State had a bye week to recover from that game and to prepare for this week’s contest.
This is Coach Bill O’Brien’s (BOB) 2nd year, and he seems to be continuing last year’s success (8-4) under challenging coaching conditions. Although the Lions feature Thunder (Zack Zwinak, 6’1” 240) and Lightning (Bill Belton, 5’10” 205) as their running backs, freshman QB Christian Hackenberg truly leads this offense. Hackenberg is averaging 284 YPG (3rd in B1G) on 26 attempts per game.
His key receiver is junior WR Allen Robinson (43 rec, 16.5 YPC, 5 TD). Robinson is 6’3” and 210 pounds. That presents some physical match up challenges. As you may guess, PSU throws to their TE’s quite a bit, with the 6’7” Jesse James and 6’3” Kyle Carter being the main targets.
Historically, Penn State’s offense has averaged slightly more yards passing than rushing. Not under BOB. In the past season and a half, PSU is running a yardage ratio of 65/35 in favor of passing. This is not your Pa’s Penn State offense by any means.
Meanwhile, Ohio State is coming off a 2nd half will-imposing win against Iowa. It was a return to 2012, as Miller and Hyde carried the running game with 42 carries for 251 yards between them.
Ohio State on Offense Read More
The #4/3 Buckeyes (6-0, 2-0) host the Fightin’ Ferentzs’ of Iowa (4-2, 1-1) for an afternoon game in Columbus on Saturday. Up until a couple years ago, I always considered this a match-up of two teams with similar philosophies. Now, I see the game as the “new/improved” Ohio State playing a Tressel-ball bound team with less quality athletes, in Iowa.
Iowa under 15th year coach Kirk Ferentz are 104-76 (.578). Other than the team uniform’s similarity to the Pittsburgh Steelers (thanks, Hayden), Iowa is noted for cranking out offensive linemen (Bollman, you listening?) and having a stoic note-taking, gum-chewing head coach.
Coming off an very impressive 11-2 season in 2009, Iowa AD Gary Barta decided to elevate Kirk into the Hayden Fry pantheon with a contract extension through the year 2020 at $3.75 million per year, per HawkCentral.. With this contract, that’s a lot of chewing gum and notepads. Since the impressive contract extension, Iowa has been a less-than-impressive 19-19.
Back to football: Iowa ended their non-con portion at 3-1, then opened their B1G slate with an impressive 23-7 win over Minnesota. The next week, the Hawkeyes got roughed up, physically and statistically, against Michigan State, 26-14. Since I see OSU having a better offense but worse defense than MSU, things will not improve for Iowa. Read More
The #4/3 Buckeyes (5-0, 1-0) move their Prime Time show from Columbus, OH to Evanston, IL for another 8:00 PM kickoff. The opponents, the undefeated (4-0, 0-0) #16/15 Northwestern Wildcats. Yes, another night game against another ranked B1G team.
When I saw this game on the schedule, I was only mildly concerned about the outcome. And that was based on the 2004 night game debacle in Evanston, not on this year’s talent/performance. Northwestern will be a different challenge from Wisconsin, in that, despite what we saw on Saturday, the Wildcats bring a legitimate balanced offense into this game.
Northwestern has two legitimate quarterbacks in Kain Colter (27-35, 264 yds, 4TD, 2INT)/Trevor Siemian (47-70, 671, 3,2), two quality running backs in Venric Mark (if healthy)/Treyvon Green (101 YPG)and two quality receivers in Tony Jones/Christian Jones (39 Rec, 15 YPR, 5TD). Their offense is also a bit different from Wiscy’s in that rather than relying on raw power, Northwestern brings more speed and elusiveness to the field.
Last year’s all-everything running back Venric Mark appears to be healthy enough to be listed on the Wildcats depth chart as the starting running back for Saturday. This could be a Carlos Hyde situation where a player comes back to play in a big game after a 2-3 game layoff. Whether Venric Mark gets the every down workload remains to be seen, but I expect him to see spot duty in the backfield and to line up as kick/punt returner. Last year, Venric was 2nd team all-conference as a running back, and All-American as a punt returner, so look for Pat Fitzgerald and his staff to put him in positions to handle the ball, particularly in the open field.
After rolling the overmatched FAMU Rattlers last week, things get a bit tougher this Saturday night as Ohio State hosts B1G/Leaders leader Wisconsin in an 8:00 PM game. The Buckeyes (4-0, 0-0) look to move into 1st place in the Leaders Division by shutting down the Badgers (3-1, 1-0).
First year Badgers Head Coach Gary Andersen was defensive line coach at Utah in 2004, Urban Meyer’s last year as Utah head coach, so there is familiarity between the two gentlemen. After a 4 year stint as Utah State’s head coach, Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez hired Andersen to replace the departed Bret Bielema, who was banished to coach at Arkansas.
I’m going to gloss over most of the season-to-date statistics for both teams because I don’t think those numbers are relevant for this game. Wisconsin’s wins and “numbers’ were racked up against University of Massachusetts (MAC) who has won 1 of its last 16 games, FCS school Tennessee Tech (2-2) and a not very good Purdue team. Unfortunately, Ohio State’s schedule is pretty similar.
Here are two tables that summarize both teams’ offensive and defensive performances so far this season. As I mentioned above, with both teams having sketchy schedules, use these numbers more for a general indication of performance. The first table, is relative offensive performances comparison between Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Yep, a lot of yards and points against so-so competition.
Here’s the defensive comparison; it’s looks similar.
Now that we really know that Wisconsin and Ohio State took care of their early season opponents, we move on to the game at hand.
Well, that was a somewhat interesting game on Saturday, wasn’t it? I’ve noticed there’s been the usual beefing, complaining and angst about Ohio State scheduling an FCS team like Florida A&M University. These feelings have come in the guise of articles and their comments. I can understand that; demolishing a clearly inferior opponent 76-0 doesn’t prompt me to don my Buckeye garb and proudly puff up my chest.
The articles that I’ve read are well thought out and generally have the theme of “Oh, Gene, why did you do this?” or something similar. Good sentiment, but quite a few major programs schedule this way, for various reasons.
The general tone of some commenters was it was a classless example of running up the score on a clearly overmatched opponent. I want to address the comments that I’ve seen that take Urban Meyer, personally, to task for his team’s rout of FAMU.
The Buckeyes return home from a successful Left Coast trip to play an FCS opponent out of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), the Rattlers of Florida A&M University (FAMU). The Buckeyes (3-0) are coming off an exciting, yet convincing, win over Cali-Berkeley (52-34), while the Rattlers (1-2) lost to Samford (27-20).
This is OSU’s last game before Conference play begins, so it will be a good opportunity to take care of a few loose ends. False starts and tackling techniques come to mind. Even though, to Jason’s chagrin, this is a noon start, the weather forecast is for low 70’s, cloudy and 30% chance of rain. This is no time to “go Cal” and not show up until well into the game. We’re fortunate to have a really good football team; be there to support them.
Ohio State on Offense
This will be a good game to get a couple quarterbacks some playing time before conference play; Braxton Miller and Cardale Jones. I think that Ken Guiton has proved his capability and reliability. Braxton probably needs some fine tuning after missing the last two games, and Cardale needs some ‘live fire’ experience, just in case.
Oh, and the Buckeyes get starting (last year, anyway) running back Carlos Hyde back, although how much playing time he gets is up in the air. I anticipate Dontre Wilson to get more involved with the offense, and possibly even some Ezekiel Elliot. However, the bulk of the non-Jordan Hall carries will be Hyde’s
FAMU’s defense is giving up 321 yards per game, good for 70th in the country if they were FBS. I think that pending too much experimentation on Urban’s part, OSU will find this defense a bit less challenging than last week. The bright spot for FAMU is that against Samford, they did come up with 2 pick-6’s.
The Buckeyes make the Left Coast trip to visit the California Golden Bears this Saturday. The Buckeyes moved to 2-0 after their handling of the San Diego State Aztecs 42-7. Once again, it was a tale of two halves.
In the 1st half, the Buckeyes ran 37 plays for 284 yards (7.7 YPP), scoring on 5 of 7 possessions for 35 points.
In the 2nd half, they ran 33 plays for 116 yards and one (1) touchdown. Oh, and this firefight was smoothly led by backup QB Kenny Guiton after Braxton Miller went down with a knee injury on OSU’s first series. Coach Meyer expects Braxton to be healthy come game time Saturday.
Meanwhile out West, the Golden Bears of California handled FCS opponent Portland State 37-30 to move to 1-1 on the season. Backing up a week, the Golden Bears opened their current home stand with a 44-30 loss to B1G powerhouse #22 Northwestern. Go B1G!
In its first year under Sonny Dykes, California is running a frenetic paced offense, averaging 97 plays and 582 yards per game this season. Last week, against Portland State, Cal ran 95 plays for 616 yards. That is a lot of both. California currently leads the nation with 470 passing yards per game. Freshman Jared Goff and his receivers are simply wearing out secondaries this year.
Although Cal is making a name for itself on offense, for example, scoring on 7 of 16 drives against Portland State, their defense forced PSU to punt in their last 6 possessions to seal the win. So they can play some defense.
|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.