Ohio State game preview: The Spectrum’s scouting report
Published: Friday, August 30, 2013
Updated: Friday, August 30, 2013 01:08
Buffalo football heads into the 2013 season with some of the highest expectations in program history. Its ‘bowl-or-bust’ mantra, however, is nothing compared to expectations that surround No. 2 Ohio State year in and year out – National Championship or bust.
This year is no exception for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State is coming off a 12-0 season – the only undefeated season in Division I.
The Buckeyes, however, were ineligible for postseason play because they were on probation.
This year, they are eligible for postseason play and two-time National Champion head coach Urban Meyer looks to become a three-time champion.
This mission begins with Buffalo.
“I want us to play well,” Meyer told ESPN.com. “I want us to play clean. I’m hoping that we leave that field Saturday, obviously with a win, but you feel good about the fundamentals of your football team. If you do that, that’s a real positive.”
Heisman candidate Braxton Miller leads Ohio State at quarterback. Miller started all 12 games last season; he threw for over 2,000 yards, rushed for 1,271 more and had 28 total touchdowns.
Miller is one of the hardest players in the nation to game plan for, because he is not only an efficient passer but also one of the best runners at any position.
The Buckeyes will be missing their top two running backs, Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith, and cornerback Bradley Roby, due to team suspensions from offseason misconducts. Hyde finished last year with 16 touchdowns and nearly 1,000 yards on the ground.
Meyer is not taking the Bulls as lightly as the 35.5-point spread may suggest. In his weekly interview, he described the Bulls as having an “unorthodox” defensive line and “unique coverages and schemes.”
He also acknowledged his squad is not the only team with players who can take over a game. He called senior linebacker Khalil Mack a “tremendous player” and the “No. 2 linebacker on [NFL] draft boards.”
The atmosphere on opening day – entering as huge underdogs in a city filled with college football tradition – is not unfamiliar territory for the Bulls.
Last year, they began the season in Georgia as 38-point underdogs. At halftime, Buffalo trailed by only eight as boos poured down from the stands toward the Bulldogs.
For Buffalo, this game is about gaining national exposure. Any time you can square off with the No. 2 team in the nation, it gets your program out there. Heads will certainly turn if the Bulls are able to remain competitive.
“They are certainly locked in and prepared to play their very best football game,” said head coach Jeff Quinn. “It’s a race to be at midseason form or late-season form in Game One. We will play hard, physical and get after it and we are going to let the four quarters play out and hopefully get into overtime and see what happens.”
Key matchup: Braxton Miller vs. Buffalo’s front seven
Miller is on every preseason watch list you can think of and likely views a Mid-American Conference team like Buffalo as an opportunity to boost his stats. It is up to the entire defensive line and Khalil Mack to keep Miller at bay. He does most of his damage when he escapes the pocket – putting the pressure on the defense to keep him contained. It will be a long day for the Buffalo ‘D’ if Miller is allowed to roam the backfield with ease.
What to watch for
The first quarter will tell us all we need to know about how thisgame will go. Opening day is full of excitement and nerves for both teams – regardless of their rankings. If the Bulls can repeat the performance they had against Georgia last year – going hit for hit with one of the best teams in the nation for an entire half – it could be considered a moral victory. Miller, however, is one of the best players in the nation, and stopping him will be a daunting task for the Buffalo defense.
Buffalo @ Ohio State (-35.5)
Braxton Miller won’t stay in the game if the Buckeyes go up 30, and Buffalo’s offense is good for at least 14 points.
A Buffalo victory is out of the cards, but 36 points is too much for a Bulls team that is based around a stellar defense.
The Bulls won’t pull off the upset, but Khalil Mack won’t let Ohio State win by 36 points, either.
I can’t see this game being competitive for long, but all it takes is garbage time production to beat this spread.