Thursday, September 26

Record-breaking day for Guiton leads Buckeyes in laugher

Well, that just happened. It took Ohio St all of four offensive plays over a span of 46 seconds to have a 21-0 lead. Kenny Guiton broke John Borton and Bobby Hoying’s OSU passing touchdown record – by halftime. When it was all said and done, the Buckeyes had a 76-0 victory and Florida A&M had a $900,000 payday.

Ohio St has been taking an unwarranted beating in the media this week for scheduling the FCS opponent, when if they would have done their homework they would know that OSU had Vanderbilt slated for this date until they backed out. NCAA teams have schedules lined up years in advance, so finding another school with an open date and a second bye week later in the year is no easy task. Not that Vandy is a juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination, but at least they’re an SEC team that makes a bowl game now and then.

So with the non-conference schedule in the books, it’s tough to look at this Buckeye team and get a great feel for their identity. They’ve played four teams that weren’t even close to Ohio St’s level and are 4-0 in dominating fashion. We’ve seen the super-emergence of Kenny G, but won’t see him much for the rest of the season. We can at least say that they’ve taken care of the obstacles that have been in their way, and have done so nearly flawlessly. So with B1G play about to begin and a showdown with Wisconsin looming, the Bucks must keep this momentum rolling and show that they can beat some stiffer competition.

Game Recap
I’m not going to go into much detail here, because while there were obviously several exciting plays to get to 76-0, the game was over before it started and was pretty boring for the most part. Guiton was picked off by Patrick Aiken in the endzone on the first Buckeye possession, and the Rattlers actually held some momentum for about three seconds. Then Jordan Hall stripped Aiken, who inexplicably tried to bring the ball out, and recovered the fumble. Hall followed up his defensive play with a 3-yard TD on the next snap.

A big punt return from Philly Brown set up the first of six Guiton first half touchdowns, this one going to TE Jeff Heuerman. The Buckeyes went for and failed the two-point conversion. Doran Grant’s blocked punt resulted in the second, to Evan Spencer. The third was a short shovel pass to Carlos Hyde, making his 2013 debut after a three-game suspension, and the fourth coming off a Bradly Roby pick to Devin Smith. This all happened in the first quarter.

The 2nd quarter was much of the same, with FAMU going three-and-out and Ohio St lighting up the scoreboard. Hall rushed in his second TD, Chris Fields caught #5 for Guiton, and Spencer’s second was the record-breaker for Kenny G. The Rattlers did manage to get a first down with about four minutes left in the half, so there’s that.

Up 55-0, Cardale Jones was playing football (not playing school) under center for the Buckeyes to begin the 3rd. Jones didn’t attempt a single pass in the half, but ran the ball eight times for 52 yards and a touchdown. Ezekiel Elliott received the bulk of the remaining carries, and the freshman made the most of his opportunity. Elliott ended up leading all rushers with 162 yards on 14 carries and finding the endzone twice. Fellow freshman Warren Ball got a few touches real late. After an excruciating 60 minutes for Earl Holmes’s Rattlers (yes, that Earl Holmes), the 76-0 beat down finally came to an end.

Game Ball
Since this may be his last chance to get one, and I guess because he threw a school-record six touchdown passes in two quarters, Kenny G will take home his third consecutive award. Assuming Braxton returns to action this Saturday and remains healthy for the rest of the season, Guiton has at the very least earned a few snaps per game, possibly some trickeration plays on PAT attempts after his blazing three week fill-in stint. It was awfully fun while it lasted.
Game balls to date: Guiton (3)

Big Ten
For the second straight week, michigan narrowly avoided a big-time upset, this time behind a 10-0 fourth quarter to top UConn 24-21. The game of the day saw Michigan St fall from the ranks of the unbeatens in a close loss to Notre Dame. Elsewhere, Wisconsin pounded Purdue in the first conference matchup of the season, Indiana was routed by Missouri, and the rest of the conference beat up on lower-level teams.

Heisman Watch
3. Kenny
2. motherfucking
1. G!!!!!!

Up Next: #23 Wisconsin (3-1, 1-0), 8:00, ABC
This is it – don’t get scared now. Early into a long season, we have a make-or-break game for the Buckeyes. The Badgers pose what will most likely be the biggest roadblock standing in Ohio St’s path to a B1G championship and ticket to Pasadena. The main focus for the Bucks will be stopping NCAA-leading rusher Melvin Gordon, who’s averaging a stupid 11.8 yards per carry. He’s not the only Badger that can run, as last year’s top back James White has 442 yards and three scores of his own this season. Joel Stave doesn’t pose a huge threat at quarterback, so the goal will definitely be to load the box and make him beat you.

Braxton is said to be ready and “probably” will start on Saturday. My main concern is him not being dressed for the Florida A&M game. If he was truly healthy, he would have gotten a few snaps last week. My guess is that he will start but I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Guiton get a series here and there, especially if Brax looks tentative or ineffective. Regardless of the QB, Ohio St will be relying heavily on the run game. Expect double-digit touches for Hall, Hyde, and Dontre Wilson. If they can collectively just match the Gordon/White duo, I’ll take our quarterbacks with the game on the line any day.
Prediction: Ohio St 33 Wisconsin 24


Thursday, September 19

Defense stays in Columbus while Guiton lights up Cal

Ohio St extended its NCAA-leading winning streak to 15 games last Saturday as the Buckeye offense, led by senior QB Kenny Guiton in his first career start, torched the Cal Bears 52-34. OSU put up 21 points in the first six minutes of the game and never looked back. The defense looked shaky at its best and downright putrid for the most part and will surely need to be addressed before B1G play begins in 10 days with a trip to Madison. But I’ll let Urbs and his staff deal with that and for the time being let’s just bask in the glory that is Kenny G.

Game Recap
California received the opening kickoff and began with a three-and-out, but an illegal block in the back penalty on the return buried the Buckeyes back at their own six yard line. Kenny G was not worried. After a four-yard swing pass to Chris Fields, Guiton saw Devin Smith in one-on-one coverage and lofted one high and deep to let his playmaker get under it. That he did, and a few seconds later the longest play in Ohio St history was recorded and the Buckeyes were up 7-0. Another quick Bears punt gave the ball right back to Guiton, and he went right back to work. Dontre Wilson opened the drive with a 26-yarder to put the Bucks near midfield, and on the following play it was Guiton to Smith again for the score, making the duo 2/2 for 137 yards and two touchdowns…less than 3 ½ minutes into the game.

Keeping up with the early onslaught, Ryan Shazier sacked Cal freshman quarterback Jared Goff and forced a fumble recovered by Michael Bennett. Working with a short field, Kenny threw his third TD of the quarter, this time connecting with Fields on a 4th and Goal from the 1. Cal responded by showing that Ohio St wasn’t the only team that could strike quickly, scoring on a long pass play of their own to complete a 74-yard drive lasting all of 59 seconds. Before the quarter was even half over, the score stood at 21-7.

The teams traded turnovers on the next possessions, as Guiton’s fumble was immediately followed by Christian Bryant’s pick of Goff. A couple of big runs from Jordan Hall set up a Drew Basil FG, before Goff hit Chris Harper for another long TD pass and the explosive first frame finally came to an end with a 24-14 Buckeye lead.

Although both teams continued to play at an accelerated pace, the scoring slowed down in the 2nd quarter. Each team started off with drives resulting in punts before a marathon Buckeye drive lasting nearly FOUR whole minutes ended in a Hall 1-yard touchdown run. Not to be outdone, Berkley held onto the ball for even a few seconds longer, but had to settle for a field goal. After another Cameron Johnson punt, Cal kicked another FG in the closing seconds of the half to make it a reasonable 31-20 at the break.

The third quarter looked a lot like the first, with the Buckeyes scoring early and often and essentially putting the game away. Guiton had a 33-yard run on the opening drive of the half to set up Jordan Hall’s second short TD run. Three straight Goff incompletions quickly put the ball back in Kenny G’s hands, and the longest OSU drive of the game was capped with a Philly Brown touchdown grab. A good kick return set up the Bears and Goff tossed a score to Bryce Treggs to cut back into the lead. The deficit went right back up, however, when Hall crossed the goal line for the third time on the evening and the teams began the 4th with Ohio St comfortably ahead, 52-27.

As the final period was about to get underway, there was a distinctly audible “O-H-I-O” chant at Memorial Stadium. Taking a quick glance as the crowd, one could see plenty of Scarlet and conclude the Buckeye faithful traveled incredibly well, but this took it to a whole other level. If it wasn’t still light out there while 10:30 p.m. on the east, I would have sworn I was watching footage of The Horseshoe. As for game play, OSU was just grinding down the clock while California added a meaningless touchdown and the game went final at 52-34.

Game Ball
Like there is even an option. Jordan Hall’s 168 yards and three touchdowns may keep him on the field when Carlos Hyde returns this week, but this game belonged to one man – Kenny motherfucking G! The fifth-year senior made the most of his first career start, throwing for 276 yards and four scores, while rushing for another 92. Meyer was quick to praise Guiton’s ability to spread the ball around, completing passes to seven different receivers and finding no one more than three times. Even when Braxton returns I might just keep giving the GB to Kenny.
Game balls to date: Guiton (2)

Big Ten
It was not exactly a banner day for the conference Ohio St calls home. The Buckeyes were the only ones to get the better of the Pac 12 as Washington took down Illinois in Chicago, Arizona St escaped Wisconsin on a bizarre and kind of bullshit final seconds, and UCLA rattled off 38 (!!!) unanswered points to rout Nebraska. What are the chances Bo Pelini survives the year? Right now I’d say it’s not looking good for the former Buckeye. The Pac 12 weren’t the only teams to beat the Big Ten, as UCF ran all over Penn St and Notre Dame had to rally late to top Purdue.

But the biggest black eye for the conference came in a victory, as michigan barely avoided what would have been a hilariously devastating upset in the gay house to Akron. Leading for much of the second half, the Zips had a shot in the closing seconds to Appalachian St those assholes but failed four tries inside the 10 as time expired.

Heisman Watch

3. Marcus Mariota, QB Oregon
2. A.J. McCarron, QB Alabama
1. KENNY G!!!!!

You may say week three is too early for a Heisman list, I say they should just close the voting now and give the man what he’s earned.

Quick Hits
- This hurry up offense Ohio St is running is going to give B1G defenses fits. I don’t see anyone catching up with them.

- The wide receiver blocking downfield has been phenomenal this year. Brown has always been a solid blocker but Smith, who has been labeled as more of a ‘diva receiver’ in the past, is really getting his hands dirty as well.

- Hand stuff with Mila Kunis couldn’t have gotten me harder than hearing Gus Johnson yell “Touchdoooooooown…BUCKEYES” in his signature call time and time again.

- Rod Smith and Jordan Hall inexplicably switching numbers this offseason could not be more confusing. What’s up with this?

- Noah Spence is starting to look an awful lot like John Simon did last year, and while I mean that somewhat as a compliment I’m also referring to all of the times that Simon got through the line and in the quarterback’s face but just missed the sack. Spence had three or four near misses against Cal.

- I don’t like how Jared Goff and Cal were not scared of Bradley Roby. Usually you don’t see more than three passes go his way through an entire game, but Goff attacked him over and over and got the best of him on multiple occasions. I’ll chalk it up as an outlier for now, but will continue to monitor the situation.

Up Next: Florida A&M (1-2), 12:00, Big Ten Network
Other than having a kickass nickname (the Rattlers), Fla. A&M doesn’t bring much to the table as the Buckeyes will attempt to tune up for Wisconsin by obliterating their FCS opponent. There’s still no word on Braxton’s condition, but I would guess we will see him for 2-3 series’. Clearly Meyer won’t play him much and risk further injury, but I would think they would want him to throw a few live-action balls before visiting Camp Randall. The same goes for Carlos Hyde as he returns from his suspension. He’ll get some touches so he can take a few hits and get back into game-mode, but don’t expect to see many recognizable names in the second half.
Prediction: Ohio St 44 Florida A&M 0


Thursday, September 12

Kenny G cruises to victory after Braxton injury

After converting a 4th down near the goal line early in the 1st quarter, Braxton Miller laid helmetless on the field in obvious pain. The crowd in attendance, as well as Buckeye fans around the country, collectively held their breath, but when our star sat up, seemingly okay, everyone’s mind shifted to a different thought. I know I was thinking it watching this game alone in my apartment, then the 110,000 at The Shoe echoed my sentiments when they started chanting in unison “Kenn-y-G! Kenn-y-G!”

Kenny Guiton took over while Brax watched the rest of the game from the sideline with a brace on his leg, and the Purdue game hero never looked back. Guiton set career marks across the board while leading the Buckeyes to a 42-7 thrashing of San Diego St.

Game Recap
SDSU received the opening kickoff and quickly punted it away to the Buckeyes, who started near midfield and wasted no time reaching the red zone. On 4th and 1 from the 12, Brax ran an obvious quarterback keeper and easily converted, but was sandwiched by two Aztec defenders at the play’s conclusion, dislodging his helmet and leaving him lying on the turf. The medical staff came out and helped Miller to his feet before assisting him off the field. Kenny G entered to a raucous ovation, and after a handoff to freshman sensation Dontre Wilson, Ohio St was off to a quick 7-0 lead.

As bad as San Diego St QB Adam Dingwell looked on his three incompletions on the first drive, he looked even worse on his first pass of the second, when Doran Grant intercepted him. Starting with great field position again, this time the Bucks couldn’t capitalize and went three-and-out. But two more Dingwell atrocities later, OSU was right back in business. Guiton was sharp on this possession, rushing for one first down and completing a pass to Rod Smith for another before hooking up with Philly Brown for a 27-yard touchdown.

Quinn Kaehler became the second backup to enter this game, but for much different reasons. I suppose he looked better than Dingwell by default, but wasn’t good enough as Steve Miller went Space Cowboy on his ass, sacking him and forcing another Aztec punt. If anyone was worse than the SDSU quarterbacks, it was their punter, as another shank set up Ohio St past the 40 yet again. A 16-yard pass play to Devin Smith on third and twelve was the key play in this series that ended with a Jordan Hall TD run. Just like last week, the Buckeyes dominated the first quarter, leading this one 21-0 at its close.

The 2nd began with another Aztec punt, then Guiton’s one mistake of the game. In his defense, the San Diego St defender made a hell of a play for the interception. SDSU followed up the turnover by actually converting a few first downs, but ultimately still had to punt it away. With the ball back in his hands, Kenny G looked like a spitting image of Brax when he raced 44 yards for the first rushing TD of his career.

The onslaught continued when Noah Spence and Michael Bennett simultaneously collided with Kaehler, forcing a fumble that Bennett recovered. (Quick aside: How bad ass is Spence’s Shredder mask? As if the dude wasn’t intimidating enough. I couldn’t find a good pic of it to link here, so if you don’t know what I’m talking about, pay attention this weekend and in the meantime just picture this.) A long Hall run set up Rod Smith for the 1-yard plunge and the Bucks took a 35-0 advantage into the locker rooms.

Ohio St took the foot off the gas in the second half, but not before Guiton threw an absolute beauty to Philly for Brown’s second TD reception of the game and a 42-0 lead. SDSU responded with a quick touchdown of their own, and the scoring was complete before the third quarter came to an end. The only other thing of note was that when Hall, Smith, and Wilson all came off the field for good, it was Ezekiel Elliot, not Bri’onte Dunn or Warren Ball, who got the mop up time carries. I’ll get into this a bit further later on. With mostly backups on defense in the 4th, sophomore Armani Reeves stood out with an interception in the red zone to shut the door on San Diego St once and for all and preserving the 42-7 victory.

Game Ball
Kenny motherfucking GGGGG! While Braxton Miller is clearly the centerpiece to an undefeated season, as long as he is alright in the long run (he appears to be), I can’t say I was mad to see Guiton out there for a game. The Captain who was almost thrown off the team less than a year ago (Yes, you read that right - the team has so much faith in its backup quarterback that they made him a captain), went 19/28 for 152 yards and two scores with the one interception, and also led all players with 9 carries for 83 yards and another TD. Hopefully Brax is good to go for Cal in a few days, but I certainly enjoyed the Kenny G ride while it lasted.

Big Ten
The nation’s focus was on a Big Ten game last weekend, as the michigan/Notre Dame contest was the highlight of the evening. I told everyone that my favorite spread of the day was bitchigan -4, but would never sell my soul to actually cash in on that. Sure enough, the wolverines ran past the Irish 41-30 behind four devin gardner touchdowns. Blah blah blah. The amusing thing about this to me is that brady hoke wasted 10 games of this kid’s career while he sat behind can’t-tie for most of last season. Hahaha, good call guys.

Illinois had an impressive rout of Cincinnati, while the rest of the conference disposed of weaker foes, with Northwestern’s win over a bad Syracuse team being the only other opponent in a major conference. Indiana was the only B1G team to lose, giving up 41 points to the Naval Academy.

Crowded Backfield
You can never have too much of a good thing. With Rod Smith returning to action after a one-game suspensions, Ohio St flexed its RB depth muscles last weekend. Jordan Hall didn’t repeat his retarded numbers from the Buffalo game (7.6 ypc, 2 TDs), but was still very effective rushing for 75 yards and a score. Freshman Dontre Wilson continued to electrify, gaining 10.1 yards per carry and a touchdown of his own. Smith was the far-from-flashy but bruising back we’ve known him to be, and Ezekiel Elliot looked good in limited mop up duty. It appears that freshman Warren Ball, who was ranked higher than Wilson and Elliot coming out of high school last year, and sophomore Bri’onte Dunn are at the bottom of the depth chart and won’t see too much playing time this season barring unforeseen circumstances.

Now for the big question – what happens when Carlos Hyde returns from his suspension in two weeks? The easy answer and the one I seem to be getting from most people who are in-the-know in Columbus, is that he is going to have to play his way back onto the field, as you can’t really limit Hall and Wilson’s touches right now considering their production in the first two weeks. That being said, I think people are quickly forgetting how freaking dominant this guy was last season. It will be very interesting to see how Meyer spreads the wealth once Big Ten play begins. But as the heading stated, there’s no such thing as having too many great players. (Quick aside #2: The other depth chart-related note was that Philly Brown took all punt returning duties, although the SDSU punter was so shitty he never got a chance to return one.)

RG Marcus Hall committed five penalties in this game. Five! This was a big concern for him last year, and without any depth on the O-line, I think I speak for all of us when I say – Marcus, get your head out of your ass.

OK, I’m reloaded!
I said in my preview article that I wasn’t too concerned with Ohio St losing all four of its starting defensive lineman from last season. After two games, it looks like I couldn’t have hit the nail more on the head. Spence and Adolphus Washington are going to be studs and Bennett looks very good so far, but the biggest surprises have come from Joey Bosa and Steve Miller. Both of them played terrific against San Diego, plus I get the opportunity to make a bunch of Steve Miller Band references, which I couldn’t be happier about.

Up Next: @ Cal (1-1), 7:00, FOX
Without a doubt, the Cal Bears offer Ohio St its toughest non-conference test. Last season, in Columbus, California boned the Buckeye defense for over 500 yards, and a 72-yard touchdown from Miller to Devin Smith with minutes to go was the only thing that kept Ohio St’s 12-0 season from going down in flames in Week 3. Braxton is questionable for the matchup, but Meyer seems confident he’ll play. No matter the QB for the Buckeyes, I expect the defense to play with a fire after what happened to them last year, and keep things rolling. Even more reason to be positive, OSU gets a rare FOX game, which means Eddie and Erin Andrews! What more could one ask for?
Prediction: Ohio St 33 Cal 15

Friday, September 6

Buckeye Season Preview

Editor's note: I wrote this Pryor to last Saturday's Buffalo game, so there may be instances where I refer to that game in future tense. In case you missed, Ohio St rolled.

It feels so good to be back! What promises to be another exciting Ohio St Buckeye football season is already underway, and I could not be more stoked. It’s Ohio St football, so expectations are always high, but this season seems even more so, as the Bucks will begin the 2013 campaign ranked #2 in both polls with their sights on nothing less than a National Championship.

There is plenty of reason to believe that the number two ranking is no joke in Columbus. Reason 1A – Braxton Miller comes into the season as the biggest threat to Johnny Autograph’s second consecutive Heisman trophy. Brax had an up-and-down freshman season in 2011, but showed plenty of flashes to give Buckeye faithful reason to believe he could live up to the hype. And that he did last season, completing nearly 60% of his passes, owning a 15-6 TD-INT ratio, and most importantly logging a team-leading 1,271 rushing yards with 13 scores, en route to finishing fifth in the Heisman voting. If he can stay on the field and duplicate those numbers while bringing the turnovers down a bit, there’s no reason Ohio St shouldn’t run train on the Big Ten and be given the opportunity to get probed by Alabama in Pasadena.

While most of the talk about Ohio St surrounds its superstar signal-caller, just as important to a successful season is reason for optimism 1B – Coach Urban Meyer. Urbs (Can I call him Urbs? I don’t care I’m going for it.) has had smashing success in his second year at a program, owning a 34-4 combined record in Year 2 at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida, while leading the Utes to a perfect 12-0 season and the Gators to a…game we don’t want to talk about. Does the man seem sketchy as hell? Sure. Can I look past that because he’s been the best collegiate coach in the past decade? Hell yes. (Quick aside: Jim Tressel will always be a god in my eyes, and he would be #2 on this non-existent list of mine, but I can honestly say I’d rather have Meyer. I’ve come to grips with the fact that I will burn in hell for saying that. Also, Pete Carroll can eat a dick.)

Meyer and Miller have a wide array of talent to work with on offense, anchored by a veteran, NFL-ready offensive line. The defense has some question marks but also a number of playmakers as well. Before we look ahead, let’s take a quick look back.

Last Season
Ohio St broke the 2012 season already knowing their ultimate fate. Due to the Merch-for-Ink scandal and consequent Jim Tressel cover-up, Urban Meyer’s first season in Columbus was tainted with a post-season ban. That did not stop him from leading his flawed but determined squad to an undefeated 12-0 mark. Meyer’s work last season will forever go down in my memory as one of the most impressive. Not only did he get his team to buy into playing hard knowing they wouldn’t have a game past November, but he took a very good-but-not-spectacular roster plagued by injuries (Carlos Hyde, Jordan Hall and John Simon all missed multiple games, Brax was in and out of several contests, and the linebackers dropped like flies) and got them to take their talents to the next level.

The season began with routs of mid-majors Miami (OH) and Central Florida. While there were plenty of highlights in their combined 81-26 victories, the tone was set 16 minutes into the season with Devin Smith’s catch of the year. Things got a bit hairier the following week when the Cal Bears exposed some chinks in the Buckeyes’ armor (namely: tackling) and pushed OSU to the limit in The Shoe before the Bucks prevailed 35-28. Ohio St closed the non-conference schedule undefeated after beating UAB the next week in unimpressive fashion.

Four games really stand out in my mind about the 2012 B1G schedule, three of them coming in the first four weeks. The opener saw Ohio St’s defense dominate michigan State All-American Le’Veon Bell, and Braxton Miller overcome a play where I thought he shattered every bone in his leg, to make enough plays and outlast the Spartans in East Lansing, 17-16. Seven days later, Brax and Carlos Hyde dicked all over the alleged “Blackshirts,” running up 371 yards and six touchdowns on Nebraska. The Buckeye defense took the next week off and almost blew a game to Indiana leading into the most thrilling and improbable victory of the season.

Kenny motherfucking G. The lowly Purdue Boilermakers made the trip to Columbus on a late-October Saturday afternoon after losing their first two conference games in embarrassing fashion. Everything that Cal and Indiana exposed in the Buckeyes earlier in the year came out in this contest, and when Miller left the game at the end of the third quarter with a shoulder injury and the Buckeyes trailing 20-14, the dream season was all but lost. Then the world got to experience Kenny Guiton. After being in Meyer’s doghouse all season long and almost quitting the team, Kenny G found himself with ball in his own territory facing an eight-point deficit and 47 seconds on the clock. The first play went 39 yards to Devin Smith and OSU was quickly in business. Eventually down to the Boilermaker two-yard line with three ticks remaining, Guiton found Chris Fields for the touchdown. The two-point conversion was a success thanks to a beautiful touch pass to TE Jeff Heuerman and the teams played some free football. In the overtime, Guiton brought the Bucks to the goal line and Carlos Hyde scored the go-ahead TD. Four incompletions later, Ohio St finally ended the dreaded Figgs/Andy game-watching losing streak.

The Buckeyes cruised through victories the next two weeks against Penn St and Illinois. The most memorable thing about those games was against the Illini, in which I was in attendance, when the Bucks had a big lead late and 110,000 people stuck around waiting for the myth that is Kenny G to enter the game. I’ve been in Ohio Stadium a dozen times, and I don’t know if I ever heard it louder than when he finally came in. It was epic.

When I said four conference games stood out in my mind, for some reason the 21-14 overtime victory over Wisconsin wasn’t one of them. I don’t know why, but this was the only game I had to look up what happened to jog my memory. Then I recalled Ryan Shazier’s body count, and his heroic hit and forced fumble on Montee Ball at the goal line to seemingly seal the Buckeyes W. Badger QB Curt Phillips had other ideas, however, leading a game-tying TD drive with eight seconds left. Hyde scored his second game-winning OT touchdown of the season, and OSU went into The Game at a perfect 11-0.

Two things carried the Buckeyes to ANOTHER victory over that school up north to complete the unblemished season – Carlos Hyde and 30 minutes of the best football the OSU defense played all season long. Hyde rushed for 146 yards and pounded wolverine defenders all afternoon, while the Buckeye D forced three turnovers and shut down bitchigan in the second half to secure a 26-21 victory. Unfortunately, that was the last time we saw our Buckeyes.

The Schedule

Uncle Frank is this a joke? You can’t take anything for granted, and the Browns fan in me hates how optimistic I’m looking at this, but are you seeing what I’m seeing? Do you think I could get a good deal if I booked a flight to Indy for December 7th now? The non-conference schedule is the easiest I have ever seen as an Ohio St fan. Buffalo, San Diego St, Cal, and Florida A&M. That’s it, that’s the list. Joe Bauserman’s one-armed twin brother could go 4-0 there.

As far as Big Ten play goes, what I’m not seeing is Michigan St or Nebraska. They are both off the schedule this year. Wisconsin, Iowa and Penn St are all at home. So what’s left? Northwestern, Purdue, and Illinois are all formidable opponents on the road, but don’t pose giant threats. And of course, there is a date in whore arbor, but that’s the most automatic win of the season. This schedule just screams 12-0. If the season comes to a close and Ohio St isn’t playing in the Big Ten Championship for a shot at Pasadena, I will be surprised.

The Offense

The Buckeyes come into the 2013 season with a full cupboard on offense. Nine starters return to a unit with a wealth of talent and experience. I’ll start where everything starts with this Buckeye team, and that’s the quarterback position, manned of course by Braxton Miller. The reigning B1G Offensive Player of the Year, #5 improved by leaps and bounds in his first year in Urban Meyer’s offense. It’s easy to look at Brax’s jaw-dropping highlight reel for proof of a successful season, but his quietly efficient passing numbers (58% completion percentage, over 2,000 yards, 15-6 TD-INT ratio) is why I’m all on board for Miller’s 2013 Heisman campaign. But of course, it is still fun to look at his out-of-this-world rushing numbers, which stood at 227 attempts for 1,271 yards and 13 touchdowns. The scary thing for the NCAA – he’s only 20 years-old and still improving.

Entrenched in the runner-up role at QB, is the aforementioned Purdue-hero and smooth sax player Kenny Guiton. Incoming highly-touted prospect J.T. Barrett tore his ACL at the end of his senior season and will spend the year rehabbing as a redshirt, leaving redshirt freshmen Cardale Jones and Levi Ratliff to fight over the clipboard.

The Buckeyes came into last season with some question marks at the running back position, and were dealt another blow early when Jordan Hall was injured (and subsequently dealt with nagging injuries keeping him on the sideline the majority of the year). Then Carlos Hyde went H.A.M. and they ended the season and head into 2013 as one of the deepest backfields in the nation. When an “alleged” incident this offseason involving Hyde’s fist and a female counterpart’s face threatened to see Carlos tossed from the team, those question marks suddenly started to rise again. Thankfully, the charges were dropped and Hyde will only see a manageable three-game suspension.

After a slew of injuries last season, Jordan Hall is ready to return and will have the opportunity to show off his game-breaking ability early and often, as he is penned in to start in Hyde’s absence. Even when Hyde returns from his suspension, Hall will see plenty of time in Meyer’s “pivot” position, made famous by Percy Harvin in Florida. Rod Smith will share the load with Hall…starting in game two, as he is also suspended for the opener with Buffalo for violating team rules. Sophomore Bri’onte Dunn suddenly finds his name second on the depth chart for this week’s battle with the Bulls, and has the opportunity to prove he deserves more than the 13 carries he received last year.

In addition the four backs with experience already mentioned, Ohio St welcomes three explosive freshman into the backfield mix. Redshirt Warren Ball is the most ready and fits the Hyde bruiser mold, so he should see a decent amount of carries in the non-conference slate. Offensive coordinator Tom Herman insists that speedster Dontre Wilson will see plenty of touches, both as the backup to Hall at the pivot position as well as getting the first crack on the team to return kicks. I would have expected a redshirt due to all the talent in from of him, but Ezekiel Elliot remains on the roster as his talent will waste away on the bench. The Buckeyes will forgo a fullback position this season in favor of Meyer’s pivot.

The pass-catchers lost red zone threat Jake Stoneburner to graduation and also saw Verlon Reed transfer to D II Findlay before T.Y. Williams was dismissed from the team. Stone’s big frame will be missed near the goal line, but the Reed and Williams departures aren’t very relevant. Five experienced receivers return, with Corey Brown and Devin Smith solidly hanging on to their starting positions along with Evan Spencer and Michael Thomas behind them and Chris Fields expected to see some time in the pivot.

Brown was Mr. Reliable for Braxton last season, and will continue to serve as his go-to-guy this year. Smith will also renew his role as the big-play receiver when the Buckeyes begin play this weekend, but needs to limit his drops and become more consistent in order to be as truly effective as his is capable of being. Spencer has impressed this spring and will push Smith for targets should his case of the dropsies continue.

Should any of the veterans falter, JUCO transfer Corey Smith has all kinds of speed, and will fight for playing time along with true freshmen James Clark and Jalin Marshall. Clark should see some opportunities to returns kicks, and Marshall could battle fellow freshman Wilson for touches at the pivot position.

TE Jeff Heuerman will be a big factor in the receiving game as well, as he was too talented to keep off the field last year and eventually pushed mainstay Stoneburner to WR. Backup Nick Vannett will see some targets as well, and in a surprise move, former defensive lineman J.T. Moore has also been getting reps at tight end.

While Braxton Miller’s running style will always make him vulnerable to injury, he shouldn’t have too much to worry in the pocket, as Ohio St boasts one of the top O-Lines in the country. Four starters return to a line that surprisingly dominated the conference in 2012. When Urbs came to Columbus, he was critical of several Buckeye players. One of his biggest targets was Center Corey Linsley, who accepted the challenge and promptly got his act together off the field and straight dominated on it. He’s back to anchor the hogmollies up front and should have his sights set on the Rimington Trophy. Next to Linsley are two fellow senior returning starters, Andrew Norwell and Marcus Hall. Norwell was quietly just as effective as Linsley was last season. I say quietly because he was rarely mentioned, mostly because he was never penalized. Hall was almost kicked off the team in 2011 after coming in outrageously overweight and having off-field issues. He slimmed down to a petite 325 as a junior and while committing far too many holding penalties then desired Hall was nothing less than solid at the right guard position.

Protecting Braxton’s blindside and forming the best left-side duo on the line since Orlando Pace was inventing the term “pancake,” is senior Jack Mewhort. If you’re a pass-rusher on an opposing team, either line up on the other side or just save your energy and take a seat, because Norwell and Mewhort are going to keep Brax’s jersey so Scarlet that Hester Prynne would be jealous. The only lineman not back this season was converted tight end and surprisingly awfully effective RT Reid Fragel. After losing his spot to Fragel in 2012, 6’7 315 lbs. sophomore Taylor Decker will get a second chance. With only inexperienced underclassmen behind him, Decker was just given the job. Hopefully he doesn’t take it for granted and comes to play. The most talented and recognizable name behind these five on the depth chart is Jacoby Boren, but he’s best suited at Center where he won’t see a snap all season long barring a Linsley injury.

The Defense
Much has been made this offseason about the losses on the defensive front seven for the Buckeyes, as only one starter returns. I’m a lot less worried than most people. While the departures of John Simon and Johnathan Hankins, among others, is tough to swallow, there is a lot to be optimistic about this defense. Most importantly, the one returning starter is LB Ryan Shazier, who has All-American written all over him this season. Secondly, the defensive line was the deepest position on the team, so even though all four starters from 2012 squad are gone, there are plenty of guys ready to step up, most notably sophomores Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence. Also, the secondary behind them is one of the top in the nation.

Since we’re on the subject, we’ll begin with the d-line. Simon was one of the most fun players to watch during his tenure at OSU, and will always be a fan favorite. Big Jon Hanks was a man in the middle and will surely be missed, as will Nathan Williams and Garrett Goebell. That being said, I’m real excited to see what Washington and Spence can do with a full opportunity.

On the inside, juniors Joel Hale and Michael Bennett will bring plenty of backup experience into the starting roles. With Se’Veon Pittman “leaving” (being kicked off) the team and the bizarre move of transforming J.T. Moore to TE, the line isn’t very deep. DT Tommy Schutt is the only one with any experience, although it’s minimal, and will be first off the bench. Sophomore Chris Carter has the name and the size (340 lbs) to be effective, and freshmen Michael Hill and Joey Bosa will also get their shot. Jamal Marcus and Steve Miller will backup Spence at the Viper position.

Zach Boren saved the linebacking corps last season when he moved from fullback a few weeks in and played beyond any expectations we could have had for him. He is out, as is Etienne Sabino. There is good news, as Ryan Shazier returns to mammoth expectations. I would argue that Shazier was the best player on this defense last year, with all due respect to Simon, Hanks and Bradley Roby. If he can stay on the field for 12 games, he’ll no doubt be coming home with some hardware. Freshman Trey Johnson should be the first to spell Shazier in the rare times he’s not on the field.

Getting a third and final chance, senior Curtis Grant will replace Boren in the middle. Grant was in this same position last year, then played so badly that Meyer was forced to move his star fullback to defense to replace him. It’s been said that Grant has been making strides in the offseason, but with his track record I will not be convinced until I see it when it counts. The other unsettling part about having to move Boren to the other side of the ball, was not only that Grant couldn’t handle being a starter but also that they didn’t have another ‘backer on the team that could take his place. Those same depth issues occur this year, as green sophomore Joe Burger and true freshman Mike Mitchell are behind Grant on the depth chart.

If you look at a depth chart, Joshua Perry would be penciled into the starting linebacker spot opposite Shazier, but if you watch an Urban Meyer coached game, you’ll see that he uses the “Star” position with an extra defensive back much more often than a third LB. But Perry will be the guy in those times when a traditional defense is on the field. Sophomore Camren Williams will most likely see time at all three positions.

The secondary is the strength of this defense and could develop into one that tops the country. Bradley Roby will serve a one-game suspension against Buffalo, but when he gets onto the field he is something special. He turned down a lot of guaranteed money in the pros to come back for one more shot at something big at Ohio St. The other CB will see a drop off from “Howard Island” to Doran Grant, but Grant brings plenty of experience and should be fine, especially with Roby next to him locking down the opposing team’s #1 wideout.

A pair of seniors are back to start for their third consecutive year at the safety positions, and as long as C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant don’t have multiple embarrassing missed tackles (as they did last year), they form the best duo in the conference. Fellow senior Corey Brown is the top backup and could start for just about any other team in America.

A slew of freshman defensive backs come in immediately ready to play. While Eli Apple and Cam Burrows were rated higher in the recruiting process, it looks like Tyvis Powell will get the first crack at the Star after a phenomenal spring. Vonn Bell will also get time and rounds out an astounding group of DBs.

Drew Basil is back to kick for his third and final season. While he won’t win the Groza award, we could be a lot worse off. Basil has a booming leg and can hit from 50+, but needs to be more accurate in shorter yardage situations. With Ben Buchanan finally gone (THANK GOD!), there is a chance Basil might get a chance to use that big leg in the punting game as well. Right now freshman Cameron Johnson is slated for the punting duties, but if he can’t cut it Basil is the only other option. Dontre Wilson, Jordan Hall, Philly Brown, and James Clark will all see opportunities to return kicks, with Wilson seemingly in line to get the first shot.

The Outlook
Buckeye legend Craig Krenzel said it best on his radio show last week when he was asked if it was hard playing/cheering for Ohio St where every year you have expectations of a National Championship when he said, “If I wanted to play for a school where winning a Conference Title is enough, I would have gone to Wisconsin.” Well this year is no different, as anything less than a berth in the BCS title game will be considered a failure. They have the coach, the star QB, the playmakers, and a favorable schedule to make that happen. Let’s get it done, gentlemen.