Go back to the last week of August, or to April for Spring Practice, or even on January 3rd, when thoughts shifted away from 2011 towards 2012, and I think just about every Buckeye fan expected Ohio State to win its first four games.
Sure enough, here we are, with OSU at 3-0, and a heavy favorite to start Big Ten play without a blemish. However, the first three games of the year have been anything but cosmopolitan.
There isn’t a separate category in a team’s record for ugly wins, though. A win is a win, and they all count the same. The goal is to a figure out a way to win the game in front of you, and not worry about any down the road.
That being said, fans should want to see improvement on Saturday, and you shouldn’t just look at the score for that proof. Check on the number of plays run on offense. Check on the number of penalties committed. Check on the amount of missed tackles and big plays given up on defense. These are all areas you want to see shored up heading into Big Ten play next week in East Lansing.
The Lead Up
I’m not even going to try and convince you that there is an ounce of excitement for this game. Any attempt to do so would be contrived. These two schools have never met, and in fact, UAB hasn’t even had a program for 25 years, and has only been in the Football Bowl Subdivision since 1996 (pretty similar to another opponent this year from Conference USA…Central Florida).
Ohio State is in search of its 400th all-time victory at Ohio Stadium (technically). That milestone should have been celebrated after the victory over Akron last season, but the 2010 season was vacated, including eight home wins.
When Ohio State Has the Ball
We have yet to see the Buckeyes put together a complete four quarters, especially on offense. I do expect some marked improvement in this game, as the two fourth quarter touchdowns against California should spark some confidence.
Statistically, UAB is not very strong on defense, allowing 477 yards (104th in the country), and 44 points (120th, or dead last) per game.
Braxton Miller should have another strong performance, with 200 yards passing and another 100 rushing. I think we’ll see a big game from Jordan Hall as well, who will no doubt be feeling stronger after making his 2012 debut last week.
About the only thing potentially the Blazers could have going for them is their offensive line coach. John Peterson is a former Buckeye player (1987-90) and assistant coach (2004-11), and he will know OSU’s personnel well.
When UAB Has the Ball
Peterson should be an asset to the UAB offense, as well. He knows the players on the OSU defense, and has worked with some of the coaches on the OSU defense.
The Blazers like to throw the ball, and pass defense has been the weakness (along with tackling) for the Buckeyes so far this season. UAB only averages 80.5 yards per game rushing, and while they might try to catch the OSU defense napping, don’t expect much on the ground.
Quarterback Jonathan Perry is completing just over half his passes for around 260 yards a game. His favorite target is Jackie Williams, who is averaging over 100 yards a game receiving. The OSU secondary isn’t 100%, as both Bradley Roby and C.J. Barnett are battling injuries.
Perry will be under all kinds of pressure, though, as the Buckeyes seemed to find the right mix in blitz calls against California, winding up with six sacks. That was the same number UAB surrendered last week in a loss at South Carolina.
Players to Watch
For the second straight week, I’m going to point out Jordan Hall. He looked a bit rusty, especially running between the tackles last week, but was very effective out on the edges. Look for him to get more involved with some screens, or passes out of the backfield.
Carlos Hyde is out again, but expected to return next week at Michigan State. Urban Meyer has sung the praises of Rod Smith, and the sophomore has moved up on the depth chart. Smith (as well as freshman Bri’onte Dunn) could see a lot of action in the second half.
Speaking of freshman, Noah Spence, Tommy Schutt and Adolphus Washington have all been steadily seeing more playing time on the defensive line. Those three could bear watching, as they fight for a permanent spot in the rotation.
Sophomore cornerback Dorian Grant could see extended playing time, especially if Roby isn’t able to go. The Akron native has a chance to solidify his place as the third corner, behind Roby and Travis Howard.
Big plays…lots of big plays. We’ve become used to seeing them, from both the Ohio State offense and the opponent. That’s not going to change on Saturday, especially with both defenses taking chances.
I think the Buckeyes will post a 56-13 win, with three players (Miller, Hall and Smith) running for over100 yards a piece.
The coverage on 10TV and www.10tv.com/BuckeyeBlitz
will continue all weekend long. Saturday, we’ll post game pictures and analysis on our Buckeye Blitz web page, and wrap-up the game with our new “Gameday” coverage at 7pm and 11pm, as well as Wall to Wall Sports at 11:35pm.