COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State coach Ryan Day believes the No. 6 Buckeyes have the talent and desire for greatness this season. He’s trying to keep players focused on a game that likely won’t test them.
After swamping lesser opponents in the first three games, the Buckeyes (3-0, 1-0 Big Ten) get another tuneup when 39-point underdog Miami (Ohio) visits the Horseshoe on Saturday.
Ohio State might be looking ahead to Nebraska on Sept. 28, which starts a stretch of eight straight Big Ten games with a couple of bye weeks mixed in. It includes matchups with current Top 25 teams Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan.
“We’re doing our best not to look ahead and focus on what we can control right now,” center Josh Myers said. “I think that’s just working every week.”
Day said he’s sure his players will be ready Saturday against the Redhawks (1-2). He knows it could be a season to remember if he can keep them on track.
“I think right now, the culture is strong, and what we’re doing right now is exciting in terms of guys are playing hard, there’s great energy, recruiting,” he said. “Throughout the team guys are playing hard. We’re getting a lot of guys on the field. We’re developing some of the youth in the program. And so we’ve got to keep building on it.”
Mike Yurcich, Ohio State’s co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, said the team’s elite players working hard against each other every week is a larger factor in ensuring improvement.
“I think the biggest thing with this team is when you practice against our defense, you can’t hide,” Yurcich said. “We compete at a very high level on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and that helps. Regardless of the opponent, we’re getting better.”
Some other things to know for Saturday’s game:
The RedHawks will play their third road game of the season after trips to Iowa and Cincinnati. Considering the unfriendly venues, true freshman quarterback Brett Gabbart has been decent, with an average completion rate of about 60 percent.
“Just his poise and confidence have been really good,” coach Chuck Martin said. “He’ll have another test of poise and confidence this week going in the ’Shoe and playing the Buckeyes. So far, he’s handled all the big moments, and it hasn’t been too big for him.”
“This is the fun part,” Martin said. “The opponent, they’re very good and that’s a great challenge. But also if you’re a competitor you like the great challenge of going in there and seeing what you can do.”
Martin noted Ohio State’s advantage has everything to do with speed.
“Offensively, there’s no margin of error for our defense because any of their skill guys involving their quarterback, tight ends, if they get the ball and you get out in space it can go the distance,” he said.
“Defensively, things just close up so fast,” he said. “They close so much space. Windows open and close in the pass game so fast. Their speed is overwhelming, and it really can wear teams down.”
SPEAKING OF VELOCITY
Ohio State tailback J.K. Dobbins is getting better with each game.
The junior acknowledged he didn’t great about the opener against Florida Atlantic. He rushed for 91 yards without big breakaways.
Against Cincinnati, he had 141 yards and a 193-yard effort last week at Indiana, each with long scoring dashes. Most of those yards came in the first half of blowouts. He’s at 7.1 yards per carry and fourth in the country in rushing yards with 425.
Miami lost three starting offensive linemen to injuries last week, and it’s not clear if any would be ready for Ohio State. For the Buckeyes, defensive linemen Jonathon Cooper, Robert Landers and Tyreke Smith are out.