Editors note: The Buckeye Bloggers Network presents a combined preview of the Ohio State vs. Cal matchup. We take a look at the Ohio State rushing game vs. the Cal defense. Be sure to check out the rest of the previews listed at the bottom of this post.
With Carlos Hyde out for Ohio State’s game against Cal, the Buckeye running game is one of the biggest questions going into Saturday. Early in the week it looked like freshman Bri’onte Dunn was going to grab the starting role. By the time Urban Meyer’s mid-week press conference rolled around Dunn was out and Rod Smith was getting a nod from Coach. Now reports are floating around the web that Jordan Hall had a good practice on Wed and may be the starter come Saturday morning. d Zach Boren has also gotten a couple of looks.
At Wednesday’s presser, Meyer said that it all depended on this week’s practice and he wouldn’t name the starter until Saturday morning.
The good news in all the turmoil is that while the Buckeye backfield resembles an open audition, things are much worse at Cal. According to Cal blogger Avinash Kunnath at Californiagoldenblogs.com, the Cal defensive injured list could fill a hospital ward. Add to that some big holes to fill at the end of last season and it could be a good day to test the Buckeye ground operations.
The Braxton Miller Show
If Cal’s performance against Nevada is any indication, they could be in for a very long day. They struggled to contain Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo giving up a total 220 yards on the ground. Miller offers about twice the talent as Fajardo in his ability to move the ball and scramble. Cal’s best hope may be to put a shadow on Braxton Miller but that opens up opportunities elsewhere. Not only that but Cal will need someone who can keep up with Miller which they may not have.
The biggest concern is how much Meyer will utilize Miller. Last week’s outrageous 27 carries is just too much and at some point the hits are going to take their toll. Although we keep hearing how much Meyer wants excitement and high scoring games, I hope that he doesn’t plan on riding Miller alone to do it. He said himself after last week’s game that they need to be smart about how much they use Miller. My concern is that in the heat of battle, Meyer may not be able to back off.
Personally, I’d like to see the Buckeyes up by enough in the third quarter that we get to see Kenny Guiton give Miller a much needed rest.
Given his druthers, it’s safe to say that Meyer would like to see Hall in the starting position Saturday. Although he may be rusty, he’s got the experience and shouldn’t be as prone to the mistakes that we might see in Dunn or Smith (ie. fumbles). When healthy Hall has the ability to punch through and find open ground and he’s exciting to watch. I just hope that he isn’t coming back too soon and that he will be in full health come Michigan State.
Rod Smith and Bri’onte Dunn
Although Meyer implied that Smith may get the nod over Dunn, I can’t believe we won’t see Dunn get a couple of touches. At Wednesday’s press conference, Meyer said that Smith was making the move to the Freak Show (punt blocking) which is a big step toward full-time spot. Depending on Hall’s health, I’d say Smith is probably next in line. Both of these guys are looking to prove themselves and earn their spot.
A big day on Saturday would be a big step in the right direction for both of them.
So far Boren is the utility player of the Buckeye offense and he’s doing it well. I don’t know what it is about Boren but he is exciting to watch. If Carlos Hyde can’t be the one to punch it through, I like the idea of Boren being the one to do it. Come Saturday, I think we’ll get a chance to see him come charging out of the backfield with a full head of steam on at least a couple of carries.
Buckeye Offensive Line
As I mentioned earlier, I like the way the Buckeye offensive line moved UCF around. At the same time, I still have some concerns regarding their pass protection. With all the injuries and personnel changes, I think the Cal defense is still trying to put it all together. If the Buckeyes can take advantage early, it should be another big rushing day for Ohio State.
Read the rest of the BBN Ohio State vs. Cal Preview
Buckeye Empire: Coaches and special teams
Men of the Scarlet and Gray: Ohio State Defensive Backs vs. Cal passing game
OSU Silver Bullet: Cal rushing vs. Ohio State defense
The Buckeye Battle Cry: OSU Receivers -vs- Cal’s Secondary