On Saturday, No. 2 Ohio State takes on Buffalo from the Mid-American Conference. Kickoff is slated for 12:00 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised on ESPN2 with Beth Mowins and Joey Galloway calling the action. As always, the game can be heard on your terrestrial radio dial across the Buckeye state on the 64-station Ohio State IMG Sports Network with “Big Daddy” Paul Keels, Jim Lachey and Marty Bannister.
Previewing the Buckeyes:
Ohio State is returning nine starters on offense, including Heisman Trophy candidate in junior quarterback Braxton Miller. There’s four returning starters on the offensive line alone, all seniors, with left tackle Jack Mewhort, left guard Andrew Norwell, center Corey Linsley, and right guard Marcus Hall. Then there’s five out of the six top receivers from last year back that includes wideouts Philly Brown, Devin Smith, and Evan Spencer along with pair of tight ends, junior Jeff Heuerman and sophomore Nick Vannett.
Miller, who accounted for 3,310 yards of total offense and 28 touchdowns, passed for 2,039 yards while completing 58.3 percent (148-254) with 15 TDs and six interceptions. Miller also rushed for another 1,271 yards on 254 carries and 13 more scores.
“Fundamentally, he’s a much different player than he was at this time a year ago,” Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said at his weekly press conference. “Pocket presence, which includes when it breaks down, getting plus yardage, he’s much improved.”
Though the Buckeyes will be without the services of last year’s second-leading rusher, senior Carlos Hyde, who’s suspended for the first three games due to an incident at a downtown Columbus night club, Meyer does have senior Jordan Hall available to lineup in the backfield until Hyde returns.
In 2012, Hall played in just three games due to two different injuries. One was a cut in his foot that tore a tendon over the summer before the season began and the other involved a knee during the season. In those three games, Hall netted 208 yards on the ground in 40 attempts and a touchdown, plus he caught three passes for 31 yards.
But for Meyer, the day before the season-opener must be a lot like Christmas Eve. I’m sure he’s eager to unwrap his new gifts like Dontre Wilson and other prized recruits from the class of 2013 that was ranked No. 2 by Rivals.com.
Wilson, a four-star recruit from DeSoto, Texas, runs the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds. Though he’s listed as a running back, Wilson will see action Saturday at the Percy Harvin position, better known as the “H-B” or hybrid back while getting to return kickoffs.
“Oh, my gosh, yes,” Meyer said about Wilson adding a new dimension that was missing last year. “Here’s how we evaluate offense. Get the player to the second level (5-to-10 yards past the line of scrimmage) and recruit your tail off. The second level, that’s when you see this crazy stuff that God’s blessed these incredible athletes with. That’s called big hits. We were not a big-hits team last year. We got to second level, and lots of times the second level made the tackle. Which is good. We led the Big Ten in scoring, but 12 months later, it’s not what we’re what expecting”
Previewing the Bulls:
The Buffalo Bulls were 4-8 last season, but have nine starters returning on offense and another seven on defense. So this is an experienced group under fourth-year head coach Jeff Quinn, who was a longtime assistant under current Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly.
According to Phil Steele’s publication, the Bulls are No. 4 on his list of most improved teams for 2013.
The question is, how much better will Buffalo be in 2013? Will they be able to give Ohio State any type of test?
Last season, Buffalo averaged just 21.3 points per game. But if you take away the 56 points the Bulls posted against FCS-member Morgan State, a squad that went just 3-8 on the year, then UB’s average drops to 18.1 points per game against FBS opponents.
Sophomore quarterback Joe Licata played in the four of the first seven games in 2012 for Buffalo as a backup to Alex Zordich before getting his first collegiate start against Miami (Ohio) on Nov. 3. Licata went 3-1 as a starter in the last four games, though three of those wins came against teams at the bottom of the MAC standings – Miami (4-8), Western Michigan (4-8) and Massachusetts (1-11).
In the season finale against Bowling Green, a team that finished 8-5 and was invited to the Military Bowl, the Bulls struggled offensively in the 21-7 loss to the Falcons. Licata was just 13-of-30 passing for 168 yards, Buffalo’s top rusher Devin Campbell netted a mere 26 yards on six attempts as the Bulls were outgained 310-197.
Prediction and Analysis:
Originally, Ohio State was set to take on Vanderbilt on Aug. 31. But then the Commodores had to back out which was a shame. That left Ohio State’s Director of Athletics, Gene Smith, to find a replacement and swap dates.
Buffalo has very little history when it comes to college football. Heck, they’ve only been playing Division I-A (FBS) big boy football since 1999.
While the Bulls have senior linebacker Khalil Mack, who will be playing football on Sunday next year, Buffalo just doesn’t have the athletes or depth to compete on the big stage with Ohio State.
I expect a big win for the Buckeyes on Saturday.
Ohio State 56, Buffalo 10