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Buckeyes Buckeye Archive Preview: UCF at Ohio State
Written by Dan Wismar

Dan Wismar

BraxtonMiller Miami2- Saturday, September 8, 2012

- Ohio Stadium - Columbus, OH

- University of Central Florida at Ohio State

- 12:00 p.m. (ET)

- TV: ESPN2 -

Urban Meyer’s new-look Buckeyes got over their first hurdle last week against Miami, but the OSU coach calls Central Florida “a whole different animal” as he prepares his team to face the Knights this Saturday at Ohio Stadium. The 14th-ranked Buckeyes will be trying to avoid the kind of slow start they suffered against Miami, and UCF (1-0) will be hoping they can reprise their strong overall effort in a 56-14 wipeout of the Akron Zips a week ago. It will be the first ever meeting between the two schools.

Ohio State’s 46-point margin of victory over Miami was not reflected in Meyer’s postgame comments, as the sluggishness on offense and some early defensive breakdowns gave the coaching staff plenty of things to correct going forward. UCF will present a different offensive style and a considerably more talented and faster group of defenders than the Buckeyes faced in the opener.

State of the Bucks

CarlosHyde Miami2Ohio State came through the opener without suffering any major injuries, although defensive end Nathan Williams’ knee was pretty sore after the senior wound up playing two to three times the number of plays against Miami than what had been expected of him. His extra time was due mostly to the absence of Michael Bennett, who sat out the Miami game with a groin strain that will keep him on the bench again this week. Running back Jordan Hall will also miss his second consecutive game as he recovers from a laceration to his foot suffered in June.

Much of the talk in the aftermath of the opener was about the early success Redhawks quarterback Zac Dysert had against the OSU defense. The 3-0 lead Miami enjoyed after one quarter might easily have been 10-0 or 14-0 but for a dropped pass here and a saving tackle there. Dysert had first quarter completions of 42 and 58 yards that OSU coaches said were the result of confusion in the secondary about what package they were in. But considering that Dysert threw the ball 53 times and completed 31 passes, it’s worth noting that just 138 of his game total of 303 passing yards came after that first period.

Ohio State starting defensive backs Bradley Roby, Travis Howard and Christian Bryant all graded out at a “championship” level according to the staff, and although “Star” back Corey Brown was beaten deep on the Redhawks’ only TD, he had a strong game overall in his first career start.

UCF will have a much more balanced attack, with a run-first mentality, which means we should see more of the Buckeyes’ base defense, with Curtis Grant at linebacker taking the place of Brown at the Star spot.  Stopping the run effectively has been a hallmark of recent OSU defenses, and they shut down Miami with -1 yard rushing on Saturday. It must be said however that the Redhawks had the nation’s worst rushing attack in 2011, and they appear on track to repeat.

Knight Moves

Central Florida is the largest university in the state, and I was surprised to learn this week that it actually has a larger overall enrollment (58,698 in 2011) than Ohio State!  The Orlando-based school competed in the MAC (in football only) from 2001-2005 before joining Conference USA for the 2006 season.

UCF Knights logoGeorge O’Leary, who you may recall was the coach at Notre Dame for about ten minutes (okay, a week) in 2001, is entering his 9th season at the helm with the Knights, and some observers think this could be his best team. Of the preseason prognosticators, Phil Steele’s was the most bullish on the Knights, rating them the #1 “Most Improved” team in the nation, and ranking them #15 overall. But nearly every pundit favors UCF to win the Conference USA East, and there is plenty of NFL-caliber talent on this roster.

Like Ohio State, Central Florida is currently on NCAA probation, although they are hoping an appeal can reduce their punishment by removing the 2012 postseason ban. Their sanctions stem from a 2011 investigation that found their men’s basketball and football programs had been involved with runners from sports agents, and had committed violations including cash payments to recruits.

UCF - Key Personnel

Sophomore Blake Bortles finished the 2011 campaign as the Knights’ most effective  quarterback, and he won the starting job this fall, leading UCF last week at Akron with 168 yards on 13 of 16 passing and three TD’s. His backup, Missouri transfer Tyler Gabbert, also played against the Zips, throwing a TD in mop-up duty.

The Knights’ best rusher Latavious Murray suffered a shoulder injury in the Akron game and has been ruled out for this week, but UCF has depth at the position in Miami(FL) transfer Storm Johnson and Brynn Harvey (574 yds, 3 TD in 2011) as backups. Johnson rushed 12 times for 36 yards against Akron, and Harvey had five attempts for 13 yards in the opener.

In J.J. Worton, Quincy McDuffie and Josh Reese, UCF returns their top three receivers from a year ago, but it was speedy sophomore Rannell Hall who led the Knights against Akron, catching four passes for 94 yards and a touchdown. McDuffie had three receptions for 47 yards against the Zips. Guard Theo Goins is the standout on an experienced offensive line for the Knights.

UCF led the conference in total defense, rushing defense and scoring defense a year ago, and ranked in the nation’s top 20 teams in all three categories. They are led up front by Victor Gray and Troy Davis at the defensive end spots, and have widebodies at the tackles in Jose Jose (6’3”, 327 lbs) and E.J. Dunston (6’ 2”, 303 lbs).

The Knights go for speed over size at weakside linebacker, with 5’ 9”, 202 lb Jonathan Davis, but Ray Shipman plays the strongside at 6’ 5”, 242 lbs. Kemal Ishmael is a 4-year starter at safety and is probably the best player in the UCF secondary.

The Knights boast several capable kick returners including McDuffie, Worton and Hall.


Idle Speculation

ZachBoren Miami2UCF capitalized on three Akron fumbles and an interception last week to break open a game in which the Zips actually got more first downs than the Knights by a 19-18 count, and were outgained by UCF in total yards just 386-325, yet lost by five touchdowns. The Buckeyes played turnover-free football against Miami, and if they can repeat that performance, the odds of an upset get much longer.

Don’t mean to harp too much on the importance of Curtis Grant at middle backer to this OSU team, but keep an eye on #14 Saturday. This game should get us closer to knowing if he is the answer at that position or if more experimentation with other players will be necessary. I also expect the defense to be a little bit less “vanilla” this week, and show the UCF offense more different looks.

The same might well be expected on the other side of the ball, as Meyer and coordinator Tom Herman should unveil a few more wrinkles in this offense now that they’ve had their baptism under fire. We know they have spent considerable practice time this week working on goal-line and short yardage offense after failing to score from the 1-yard line right before halftime last week. On that play, the pulling guard got tripped up and missed his block, and then Carlos Hyde left his feet rather than just power through the line, but Meyer isn’t interested in excuses. You’re Ohio State, he tells them...and you have to be able to get that score.

So glad to see senior fullback and co-captain Zach Boren (pictured) getting some love from Meyer and Herman in this offensive scheme. Boren did his usual duty delivering crunching blocks in the rushing attack, but they threw him the ball as well (two catches and one drop) and gave him two carries from scrimmage inside the 10-yard line as he picked up his first career rushing TD while tripling his career carry total. Meyer doesn’t normally use a fullback in his offense, but he knows a good one when he sees him.

Watch Rannell Hall for UCF on kickoff returns. OSU covered their kickoffs pretty well last week (with Archie’s kid Adam Griffin garnering special teams player of the week honors for his part in that).  But Hall is an excellent returner, and we know how scores on returns can turn games around. Better yet, just tell kicker Drew Basil to kick them all through the end zone.

Meyer wasn’t happy at the time about his team’s slow start against Miami, but in hindsight he thinks it may have been a good thing. You can bet though, that he will have stressed to his kids the importance of jumping on the Knights early in this one, having learned their lesson last week.

For all the talent on this UCF team, I can’t get past that statistic that Akron got more first downs than they did over 60 minutes of football, and gained 325 yards on them. Akron. Three months ago I had this one circled as a trap game, but I’ve come to believe the Bucks win decisively...let’s say 31-13.


OSU Athletics Communications - Game Notes (pdf)

2012 OSU Roster

2012 UCF Roster


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(photo credits - Jim Davidson and Dan Harker-

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