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

Dan Wismar




Dunn UCF1- Saturday, September 15, 2012

- Ohio Stadium - Columbus, OH

- California at Ohio State

- 12:00 p.m. (ET)

- TV: ABC -

It’s a national network TV appearance for the 2-0 Ohio State Buckeyes this week as the California Golden Bears come east for a contest that will kickoff at 9:00 a.m. their time. The two head coaches are good friends...which of course has nothing to do with the two schools meeting for the first time in 40 years. This two-game series, to be concluded next year in Berkeley, was scheduled back when Urban Meyer was winning national championships at Florida. But their friendship is the kind of thing that will make for a nice feature story....for somebody else.

California is 1-5 against Ohio State in the all-time series, the last meeting coming in 1972. The Buckeyes have won five in a row, their only loss a 28-0 decision in the 1921 Rose Bowl.  The Bears have been something of a disappointment so far in 2012, but it should be said here that the PAC-12 was 3-0 against the Big Ten last week, and...well, there’s a sleeping bear joke in there somewhere.

Cal comes in at 1-1, having lost their opener to Nevada 31-24, and then rebounding with a win last week over Southern Utah by a 50-31 score. Head coach Jeff Tedford is in his 11th year at Berkeley, and he’ll arrive in Columbus with a 80-49 career record with the Bears. Cal was 7-6 a year ago, losing to Texas 21-10 in the Holiday Bowl after finishing 4th in the PAC-12 North with a 4-5 conference mark.

State of the Bucks

Hall 2011bThe big news on the injury front this week is the return of starting tailback Jordan Hall (#7 at right) to the Buckeyes’ offensive huddle. The senior, who lacerated his foot in June and required surgery for a severed tendon, has been cleared to play this week, and has reportedly been moving well in practice. Meyer has said he’s not sure how much Hall will play, but barring a setback, he’ll be worked back into the offense. And not a moment too soon.

With Carlos Hyde sidelined by a MCL strain, it appears that Bri’onte Dunn  (#25 at top) the true freshman from Glen Oak, will get his first start at tailback. The overall sloppy play and mental mistakes by Hyde, Dunn and Rod Smith last week against UCF caused Meyer to tell the media afterwards what had been obvious during the game: “We’ve got to develop a running back”.

The injuries to Hall, freshman Warren Ball and now Hyde have put a freshman in the starting lineup, and as talented as Dunn may be, it would be a great help to the offense to get Hall’s experience, as well as his quickness and pass receiving skills back on the field.

The primary beneficiary of Hall’s presence would of course be Braxton Miller, who cannot be expected to hold up under the punishment of running the ball 27 times a game like he did a week ago. On top of that, every OSU opponent the rest of the way will be scheming to take away Braxton Miller’s rushing game, and to this point, the Buckeye offense hasn’t shown it can move the ball consistently any other way.

OSU offensive minds Meyer and Tom Herman have kept the game plans simple, and the play-calling conservative so far. My prediction last week that we would see some new wrinkles against UCF went nowhere (they did run an end-around or two) so I’ll stay off that limb this time around. They’ll open things up when they get good and ready. Maybe after they perfect the straight hand-off to the tailback.

Defensive end Michael Bennett may miss another game with his groin strain, and Nathan Williams, who played in the opener but sat out last week with soreness, will probably be a game-time decision. Storm Klein is back from his suspension and reportedly will see action at linebacker.


Cal Bears: Key Personnel

KeenanAllen2The Bears return six starters on offense, including all three of their key skill-position players and 60% of their offensive line. All-conference receiver Keenan Allen gets most of the ink as a future 1st-rounder, with size, speed and ball skills that have him ranked near the top of NFL teams’ lists of receivers.

The 6’ 3”, 206 lb. Allen caught 98 balls in 2011, for 1,343 yards and 6 TD’s. In the Bears’ first two games he has 11 receptions for 136 yards and a touchdown. They’ll give #21 the ball in the rushing game as well (39 yds rushing in two games) and he’s the Bears’ punt returner, averaging 22.2 yds per return. Behind Allen the Bears are getting good production from two young receivers, redshirt freshman Chris Harper (12 rec., 151 yds, TD) and freshman Bryce Treggs (6 rec. 100 yds, TD)

Quarterback Zach Maynard is a senior who transferred to Cal after two seasons at Buffalo. The southpaw was in and out of the starting lineup in 2011, and threw for 2,990 yards with 17 TD’s and 12 interceptions, while completing 57% of his throws. Maynard and Allen are half-brothers.

Tailback Isi Sofele rushed for 1,322 yards in 2011, and the powerfully built 5’ 8”, 200 pounder is fast and tough to bring down. He’s showing up on preseason All-PAC-12 teams and on the Doak Walker Award watch list, so he should be a challenge for the Buckeyes’ 7th-ranked rush defense (51.0 ypg)

Another key offensive starter for the Bears, right tackle Matt Summers-Gavin suffered a knee injury against Nevada and sat out last week’s game. No official word on whether or not he’ll be ready to go Saturday.

Defensively the Bears have struggled in the early part of the season, but they are normally sound on defense with coordinator Clancy Pendergast. They play a 3-4 look and the defensive ends are formidable. Junior Deandre Coleman (6’ 5”, 309) and Aaron Tipoti (6’ 2”, 280) are both on the preseason all-PAC-12 teams, and they have been productive in the first two games despite the fact that the team is giving up 31 points per game.

Cal will start two sophomores at outside linebacker in their 3-4, and two seniors inside in first-year starters Robert Mullins and J. P. Hurrell. The secondary is experienced, with corners Steve Williams and Marc Anthony and senior safety Josh Hill all returning as starters.


Idle Speculation

cal-logoYou could say Cal is dangerous because they have been playing beneath what most of the experts considered to be their potential, and they are due for a strong performance. But the same could be said of the Buckeyes, and Meyer promised a return to fundamentals after OSU was hurt last week by penalties and turnovers, a problem that has also plagued Cal in the early going.

Clearly the Bears’ defense hasn’t put it together yet, and flying a couple thousand miles to play a game won’t help with that, I suspect. The Buckeyes will try to keep adding to the Meyer-Herman offensive package and make the little things work to generate more big plays and points. Meyer will almost certainly try to diversify the rushing attack to give Braxton a break. He spoke of using Philly Brown more with the “horizontal” other words, reverses and end-arounds, and incorporating the tailbacks to a much greater degree than in the first two games.

He may even whisper in Miller’s ear that it’s OK to pitch the ball on the option once in a while.

I think Bri’onte Dunn could end up as the big story of this game. The freshman missed an assignment or two last week, but his talent is unmistakable, and this will be his first big chance to shine in front of 105,000 folks. You know he has been drilled on the basics of the offense in practice all week. It’ll be interesting to see how he responds to the limelight.

The Bears play press man-to-man with their corners, and OSU receiver Devin Smith told reporters this week he and Philly Brown are looking forward to the challenge of man coverage this Saturday. Another game-within-the-game will be to see how the young Buckeye wide receivers separate and make plays (or not) against an experienced secondary and a defensive scheme pretty much daring them to throw the ball.

For the OSU defense, the first obvious goal is to make someone besides Keenan Allen make the big plays if there are to be any. The Buckeyes should once again have an edge in the kicking game, and it’s important this week for Ben Buchanan to be making those punts unreturnable.

The Bears have been experimenting with the no-huddle offense this year, so there could be a whole lot of plays run in this game with both teams hurrying it up. I see a closer game than many of the pundits are predicting. I like the Buckeyes...35-24


Ohio State Roster

California Roster

OSU Athletics Communications - Game Notes (pdf)


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(photo credits - JIm Davidson -

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