Written by Dan Wismar

Dan Wismar

- Saturday, August 31, 2013

- 12:00 p.m. ET

- Buffalo at Ohio State

- Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

- TV: ESPN2 

Shazier3Urban Meyer and his Ohio State Buckeyes will put their 12-game winning streak on the line when they kick off the 2013 season Saturday, hosting the Bulls of the University of Buffalo at the Horseshoe. It’s customary to look ahead rather than back at this time of year, but that zero in the loss column was the consolation prize for Meyer and the Buckeyes a year ago, and the winning streak is the nation’s longest coming into the new season..

The Buckeyes are a 34.5-point favorite to dispose of the Bulls, a 4-8 team a year ago, although they have improved steadily under 4th-year head coach Jeff Quinn. Without presuming to look past the Bulls in what will be a real live football game, we can still acknowledge that the opponents this Saturday might as well be the Cows. Because this day is about the unveiling of Urban Meyer’s OSU 2.0  

Almost, anyway. Starting running back Carlos Hyde won’t be on hand, nor will his first backup Rod Smith.  All-Big Ten cornerback Bradley Roby will be sitting this one out as well, as all three are suspended for one misdeed or another, (Hyde for three games)  None of that should matter too much this week. Running back is probably the team’s deepest position group. In fact, everywhere you look there is a talented young player ready to make a name in Scarlet and Gray.

 If the past is a reliable guide to the future. Meyer’s second Ohio State season will be special. In his second time around at Bowling Green (9-3), Utah (12-0, BCS berth), and Florida (13-1, BCS title) Meyer’s teams set new standards of achievement for their respective programs.

At Ohio State of course, he can only match the standard set by others...an undefeated national champion. The opinion of the experts is that Meyer’s combination of great talent and a relatively tame schedule gives him a decent shot at pulling it off, and the preseason No. 2 ranking reflects that assessment.

The best part is we can finally stop talking about it, and start witnessing it.


State of the Bucks

A quick look at who’s starting for the Buckeyes...and who you might expect to see off the bench…



BMiller1 optQB - Braxton Miller is this team’s offensive leader and most irreplaceable player, as well as the focus of every opponent’s defensive game plan. Backup Kenny Guiton could see action as well, even if the lead never reaches four touchdowns.

RB - 5th-year senior Jordan Hall gets the nod as the starter, but several backs will see action. Practice reports on redshirt freshman Warren Ball have been very good, and he’ll be on the field early. Bri’onte Dunn and freshman Ezekiel Elliott are both expected to play as well.

TE - Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett are as good a 1-2 tight end combo as there is in the country, according to  their position coach Tim Hinton. Freshman Marcus Baugh got in some trouble this summer and didn’t appear on the Week One depth chart, but he’ll be a force as the year goes along.

OL - The starting unit is a strength of the team, with four returning senior starters with 81 combined career starts. Left to right; Jack Mewhort, Andrew Norwell, Corey Linsley, Marcus Hall, and the one newcomer, freshman right tackle Taylor Decker. The continued good health of these five young men is vital to the team’s chances for a championship of any kind. There are still depth issues here.

WR - A wealth of incoming talent has pushed the returning veteran receivers to step up in their starting roles. Senior Corey Brown, and juniors Devin Smith and Evan Spencer are expected to start, with another senior, Chris Fields getting the nod at the H-back spot (where Jordan Hall was slotted until he was pressed into service at running back). Everyone is anxious to see freshman sensation Dontre Wilson (#1) and that could happen right at noon, as he’s listed as a starter on kickoff returns. Sophomore Michael Thomas and freshmen Jalin Marshall and James Clark are all expected to see the field in the receiver rotation.



Washington2DL - OSU fans get their first extended look at two sensational sophomore defensive ends, in Noah Spence at the weakside, “Leo” position, and Adolphus Washington (pictured) on the strong side. Another sophomore, Jamal Marcus backs up Spence at the Leo, and true freshman Joey Bosa is in the two-deep behind Washington.

Junior Joel Hale will start at the nose, and Michael Bennett mans the 3-technique tackle spot. With the foot injury sidelining sophomore DT Tommy Schutt, Chase Farris has been moved back from the O-Line group to shore up the defensive line. Chris Carter and true freshman Michael Hill will probably be the first tackles off the bench, and Bosa has reportedly also seen some time on the inside at tackle.

LB - This group is headlined by Ryan Shazier, (#10 at top) the junior Will (weakside) linebacker who showed up on most preseason All-America teams. Junior Curtis Grant has earned the start in the middle with strong play in the spring and fall practices, but he remains an unknown quantity, and freshman Mike Mitchell could get an opportunity  to show what he can do as Grant’s primary backup.

Josh Perry is the starter at the strongside (Sam) backer, but the coaches have said that when the defense is in the nickel package, which could be as much as 50-60% of the time, Shazier and Grant will be the two linebackers on the field. Sophomore Camren Williams and freshman Trey Johnson are backups who are likely to appear first on special teams.

DGrant2 EamonQueeney DispatchDB - With Roby suspended, sophomore Armani Reeves gets the start at the boundary cornerback position. and junior Doran Grant  (#12 at right) will get his second career start at the field corner. The safeties are veterans C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant, both voted among the eight captains for the 2013 Buckeyes. Tyvis Powell has earned the starting spot at the nickel back, or “Star” position as the 5th defensive back.

Two very promising freshmen corners, Eli Apple and Gareon Conley have grabbed the backup corner spots for the moment, and freshman sensation Vonn Bell competes with sophomore Devan Bogard as the reserves at Star. Corey (“Pitt”) Brown and Ron Tanner are listed as the backups at safety.

P - 21 year-old Australian punter Cameron Johnston is one to watch Saturday. The freshman will be getting his baptism in American football in front of 106,000 people. He’s got a big leg, but the setting is going to be unlike anything he’s ever experienced.

K - Drew Basil wasn’t asked to kick many field goals a year ago, and that may not change under Meyer 2.0. But he’s a veteran by this team’s standards on special teams, and he’s reliable.

PR - Corey Brown returned two punts for scores a year ago, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

KR - Jordan Hall and Dontre Wilson are the starters here. Freshmen Ezekiel Elliott and James Clark could see action too, if Buffalo has more than a couple opportunities to kick off.


BuffaloHelmetBuffalo: Key Personnel


The Bulls have a couple of all-MAC caliber performers on offense in running back Brandon Oliver and receiver Jeff Neutz. Oliver missed several games in 2012, but still piled up 821 yards, 5 touchdowns, and a 5.5 yard per carry average. He’s on all the preseason all-conference teams.

Neutz caught 65 balls in 2012, for 1015 yards and 11 TD’s. He’s a big target at 6’ 3”, 205 lbs, and will be on the receiving end of throws from sophomore QB Joe Licata, who will start over the more mobile senior Alex Zordich.

On defense, the big name is inside linebacker Khalil Mack, a legitimate NFL prospect who led the MAC in tackles for loss a year ago with 13, including 8 sacks. Defensive end Colby Way is one more defender to watch for Saturday. Way had seven sacks among his 58 tackles a year ago.

The Bulls return a veteran secondary, which should be considered the strength of their defense, and should provide a good test for Braxton Miller and an OSU offense intent on throwing the football. Cornerback Najja Johnson is the standout in that unit.

Idle Speculation


Heuerman2It will be interesting to see if Meyer can avoid last year’s tendency to start slowly...especially in games against heavy underdogs. Recall how both Central Florida and UAB came into Ohio Stadium last year and played the Buckeyes toe-to-toe for four quarters, gaining confidence from a good start against a sluggish, mistake-prone OSU team. We’ll see how much of that early game struggling was a function of players working in a new system.

I know the keys that I’ll be watching for as the game goes along. Here are a few…

- How will the middle of the OSU defense hold up against a decent inside rushing attack...I’m talking defensive tackles Hale and Bennett and their backups, and Curtis Grant at the middle linebacker spot. Are safeties Bryant and Barnett making all the tackles at the second level, or are the big guys plugging things up for linebackers Grant, Shazier and Perry?

- How do relatively green cornerbacks Doran Grant and Armani Reeves perform in Roby’s absence? Do the freshmen Conley and Apple stand out at corner?

- Are Spence and Washington getting regular penetration, disrupting plays in the backfield and pressuring the QB from the DE spots?

- Which of the young running backs…(Ball...Dunn...Elliott) will take advantage of the opportunity presented by the absence of Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith?

- Will the reported improvement in Braxton Miller’s throwing mechanics be obvious to all watching?

- Will Dontre Wilson be all that? Or will someone like James Clark or Jalin Marshall or Ezekiel Elliott or Joey Bosa or Michael Hill steal the show for the freshman class?


People expect this OSU offense to explode this Saturday, and it very well might. There’s an awful lot of talent and speed at hand, and plenty of what Meyer calls “want to” in his players. Still I think a five touchdown spread may be too much.

The Bulls will be fired up...just as every single OSU opponent on the schedule will be. I think they will be better...and play better...than many people expect. Phil Steele rates the Bulls #4 on his Most Improved Teams list for 2013. Now, that won’t tackle Braxton Miller for them, but it’s an indication that they’ll show up and play.

The OSU defense has just three returning starters for this game, so the unit as a whole will be in uncharted waters. They’re bound to make some mistakes. I also think Urban Meyer will limit his offensive playbook, and try not to show too much to his Big Ten rivals. I’m thinking a 3-4 touchdown margin of victory is more likely. Let’s say 42-16.



2013 OSU Roster

 Game Week Two-Deep

 2013 Buffalo Roster



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