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

Dan Wismar





- Saturday, September 24, 2011

- Ohio Stadium - Columbus, Ohio

- 3:30 p.m. (ET)

- TV: ABC (Regional) ; ESPN2 -

The Colorado Buffaloes come to Columbus Saturday for a game with the Buckeyes that was scheduled on the fly just a year ago, but now has added meaning, as it presents several more “firsts” for an Ohio State team playing a season full of them. To name a few....

- It’s the first time this season, (and the first time in 11 months, since Wisconsin on 10/16/10) that the Buckeyes (2-1) are preparing to play a game coming off a loss. How Luke Fickell and his charges respond to their first taste of failure could have important consequences for the team’s state of mind, and for Fickell’s coaching future, here or elsewhere.

- It’s the first time since 2004 that Ohio State finds itself looking up at the nation’s Top 25 from the outside. Their chances of rejoining that group this season will be largely determined by the results of the next three Saturdays, and a strong rebound against the Buffaloes is absolutely necessary to generate momentum toward dates with Michigan State and Nebraska.

- It will be the first career start for freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, who was named the starter by Fickell on Thursday. An OSU offense that had been flying too close to the ground in the first two games finally crashed and burned against Miami last week, and Fickell had little choice but to make the change and try to jumpstart the future, come what may. We’ll refrain from capitalizing the word “era” after Miller’s least until he starts consecutive games.

Setting the Stage

This will be the fifth meeting between the two schools, with the Buckeyes on a three game win streak since losing the first game in the series, a 20-14 defeat in Columbus in 1971. Ohio State beat the Buffaloes 27-10 in the 1977 Orange Bowl, and then took both ends of a home-and-home series in 1985-86, winning 36-13 in Boulder in ‘85, and 13-10 the following year in Columbus.

Colorado visits the Horseshoe on an active streak of 18 consecutive road losses, a school record. They opened the season with a loss at Hawaii, and then fell to Cal 36-33 in overtime before bouncing back to beat Colorado State 28-14 last week on a neutral field in Denver.

This meeting with OSU resulted from the NCAA’s policy of allowing teams that travel to Hawaii to schedule a 13th game to help cover the travel expense of the trip to the islands.  Ohio State was looking to fill an open home date, and Colorado agreed to fill it, contingent on getting a national TV audience and a pay day of $1.4 million from OSU for their trouble. Based on the $850,000 Akron took home two weeks ago, Colorado received about a half million more than the going rate these days for an OSU non-conference opponent. It also marks the first time since 2006 that Ohio State will play two non-conference games against teams from BCS conferences (Miami).

Buffaloes Wing It

embree_colorado_rColorado (1-2) is working through major changes in their program as well. They too have a first-year head coach in Jon Embree, and are playing their first ever season in the newly expanded PAC-12 Conference. Embree has an NFL coaching background as tight ends coach with the Chiefs and the Redskins, and his Buffaloes are capable of piling up the yards and putting points on the scoreboard on offense. His defense will mix up the blitzes and take a lot of chances trying to confuse the young Bucks on offense for OSU.

After watching the Buckeyes struggle to move the ball against Miami, the prospect of facing any team that might dent the OSU defense for double-digit points has to be taken seriously. The Silver Bullets were dented against Toledo, but then sustained major damage against Miami, who rushed the ball against them (240 yards) like they hadn’t heard, or didn’t care, about OSU’s defensive reputation. As for the OSU offense...well, they had better not get into a wide-open scoring contest with anybody just yet.

State of the Bucks

Ohio State is still two games away from getting their suspended offensive stars Mike Adams, DeVier Posey and Boom Herron back on the field, but Jordan Hall was eligible against Miami for the first time, and the junior tailback literally hit the ground running, ripping off gains of more than ten yards on his first four carries, and finishing with 87 yards. Hall was the solitary bright spot among offensive skill position players against the ‘Canes, and there’s every reason to expect him to be a focal point of the offense against Colorado.

Offensive guard Corey Linsley looked good in his first action of the season last week, and the run-blocking seemed to be better while he was in the game at right guard. Philly Brown (ankle) is probably still a game away from returning to action at wide receiver, and senior defensive end Nathan Williams remains out recovering from a scope job on his knee. I expect to see more field time for safety Christian Bryant and possibly also Corey Brown, as the coaches try to get some more consistent play at the safety spot occupied to this point by Orhian Johnson.

Key Personnel - Colorado

colorado-logoColorado runs a pro-style offensive set, coordinated by former Buffalo running back Eric (Sleeping With) Bienemy in his first year in that job. The Buffs have averaged 32.6 points per game this year with senior quarterback Tyler Hansen at the controls. Hansen has been an off and on starter in his four seasons in Boulder, and he set a school record of 474 yards passing in the overtime loss to Cal. Hansen has completed 55% of his passes so far in 2011, throwing seven TD’s against just one interception.

His top receiving target is Paul Richardson, a 6’ 1”, 175 lb. sophomore who is emerging as one of the top receivers in the conference. He has 18 receptions for 312 yards and 4 TD’s through three games. Toney Clemons, a transfer from Michigan, is coming on as the #2 wideout for the Buffs, with 4 receptions for 74 yards in the early going.

Tailback Rodney Stewart is one of two Ohio players featured prominently in the Colorado lineup. The Westerville native is smallish at 5’ 6”, 175 lbs, but he runs with surprising power for his size, and is a good receiver out of the backfield on screens and stretch throws. Stewart has rushed for 233 yards (3.6 yd avg.) and has caught 18 passes for 277 yards and a touchdown.

The problems for the Colorado offense center on the major injury problems they have experienced on their offensive line. They have had no less than three offensive tackles and two centers miss games with a variety of leg injuries, and they will be playing backups at a couple of spots along that line on Saturday. Right guard will not be one of those positions, however, as preseason All-American Ryan Miller (6’ 8”, 295) is a 5th-year senior who is drawing NFL scouts to Colorado games.


The defense has been less effective than the offense for the Buffaloes (as a 1-2 record despite 32.6 points per game will attest) Their base set is a 3-4, but they will mix it up at times with a fourth down lineman, so they’ll resemble OSU’s 4-3 under look.

Inside backer Douglas Rippy is the other Ohio kid starting for the Buffaloes. Rippy (6’ 3”, 230) is from Trotwood Madison, and he leads the Colorado linebackers in tackles with 17 on the year. Outside linebacker Jon Major is another Buffalo defender to watch this week. He was a preseason all-conference selection and is one of the Colorado captains.

Injury problems have hit the Colorado defense as well, especially in the defensive secondary, where three cornerbacks have gone down, leaving the Buffaloes starting a former walk-on at one of those spots. At the other corner, sophomore Parker Orms is coming on as a player, and he leads the team in tackles with 20 for the season.

The kicking game is fairly solid for the Buffaloes, with placekicker Will Oliver 5 for 5 in field goals, and punter Darragh O’Neill averaging 45.9 yards per punt. The return teams for Colorado are a different story, as the Buffs rank last in the nation on kickoff returns, with a 14.7 yd. average.

Idle Speculation

Stoneburner_Toledo1All eyes will of course be on Braxton Miller this week, and he’ll need to get better performances out of his young wide receivers in order to succeed. I think Verlon Reed, Devin Smith and Chris Fields will bounce back to help out their freshman QB. Colorado’s defensive secondary issues could be just what the doctor ordered there.

Look for some short throws to tight end Jake Stoneburner (pictured) and tailback Jordan Hall to get Miller’s confidence an early boost. I think the coaches will want to keep it simple for the kid in terms of the game plan, but I do expect them to at least try to loosen things up with some attempts at big plays down the field.

The Buffaloes want to throw the ball, but they have had a hard time protecting their passer Hansen, surrendering nine sacks already this season. Injuries and inexperience on the offensive line for the Buffs would appear to bode well for OSU pass rushers and run-stuffers.

The Buckeyes were not happy with their tackling against Miami (coaches counted some 27 missed tackles that night) so there is sure to be a focus on getting some improvement this week in that area. I think that will happen, if only because Colorado ain’t Miami in terms of skill position talent.

I expect OSU to stick with a steady diet of thunder-and-lightning with Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall in the running game as a way to take the pressure off of Miller. And if I keep predicting some more carries from scrimmage for Jaamal Berry, eventually I may be right.

The Buckeyes lost on the road last week to a Miami team that isn’t great, but they won’t lose at home this week to a Colorado team that isn’t good. I think you can probably count on Braxton Miller to make some more freshman mistakes like last week’s fumbles and interception, but I think he’ll also show why he was the nation’s No. 2-ranked high school QB a year ago, and why great things are expected of him over the next few years.

I don’t expect an offensive explosion....more like a little outburst...and the defense should cover for any offensive struggles. I like the Buckeyes to win this one 27-10.



OSU Official Game Notes (pdf)

2011 Colorado Roster

2011 OSU Roster


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(photo credits - Jim Davidson, Dan Harker -

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