Ohio State – Preview

Okay, just so I’ve got this straight.

Colorado hasn’t won on the road since 2007. Check.

Since 2002, Ohio State is 54-5 at Ohio Stadium, a/k/a “The Horseshoe”, and has won 56 consecutive regular-season non-conference home games against unranked teams. Check.

Ohio State has won seven national championships and had seven Heisman trophy winners, while Colorado has had one of each. Check.

The Buckeyes just fell out of the Top 25 for the first time since November, 2004. The Buffs have gone almost that entire span without being ranked. Check.

Ohio State is a 15-point favorite to take care of business against Colordo.


While logic suggests that Colorado is just taking a trip out to Columbus to collect a check (The “Dan Hawkins’ Buyout Bowl”, anyone?), events of the past few weeks and months have given the Buffs at least a puncher’s chance at the Buckeyes.

Let’s see how this week’s ‘T.I.P.S.” suggest how …

T – Talent

The quarterback position at Ohio State is in a state of flux.

Instead of running out a Heisman trophy candidate at quarterback in Terrelle Pryor, the Buckeyes have been left to start the 2011 season with inexperience and mixed results.

Three days after a 24-6 loss to Miami in which the Buckeyes’ passing game looked like something out of the Woody Hayes era, Ohio State head Luke Fickell would not say who would start at quarterback against Colorado on Saturday. The choices: true freshman Braxton Miller and fifth-year senior Joe Bauserman.

“We don’t know what the plan is just yet,” Fickell said. “We’re going to have these guys compete. We have an idea what’s going to happen. Until we see them compete in practice, and see how guys handle situations and roles and different things like that, we’re not going to make a complete judgment just yet.”

Neither player distinguished himself in a 24-6 loss to Miami last weekend. Bauserman completed only two-of-14 passes for 13 yards, in part because of three drops by wide receivers. Miller was two-of-four for 22 yards, with both completions coming in the meaningless final seconds. Miller also threw an interception and fumbled.

Fickell said the onus is on everybody to lessen the burden on the quarterback. The defense has to get off the field. The other 10 players on offense around the quarterback have to block, run and catch. “I can’t pinpoint one single thing other than we’ve got to get better all across the board,” Fickell said.

Bauserman has started all three games. He played nearly flawlessly against overmatched Akron and was mediocre against Toledo.

Miller had a promising debut against the Zips and didn’t play against Toledo after suffering a mild ankle sprain in practice.

Either choice is better for the Buffs’ chances than would have been the case if Terrelle Pryor were still in town.

This is not to say that the Buckeyes are without talent of offense.

Junior running back Jordan Hall, suspended for the first two games of the season, had an auspicious debut against Miami, rushing for 87 yards, and accounting for 123 all-purpose yards. Carlos Hyde, who was the main threat for the Buckeyes while Hall sat, has the same rushing total for the season – 223 yards – as Colorado’s leading running back, Rodney Stewart. Despite being held out of the endzone by the Hurricanes, the Buckeyes did manage to post 174 rushing yards.

The Ohio State passing game, though, is another issue.

The combined 4-of-18 effort by Bauserman and Miller for a paltry 35 yards has the Buckeye Nation wringing its collective hands, but it is not all the fault of the quarterbacks. Along the offensive line, there are three sophomores (though the Buckeyes do have an All-American at center in Mike Brewster). Ohio State is also young at wideout, listing two sophomores and three freshmen as its top five wide receivers.

Buff fans should keep an eye out for tight ends Jake Stoneburner and Reid Fragel, both juniors, who may be counted on to bail out their ineffective quarterbacks. Stoneburner already has four touchdown catches for the Buckeyes this season.

With the Ohio State offense young and inexperienced, the Buckeyes have been counting upon their defense to control play.

To date, that game plan has worked well, as the Buckeyes are 17th in the nation in passing defense, 37th in rushing defense, 14th in total defense, and 28th in scoring defense. Even Miami, which raced out to a 14-0 lead against the Buckeyes in the first ten minutes of last weekend’s game, posted a moderate total of 363 total yards of offense on the evening (only 247 after the first two drives of the game) .

A stout defense is nothing new in Columbus, where the Buckeyes have allowed only seven 100-yard rushers since 2007, third-best in the nation over that span. The Ohio State defense has featured a Top 20 scoring defense in each of the last nine seasons, including a top six finish in each of the last six campaigns.

The Ohio State defense this season is led by its linebackers – Andrew Sweat, Etienne Sabino, and Storm Klein – each of whom set or tied their career bests for tackles last weekend against Miami. Sabino leads all Big Ten players with 4.5 tackles for loss this season.

On special teams, the Buckeyes, like the Buffs have a new kicker. Sophomore Drew Basil made his first two field goals of the year against Miami – from 22 and 24 yards out. Basil missed, though, the first four attempts of his career, two from 50 yards out in 2010, and 40- and 47-yarders this season.

On kick returns Ohio State has a decided advantage. Last season Jordan Hall was 2nd in the Big Ten in punt returns (9.9 yards per return), and 16th in the nation in kickoff returns (27.9), including a 70-yard punt return and an 85-yard kickoff return.

With both offenses struggling against two decent defenses, the game may come down to special teams. If it is field goals – advantage, Colorado. If it comes down to making a big play on returns – advantage, Ohio State.

I – Intangibles

Ohio State is on the quarter system.

There, don’t you feel better?

Okay, here’s the relevance … The Ohio State is on the quarter system, and fall quarter started this week. While the Colorado players (along with most of the other players on BCS conference teams) have been going to class and doing homework since late August, the Buckeyes have to date been able to practice without that little distraction known as school.

Now, Ohio State has convened. The Buckeye players, for the first time, are having to juggle classes with game preparation.

A small advantage, I grant you, but if you recall how hectic it was your first week of classes every fall, the Buckeye players may be forgiven with being just a little distracted.

Take what you can get.

Another small advantage for Buff fans to cling to is how the two teams are trending heading into the game Saturday.

Ohio State started strong, shuting out a weak Akron team, 42-0 (the Zips have gone on to a 41-3 home loss to Temple and a 59-14 loss to Cincinnati). The following week, also at home, the Buckeyes struggled against Toledo, winning 27-22. The Rockets actually led the Buckeyes, 15-7, after the first quarter, and had the ball in the Ohio State red zone with under a minute to play before a fourth down pass fell incomplete to end the upset bid (Ohio State has not lost to another Ohio team since … 1921). This past weekend, Ohio State was held to two field goals and 209 yards of total offense in losing on the road to Miami, 24-6.

Colorado, meanwhile, has been trending in the opposite direction. After an embarrassing loss to Hawai’i to open the season, the Buffs played very well in spurts against Cal, and had chances to defeat the Bears at the end of regulation and in overtime. Then, last weekend, Colorado played well for three quarters against Colorado State, controlling the ball and the momentum for most of the game in a 28-14 victory.

Ohio State: playing a little bit worse in each of its three games.

Colorado: playing a little bit better in each of its three games.

Both teams have new head coaches. Luke Fickell took over for Jim Tressel after the long-time head coach abruptly resigned on Memorial Day. With the Buckeyes potentiall facing four ranked opponents to open the Big Ten conference season (see Preparation/Schedule, below), there could be just a modicum of doubt creeping into the minds of the Buckeye faithful … and perhaps even their players.

P – Preparation/Schedule

Colorado played at home (or close to home last weekend), and travels this Friday. Ohio State was on the road last weekend, but will be at home to practice on Friday.

No advantage for either team.

The Buffs open their Pac-12 conference season next weekend against Washington State, while the Buckeyes will host Michigan State. The Spartans were ranked 15th in the nation before falling to Notre Dame last weekend. Michigan State is ranked 26th this week, and play Central Michigan at home this weekend. A loss by any of the bottom tier top 25 teams will put “Sparty” back into the rankings for the showdown with the Buckeyes.

After taking on Michigan State, Ohio State then plays at No. 9 Nebraska, at No. 24 Illinios, and then at home against No. 6 Wisconsin. If you are a member of the Buckeye Nation, and you look at how the Buckeyes have been playing the past few weeks … you may be more nervous at kickoff than Buff fans.

While both teams are at home next weekend, Ohio State has more reason to be peeking ahead. Colorado is just another “should win” for the Buckeyes to get past before taking on a rough start to the Big Ten schedule, while Ohio State represents a “golden opportunity” game for the Buffs. Advantage – Colorado.

One area in which the Buffs will have a decided disadvantage will be in preparation for the Ohio State crowd. Attendance at last weekend’s Rocky Mountain Showdown was about half of what Colorado players can expect come Saturday. Capacity for the Horseshoe is 102,329. In all likelihood, this weekend’s game will represent just the fourth time in school history in which the Buffs have played before a crowd of over 100,000. The first two such occasions came against Michigan in 1994 (yes, that was “the Catch”) and in 1997. The last time Colorado played before six digits in bodies was in 2009, when the expanded Texas stadium witnessed Colorado take the lead on the Longhorns before succumbing in the second half. (In case you were wondering, the other two times Colorado played at Ohio State, the crowds were in the high 80’s – a significant renovation to the stadium was done between 1999-2001).

S – Statistics

– Colorado has gained three first downs by way of penalty in its first three games, while Buffs’ opponents have gained 11 first downs by penalty. Don’t look for that imbalance to shift significantly Saturday, as Ohio State leads the Big Ten with the fewest penalties, with only nine for 67 yards this season.

– Toledo and Miami both topped 300 yards of total offense against Ohio State. If the Buffs can top 300, it will mark the first time in seven years that the Buckeye defense has surrendered over 300 yards in three consecutive games.

– Colorado ranks 12th in the nation in sacks, with 11, but Ohio State ranks 16th in the nation in sacks allowed, surrendering only two in the first three games of 2011. The Buckeye had a streak of 95 straight pass attempts between the Akron and Miami games without a sack.

– Ohio State is 55-26-2 all-time against current members of the Pac-12, while Colorado is 35-63-3 all-time v. current members of the Big Ten (including Nebraska). Ohio State is 3-1 v. Colorado, including a split of games played in Columbus (CU won in 1971; OSU won in 1986). This being the fifth game in the series, the Colorado/Ohio State game will mark only the second time (other than Nebraska) in which the Buffs have played a Big Ten team at least five times (Colorado is 4-1-1 v. Wisconsin).

– Rodney Stewart leads the Buffs with 509 yards of total offense (223 rushing, 277 receiving, nine returning punts), but has yet to find the endzone.

– Parker Orms (28), Douglas Rippy (26), and Jon Major (19) lead the Buffs in tackles. Last season, the three combined had 61 tackles all season.

– Colorado is one of nine teams nationally to have only one turnover this season. The Buffs has gone back-to-back games without a turnover – only the sixth time in CU history that the Buffs have accomplished that feat. Not to jinx anything, but … Colorado has never gone three straight games without a turnover.


7 Replies to “Ohio State – Preview”

  1. Would love to see a huge win for the program but not sure we know how to win a game like this. Especially with the number of penalties we take. Going with my heart and not my head. CU 17 OSU 10. Hopefully their offense is that inept again this week. That’s the only way I see a win.

  2. Ohio State is vulnerable, and Luke Fickel appears to be using this game as an audition for who will start at Big Red…and if that is indeed what he is doing, it means by definition that he is overlooking CU, just like most Buckeyes faithful and players are probably doing right now. True Freashman QB…he’ll be up to play, but Big Red is going to be on his mind, not Jon Major.
    Bauserman, however, might just try too hard to pull heroics and salt himself back on top…setting the stage for key mistakes.

    One more point, last night during the ESPN3 broadcast of the Cincinnati (sp?) game, one of the commentators (not sure which) said he was most interested in the Buckeyes game this weekend…because he wants to see how well Ohio State will bounce back against a “faceless opponent.” Those are his exact words.

    Media has written CU off.
    Fickle has written CU off.
    Fans have written CU off.

    All we need to know now is what CU has to say about that. Go BUFFS. Great job Stuart!

  3. “If” the Buffs are ready to play. If they play 60 minutes of hard nosed, never say die football. They just might surprise some people. Ohio State is a great program with a lot of talent. But they are vulnerable…

    There is no try, only do… It’s about time for the Buffs to stop trying and do.

    Go Buffs!!

  4. Cautiously optimistic that the Buffs will have cleaned up their mistakes and begin clicking on offense. I look for a solid balanced offensive effort, a breakout defensive showing and a last minute game winning field goal, with a score of Colorado 20, OSU 17. This win will be a tremendous moral boost and hightly prized brick in the wall for the team. Go BUFFS!

  5. Great preview Stuart. I’m looking forward to more improvement by our Buffs! As the great Herb Brooks said – “great moments are born from great opportunities”. This is a great opportunity! Go Buffs! Let’s add a brick to the wall!

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