Five Questions With: Buckeye Sports

BuckeyeSports.com's Jeff Svoboda answers five questions about Ohio State ahead of Cal's trip to the Horseshoe.

Cal Sports Digest: How has the team responded to the post-season ban that will keep the Buckeyes out of a bowl or potential Big Ten championship game this year?

Jeff Svoboda of Buckeye Sports: It's been interesting how that has progressed. Urban Meyer said it felt like he was hit across the chest by a 2-by-4 when he first heard, so it's fair to say that was a blow for the program. The ban will also keep a pretty good group of seniors out of a bowl game, but honestly, it hasn't been brought up a whole heck of a lot by the players. What has happened, though, is that it's become sort of a rallying cry for the staff. Meyer has said numerous times he wants an angry team, and he's tried to use last year's struggles in concert with the bowl ban to motivate the team. I think that helped them get through fall camp, but what effect it has on the games, I'd say, has been minimal so far. The team did find out last week, though, that it can be officially recognized as Leaders Division champions by the Big Ten, so at least there is a trophy to play for.

CSD: Quarterback Braxton Miller has been electric in these first two games, but can he make it through the season intact running as often as he has?

JS: The short answer is no, and the staff knows that. Miller has taken a few shots through the first couple of games, and he came out for media after the game Saturday with ice on his throwing elbow. Meyer talked about after the first game, when Miller had 17 carries, that the number was too high, then he had a school-record 27 carries in game two. Part of that is because starting tailback Jordan Hall missed the first game with injury then Carlos Hyde got hurt against UCF. Hyde won't play vs. Cal but Hall could be back. They might need him, as the other options are flawed (Bri'onte Dunn has tons of talent but is a freshman, Rod Smith has had fumbling troubles and Zach Boren is a solid ball carrier for a fullback but is a fullback). The Buckeyes will do what they need to do in each game to win, and if that means running Braxton a bunch, they will, but that is definitely a concern.

CSD: Where is Miller at as a passer, and will he get enough support from the offensive line and receivers to challenge the Cal secondary?

Miller is getting there as a passer. People thought he threw the ball pretty well in high school, but last year there were a number of throws that were just ugly. This year, he's worked on his motion and Meyer raves about his release. The problem comes when Miller tries to rush things, and that results in some poor throws sometimes. Still, he was 18 for 24 vs. UCF, and he's not a bad quarterback right now, it's just about limiting mistakes at this point. The offensive line and receivers were a concern coming into the season but both have performed fairly well.

CSD: It seems like the Ohio State defense has been stout against the run, but isn't generating much in the way of sacks or tackles for loss. Where is this disconnect coming from?

JS: It's been interesting through the first two games because teams have tried to attack Ohio State through the air. Miami and UCF combined for X passes against X runs, and they have hit a few big plays against OSU's secondary, which is occasionally dealing with the communication problems that cropped up last year at times as well. The Buckeyes have been solid vs. the run when teams have tried to go to the ground game, but UCF did pop a couple of big ones. The lack of a pass rush has been a concern, but part of the problem is that the Buckeyes' best, most veteran defensive linemen aren't great pass rushers. Senior end John Simon is an elite player and an All-America candidate who UCF doubled teamed, but he's not really a 10-plus sack guy. Senior Garrett Goebel is a very good nose tackle but not a great rusher, and junior tackle Johnathan Hankins is freakishly athletic for a guy his size but is still developing pass rushing skills. OSU is also struggling to find someone to play the pass-rushing "Leo" end spot. Senior Nathan Williams is great there but is battling with the effects of microfracture knee surgery, and Noah Spence shows lots of potential there but is a true freshman.

CSD: Urban Meyer has always put a great emphasis on special teams. How is Ohio State performing in that facet of the game?

JS: So far, so good here. Meyer has raved about the kickoff coverage unit, which despite having four true freshmen and a walk-on has been very good so far. Kicker Drew Basil and punter Ben Buchanan are among the best in the country. Basil's kickoffs have been either touchbacks or been high, lofted kicks inside the 5 that give the coverage plenty of time to get downfield, while Buchanan has been placing the ball where he wants. The only concern so far would be the lack of a return game, but that's hard to judge after two games.

Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and covers the Pac-12 for Fox Sports/Scout.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.


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