After the game, Meyer said he's content winning a major college football game against a team like the Knights, which makes perfect sense. UCF is a team that I could see winning more than eight games and a bowl game (if they're permitted by the NCAA to play).
However, as OSU's schedule continues to inch closer to conference play, there are some things that will stand out to the coaching staff when watching the film. Here are some initial reactions from the Buckeyes' win over UCF in the latest version of Sunday Observation:
Braxton Miller still learning the read-option – I'll let the coaches decide how they feel Miller did in deciding whether to give the ball or keep it during the read-option plays, but from my vantage point there were a handful of plays where he made the wrong decision. I think it's a very complicated thing to master, considering there are so many things to consider when making that split-second decision. Add in the emotions of wanting to make a play on your own, and that can become even more difficult. Perhaps that's the reason Miller carried it almost 30 times? However, it says a lot about how much Meyer trusts his sophomore quarterback and this offense will continue to go as far as Miller takes it.
I'll say it again – be careful with Braxton – Last week I expressed concern with Miller's 17 carries. A week later the sophomore quarterback added 10 to his total, rushing the ball 27 times for 160 yards. While the results couldn't have been better for Miller, who also scored three times with his legs, it is important to understand what is being gambled – and I am speaking specifically about Miller's health. Given the fact he hasn't played an entire healthy season in the recent past, dating back to high school, allowing him to get banged up by opposing defenses likely isn't the way to go. And remember, if Miller goes down, the entire team does in my mind. Kenny Guiton had only one rep against UCF, but if Miller carries it 20 times per game for long, it's hard to imagine Guiton won't be getting a lot more.
At the same time, that's going to be harder to avoid – Simply suggesting Miller to avoid more carries just got infinitely more complicated with Carlos Hyde's injury. While we're still uncertain how long Hyde will miss with his MCL sprain, Miller is up and above the best ball carrier on the team. And while Miller continues to progress as a passer, it's clear that the OSU offense's best mode of transportation is via the quarterback's leg. Meyer said this week will be about trying to find people to carry the ball – especially in Jordan Hall's continued absence – and that will be a must to protect Miller from carrying the ball nearly 30 times. Simply put, OSU has to find ways to move the football in other ways than Miller running it. Who will it be? The search begins now.
Will it be Philly Brown? – Meyer mentioned Brown in the postgame press conference as somebody that could make the case for getting more touches in the coming weeks. Not only did he have six receptions – he's now one shy of his season total from last year – Brown also had two carries for 19 yards, including a nice shifty 19-yard run on a reverse that set up the Buckeyes deep in UCF territory in the first half. The staff was reluctant to use him as the "hybrid" early in the season because of his inability to run between the tackles, but as OSU's options become scarcer at running back, Brown becomes more of a viable option. So far this season he's earned that consideration.
Zach Boren should have 8-10 touches a game – Save for the fumble he had, Boren to me is the perfect candidate to gain some extra touches while OSU ball carries return to health. He's not ever going to slash a defense, but if the staff is looking or some solid five-to-10 yard pickups, the senior bruiser is their guy. Boren can wear down defenses and provide a change of pace from the other backs. He's at least worth a handful of touches to help the Buckeyes bridge the gap while they look for answers at tailback.
Bri'onte Dunn's time could come sooner than expected – The freshman running back has made great strides in his short time on the team. Unexpected by even him, Dunn could now be in position to lead the team at running back heading into the Cal game. I think the former five-star recruit has come off as a star in the making since arriving in Columbus, but now that it is his show (depending on what happens with Hyde) things could develop much quicker. I know Meyer said that it will be a competition between him and Rod Smith (affectionately referred as No. 2 in the postgame presser), but Dunn wins this one without a hitch. Perhaps he'll break out against the Golden Bears. We all know how bad OSU needs that all of a sudden.
I love Meyer's aggressiveness – That bullish "this is Ohio State and we should be able to pick up a yard whenever we want" mentality stayed strong for Meyer in his second game as OSU's head coach. Twice in the first half the Buckeyes went for it on fourth-and-1 near midfield. The first time the Buckeyes didn't convert and it turned into UCF points. On the Buckeyes' next possession they faced the same situation and Meyer didn't hesitate to go for it again, the second time being successful. Past coaching regimes kick the ball in that situation – which is in actuality probably the right call – but there is something to be said about Meyer's aggressive nature. Should make for some entertaining football as the year progresses and the confidence given to the players as a result of those calls remains invaluable. May not be smart football, but I love it.
Orhian Johnson's props – Things haven't always been easy for Johnson, who split time with Christian Bryant last year at safety before coming into his senior season as a reserve. So close to the end, Johnson could have mailed it in and given in to his admitted frustration. He didn't, working harder than ever to find a role on the field in his final season as a Buckeye. Meyer noticed those improvements in practice and found a perfect spot for the lengthy, athletic defender as the team's nickleback. Johnson rewarded Meyer with a big game in his return to the field, posting six tackles, deflecting a pass that turning into an interception and grabbing an interception of his own. Meyer and the defensive staff are confident that he's another playmaker back there and I think credit should be given to a senior who rises up above adversity.
Defensive line's lack of push – Meyer didn't mind expressing his dissatisfaction in the defensive line's lack of consistent push. I was thinking the same thing the entire game. The Buckeyes had only one sack the entire game – Steve Miller's on the final play from scrimmage – which is a far cry from what we expected out of this unit the entire fall. The reason I predicted Ohio State's defense to be so good was because I expected the Buckeyes would be able to get consistent pressure bringing on four guys. I am not sure why OSU struggled in making Blake Bortles uncomfortable, but it was an apparent deficiency to those watching the game. There is simply too much talent on the defensive front – not to mention depth – for this to be mentioned.
Secondary has breakdowns – Whether it was a lack of communication or just a problem getting the right calls in, OSU's secondary showed signs of good and bad against the Knights. The bad, of course, as allowing three passing plays to exceed 25-yard gains, some of which came on blatant defensive backgrounds in the secondary. The good were the three interceptions the unit forced Bortles to throw, helping the Buckeyes escape with minimal damage when UCF did move the football successful. It's good to see the defensive avoid breaking when it bends, but the defensive breakdowns in the secondary have to be cause for concern for the defensive staff.