Sunday Observation: UAB

The Ohio State football team probably didn't win with as much style as Urban Meyer would have liked in its 29-15 win over UAB on Saturday. Meyer, however, will settle for winning his fourth game in as many tries. Get all the initial talking points in the latest version of View From Press Row.

As had become customary for Ohio State Urban Meyer, he started his postgame press conference after the Buckeyes' 29-15 win over UAB expressing thankfulness that his team secured its fourth win in as many tries.

Meyer, however, wasn't overly positive about his team from that point, especially given the Buckeyes struggled with a huge underdog in Ohio Stadium to close out the nonconference slate. As expected, Meyer was blunt in saying this team isn't where he hoped it would be before the season.

The Buckeyes do head into the next week still with a perfect record, but they'll certainly be challenged in East Lansing, Mich., next Saturday when they take on the Spartans. Before that becomes the main focus, here are some initial notes from the Buckeyes' win over the Blazers in the latest version of Sunday Observation:

Braxton Miller still the best athlete on the team and he's going to carry it – Four games have passed on Ohio State's schedule and it still remains true – the quarterback is the best athlete on the field. I found it interesting that Meyer basically said he was tired of talking about how many times Miller carries the football because that's what he is going to have to do in this offense. I took that as Meyer saying that he's going to have to carry the ball as many times as it takes to win, which I feel is going to be a lot for the foreseeable future until the Buckeyes passing game becomes more consistent. Simply put, OSU goes as Braxton goes, and Miller goes best as a runner right now.

Still learning to read the zone plays – I am by no means an expert on when Miller is making poor decisions on the zone read plays, but it seems to me that he's getting a lot better making the right decisions. Through the first three games, I kept thinking to myself – "why didn't he keep it there?" or "why didn't he give it?" – and that has become more few and far between. Meyer also gave Miller more leeway on making checks at the line of scrimmage and I think we saw the quarterback do that quite a bit against the Blazers. The coach said he was fine with most of the checks Miller made, so that has to be a sign of growth – and trust – in the sophomore.

Poor tackling again a theme – I wonder if poor tackling is something that can simply be addressed during tough practices on Tuesday and Wednesday, because to me it is looking like something that is fundamentally sour with the entire defense. Save for a few players, it's really hard to be convinced that this team can stop the opposition at the initial point of contact. Note to OSU's future opposition: throw it wide and try and make the initial pursuer miss. That's worked out great. Oh, and if you're Michigan State, give it to the 240-pound back that's really tough to tackle. This should be interesting.

Rod Smith had to have made strides – OSU has recently become thin at running back but I found it interesting that Meyer didn't have any issues feeding Smith once the Buckeyes got into the red zone, and he even scored a touchdown and had some impressive runs. Smith had to have made some major strides in practice, especially because two weeks ago he was regarded as a fumble-prone back the coaching staff was reluctant to trust. Hand it to the running back for staying committed and proving he's worthy of playing time.

How bad was the defense? – Maybe not as bad as it seems on paper. The Buckeyes did allow more than 400 yards of total offense, but the Buckeyes didn't allow an offensive touchdown and the Blazers never got inside Ohio State's 25-yard line. While tackling issues and the fact that OSU was in a close game with a 37-point underdog remain concerns, maybe take a step back and look at exactly what the defense allowed. Maybe the defense allowed lot of yards, but not many points… And that's all co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers gives an (explicit) about. Me too.

Ben Buchanan takes an extra step? – When Buchanan's punt was blocked in the first quarter, I was overwhelmed by how easy the Blazers defenders got into the OSU backfield and I'll still contend that it is the line's fault that it was blocked. I mean, it really was the easiest block I've ever seen – I even think they got to Buchanan before her even kicked it. However, someone close to me that is involved in coaching special teams pointed out something I too had come to notice – Buchanan takes an addition step (three). I think most punters are coached to take two steps and let it fly, but Buchanan takes an extra step, which in turn takes more time and brings him closer to the line of scrimmage. I am surprised that has continued to happen because he is making the team more susceptible to special teams disasters.

Devin Smith is special, but he wont' be an All-American if… – He doesn't learn to make the easy ones. I won't hold the drop in the end zone late in the game against him, but this is the second consecutive contest now where he's had some crucial drops early in the game that would have moved the chains for the Buckeyes. We all know he is capable of making the SportsCenter Top 10 plays list. Part of being a great receiver is also making the ones that won't ever be seen on the highlight reels.

Jordan Hall up the middle? – It will be really interesting to see what things look like when Carlos Hyde returns to the team for action. I bring this up because I really don't think Hall is the best player to be sending up the middle with the ball in his hands. While I understands that it is going to happen at times depending on the read Miller makes, I think Hall is at his best catching the ball out of the backfield and taking it on option pitches. Let the other bigger backs take the tough carries in between the tackles.

Doran Grant stepped up – Have to isolate Grant as a big success in his first start as a Buckeye, replacing the injured Bradley Roby, who sat out with a shoulder injury. Grant recovered a fumble before halftime and caught the game-clinching interception. He had some breakdowns in coverage at times – like everyone does – but he made it a lot harder to notice Roby wasn't out there. Big game for Grant.

How good is Ohio State? – We'll find out next Saturday. While it is hard to maintain a lot of confidence going on the road to play Michigan State if you're an Ohio State fan, I expect it to be a close, low-scoring affair. Sometimes it is hard to gauge how good a team is when it plays four teams that aren't quite as good in the nonconference slate. If Ohio State is ready to be relevant this season heading into the final few weeks of the season, we'll know in East Lansing next weekend. I think the Buckeyes have a good shot to win, and if they do, it could be an exciting rest of the year.

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