OSU: The View From Columbus

BuckeyeSports.com staff writer Jeff Svoboda answers five pressing questions about undefeated Ohio State. The Buckeyes visit Happy Valley this weekend for a key Big Ten showdown with Penn State.

5. Gut feeling — does Braxton Miller play this week? If not, how much of a drop-off is there to Kenny Guiton?

Miller should play this week, barring anything happening in practice. Ohio State said after the Purdue game he had passed all tests. Then on Monday Urban Meyer said he would be ready to go and on Tuesday Miller practiced.

Guiton is an interesting case, having risen from 2009 recruiting throw-in to a well-respected member of the team. But quite honestly, not many people know how good of a quarterback he is. He's only played spot duty — though he did finish off TD drives against MSU, Nebraska and Indiana when Miller got dinged — before the Purdue game.

In that one, he threw some poor passes, but his calm really shined through — which is one reason teammates and coaches have been calling him “Coach Guiton” this year. In the ground game, he's mobile, but he doesn't have Miller's top-shelf ability to make people miss.

4. So much has been made of the Ohio State running game. Can you give us a scouting report on the passing attack?

The passing attack is still developing. Corey “Philly” Brown struggled his first two years but has developed into a good possession receiver. He suffered a head injury vs. Purdue but should be ready to go this weekend. Devin Smith is an elite athlete — he was a state track champion in both sprints and jumping events — and has turned into a very credible deep threat. But his hands are inconsistent. From there, the Buckeyes are still trying to develop depth. As for Miller's passing, it is spotty as well; he can make an NFL-quality read one minute and then misfire poorly the next. They will take shots, especially to Smith, and will also attack with intermediate and short routes.

3. Why has the Buckeye defense allowed so many points in recent weeks?

There are a variety of reasons, really. Pretty much no one on the defense is 100 percent healthy at this point, as even standouts like DL John Simon, LB Ryan Shazier and DB Bradley Roby have been fighting nagging injuries. The depth at linebacker is so bad that starting fullback Zach Boren had to move over to play middle linebacker two weeks ago — and has been an upgrade on the players already there.

Missed tackles have been a bane of the defense so far, especially when the players have been going for big plays rather than simply wrapping up. Meyer also professed a discomfort with the defense's ability to play to the whistle after it gave up 49 points vs. Indiana. The Buckeyes did look a lot better vs. Purdue, although big plays continued to be an issue. The team is vulnerable in the screen game, as well.

2. Where does Penn State rank in terms of rivalry games for OSU?

This one is definitely up there. Nothing will touch Michigan at this point, but I would say Penn State is up there with Wisconsin in the next tier. Look at the record in the series since Penn State joined the Big Ten; the fact that it is so close means both sides have experienced a lot of joy but also a lot of frustration when playing one another in the past two decades. Add in the alleged mistreatment of some of the OSU fans and band at the 2005 game — which is still talked about in the fan base even seven years later — and it can be a pretty heated deal.

1. Ohio State fans have had 11 months to get to know Urban Meyer. What are the prevailing thoughts about the new coach?

I'd say the vast majority of Ohio State fans are thrilled. A lot of fans ranged from sad to angry when Jim Tressel was forced out, and last year's 6-7 season was majorly frustrating to about everyone involved.

Enter Meyer, who not only has two national championships but is from Ohio and has professed to having a love of the Buckeye program and its traditions from his youth. He's also about the polar opposite of Tressel — he's as energetic, brash and authentic as Tressel was staid, conservative and polished.

That has been playing well, as fans are embracing his aggressive brand of football. Some fans, mindful of how messy Meyer's tenure ended at Florida and no doubt remembering the 2006 title game, are still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

But by and large, well, you see a lot of “Urban Renewal” shirts around town.

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