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Ohio State Buckeyes 2013 Football Season Preview
As the Ohio State Buckeyes get set to embark on year two under head coach Urban Meyer, the biggest question on everyone’s minds is whether or not the Buckeyes can do it again. That “it”, as anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock knows, is go undefeated for the second straight season.
After bursting onto the scene with a perfect 12-0 record in 2012, despite being ineligible for the Big Ten Championship and any bowl games, Meyer and his coaching staff have the Buckeyes laser focused on the 2013 season. While their early schedule does not offer much in terms of major competition—they open the season with home games against Buffalo this Saturday and San Diego State next—they will have to head to the other side of the country for a rematch against the Cal Bears in Week 3.
The Cal Bears gave the Buckeyes a stiff test in 2012, hanging on to the wire before losing 35-28. Buckeyes starting quarterback Braxton Miller had himself a pretty big day, throwing for 249 yards, four touchdowns and one interception, while rushing for another 75 yards and one touchdown. Miller had two big-time highlights in this game, a 55-yard touchdown scamper at the five minute mark of the first quarter, and a 72-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith to seal the game with just over three minutes left.
While Miller and Smith were certainly Ohio State’s biggest stars, all eyes will be on Cal junior running back Brandon Bigelow, a speedster who absolutely gashed the Buckeyes’ in last year’s game. Bigelow ripped off 160 yards on FOUR rushes for two touchdowns against the vaunted Ohio State defense, including touchdown runs of 81 and 59 yards. He also made an impact on kick returns, racking up 74 yards on three returns. If the Buckeyes do not want a repeat of last year, they must stop Bigelow from the very beginning.
When the Buckeyes return from Cal—hopefully with a win—they will get another tune up game before heading into Big Ten play, as Florida A&M will make the trip up to Columbus. Hopefully the Buckeyes will be able to rest their starters, because they host the preseason ranked No. 23 Wisconsin Badgers in primetime in Columbus. In fact, three of their next four games will be primetime affairs, as they head to Northwestern for an 8 p.m. start and then host Penn State on October 26th under the lights as well. The non-primetime game will be a 3:30 p.m. game in which they host the Iowa Hawkeyes in Columbus.
The Buckeyes’ schedule is pretty friendly if Meyer’s crew hopes to get hot early. They play six of their first eight games at home (Cal and Northwestern on the road), before hitting the road for three of their final four. Ohio State won’t spend much time in Columbus in November, as they head to Purdue and Illinois before welcoming Indiana to the “Shoe” on November 30. This all leads up to the regular season finale in Ann Arbor, as the Buckeyes hit the road to take on the No. 17 Michigan Wolverines. If the Buckeyes are 11-0 heading into their final contest of the season, you better believe Brady Hoke and the Wolverines will be a little more amped to take out their rivals in “The Game” on their home turf.
So how exactly will the Buckeyes pull off a perfect 12-0 season in 2013 and head to their first ever Big Ten Championship game? Let’s take a look.
The biggest name on offense to watch is obviously Miller, who is near or at the top of many Heisman Trophy watch lists across the country. A do-it-all quarterback, Miller utilizes his dual-threat abilities to attack and expose defenses in multiple aspects of the game. After combining for over 3,200 yards and 28 touchdowns through the air and on the ground last season, Miller has been working all offseason to improve his throwing motion and ability as a pocket passer to improve upon his 2,039 passing yards.
The running back position is going to be one to watch, as workhorse starter Carlos Hyde is suspended for the first three games of the season. Thanks to an assault case in the offseason, the Buckeyes lose their bulldozer of a running back who rushed for 970 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. The first men up in his place will likely be hybrid running back Jordan Hall (who was making the conversion to wide receiver before Hyde’s suspension) and junior Rod Smith—who we all know has had trouble holding onto the ball early in his career.
While these two are expected to get the first shot, do not be surprised if heralded 2012 recruit Bri’onte Dunn is in the mix early. Dunn rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns on just 25 carries (5.3 yard per carry average) as a freshman, and Meyer didn’t spend countless nights convincing him to choose the Buckeyes over Michigan for nothing not too long ago. Dunn’s 6’0” and 220-pound frame is better suited for a power-style offense, however, we saw Hyde excel last year and he is a similar type of back.
The Buckeyes’ receiving group—once considered to be their weak point—has been getting rave reviews all offseason. Philly Brown and Devin Smith obviously are the big names in the group, but Evan Spencer and Chris Fields are expected to push them for targets this year as well. The receivers have a ton of speed in that group, but the youngsters behind them are expected to make major contributions as well. Michael Thomas and James Clark have specifically been mentioned, but do not sleep on true freshman running back/wide receiver Dontre Wilson either. He has the speed and hands to play the “hybrid” role as well, and reminds this writer a lot of Percy Harvin.
The final two skill players to watch on offense will be tight ends Jeff Heuerman (6’6” and 252 pounds) and Nick Vannett (6’6” and 255 pounds). We all know Meyer likes to feature tight ends, and both players have the big bodies to be major targets for Miller in 2013.
There are far more questions on defense for the Buckeyes than there are on offense, mainly because they are replacing seven starters on that side of the ball. Not to mention starting cornerback and sure-fire NFL first-round pick Bradley Roby will miss the first game due to suspension. However, despite this fact the Buckeyes have a talented group of youngsters waiting to make an impact—none with bigger shoes to fill than defensive end Noah Spence. Spence has the duty of filling the shoes of Buckeyes’ leader, John Simon. At 6’3” and 247 pounds, Spence has the athleticism to put up big sack numbers rushing the quarterback off the edge. If his production in real life is anything like that in NCAA Football 2014 (my gaming joke for the year) on XBOX, get ready for some big-time numbers Buckeyes fans.
While all eyes will be on Spence, there is another super sophomore ready to wreak havoc on the defensive line as well, that player is Adolphus Washington. Replacing Nathan Williams, Washington will line up opposite Spence at defensive end. At 6’3” and 292 pounds, Washington utilizes more power moves than speed to get to the quarterback. He will be the type of player NFL scouts drool over next season thanks to his versatility to play both 3-4 and 4-3 end, but for now, he will look to dominate offensive linemen at the college level.
The linebacking unit returns one of the top linebackers in the country from a year ago, Ryan Shazier. Shazier is a player this writer has been very high on thanks to his big-play ability and nose for the football. You can find him all over the field on any given down, and he should make waves this season for the Buckeyes. Outside of Shazier, junior Curtis Grant and sophomore Josh Perry will be cracking into the group. Grant seemingly “cracks” into the group every season, but Perry is a massive specimen at 6’4” and 246 pounds, and if his play matches his motor in practice—the Buckeyes could have quite the trio of Shazier, Grant and Perry.
As for the secondary, once Roby is back the Buckeyes’ unit is pretty sound. They have seniors C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant locking up the safety positions, so the big question mark will be the opposite corner position, where Doran Grant looks to be the favorite to be the starter. After Grant and Roby, youngster Eli Apple (freshman) and Armani Reeves (sophomore) will be providing depth.
At the end of the day, the Buckeyes high octane offense combined with a weaker schedule should provide Meyer and company with a pretty good opportunity to start 24-0 in Columbus. Obviously anything can happen in the game of college football, but when you have this many skill players in a conference that is trying to rebound from years of SEC domination in recruiting, the odds are certainly in the Buckeyes favor.
If the stars align for a 24-0 start, the next question to answer will be if the Buckeyes can continue that momentum into the Big Ten Championship game and possibly the National Championship and do the unspeakable—start off 26-0 under Urban Meyer. If that doesn’t get you pumped for the 2013 season, then go ahead and check out the video below for another reason.
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