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Ohio State Buckeyes vs Cal Bears Preview: Buckeyes Need to Stop Cal’s Passing Attack
Last year with a healthy Braxton Miller in the lineup, the Cal Bears gave the Ohio State Buckeyes all they could handle, falling just short of upsetting the eventual undefeated team. This season, with Miller’s game status in question for the Buckeyes’ trip to California, Ohio State will need to put the Bears away much earlier if they hope to leave the west coast undefeated.
It was then sophomore running back Brendan Bigelow who single-handedly kept the Bears close, as the speedster from Fresno ripped off touchdown runs of 81 and 59 yards against the vaunted Buckeyes defense. He finished the day with four rushes for 160 yards and two touchdowns, proving to be a dynamic threat for the Cal offense. While he has yet to make an impact this season (33 carries for 136 yards and zero touchdowns), do not be surprised if Bigelow attempts to gash the Buckeyes again on Saturday.
After defeating Cal last season on a late 72-yard touchdown pass from Miller to Devin Smith, the Buckeyes may have to rely on senior captain Kenny Guiton to get the job done on Saturday night. With Miller questionable due to an MCL sprain suffered last week against San Diego State, the long-time Ohio State backup finally got his chance to shine in relief last week. Guiton completed 19-of-28 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns, while adding another 83 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
If Cal’s first two games are any indication of what is in store for the Buckeyes, Guiton or Miller will have plenty of opportunities to throw and run the ball. In their loss to Northwestern, the Wildcats racked up 299 yards through the air and 209 yards on the ground. Cal lost that game 44-30 against their Big Ten foe.
One thing the Buckeyes should be very concerned about is the arm of Cal freshman quarterback Jared Goff. Goff has put up some gaudy numbers in his first two games of the season, completing 39-of-64 passes for 450 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions against Northwestern and then throwing for another 485 yards and two touchdowns last week against Portland State. With the Buckeyes defense looking soft their first two weeks against the pass, Goff could potentially have a field day with the Buckeyes secondary.
Cal’s passing attack is actually first in the NCAA coming into this game, checking in at an average of 472.5 yards per game. The Buckeyes gave up 216 yards and a touchdown through the air to San Diego State and another 185 yards and two touchdowns in their opener against Buffalo. What worries this writer is that both of these teams were a much lower level of competition, and with Goff throwing the ball around the yard in front of his home crowd, the Buckeyes are going to be in store for a passing attack they have not seen in quite some time.
While the secondary has to step it up and defend the pass, the Buckeyes talented front seven is going to have to get their act together as well. Through two games, the defense has notched just four sacks. Defensive end Noah Spence has 1.5 of those, Michael Bennett has .5 and Jamal Marcus and Steve Miller each have one a piece. That means the linebacking unit featuring big-time playmaker Ryan Shazier needs to final make an impact this week. Shazier is second on the team in tackles for a loss with two (behind Spence), but it is time to let the speedy linebacker utilize his talents and get to the quarterback.
Many people think this is going to be an easy task for the Buckeyes, but Big Ten teams usually do not fare well when traveling to the west coast. If Ohio State wants to return home 3-0, they will need to dial up the pass rush, lock up the receivers on the outside and control the tempo of this game on offense with their running—yes spread offense fans, I said running—attack of Jordan Hall and true freshman Dontre Wilson.
Prediction: Ohio State 45 – Cal 28
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