Preview: Cal at No. 13 Ohio State

By Kyle Rowland on September 14, 2012 at 1:00p
Keenan Allen will test OSU's secondary.
Ohio State Buckeyes #13 Ohio State 2-0, 0-0 Big Ten Roster | Schedule 12:00 PM ET - ABC —— Ohio Stadium Columbus, OH California Golden Bears California 1-1, 0-0 Pac-10 Roster | Schedule

When the contract for the Ohio State-California series was signed, both schools were in the midst of continuous winning seasons. The Buckeyes had won a national championship and didn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon, and after varying degrees of success the previous decade, Jeff Tedford was hired by Cal in 2002 and immediately turned the program into one of the best on the West Coast.

In Tedford’s 10 seasons at Cal, the Golden Bears have finished with one losing record, two double-digit wins seasons, a conference championship, a 7-3 record against arch-rival Stanford and a 5-3 record in bowl games.

The teams will play Saturday with no Tressel and Tedford possibly on the hotseat, depending on how the rest of the season plays out. The game will be televised nationally on ABC, but much of the perceived luster is gone.

Cal lost at home to Nevada in the season opener and then barely beat FCS program Southern Utah in Week 2. Ohio State also hasn’t been at its best the first two weeks of the season.

Still, intersectional matchups between two BCS programs rarely happen, so fans should embrace the game. Luckily for Ohio State fans, the Buckeyes partake in these types of games on a regular basis. Next year they’ll have an excuse to traverse to beautiful Berkeley, Calif., for the return trip.

A storyline throughout the week has been the friendship between Meyer and Tedford. The two have known each other since Meyer’s first head coaching job at Bowling Green, when he got a lesson in passing concepts.

Tedford has become known for the quarterbacks he’s coached and mentored throughout his career that have had high levels of success in college and the NFL.

As quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Fresno State, Tedford coached Trent Dilfer, Lane Kiffin, David Carr and Billy Volek. During a stint as offensive coordinator at Oregon, quarterbacks that played under Tedford included Jay Feeley, Akili Smith and Joey Harrington.  Kyle Boller and Aaron Rodgers were two of Tedford’s starting quarterbacks at Cal.

Meyer has built a similar stable of quarterbacks to his name in 10 seasons as a head coach, so it’s easy to see why the two mesh.

“He's one of my great friends,” Meyer said of Tedford. “I've known Jeff for a long time. Studied football with him back when I was at Bowling Green and still to this day utilize some of his pass concepts. We were at the St. Louis Rams together for three or four days just studying football and we spent a lot of time together. And he's part of that Nike group. So every year we spend a lot of time together. A great man, great wife, great family, and I have a lot of respect for him as a coach.”


Cal may be walking into Ohio Stadium 1-1 and a decisive underdog, but the Bears possess two things that could give Ohio State fits: Keenan Allen and a unique defense.

Allen is one of the best wide receivers in the country, rated as a top 10 draft pick by many draft analysts. He caught 98 passes for 1,343 yards and six touchdowns a season ago. His 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame combined with sure hands and speed gives him the total package for a wideout. Allen is also a threat on special teams.

It’s not a one-man show, though. Quarterback Zach Maynard also relies on Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs, a five-star recruit. Both receivers are freshmen and Harper actually has more receptions than Allen through two games.

Maynard, the half brother of Allen, transferred from Buffalo and has performed well in Tedford’s pro-style offense. He threw for 2,990 yards, 17 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last year. He’s completed 57 percent of his passes the past two seasons and has been on target more than 64 percent of the time in 2012.

“They have a very accurate quarterback,” Meyer said. 

A potentially big problem for the Bears – and Maynard – is the loss of right tackle Matt Summers-Gavin. Because Maynard is left-handed, Summers-Gavin protects the quarterback’s blindside. But the lineman sustained a knee injury and will not be available on Saturday.

Tedford is known for his quarterback production, but Cal has also produced an assembly line of 1,000-yard rushers. 2009 is the lone season the Bears haven’t had a running back reach the 1,000-yard plateau during the Tedford Era. The list includes some impressive names: JJ Arrington, Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett, Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen.

Current start Isi Sofele, a 5-foot-8, 200-pound bowling ball, ran for more than 1,300 yards last year, and he has a change of pace back, CJ Anderson, who can gash defenses for yardage.

On the other side of the ball, there is that weird defense Cal runs. It’s called the Bear 46, and it’s a version of the 4-3, just more aggressive. It’s supposed to confuse offenses and put pressure on the quarterback.

There are three defensive linemen and a nose tackle lined up across from the center. In short, the D-Line is shifted to the weak side. This allows the secondary to play more freely and aggressive.

“It’s not unsound at all,” Meyer said of the Cal defense. “But it's just not normal. It’s an unorthodox style of defense. Our guys right now were put in a new system. We made errors against a very traditional defense last week, very traditional.

“That's my concern is making sure we have a tight enough package because sometimes there's a lot of rule breakers, so we have to really tighten it down. If you have a big veteran group that's done this for three or four years, go. But this is not that kind of group.”

Meyer has termed the Cal defense as “feast or famine.” They’ve been one of the top units in the Pac-12 for several seasons, but they are also susceptible to big plays, a common theme out west where offense is valued more than defense.

The Bears’ defense is underrated in the sense of how many athletes they have. It starts up front with the line and Deandre Coleman, a Hendricks Award watch list member. Coleman, a defensive end, has 14 tackles and two tackles for loss in two games this season. Aaron Tipoti and Kendrick Payne are two more stalwarts on the D-Line. Backup Mustafa Jalil returned from an injury last week, and Viliami Moali also provides depth.

At linebacker, Robert Mullins leads the team with 20 tackles and is among the top statistical leaders in the country in multiple defensive categories. Keeping pace with Mullins is fellow backer Brennan Scarlett, who has 16 tackles. JP Hurrell has also been disruptive, tallying three sacks.

Josh Hill (20) and Steve Williams (18) are also among the team’s leading tacklers. But they are defensive backs, so that could be looked at as a bad thing for the Bears – and good for Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller.

Marc Anthony – no, not that Marc Anthony – is Cal’s best player in the secondary. Like Allen, he’s projected as a high draft pick. An area where the Bears could be vulnerable is the spot patrolled by Alex Logan, a first-year starter.

buckeye breakdown

Ohio State already knows Jordan Hall will make his 2012 season debut. To what extent is still unknown. With a black hole at running back, a steady dose of Hall will help ease the uncertainty around Bri’onte Dunn, Rod Smith and Zach Boren, and take carries away from Miller, who’s already carried the ball 44 times in two games.

It could be a big day in the progression of Miller as a passer. He’ll see his receivers in 1-on-1 coverage much of the day. Miller has completed two-thirds of his passes, but most of them have not been too far downfield. He’s also shown that he’s a better passer when he’s flushed from the pocket and is trying to create something out of nothing. Devin Smith said the Buckeyes practiced a lot of passing plays this week and mentioned that Corey “Philly” Brown has taken on a bigger role in the offense.

Hall hopes to spark the Buckeye offense. 

Cal faced a dual-threat quarterback against Nevada and did not fare well. The Wolf Pack’s Cody Fajardo threw for 230 yards and rushed for 97. The Bears rank 94th in pass efficiency defense. If Miller is pressured, getting the happy feet and running forward should be tempered. Instead, he should keep his eyes downfield.

Bradley Roby and Travis Howard will have their hands full with Allen and Co. Roby said it will be a test of his “manhood.”  The secondary already has five interceptions this season, three coming from Howard. If the defensive line can get the pressure they’ve been searching for, Maynard could be forced into multiple turnovers.

The front seven will also have an eye on the Cal backfield, where a 1,000-yard rusher occupies spaces. The OSU defense is among the best in the country so far against the run, giving up 51 yards per game. But there is that weakness at pass rush.

“We need to identify our pass rushers and get some more pressure on the quarterback, which correlates perfectly with pass defense,” Meyer said. “We are just not very productive in those areas right now.”


Saturday’s game is the first in a near impossible task for the Bears: facing Ohio State and USC on the road in back-to-back weeks.

“It can really be a turning point for us,” Hill said.

That’s a correct statement, but it could be positive or negative. Cal has many things working against them. The Buckeyes are the better team, Cal is traveling across the country and Ohio Stadium isn’t the site of too many upsets.

Ohio State has won 72 consecutive home games against unranked non-conference opponents. To compensate for what the Bears will encounter when they walk into the Horseshoe, Tedford used artificial noise in practice this week.

“I think everybody’s going to be a little overwhelmed,” Coleman said. “I think we’ll be good, though. Once we get in the game, people forget about all that. Time to play football.”

The cross-country travel hasn’t been too much of a problem for Cal during the Tedford era. It has a 5-1 record in games starting before Noon Pacific, and the Bears have a winning record in Big Ten stadiums dating to 1990.

Cal traveled to Columbus on Thursday to help get used to the time change.

It will take a near perfect game to defeat Ohio State. Errors will need to be at a minimum and there cannot be another slow start in the first quarter, something that has plagued the Bears in their first two games.

The Maynard-Allen connection will need to fire on all cylinders. There is reason to believe the duo will have success after what Miami (Ohio) quarterback Zac Dysert did in Week 1.

While Cal has their unique defense, there isn’t much evidence that will fluster Miller, especially after the Nevada game.

Meyer believes the test drive against the Wolf Pack could play in the Bears’ favor.

“Nevada, really well-coached team, good players, but they do run similar schemes and so we are learning from that,” he said. “We also studied Oregon the last few years. One year (Cal) defended really good, I think it was 15-13, something like that, they won, so we’re really studying that.

“But all that is correct. When you see a team have success running similar type plays, now you have to kind of get ahead of their defensive coach and say, what adjustments will they make. Nevada did execute a very high level, and with a little lesser personnel than Cal had.”

Miller may not have 20 carries or 160 yards, but expect more of the same, and while Hall might not see the field a considerable amount, his ability to break big plays will keep the defense honest. 

The Ohio State defense, with the services of Nathan Williams, is expected to supply the pressure this week. After two games that left Meyer flummoxed, you can bet the defensive coaches and players got the message loud and clear.

Ohio State 38, Cal 17


Comments Show All Comments

sir rickithda3rd's picture

great preview... im interested to see if allen and and anthony are as good as everyone says

mark may wins douchebag of the year... again

BucksfanXC's picture

If we don't score 40 and they score more than 20, I will be disappointed.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

SPreston2001's picture

Im not going to over look Cal. I think it may be a closer game than we think. I hope its a blowout but I wouldnt be surprised if they came here ready to fight tomorrow.

buck-I.8's picture

High praise for Maynard by Meyer and others. To reference the game clips against Oregon (not known for defense), he looked horribly inaccurate.

nickma71's picture

And I thought the 46 or bear defense was a thing by Buddy Ryan and used by Fred Pagac all this time.

hodge's picture

It was Buddy Ryan's defense.  He created it to reference former Buckeye Doug Plank, the strong safety who basically played in the formation as a fourth linebacker.
In the words of Smart Football's Chris Brown:

"The '46 was designed for one purpose, to kick ass."

Run_Fido_Run's picture

This might be one of the last times we'll see this "Bear" defense.
Tedford is #2 on the Coaches Hot Seat Ranking.
The last time Cal had a good defense, according to FEI rankings, was 2008, when that D ranked 16th on FEI. Since then, FEI ranked them 59th (2009), 59th (2010), and 43rd last year.
Cal's D should be seeing improvement about now because after having mediocre recruiting years in 2008 and 2009, Cal ranked 11th on Rivals in 2010 and 17th last year.
Do or die for Tedford and the "Bear" defense.

hodge's picture

Yeah, it's just not fundamentally sound anymore.  Back when all NFL teams were relying on 25+ carry-a-game running backs and vertical passes via the play action, the '46 was a Godsend.  But then along came a spider named Bill Walsh, who proved that his "West Coast Offense" was here to stay.  Since it's principles are so ingrained in the de-facto "Pro-Style" set of the NFL, the defense as a whole has been rendered relatively useless.
Fun fact: Bill Walsh created the "West Coast Offense" on the banks of the Ohio River, in Cincinnati--the same place where Dick LeBeau would create and refine his famed zone blitz scheme.

cinserious's picture

So youre saying the west-coast, or "spread offense" negates the 46 defense? That would imply the 46-D would work against a typical "NFL" style pro-offense like wisconsin, usc, or alabama. Then the Bucks should be able to handle it much better than those teams. That would put cal on the 'famine' side agains us. Blowout! 

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

Crimson's picture

I think the hot seat rankings are fluff though.  I mean, Bill O'Brien is on the hotseat?  Sure, but it was hot before he came.  Who else could they possibly get to coach there!

Run_Fido_Run's picture

California could be dangerous. They have some talent and not much to lose. However, if Ohio State can land some early punches, Cal might throw in the towell.
I wonder about possible tensions in the Cal locker room. Fans have been losing faith in Tedford; is that feeling bleeding over into the team?
In week 1, the backup QB ran the first three series. Their star WR, who is Maynard's half-brother, went on record saying he didn’t agree with Tedford's decision.
In week 2, Tedford screamed at Maynard on the sidelines.
Tedford said it was nothing and, naturally, that kind of stuff happens all the time and it isn’t necessarily a sign of falling morale. Still, it’s something to keep in mind.
Both Cal and Ohio State have started slowly in the 1Q in both of their games, respectively. It is always important for teams to start well and play all 4Qs and so forth, but this a great week for the Buckeyes to jump out of the gate early and force Cal to dig deep inside, see what they'er made of.

onetwentyeight's picture

Keenan Allen might also be used in a few unconventional rushing packages, ala Percy Harvin style. I know this because he's on my College Football Fantasy team. Yes, such a thing exists and yes, I am one of the degenerates who play it. For real money. 
/shows self out. 

OldColumbusTown's picture

Cal is not lacking in talent, that is for sure.  From a purely athletically-gifted standpoint, they will be one of the better teams OSU will face this year.  That alone makes them a threat.
However, they still do not match up with OSU overall in that regard.  They have a few studs, and have recruited very well over the last several years (thanks to Tosh Lupoi), but not on par with the Buckeyes.  Schematically, OSU takes advantage of this difference and wins going away.

Akeem96's picture

Where did the 13 rank come from?  With no USA Today ranking, I would think the AP would be boss.  I went back and looked and even 11W's ballot has them listed as 12.  
I'm probably missing something obvious.

Jason Priestas's picture

We actually use the BlogPoll rankings for rankings on the site. Ohio State was 12th on our ballot, but they came in at 13th in the poll.

We probably need to figure out a better way of conveying this because you're not alone. We get asked about this a few times a year.

Crimson's picture

You could post the link to the ranking everytime.  Alternatively, you could post both, with one in parentheses and include a label for which is which.

gravey's picture

Not worried about Cal as much as I am the Bucks.   We've got to cut down on the mistakes.  I don't think the Bears can win, but I've seen enough to know we can blow a close game with missed assignments, broken plays and turnovers.

cinserious's picture

Aside from aaron Rogers, all of tedford's qb's are 2nd rate crapolas

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

Buckeyejason's picture

Cal probably gets the second best recruits in the PAC 12 traditionally behind USC, so they definitely never lack talent. They always get great players from Texas, and California..of coarse. I don't think the coaching up there is consistent enough for them to be as good as the talent they bring in. You can argue they are RB-U the past 6-7 years with the guys listed above. Unless they are just really down this year I can't see us blowing them out. I think they play up and down to their competition soo they will probably give the buckeyes a fight.
I think this will be the toughest out of conference battle personally, but I know a lot of people say UCF is/was. I expect a battle late into the second half with Braxton making enough plays to give the good guys the W.


cinserious's picture

3rd best recruits maybe after Oregon.

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

Buckeyejason's picture

I think they generally get better recruits then Oregon over the years. 


SlyRay's picture

48-10 Bucks. Mark it down

Nothing like a new football signed by Meyer, Fickell, and Vrabel. Thank you, Susan G. Komen Foundation

buckeye76BHop's picture

Not going to be close...UCF was the toughest test for out of conference games.  I'm sticking with 45-13. Cal will get a few big plays to Allen but they're not as talented as they've been in the past at the skilled positions like RB and QB.  Southern Utah isn't very good and they scored 31 on them as well as Nevada.  This could be close if OSU's problems continue but I think this game is where things get figured out.

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

Buckeyejason's picture

Maybe this will teach you to stop being such a homer. 


wibuckeye's picture

I see UM plays UMASSes, I wonder how they chose sides, I would think that the a$$es side would be heavily loaded.  I know what team Brady Hoke will be coaching.


Bucks1's picture

42-3 Bucks!

"I will pound you and pound you until you quit." - Woody Hayes

Toasty McBuns's picture

Yogi Bears going down today