Preview: No. 4 Ohio State at California

By Kyle Rowland on September 13, 2013 at 9:15a
It's a hippe fog machine!
Ohio State Buckeyes #4 Ohio State 2-0, 0-0 Big Ten Roster | Schedule 7:00 PM ET - FOX —— Memorial Stadium Berkeley, CA [Tickets] California Golden Bears California 1-1, 0-0 Pac-12 Roster | Schedule

Schedules have become an annual argument in college football. Schools get criticized roundly for weak schedules, especially relating to non-conference games. Ohio State and Louisville have taken the brunt of the scorn this year.

The two national title contenders appear at first glance to have the easiest schedules in the top 10. The Buckeyes were supposed to play Vanderbilt in the opener, but the Commodores backed out. San Diego State was added and became a surprising dud. Buffalo and Florida A&M were traditional money games with Cal being the lone attractive matchup.

Future schedules are agreed upon far in advance, sometimes more than a decade. When Ohio State and the Bears agreed to a home-and-home series, Cal was flying high under Jeff Tedford. When he was hired in 2002, the program was languishing but considered a sleeping giant with a proud history and ideal location in fertile recruiting grounds.

During Tedford’s 11-year career in Berkeley, he won more games than any previous Cal coach – 82 – engineered nine winning seasons, eight bowl trips, including five victories, and posted seven wins over archrival Stanford. For a brief period on a Saturday night in 2007, the Bears were due to take over the No. 1 ranking. But it all came crashing down in a loss to Oregon State, as did Tedford’s career and the Cal program.

He was fired after the Bears bottomed out last year with a 3-9 record. Sonny Dykes was hired, and in came another fast-paced, pass-first offense. Louisiana Tech had the highest scoring offense last year with Dykes at the helm, and Cal hasn’t dropped off much from that pace. Quarterback Jared Goff leads the nation in passing yards and the Bears are scoring points in bunches.

Ohio State may not be facing a ranked opponent, but its trip to California could yield fool’s gold.

Opponent Breakdown

Cal lost its quarterback and one of the best wide receivers in the country after last season. Many thought it would be a rebuilding year for Dykes in Year 1. When a true freshman was named the starting quarterback, that idea was reinforced.

But Goff has come out hot, eclipsing the second-most total yardage getter by nearly 150 yards. Portland State, and even Northwestern, are not Ohio State, though. The Buckeyes field a fearsome defense with a veteran secondary and athletic defensive line.

Still, you won’t see the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Goff back down anytime soon. He’s infused with a youthfulness that makes him fearless.

“Honestly, I think our offense can match up with any defense in the country,” Goff said.

Sophomore Chris Harper is good for 104 receiving yards per game. And he doesn't even lead his team.
Chris Harper is one of two Cal sophs putting up 100+ receiving yards per game.

He’s totaled 930 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions while completing 62 percent of his passes. His favorite target – Bryce Treggs – is catching more than 10 passes per game. Racking up passing yards isn’t the goal, though, which Goff admitted. It’s cool, he said, just not better than wins.

Cal is averaging in the neighborhood of 100 plays per game, a majority of which are pass plays. Dykes’ “Bear Raid” offense is second in the country in pass attempts. However, to beat Ohio State, the Bears will need a more balanced attack.

In a near upset in Ohio Stadium last year, Brendan Bigelow rushed for 160 yards and two touchdowns on just four carries. Neither he nor any other Cal running back has had tremendous success running the football this season. The team is averaging 110 yards rushing per game.

“We have to be able to run the ball, this is not a team to drop back and throw 70 times against,” Dykes said.

Part of the issue has been underwhelming play from a young offensive line. The unit allowed 41 sacks a year ago and appears improved on that front, but the holes for running backs aren’t opening.

Bigelow’s style of getting in space and taking the edge posed major problems for the Silver Bullets. Urban Meyer was not pleased with the tackling performance and said the Buckeyes have practiced it daily ever since. The final damage that day added up to 512 total yards.

Bigelow’s effort prompted an Ohio State fan to mail him a letter, congratulating him on his career day. It now hangs on Bigelow’s wall.

“I’m pretty sure they know who I am now,” he said of the Buckeyes. “I like the challenge. It’s definitely going to be a lot more difficult.”

Coming off a torn meniscus during the spring, Bigelow is still getting up to speed. He doesn’t have a touchdown yet this season. A 4.1-yard average is nothing to scoff at, though. But don’t say that to Bigelow.

“I expect more of myself,” he said.

The Bears are expecting more out of the defense, too. Dykes hired Andy Buh, a former defensive assistant at Wisconsin, but the results have been subpar the first two weeks. Northwestern scored 44 points and FCS member Portland State put up 30.

Poor tackling has plagued Cal, while the defensive line hasn’t been able to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The team has recorded just one sack. Missed tackles are a fundamental issue that can be corrected, as evidenced by the Bears’ opponent this coming Saturday. But the lack of pressure can be glaring. It’s technique oriented and could dog Cal all season.

“We just have to do a better job,” Dykes said. “It is up to me to get our guys ready to play. We just haven’t been able to get the push up front that we need to get.”

Portland State racked up 320 yards in one quarter. With Dykes, you get a great offense, but it’s coupled with bad defensive play. Louisiana Tech’s defense was rated last in the country in 2012. The Bears have switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3, and it has not gone well.

The defense isn’t void of talent, but elite difference makers are few and far between. Cal finished in the bottom fourth of the Pac-12 in every major defensive category last season. And that was before it had to replace three of its four top tacklers this year.

Linebackers Nick Forbes and Khairi Fortt, a Penn State transfer, anchor the second-level of the field, with cornerback Kameron Jackson and safety Michael Lowe patrolling the secondary. You may have noticed the lack of a defensive lineman’s name.

Therein lies the problem.

Buckeye Breakdown

Ohio State’s biggest concern heading into Saturday’s contest is health. It still isn’t known whether quarterback Braxton Miller or defensive end Adolphus Washington will play. Meyer has deemed Miller a game-time decision, while Washington is yet to practice. Both would have key roles in the game’s outcome if they play – and also (possibly) if they’re sidelined.

Kenny Guiton has shown he can lead the Buckeyes to victory, but he’s not a Heisman Trophy contender. Miller is a difference maker that gives Ohio State that extra oomph in its national championship aspirations. Without him, the Buckeyes could struggle against a Pac-12 program, albeit one in the rebuilding phase.

Meyer has said he’s “fairly optimistic” about Miller playing and that the quarterback is healing at a rapid pace. Still, there has been no definitive word on if and when he’ll be available. Meyer indicated Guiton could start with Miller spelling him when the situation is ripe for it.

Will Miller be a go?Miller is a game time decision.

“Braxton looks good,” safety Christian Bryant said Wednesday. “I saw him throw the ball a few times. But I think he’s just focusing on getting back so he can be ready.”

The MCL is unstable, so Miller is wearing a brace. Meyer said one of the biggest issues is Miller getting used to wearing the bulky prop. He has a history of injuries, but this is the longest the Buckeyes have gone into a gameweek without knowing Miller’s status.

Tight end Jeff Heuerman hasn’t questioned Miller’s toughness, though, and he remains confident in his on-field capabilities.

“You’re going to get bumps and bruises,” Heuerman said. “You’re going to have things not always go your way. There’s no reason to be concerned. “Braxton plays a huge role in this offense, especially with his legs. So he’s moving around a lot, he’s throwing the ball, he’s got a bunch of reads.

“Sometimes things don’t go as planned. He took a shot and his knee twisted up a little bit. But he’ll be fine. I don’t think there’s any major concern about the way he plays. He’s a dynamic, incredible athlete.”

Protecting Miller and/or Guiton will be a fully functional offensive line. Center Corey Linsley, who underwent offseason foot surgery, played only 17 snaps against Buffalo and didn’t appear after halftime last week. Meyer said he’s now 100 percent and should be available all four quarters on Saturday.

Ohio State’s defense wants to apply pressure on Goff and force him to throw into a secondary that will field five and sometimes six defensive backs.

“A true freshman can be really athletic, but it’s easier to get flustered and to get a little nervous, especially when you see a defensive line closing in,” defensive lineman Michael Bennett said.

How it Plays Out


Cal Bucknotes – FREE!

Bucknotes are your guide to Saturday's action. Download, print and become the smartest Ohio State fan in the room.

Ohio State will have the upper hand regardless of who takes the snaps at quarterback. Guiton has not only proven he can orchestrate wins, he’s flashed an ability to do so with efficiency. That’s the top priority in any quarterback, whether they’re a pocket-passer or of the dual-threat variety.

Cal’s offense has garnered much of the attention this week. But the Ohio State offense versus the Cal defense is the more important of the matchups. Unless Cal slows the Buckeye offense, there isn’t much realistic hope for the Bears. Ohio State hasn’t cracked the 50-point mark this season, but it’s shown it has a quick-strike offense. So far, the Buckeyes have scored 44 first-quarter points – three touchdowns each game.

Bigelow’s goal is to get the ball in space and get to the outside. That formula nearly resulted in a Cal victory last season. This year, it’ll be Dontre Wilson, Jordan Hall, Philly Brown and Co. that attempt to weave in and out of the defense. The Bears have been shredded in consecutive weeks by up-tempo offenses.

When you throw as many times as Goff and run such a high number of plays, you’re bound to accumulate impressive stats, and he may do so Saturday. However, when he is on the sideline, an offense that’s headed by Meyer and Tom Herman will be staring across at one of the worst defenses statistically in major college football. 



Comments Show All Comments

Harold's picture

I will be in Miami, FL tomorrow...I am hoping this is a national game and will be on FOX down there...anybody know for sure?

Ahhh, the smell of Chris Spielman's Dirty Socks...

njclebuckeye5's picture

the box at the top of the article has it listed as a 7 pm game, which i believe is the eastern time zone kickoff

Lobs it to the endzone... Touchdown Devin Smith!!

Hovenaut's picture

Harold, I just checked this link below for central Maryland where I'm at....and the game is scheduled for my area:

Would think you're safe, but if you want to double check, good luck.

And let's go Buckeyes!

JimmyJack's picture

I saw the other day that it is on Fox in the midwest and ESPN2 where it is not the regional Fox selection.

lax20's picture

I am almost certain this is a nationally televised game on Fox Sports.  It is the only game slated for Fox.  Remember this is Fox and not Fox Sports 1.

BuckeyeAZOH's picture

FOX is doing their version of college game day there. They are covering it as the prime time game. It is nationally covered on FOX. 

Purple Raider

Nutbuck1959's picture

It is a national game on Fox. 8pm, I think.

zbd's picture

7 PM game on Fox here in the NY area.  Looking for a pass happy game as Cal throws it all over the place. Should be an entertaining game if you like high scoring offenses.

Tim's picture

Wish I were in Vegas, over 65.5 sounds really good in this game.

dan_isaacs's picture


Dan Isaacs

CC's picture

My tickets say 4.

OSUnathen's picture

4pm Cali time and 7pm Columbus time.

BierStube's picture

Dan .. if you start watching at 7:30 ... you will have missed about 3 tOSU touchdowns!!

"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

njclebuckeye5's picture

been reading about this game all week. cant get enough to hold me over till tomorrow. pumped for this trip to Cali!!

Lobs it to the endzone... Touchdown Devin Smith!!

buckeyepastor's picture

With a dinged-up D-line, a QB less than 100%, and a still questionable LB unit in its first road test, at night, I just want to see a win (preferably by two possessions), and no further injuries, so we can run Guiton vs. FAMU and rest Braxton's MCL.  

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

dan_isaacs's picture

I like your thinking.  Although, I expect to be running Cardale by the 3rd Q v FAMU.

Not qworied about the LB.  It'll be Perry and RDS.  Not worried abotu the D-line, either.  I think Bosa and Jamal Marcus will have big games.  Marcus was unblockable in garbage time last week, and he's fast.

Dan Isaacs

Run_Fido_Run's picture

I agree, as you and others have said, the 6'6(?) Bosa could play a big role in this game. Cal's offense is designed to get rid of the ball quickly. They've already given up 9 total sacks (4 v. NW and 5 v. Portland St), but they threw the ball 116 times in those two games, so they're probably pretty average on sacks allowed per passing attempt. Plus, they're doing like 3-step drops, so the yards lost aren't usually very much. In other words, I don't see the Silver Bullets harassing Cal into 3rd and 17s unless that's caused by offensive penalties.
With that in mind, I'm hoping to see Bosa - with his power-oriented athleticism and big wingspan - knocking down passes and clogging up the outside throwing lanes. In addition, Bosa is well-equipped to hold the edge on those combo "package" plays. At this stage of his development, Bosa is probably not the best pure speed rush end (Spence, Marcus, etc.), but he could be Cal's worst nightmare.
Along those lines, if the DL is doing a great job stopping the Cal RBs cold while jamming the outside passing lanes, at some point Goff might be forced to tuck the ball and make his first true rushing carry of the season. Goff looks like a beanpole - 6'4, 190 lbs. Between the 3-4 sacks, hits to the QB right after he delivers the ball, and bottling him up into situations where he can't throw the ball away and has to eat it for a zero-yard rush, he's going to get his first introduction to Big Boy Football tomorrow night. In particular, if Bosa, Shazier, or one of the safeties gets a good lick on 'em, or one of the DTs falls on him, his effectiveness will probably decline fairly rapidly.

BTBuckeye's picture

Da Bears will give us a run for the money. Go Bucks!

sarasotabcg's picture

The dude wearing the tie in the pic above the article is just begging to be photoshopped.

BierStube's picture

Goff is 6'4" 205 lbs .... I think they are being way generous on his weight! .. Looks to be more in the 185-190 range to me!

"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

mh277907's picture

New Orleans this weekend.. Wouldn't mind a Buckeye blowout while I'm on Bourbon Street. Alliteration aside, I think the Bucks D will dominate. I'm taking the Bucks BIG.


WC Buckeye's picture

+1 for correct usage of alliteration :)

The only thing that's new in the world is the history that we have forgotten.

Seattle Linga's picture

Due to our opponent - UFM and Herman will open up the play book a little more - so don't be surprised if we pull away in the 2nd half.

kyletp2's picture

We need a beatdown on National television!! Some style points will help. If stanford or Oregon are way we get to the national championship game (sec champ will go) without some good looking wins. It sucks but it's the world we live in. Urban needs to put the boot to the throat of Cal. 

You are lame if you tweet!

gravey's picture

See you in Berkeley.  I'll be wearing my 11W swag on game day.  Go Bucks!

cinserious's picture

I got seats with Too $hort.

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

BuckeyeFreak4844's picture

What about a lady named Betty?  Will she be there?

Michigan Sucks!

ScarletNGrey01's picture

I wonder what's the status on Guiton's hand, it was pretty swollen after the game last week right?

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

Squirrel Master's picture

Dontre Wilson breaks out and and shows something that people aren't aware of yet. Hall will still get positive yards on every play and the occasionaly big run. Whether it is Guiton or Brax, I am certain there will be some fast scoring drives.

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

RedStorm45's picture

When Ohio State and the Bears agreed to a home-and-home series, Cal was flying high under Jeff Tedford.

Going 7-5?

Run_Fido_Run's picture

When Ohio State and the Bears agreed to a home-and-home series, Cal was flying high under Jeff Tedford. When he was hired in 2002, the program was languishing but considered a sleeping giant with a proud history and ideal location in fertile recruiting grounds.

I don't think Kyle meant to suggest that Ohio State and Cal agreed to a home-and-home series in 2002, when Tedford was hired. Rather that when the series was arranged - 2005? 2006? - the Cal program was at that point flying high, after being mediocre only a few years earlier (before Tedford arrived).
Here's how Cal fared during the first 8 years under Tedford:
2002: 7-5;  4-4 (T-4th)  
2003: 8-6;  5-3 (T-3rd)  W Insight  
2004: 10-2;  7-1 (2nd)  L Holiday  (ranked 9th)
2005: 8-4;  4-4 (T-4th)  W Las Vegas (ranked 25th(
2006: 10-3;  7-2 (T-1st)  W Holiday (ranked 14th)
2007; 7-6; 3-6 (T-7th)  W Armed Forces  
2008: 9-4;  6-3 (4th)  W Emerald (ranked 25th)
2009: 8-5;  5-4 (T-5th)  L Poinsettia

chirobuck's picture

really, you picked the first year and ignored the rest.....interesting


^ best post ever ^

pjtobin's picture

My only two concerns are our defense, and our penalties. Our d played good last week. If they do it again it is going to be a long night for the bears. And I hope our o line is helping out Cal's d with penalties. I think this is our first "real" game. Go Bucks!

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

Poe McKnoe's picture

Brendan Bigelow rushed for 160 yards and two touchdowns on just four carries.

LOLz I remember that.
It'd be nice to turn the table, and maybe Dontre Wilson can be that person.

stantmann's picture

OSU will stop the Cal offense like they did against Oregon, SDSU or any other team - by preventing first downs. As Oregon found out in the Rose Bowl you can't get any rhythm if you can't get any first downs. This malarkey about slowing them with our offensive running game is old school thinking, and is true, but not because Cal is a fast paced offense, but because a good running game limits possessions of both teams in a game. If Braxton is healthy, they will score at will, and the defense will flat out shut Cal down with the Buckeye man press coverage. Without Braxton, the Buckeyes might lose. I don't have the confidence in Guiton most of you have and believe he might throw a couple INTs in bad situations. Being smart and calm is much easier when you are playing at home. Let's just hope Braxton is healthy...

lsjSnail's picture

This is not the same defense as the Rose Bowl game.

Jabba the Hoke's picture

If I'm not mistaken, the game was scheduled prior to 2006 when the polls looked like this. Someone correct me if I'm wrong about the year.