The most important news this week, besides both Cal players and Cal writers flapping their gums about the Buckeyes, is that Carlos Hyde is down with an MCL injury and will not play this week. It looks like Bri'onte Dunn will be Ohio State's starting tailback against Cal, which frankly puts a lot more pressure on Braxton Miller. With that said, here are five weekly predictions for the game against the Golden Bears. For more, check out California Golden Blogs, one of the better members of our SB Nation blog family.
1: Braxton Miller will rush 25 times again.
This isn't rocket surgery, people. With El Guapo Hyde out, Jordan Hall still recovering from the slice on his foot, and Rod Smith still earning Coach Meyer's trust, the best running threat by far is Braxton. Cal defenders have been quoted as saying he's "three-fourths" and "the entire" Buckeye offense, and I don't see that changing this week. Miller is the best weapon this offense has, and with Carlos Hyde down this week the carries will be even more skewed in Miller's favor. We all saw this off-season that Bri'onte Dunn was cool under pressure in a bad situation, but I still don't think Urban Meyer trusts him yet. Miller, again, will have to carry the offense.
2: Keenan Allen will not lead Cal in receptions.
The Buckeye secondary has been maligned for their communication breakdowns these past two weeks, and Cal's star wide receiver Keenan Allen is projected by draftniks to be a first-round pick. The good thing is that Luke Fickell, crazy man Kerry Coombs and the rest of the Buckeye defense is aware of Allen. I believe that Bradley Roby will be matched up with Allen all day, regardless of whether the Bullets are playing man or zone coverage. Someone else will have to beat the Buckeyes this week.
3: A true freshman will score a touchdown this week.
If I were a betting man (which I'm not, as far as you all know) I would put money on a true freshman to score a touchdown this week. Whether that touchdown is on offense, defense or special teams is anyone's guess. I'm willing to bet Bri'onte Dunn has a punch in TD from the goal line or Noah Spence comes up with a strip-sack fumble. With the injuries on the offensive side of the ball and the ineffectiveness of some of the veteran defensive linemen, don't be shocked to see Coach Meyer throw caution to the wind and depend on the youngest Bucks to make a few plays and spark the team.
4: The game will start slowly, but finish strong for the Scarlet and Gray.
Fast starts have not been a hallmark of this team, and honestly until the offense proves otherwise I cannot in good conscience predict a quick first-quarter lead for the Buckeyes. As much as I'd like to predict a quick 21-0 lead and coasting from there, I don't think that is the hallmark of the 2012 Buckeyes. They start slow and pick it up around the late 2nd and early 3rd quarters. So, look for more of the same this week. Look for lots of one and two yard runs by the Buckeyes and some early woofing by Cal defenders until Braxton Miller gets on track and starts making plays while scrambling out of the pocket.
5: Braxton Miller will pick a favorite target this week.
I think this is the week where we begin to see some consistency and rapport in the Buckeye passing game. Cal's rushing defense is weak, and Southern Utah's Jimmy Kelly just threw for 300 yards against them last week. Granted, it was mostly garbage yards, but STILL, Southern Utah. The receiver that I am watching for this week is Corey Brown. Unfortunately it still looks like despite last week's touchdown, Jake Stoneburner is still mostly being used as a decoy and is not yet a trusted target. I think Philly Brown, coming off back-to-back 7 catch efforts, will emerge as Braxton Miller's favorite receiver. I expect at least 15 targets for Philly, and possibly double digit catches. Maybe all that Biletnikoff talk at the beginning of the season wasn't completely crazy. If not Brown, then Devin Smith will be the chosen one (yeah, I know, I'm trying to straddle the fence here and failing).
By the way, regarding last week's predictions: I still think UCF is a better team than California and I think the Buckeyes will have a bit of a bounce-back here. I say Ohio State wins by 21.
Any other predictions amongst our esteemed commentariat? And yes, you may feel free to make fun of last week's predictions that went totally wrong.