Well...last week didn't go quite as expected. It only took me one sentence to be wrong, as I said that Brionte Dunn would start, and Jordan Hall started in the backfield for the Buckeyes. It went all downhill from there, as Keenan Allen had nine catches to lead his team, and Cal kept the game much closer than basically anyone expected.
However, onward and upward, and once more into the breach, dear friends! Hopefully these five predictions this week will go much better for me. And if not, feel free, as always, to poke fun of this humble writer in the comments. Here's what you, the viewer, should be looking out for during this Buckeye tilt against the UAB Blazers this Saturday.
1. Buckeye players staying involved and interested.
Not to take anything away from the Blazers, but this team can't compete with the Buckeyes in terms of talent on the field. The Buckeyes will have to keep from slacking or looking ahead to Michigan State. Their focus has to be this week. No matter how much Urban Meyer drills improvement into their heads during practice, human nature dictates that the Buckeyes will battle complacency, and if the score gets out of hand, ennui. Urban Meyer and the rest of the coaching staff will have to push the Buckeyes and foster a sense of competition with themselves against a Blazers team that really is going to struggle in this game.
2. The third LB spot.
Urban Meyer stated on his weekly call-in show tonight that young linebackers Josh Perry and Camren Williams would play in significant plays this game, not just mop-up duty. He also expressed dissatisfaction with the play of Curtis Grant and Storm Klein, who's back on the team after a rough summer embroiled in legal battles. The Buckeyes have been forced to play mostly in nickel situations anyway with the pass-first offenses they've faced in their non-conference schedule, so there hasn't been too much opportunity for production outside of Etienne Sabino and Ryan Shazier anyway. Meyer, four weeks in to the season, is still looking for a third linebacker he can count on.
3. More carries for Mr. Hall.
Jordan Hall had a nice game last week coming off the freak dog walking injury he sustained this summer. Look for him to get a few more touches in the passing game as he gets used to lateral motion on that cut, which appears not to be bothering him as much as some expected. Hall is electric in space when he's healthy, so we'll have to see if he's back to 100% effectiveness against the Blazers. Obviously, against a Conference USA opponent, performances will need to be taken with a grain of salt.
4. Carrying the torch for the B1G.
Let's face it – the Big Ten is in an extreme down year. Ohio State seems to have the burden of the entire conference on its shoulders, and it isn't even eligible for postseason play! Any struggle at all with the Blazers will bring even more national attention down on the Big Ten, and not in a positive manner. Let's see if Braxton Miller and the Buckeye offense can keep their foot on the gas during the game and help carry the torch for the rest of the struggling conference.
5. Will the real Buckeye defense please stand up?
It seems that so far, the way opponents have devised to beat the Buckeye defense is to attack the linebackers and the secondary with short, quick passes. Unfortunately the linebackers are relatively young and inexperienced (except Sabino) and struggle in pass coverage. The secondary has had a few miscommunications at the safety position and overall has not performed up to expectations thus far. So the defense must make adjustments; defensive linemen must abandon ideas of giant sack numbers and instead get their hands up to bat down or deflect short passes. Then, opposing offenses will have to adjust their schemes to involve more running and deep throws, and that plays to the strength of the Buckeye defense. Tackling and angles must improve, and a threat must emerge opposite John Simon. Right now, that looks like Nathan Williams or Noah Spence. The Buckeye defense got a scare last week, and has to improve this week before it gets into Big Ten play.
Any predictions, hopes or dreams for this week's high noon tilt against UAB? Post 'em here, and pour a beverage out for any we get wrong.