One week in the books, and Ohio State is ranked #3 in the country by the AP. They're coming off a performance that saw them blow out Buffalo, 40-20, roll up 460 yards of offense, to include 295 on the ground, and saw some quality play from new players (Dontre Wilson, Joey Bosa) and quality backups (Kenny Guiton).
Yet still, some fans were left wanting more. Hopefully, the masses can be satiated this week by San Diego State, and they should be. The Aztecs got blown out – no, really, they got their butts handed to them – by Eastern Illinois of the FCS. SDSU was turnover prone and couldn't run the ball, which is generally a recipe for disaster. When you combine last year's record (9-4, loss to BYU in the Poinsettia Bowl) with last week's result, you could make the argument that of all the FBS losing to the FCS games we saw in week one, SDSU losing to Eastern Illinois was the biggest surprise. Well, maybe behind Kansas State losing to North Dakota State at home, but it's up there.
With that backdrop in mind, what are some things we should look for this Saturday?
I would like to see a complete game from the offense. What, 40 points and 400+ yards of offense isn't good enough? Yes it is, but...there were some bad turnovers that kept Buffalo in the game a lot longer than they should have. I don't think I'm a member of the fire breather wing of the OSU fan base, and I don't expect OSU to score on every drive. But on drives when OSU doesn't score, let's make them productive by at least flipping field position, and making the opponent drive the length of the field. There were plenty of things to like, so let's strive for consistency for all four quarters. Speaking of turnovers...
Let's not do anything stupid with the ball again this week, okay? Ohio State only had two turnovers, but they came at crucial times. The first was a Dontre Wilson fumble right after OSU picked off the ball, which came right after OSU failed on a 4th and one from midfield. Buffalo seized the momentum from the two big plays they had and went down and scored a TD. The second was that horrible throw Braxton Miller had that Khalil Mack returned for a score and got Buffalo to within 10. And there was almost that disastrous fumble that Buffalo recovered on the OSU 1 that was nullified by a personal foul penalty. Take away that Khalil Mack pick six and it's 40-13. Eliminate the fumble, and even if OSU doesn't score there and has to punt, Buffalo's chances of driving the field and getting a TD are slim. Let's be courteous and give them a FG; now it's 40-9 and everyone is feeling a lot better about the game. Hey, speaking of Dontre Wilson...
Can we see more of him this week? His first touch was an 18 yard pass he damn near housed, and he also had a 51 yard kickoff return that helped OSU recover from his fumble; Jordan Hall went 37 yards for the score on the very next play. Wilson reminds me of Ted Ginn in a lot of ways, and I think he's going to have one heck of a career in Columbus. Even though he's a freshman, and even though he had that fumble, you can see his playmaking potential. Hopefully, we'll see more of it Saturday.
Defense, please to stuff San Diego State offense. Sort of lost in the shuffle of OSU's second and third quarter struggles on offense was the fact that the defense played pretty well, all things considered. Of the three TD's Buffalo scored, one was the aforementioned big play by Mack, and one started on OSU's side of the 50. They also had a big goal line stand in the fourth quarter that would have gotten Buffalo within 10 points. With an already thin defense further depleted by injury and suspension before (Tommy Schutt, CJ Barnett, Bradley Roby) and during (Ryan Shazier) the game, Ohio State still only gave up 258 yards of offense, and held Buffalo to 2.1 yards per rush. With Roby and Barnett coming back this week, we shouldn't see a guy like Armani Reeves getting picked on again. With Roby back, that shouldn't happen, and the defense should shine. Since we're talking about sunshine...
Keep the sense of optimism the team has. I don't know if you noticed, but after the game, the staff and players that were interviewed were fairly upbeat, more so than some of the fans that took to the Internet. There's a reason to be upbeat: other than a couple of great individual plays by Buffalo, Ohio State controlled this game and played well on both sides of the ball. Braxton Miller looked much better as a passer, and when he trusted his legs again he was unstoppable. A very young defense had their moments, but they stuffed Buffalo's running game, and with the exception of one guy in the secondary, they pretty much stopped the Bulls passing game, too.
And when faced with a little adversity, they found a way to dig down, on both sides of the ball, and overcome. Granted, it's not on the road at Camp Randall, or the Big House, but I think this was a good wakeup for a team that had been doing a lot of talking. Getting your eyes watered by a good punch in the nose hopefully brought this team back down to earth a little bit, and they realized that no matter how good they are on paper, nothing will be given to them.
Last week against SDSU, Eastern Illinois gained over 500 yards of offense and forced four interceptions against what most people thought would be a better than average Mountain West team. With the defensive secondary getting two starters back and the offense (hopefully) minimizing mistakes, Ohio State should roll in this game, and the competitive phase of the contest should be over by halftime.
If not, the fire breather branch of the OSU fan base will grow exponentially.