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Ohio State-Cal 2013: What we're looking for

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What will be the keys to the Cal game Saturday night? We take a look at some key components to an Ohio State victory

Stephen Lam

Ohio State looks to extend their 14 game winning streak at Cal, or as we've come to know it as, a place that ‘isn't a very special state'. Under Sonny Dykes, Cal looks like a team that's on the way up, after seeing their success under Jeff Tedford bottom out the last couple of seasons. Even though they dropped to 3-9 last season, they played Ohio State tough at the Horsehoe, and this is a game that OSU needs to win convincingly. So, how are they going to do that?

Throttle Cal's running game: This is a very attainable goal. After two games (Northwestern and Portland St), Cal is averaging 112 yards rushing per game, which is 97th in the country. They struggled running inside against Northwestern, and only averaged three yards per carry against Portland State. OSU nemesis Brendan Bigelow, he of the 4 carry, 160 yard and two TD game of a year ago, is their leading rusher this year, but the best way to describe his work so far is fairly pedestrian-34 carries, 140 yards, and no touchdowns. If Ohio State can neutralize Cal's running attack, something they couldn't do last year...

They will force mistakes in the passing game: Gone is Zach Maynard, in is Jared Goff, and he is throwing the ball with reckless abandon. He's at almost 1,000 yards passing in only two games, but he's been intercepted three times and sacked nine. He's also attempted a remarkable 114 passes in only two games, so Cal might very well throttle the running game on their own. If you can pressure Goff, he'll cough the ball up-he made some really bad throws against the Wildcats, and with no threat as a runner, the Buckeyes should be able to batter him all night long. OSU's secondary looked much better with CJ Barnett and Bradley Roby back in the lineup last week, and when Goff makes a mistake-and he will-they need to be ready to take advantage. If they can do that...

Ohio State wins the field position battle: The Buckeyes defense through two games this year has been much improved over this time last year. OSU needs to pin Cal deep and make them drive the field. Having to go 80 yards with a pass happy offense run by a freshman who can be goaded into mistakes is something that every defensive coordinator dreams of, and I expect OSU to bring a lot of heat on Goff. If the secondary can cover well and the front seven can bring the heat, Cal is going to have a lot of three and outs, or at a minimum, they won't be able to sustain a lot of drives. Then OSU wins the field position battle, and at that point...

They need to batter Cal on the ground: Both Northwestern and Portland St. ran for over 200 yards (LOWUT Portland St), and OSU should be able to do the same. I'd expect a lot of between the tackle stuff early to establish an inside game, and then Dontre Wilson on the edge. Run the ball, wear down the defense early, and when Cal starts bringing an 8th man in the box, burn them deep. Once the Buckeyes have them on their heels...

Finish them off: OSU, for all intents and purposes, finished off SDSU by halftime last week. I want the same thing this week, but let's not take the foot off the throttle until the fourth quarter, and hang 50 on these guys. OSU has dropped in the polls in consecutive weeks, so to avoid losing more ground, they'll need to go on the road against a BCS AQ team and win con gusto. There are some big games across college football this weekend, and OSU has an opportunity to firmly entrench themselves back at the #2 spot with a convincing win against Cal.

I'm looking for them to do just that.