University of Alabama Birmingham (0-2) vs. Ohio State (3-0)
Kickoff 12 PM ET (Big Ten Network, Ohio State Radio Network)
Series Record: 0-0
Live Audio ($): 97.1 The Fan (Paul Keels/Jim Lachey)
Live Stats: CBS GameTracker
Two roads converge on Saturday at the Horseshoe as the Ohio State Buckeyes look for their 61st straight home win against non-conference unranked teams. For UAB, the challenge will be continuing to develop into a high potent offense with enough firepower on the defensive side of the ball to be a Conference USA contender. They take on their second straight ranked opponent and are looking to take their program to the next level. The truth of the matter is that the Blazers have a long way to go before they become respectable. The UAB program has only been in place since 1991 and is 3-32 against BCS opponents on the road. In their history, they have been to only one bowl game. The program has only seen one 1000 yard rusher in a season.
After getting smashed in the mouth by the running attack of the South Carolina Gamecocks, The Blazers come into Ohio Stadium looking to attack fire with fuel. First year head coach Garrick McGee believes that he has the weapons to spread the field. Meanwhile, Urban Meyer’s squad continues to evolve offensively. In the first four weeks of the season, both teams have been able to move the ball. Meaning this one could come down to defense. After giving up over 500 yards against Cal, it will be gut check time early Saturday afternoon.
Garrick McGee, 1st Season – A former quarterback at Arizona State and Oklahoma, McGee is making the calls from the sidelines for the first time in his career. After spending time as an offensive coordinator at Arkansas and Northwestern – McGee became the 4th head coach in UAB history, replacing Neil Callaway this winter, who was 18-42 in his time at UAB. McGee’s biggest strength is quarterback development and offensive production. At Arkansas, he was a huge part in the growth of Ryan Mallet and the progression of a once anemic offense. A native of Tulsa, McGee had a chance to take over the Hurricane program when Todd Graham resigned to take over the Pittsburgh program. Instead he opted to stay at Arkansas.
On the UAB coaching staff is former Buckeye Tight End coach and offensive lineman John Peterson. The Middletown native was not reinstated by Urban Meyer when he took over the program.
Urban Meyer, 1st Season – 10 of Meyer’s 11 teams have started off 3-0 and 7 of those teams have went 4-0. Meyer is quickly solidifying the start of his era as everything is surely coming together week by week. Meyer said that the best part of the win against Cal was being able to come from behind – something you can’t simulate in practice or in camp. The offense opened up another dimension against California, and it would be crazy not to expect even more of that this week. That’s what’s so great about the first season of the UME.
UAB – Despite being 2-0, the Blazer offense has had some early success moving the football. Against South Carolina, it was through the air with 240 yards passing on a 17/34 performance from Jonathon Perry for a total of 219 yards from his arm. Unfortunately, facing one of the best fronts in the country, UAB was unable to get the run game going – picking up 27 yards on 42 carries. A good sign against the Buckeye front line. For the most part, The blazers will air it out in the shotgun, using speedy receiver Jackie Williams on the outside edge. Turnovers have been huge in their two losses in the season. Against Troy, the offense lost the ball four times via the fumble. Against South Carolina, Perry had the Blazers at the USC 25 yard line with a three point lead. A fumble turned into a touchdown scamper for the gamecock defense, and the rest of the game is history. The Blazers will run an up-tempo offense and have a couple really good athletes on this team. They are going to try and air it out all afternoon. If they don’t connect, it’s going to quickly turn into an offensive nightmare.
Ohio State – Man, last week might have been nerve racking, but it was also a lot of fun to see the offense flourish. First, Jordan Hall returned and really gave us glances of how his role could really change the ballgame. He had 87 yards rushing, but as Urban Meyer pointed out this week – he was quick to hit the turf after first contact. He will get the first looks again this week, and will get a great opponent to tune up against. In the passing game, Devin Smith became the first receiver since Dane Sanzenbacher in 2010 to gain over 100 yards receiving. He has really stepped into the role of lead receiver. Jake Stoneburner brought home two more touchdown passes. There is still a lot of work to do, but the Buckeyes are moving in the right direction and will have a good chance to improve before taking on Michigan State.
UAB – When you give up 44 points per game, I think it’s safe to say that there needs to be a lot of work done to be competitive not only against BCS competition but even in the oft defenseless Conference USA. Giving up 477 yards per game isn’t going to get you places. The secondary and linebacking corps is really young but they do have some talent. That being said, they have given up 220 yards per game on the ground. It sounds like Braxton Miller should have a field day before Ohio State heads to the locker room at the half. With a porous defense like this, I wouldn’t be surprised to see second teamers work their way into the game in the second half.
Ohio State – You would think there isn’t a lot of positives to take from a defense that gave up four scores and over 500 total yards a week ago. However, a lot of individuals had impressive performances. Now, the key will be putting it all together before heading into Big Ten play. Any time your defense gets a game ending stop, such as Christian Bryant’s pick in the 4th to secure victory, you take that as a positive. One of your young linebackers made a step in the right direction by gathering 10 total tackles in the ballgame. Ryan Shazier already might be the best guy back there, but he is continuing to improve. Despite giving up a bunch of yards on the big play, Big Hank was able to create havoc up front, as the defensive line brought down the quarterback six times.
A Key to Victory:
One thing to watch this week on both sides of the ball is the Big play. For one, as we saw last week, it can be the Achilles heel of the Buckeye Defense. Opponents have produced 13 big plays this season, 8 of them of which have been through the air. The key will be stopping the combo of Jonathon Perry and Jackie Williams. They provide a true threat for this Blazers offense.
On the flip-side, The Buckeyes have had 16 Big plays, including six rushing touchdowns from Braxton Miller and nine big plays through the air to either Devin Smith, Corey Brown, Evan Spencer or Jake Stoneburner. Once Braxton gets loose running the ball, the next step will be putting it in the air. Then letting the run game bring home the victory in the second half.
The big play will be a factor on both sides of the ball for both teams. That’s what will make this game so much fun to watch for Buckeye fans. Their team is better prepared to take over ballgames and dominate the big play on both offense and defense.