As part of our Buckeye Empire Summer Series, we are taking an early look at each game on the Ohio State schedule, from Buffalo all the way to Pasadena. Today’s article covers the Buckeyes Week 3 game against the Golden Bears of the University of California.
Ohio State (12-0, 6-0 B1G)
California (3-9, 2-7 Pac-12)
The two teams are on almost opposite sides of the spectrum. Ohio State went completely undefeated and had a magical “rookie” season for Urban Meyer, whereas Cal had one of the more disappointing seasons in recent memory, leading to the release of their head coach of 11 years, Jeff Tedford. It was certainly not the vision that the Bears had for the first season in the newly renovated Memorial Stadium.
The Buckeyes hosted the Bears in week 3 of the 2012 season and barely escaped with their winning streak intact. Quarterback Zach Maynard and his brother Kennan Allen pretty much had their way with the wayward Silver Bullets, but thanks to a breakaway Devin Smith and the kicking woes of Vincent D’Amato, the Buckeyes sent the Bears home with a heartbreaking loss.
Cal never fully recovered after that, winning just two games in their conference schedule, against UCLA and Washington State. Ohio State finally found their groove and began their march towards perfection.
Cal’s new head coach Sonny Dykes employs the Cal version of the Air Raid offense, known as the Bear Raid. Clever. It will be up to true freshman Jared Goff to run the up tempo attack against what hopes to be a stingy Ohio State front seven. The Golden Bears will push the ball upfield and test the defensive backfield on every series. With Kennan Allen off to the NFL, Cal will rely on Sophomore Chris Harper to provide the offensive spark downfield.
Ohio State’s offense begins and ends with the Heisman Preseason Frontrunner, Braxton Miller. With Carlos Hyde not being able to play, Miller will have to rely on the massive stable of capable running backs at his disposal. Then there’s the unit that entered last fall as the stepchildren of the offense only to be universally praised this fall, the wide receivers. The Buckeyes are simply loaded with weapons of their own. Where they will need to be on their game is with the time change. 3 hours earlier may not seem like much, but it can play a huge role.
Cal’s new defenseive coordinator, Andy Buh will have his work cut out for him. He does have some experience competing against the Ohio State offense, previously holding the position of Linebackers coach in Madison. The defense that you see from Cal this year might look quite a bit different from the one that Urban and company saw last year from the Golden Bears. Buh will take the Bears to a 4-3 base package, something he feels is best suited to today’s dual threat college landscape.
Ohio State will have found its defensive rhythm at this point in the season, or at least one would hope. Having to replace 6 of the 7 starting front seven on defense is never ideal, but the advantage that Ohio State has is one of pure raw talent. Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence are transforming into potential All-Americans before everyone’s eyes. The duo will need to be on their A game against the fast paced offense that Dykes will employ. The Quarterback gets rid of the ball much quicker in an Air Raid offense, so to put pressure on Goff, the defensive line will need to win the trench battle.
At this point in the season, Bradley Roby will be back from his suspension and already have a game under his belt. The last week of camp should have cemented a two-deep at the corner and safety positions and they may just prove to be the 5 most important men on the field. Cal will throw early, often, and all over the field. The defensive backfield will have to live on a swivel, because the pass can and will go anywhere.
Sonny Dykes is in his first year as a head coach of a major program. His offensive prowess at Louisiana Tech was most certainly what got him hired to helm the team at Memorial. The opening season of the stadium proved to be a dismal one, and Dykes was brought on specifically to score points in a hurry. The crowd in Berkeley is getting restless for a magical season, and Dykes may just be the man to deliver it. He carries the distinct advantage of having the home field, with a jetlagged opponent.
And then there was Meyer. Urban will do the best he can to acclimate his team to the time difference. He had plenty of experience with this as the head coach at Utah and Bowling Green. Meyer will be looking for his third win of the season and 15th in a row, and may see Cal as just an upstart speed bump on the road to a championship. But he cannot underestimate Cal, in their own stadium, with a major upset bid on the line. Every member of the staff will have to be on top of things and not let this one get away too fast.
Both teams can score in a hurry, so this will come down to the team with the best suited defense. Can the true freshman defend his homeland against the unstoppable force? Will Miller have to put the whole team on his back with Hyde out on suspension? Will the Ohio State defense have jelled by then? There are a lot of questions surrounding this game, but I predict the Buckeyes stay perfect, albeit in a close one, 34-31.