Ohio State 12-0 (8-0 Big Ten)
Florida A&M 4-7 (4-4 MEAC)
As the Buckeyes return home from sunny California, they will begin to prepare to take on the Rattlers of Florida A&M. The Rattlers are a Div. I FCS program that plays in the MEAC conference and calls Tallahassee, Florida home. This will be the Rattlers first ever meeting with the Ohio State Buckeyes and their only meeting with an FBS team in 2013. A season ago, Florida A&M took on another FBS team and traveled to play then fifth ranked Oklahoma only to be run out of Norman as the Rattlers fell 69-13. All four wins for A&M came in conference against teams such as Hampton, Delaware State, Savannah State and North Carolina Central. The Rattlers will enter Columbus with a rookie head coach, and an upset minded football team looking to pull off what would appear to be the impossible.
Under former head coach Joe Taylor, the Rattlers offense was a no-huddle spread offense led by multi-dimensional quarterback Damien Flemming who returns for his junior season and what will be his third straight season as a starter. The offense for the Rattlers is not likely to change as new head coach Earl Holmes was a defensive assistant under Taylor for three years before being promoted to the head job. Flemming returns along with redshirt senior running back James Owens who was the team’s second leading rusher in 2012. Flemming and James combined for 3044 total yards last season and Flemming boasted a 69.5 completion percentage in just his second year as a starter.
As for the good guys, what do you need to know that you already don’t? The Buckeye offense will be entering its second season in the Urban Meyer system and is poised for a special season. The week four matchup against the Rattlers will be the first time Buckeye fans will see Carlos Hyde on the field in 2013 as his three game suspension will be completed barring any off the field setbacks. With Hyde joining Heisman contender Braxton Miller in the backfield again, the Buckeyes are sure to impress against the FCS Rattlers.
The Rattlers new head coach Earl Holmes played ten years in the NFL at linebacker and was defensive coordinator last season so look for the A&M defense to be the focus of the Rattlers. Florida A&M has graduated their leading tackler from a year ago, Brandon Hepburn and will be looking for a new leader to emerge on defense. Their second leading tackler from 2012 was incoming senior defensive back Jonathan Pillow as he recorded 66 total tackles as a junior. Pillow was also tied for the team lead in interceptions with three other players as they all grabbed two apiece. The Rattlers showed both 4-3 and 3-4 looks up front in 2012 so look for them to switch it up and give the Buckeye offense various looks.
As we know from last year’s Purdue game, the silver bullets struggled against teams that throw bubble screens and quick hitters in the passing game. This is what the Rattlers tried to against the Sooners in their 2012 matchup in Norman. Unfortunately for the A&M defense, it was not successful as they only scored 13 points. This however could be a problem for the Buckeyes as they gave up 230 yards through the air to the Boilermakers on almost exclusively bubble screens. The good news for the Buckeyes is they have an All-American caliber corner in Bradley Roby back in the mix in the secondary. In there to help out as well is junior Ryan Shazier who is also bringing pre-season All American hype with his all-out style of play. Overall, the Buckeye defense should be jelling by week four and should be able to sniff out any and all screens by the Rattlers.
The Rattlers return their starting kicker but not their punter from a season ago. Chase Varnadore returns for his junior year and will look to build on his solid sophomore campaign as he connected on 15-18 field goal attempts with a long of 46 yards and none blocked. Florida A&M will have to replace graduated punter Brandon Holdren who punted 59 times last season for the Rattlers.
As we know, the Buckeyes will also be returning their kicker and replacing a graduated punter as Ben Buchannan is now gone. Drew Basil will resume his place kicking and kick off duties and may punt as well despite the signing of Australian phenom Cameron Johnston. In addition, look for freshman Dontre Wilson and Ezekiel Elliot to get some time returning punts and kicks as they can both make plays in space.
Earl Holmes is entering his first season as a head coach and is returning to Ohio where he played a season in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns in 2002. Holmes played 10 years in the NFL with three teams (Steelers, Browns, Lions) and is now coaching for his alma mater. Holmes has been on the A&M coaching staff since 2009, and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2012 before taking the head coaching job in 2013.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is Ohio State’s head man Urban Meyer. A two-time national champion at Florida, Meyer is leaps and bounds ahead of Holmes who is entering his first full season as a head coach. Meyer is coming off of an undefeated season in his first year at Ohio State and is looking to repeat that feat in 2013. While no one can look past anyone in college football, it’s safe to say the Buckeyes have the nod in every aspect of this matchup.
The Buckeyes have the edge in every aspect of the game against the Rattlers and should be able to dominate throughout. However, crazier things have happened (enter Appalachian State reference here) and anyone can beat anyone on any given Saturday…but not in this one. Score prediction: 52-10.
Unfortunately for the fans, the storied Marching 100 will not be making the trip to Ohio Stadium on September 21st . The Florida A&M Marching 100, once voted by SI as the “Best Marching Band in the Nation” will not be traveling to Columbus as the program is recovering from a year and a half long suspension that was a result of a hazing related death to one of the bands members. Despite being reinstated last month, the band is trying to get back on its feet, therefor will not be making the trip. The Ohio State University Marching Band will perform the Florida A&M fight song prior to the game as is customary for TBDBITL to play the visiting teams fight song.