Buffalo (0-0) at (2) Ohio State (0-0)|
Saturday, August. 31, 12 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: A year removed from a perfect season, the second-ranked Ohio State
Buckeyes will begin life after NCAA sanctions as they open up the 2013 season
with a matchup against the Buffalo Bulls in Columbus.
In a better-than-advertised Mid-American Conference -- a league that produced
six nine-win teams in 2012 -- Buffalo under performed, going just 4-8 overall
with a 3-5 mark in league play. The squad suffered through a six-game losing
streak early on and could never fully recover. Despite the disappointing
campaign, it was still Jeff Quinn's best showing since taking over head
coaching duties in 2010.
"I think we have more guys providing leadership both on and off the field
(this season)," Quinn said. "There is a lot more continuity and consistency.
We are not satisfied at this point. We need to be out there ready to play."
In Urban Meyer's first season at the helm for Ohio State, he managed to bring
the program out of the darkness of controversy quicker than anyone expected.
Simply put, the Buckeyes were unstoppable in 2012, winning all 12 games, the
most notable coming against Michigan State (17-16), Nebraska (63-38),
Wisconsin (21-14 in OT) and Michigan (26-21). Unfortunately, an NCAA
postseason ban restricted the squad from competing for the national title, but
with the sanctions lifted, the path is clear for a championship run here in
"There's been zero conversation about anything other than competing for a
championship," Meyer said.
This marks the first-ever meeting between these two programs on the football
The Buffalo offense under whelmed last season, scoring just over 21 points per
game while managing less than 376 yards per game, and even though the unit saw
improvement late in the season with Joe Licata under center, Alex Zordich has
regained his role as the team's starting quarterback.
Zordich disappointed last season before losing his starting gig, completing
just 51 percent of his passes for 1,254 yards with nine touchdowns and seven
interceptions. The team won three of four with Licata at the helm, but his
stats weren't much to write home about either (.528 completion percentage,
seven TDs, three INTs). Regardless of the depth chart for this game, both
signal-callers should see plenty of action this year.
Branden Oliver pieced together a fine season at running back in 2012, rushing
the ball 148 times for 821 yards (5.5 ypc) while finding the end zone five
times. Devin Campbell (502 yards) impressed as a freshman and should receive
his fair share of carries as well.
The X-factor in the Bulls' offensive attack is wideout Alex Neutz, who was
named to the All-MAC First Team despite shaky QB play, hauling in 65
receptions for 1,015 yards and 11 scores. There's not much receiving talent to
speak of behind Neutz, however, as no one else tallied more than 261 receiving
yards in 2012.
Defensively, Buffalo played much better in the second half of the season and
finished the campaign ranked 37th in the FBS in total defense, yielding just
363.7 ypg. The unit also showed a knack for getting to the quarterback,
racking up 34 sacks in 12 games.
Anchoring the UB defense is two-time all-conference performer Khalil Mack. One
of the best linebackers in the country, Mack tallied 94 tackles, 21 TFL and
8.0 sacks a year ago, and it's not out of the question that he tops those
marks as a senior.
Overall, the unit returns eight starters, among them Lee Skinner (89 tackles),
Jake Stockman (58 tackles), Najja Johnson (five INTs) and Cortney Lester (four
Meyer implemented his spread offense upon his arrival at Ohio State, and the
team took to it rather seamlessly, leading the Big Ten in scoring with 37.2
ppg, and a high number will once again be attainable in 2013 with the return
of the team's Heisman-caliber quarterback.
Braxton Miller is the perfect signal-caller to run Meyer's system, equally
dangerous inside and out of the pocket. He completed 58.3 percent of his pass
attempts for 2,039 yards, tossing 15 touchdowns paired with just six
interceptions last year, but where he really made waves was on the ground, as
he rushed for 1,271 yards and 13 scores.
Adding to the Buckeyes' dynamic rushing attack will be tailback Carlos Hyde,
who was able to take pressure off of Miller with 970 rushing yards to go along
with 16 TDs, but he'll be out of action for the first three games of the
season while serving a suspension. Jordan Hill (218 yards) is expected to be
the lead back in Hyde's absence.
While Ohio State is clearly a run-first team, it has the luxury of leaning on
a handful of trusty options in the passing attack. Corey Brown (60 rec, 669
yards, three TDs) is back as Miller's top target, and Devin Smith (30 rec, 618
yards, six TDs) is one of the best deep threats in the Big Ten. Meyer also has
plans to incorporate highly-touted freshmen Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson
into the equation.
Although the offense is ready to compete for the national title, the defense
lags slightly behind. The unit gave up 22.8 ppg, a respectable number, but
eight starters were lost after last season
"Defense is where the issues are," Meyer admitted. "We lost our entire front
seven, (but) I believe we recruited well."
Linebacker Ryan Shazier (115 tackles, 17 TFL, three FF) returns and will be
the unquestioned leader of the defense. Safeties Christian Bryant (71 tackles,
INT, two FF) and C.J. Barnett (56 tackles, two INTs) and cornerback Bradley
Roby (63 tackles, two INTs, 19 pass breakups) should ensure the Buckeyes have
one of the best secondaries in the conference.
On a mission to cement itself worthy of its No. 2 ranking, Ohio State will
come out firing in this opener in front of a rabid home crowd, and even with
a solid defensive effort, Buffalo will have little answer for the high-powered
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ohio State 42, Buffalo 13
08/28 10:55:09 ET