This will be the fifth meeting between Ohio State and Colorado with the Buckeyes holding the 3-1 series advantage. Ohio State has won three straight over the Buffs.
Colorado is 35-63-3 all-time against the Big Ten, with 67 of those games coming against Nebraska.
Saturday will be the 17th anniversary of the Buffaloes' famous and delightful last-second win over Michigan via a Kordell Stewart hail mary.
Ohio State is 55-26-2 all-time against the Pac Twelve.
The Buckeyes have won 56 consecutive games at home against unranked non-conference opponents.
When Colorado Has The Ball
The Buffs have a balanced offense, but they are throwing it better than they're running it right now.
Quarterback Tyler Hansen is a mobile passer who is pretty good at keeping his eyes downfield while scrambling. Two weeks ago in a 36-33 loss in overtime to California, Hansen threw for a school record 474 yards.
Hansen likes to throw on the run, so they will move the pocket around for him. He's not the biggest guy, so that movement also opens up his sight lines.
While there will be plenty of receiver screens, Hansen is far from afraid to throw the ball downfield. He has only thrown one interception this season, so even though he doesn't complete a high percentage (55.0%), he doesn't turn the ball over either. In fact, Colorado only has one turnover on the season, and that came in their season opener. They have now gone two games without turning the ball over. In their history, they have never gone three games in a row without a turnover.
Hansen has two main targets. The first is receiver Paul Richardson who has 18 catches for 360 yards and four touchdowns. He can get downfield and he can also turn a small gain into a very large one.
The other target is running back Rodney Stewart who also has 18 catches. He's averaging a fairly amazing 15.4 yards per reception, which is fantastic for a running back.
While Hansen doesn't turn the ball over, he does get sacked. Colorado has started a different left tackle in each of their three games. The Buffaloes have already given up nine sacks, and they haven't exactly been playing against defensive standouts.
The Buckeyes missed 27 tackles last week, so it's easy to guess where their focus has been this week in practice. Along with that, however, the coaches are also looking for their best eleven on defense, and it doesn't look like they've found them yet.
That being said, Ohio State will absolutely get after the quarterback, and a blitz or three might finally force one or two of those elusive turnovers.
The Buckeyes will probably rotate a lot of defenders in as they look for playmakers. One of those playmakers will be safety Christian Bryant, who will likely be all over the field.
The running game will be managed by Rodney Stewart. He rushed for 1,318 yards last year, but is struggling a bit this season because of his offensive line. He's small (5-6 175), but he's quick and is still able to deliver a blow.
The Ohio State linebackers struggled with their tackling last week, so they might end up being pretty cautious this week, which may actually close down a cutback lane or two.
Stewart and Paul Richardson are the primary punt returners, and while neither has done anything yet, they are both very dangerous players with the ball in their hands.
Punter Darragh O'Neill has booted six of his fifteen punts over 50 yards.
When Ohio State Has The Ball
For the Buckeye offense to move forward, they could no longer wait on the future. Freshman quarterback Braxton Miller has been named the starter and the Buckeyes have now moved into 'learning curve' territory.
Miller can fling the ball 70 yards and has been timed at 4.47 seconds in the forty. The potential is there, but that doesn't mean it will be on display on Saturday. There will be some rough patches, but the decision had to be made to see what Miller could do for an entire game because Big Ten play starts next week.
While Miller obviously has the arm to go down field, expect most of the passes to be short and sure. The only time a deep pass should be expected is in a max-protect situation and with a one or two-man route. The fewer defenders that Miller has to read when passing, the better. This gives him fewer options, but right now his second or third read should be his legs.
Colorado gave up 121 yards rushing and three touchdowns to Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz in the season opener, so there are lanes to be exploited.
The Buffs will attack the Ohio State offense with frequent blitzes. This is their normal plan of attack, and it might even be ratcheted up a notch facing a true freshman quarterback.
Linebackers Douglas Rippy and Jon Major will be everywhere, but they won't always be disciplined when they get there. Depending on how well Miller handles the blitzes, there are plays to be made on offense.
Last week the Buckeyes completed a total of four passes, and they all went to running backs. While the running backs might catch four more passes this weekend, if the wide receivers don't get involved, Ohio State could be in trouble. If the Buckeyes run the ball like they did against Miami when they averaged 4.7 yards per carry, then the receivers will become a little less important.
In Terrelle Pryor's first start his freshman season, the Buckeyes threw the ball 17 times and ran it 42 times. Similar numbers should be expected this time around as well.
Jordan Hall will likely get the start at running back and attempt to continue where he left off, having rushed for over 80 yards in the first half against Miami.
Carlos Hyde will also get carries, but so will Braxton Miller. He will likely have much more success on scrambles than designed runs.
The Ohio State special teams shouldn't have too much to worry about with Colorado. In fact, they should use it as an opportunity to score points. The Buffs can outkick their coverage, which could give Jordan Hall or Chris Fields a chance for a good punt return.
Place-kicker Drew Basil will need to show that he can make something other than a chip shot in this game.
How It Will End Up
Colorado will look for the same success with the running game that Miami had, but they won't find it. They will then be forced to throw the ball in order to open up the run. Tyler Hansen will be fine with that.
Expect Hansen to be able to pick up some frustrating third downs with his feet, but not his arm.
He will be frustrated enough to force some bad passes on roll outs and the Buckeyes will be able to capitalize with an interception or two.
Ohio State will try to protect Braxton Miller while also using him to do what he does best. They will run some zone read plays that will make the running backs more and more effective as the game goes on. This effectiveness will lead to some open throws for Miller in the second half.
Both quarterbacks will be running for their lives at times, but Miller runs for his life better than most, provided he is handing the ball to the ref when he is done running.
If the Buckeyes can handle Colorado's blitzes, they cannot lose, and as long as Miller doesn't exceed Hansen in turnovers, they will be fine.
Ohio State 23 – Colorado 14
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