Looking at Saturday’s Biggest Matchups
By Brandon Castel
Saturday’s game against Cal may not grab national headlines the way some of Ohio State’s recent nonconference bouts have, but the Golden Bears are still a dangerous team with some real NFL talent on both side of the ball.
Some of the shine was taken off Jeff Tedford’s team this year with an opening-week loss to Nevada, but Urban Meyer knows his team had better be ready to play on Saturday.
We take a look at some of the key matchups facing the Buckeyes this weekend, as they look to start 3-0 under Meyer.
Bradley Roby vs. Keenan Allen
Photo by Dan Harker
This is the one matchup everyone is waiting to see. Roby isn’t a household name yet, but he could be after this weekend if he can find a way to shut down one of the premier receivers in college football. Allen is coming off a 98-catch, 1,300-yard season a year ago, and he has the ability to put up monster numbers on any given week. He only had five catches for 69 yards against Southern Utah, but Allen had five 100-yard receiving games last season. He went for over 160 in three-straight games during the middle of the season against Washington, Oregon and USC. The Bears lost all three of those games, but Allen finished with 32 catches during that span.
Ohio State’s WRs vs. Cal’s Secondary
This will be a big test for Ohio State’s wide receivers. If the Bears are going to play press man coverage on the outside and shadow Braxton Miller with a safety, it should be 1-on-1 all afternoon for Devin Smith and Philly Brown. We should also see Jake Stoneburner and Evan Spencer get some reps in there, but this is ‘grown man football’ as Meyer called it. There is no way to hide from it. Either Smith and Brown beat the man across from them in coverage, or the Buckeyes could struggle offensively.
Travis Howard and Doran Grant vs. Chris Harper and Bryce Tregs
Photo by Dan Harker
Everyone knows where Maynard wants to go with the football. If Roby can do a good job containing Cal’s top receiving threat, it will be up to youngsters Chris Harper and Bryce Tregs to get open against Ohio State’s other corners. Harper actually leads the team with 12 catches for 151 yards this season.
Ohio State’s Offensive Line vs. Deandre Coleman and Cal’s D-Line
The Golden Bears are first in the Pac-12 and tied for third in the country with 21 tackles for loss this season. They led the conference in that category a year ago, and were also among the leaders in sacks out West. Junior Deandre Coleman is a force on the edge, but Meyer seems particularly worried about nose tackles Kendrick Payne and Aaron Tipoti, who he called two of the more aggressive defensive tackles in the country.
John Simon and Johnathan Hankins vs. Cal’s Offensive Line
Photo by Jim Davidson
While the Bears have been very effective at creating havoc in the backfield this season, Ohio State’s defense is still looking to get going. The Buckeyes are currently last in the Big Ten in tackles for loss, but they face a Cal offense that will likely be without starting right tackle Matt Summers-Gavin. The Bears were already replacing left tackle Mitchell Schwartz, who went to Cleveland in the second round of the NFL Draft. The Buckeyes will also be without starting end Michael Bennett, but they should benefit from the return of senior Nathan Williams. Regardless, the Buckeyes have to find a way to get pressure with their defensive front on Saturday, or else Luke Fickell had better dial up the blitz.
Keenan Allen vs. Urban Meyer’s ‘Freak Show’
Allen isn’t just Cal’s most dangerous weapon in the passing game, he’s also a major threat as a return man. Despite being a big, 6-3 target for Maynard on offense, Allen’s speed makes him an elusive punt returner. He currently leads the Pac-12 in punt return average, thanks in part to a 69-yard return for a touchdown against Southern Utah. That means Ohio State’s coverage teams will have to be at their best against Cal. Fortunately, Meyer called them the ‘shining star’ of his football team right now.
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