The #14 Ohio State Buckeyes (1-0) host the #39 UCF Knights (1-0) Saturday at 12:00 pm.
Central Florida will be playing in the state of Ohio for the second-consecutive week after coming off of a 56-14 win at Akron last Thursday.
The Knights are 13-14 all-time against teams from Ohio. Ohio State is 2-7 all-time against opponents from Florida.
UCF has won their last two games against BCS opponents (Georgia and Boston College), but they have never defeated a ranked non-conference opponent.
Saturday will be the first ever meeting between the two schools.
When Central Florida Has the Ball
The Knights would ideally like to run the ball on Saturday, and run it a lot. Unfortunately, they may be without starting tailback Latavius Murray, who rushed for 108 yards last week against Akron.
Murray, who is still recovering from a shoulder injury, is a very talented running back, but he is not the only one on the roster. Storm Johnson, who is a transfer from Miami, and Brynn Harvey, who has 2,215 yards rushing in his career, will step up if Murray is in fact out.
The desire to run the ball is actually music to the ears of the Buckeye defensive line. Last week against Miami (OH), they were left to rush the passer on a perpetual three-step drop, and it proved a difficult task.
This week, however, not only will the defensive line get to face a conventional offense, but they'll also get to face an offense where a quarterback takes a little bit of time surveying the landscape.
UCF has a couple of awards candidates on the offensive line in left guard Theo Goins and center Jordan Rae. They will receive the brunt of defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins and Garrett Goebel. They will need to win the vast majority of these battles if the Knights intend on winning this game.
This will be the first real test for the Buckeye linebackers, specifically middle linebacker Curtis Grant. Because Grant comes off of the field in the nickel, he didn't get many snaps against Miami last week. He'll get plenty this week and he and weakside linebacker Ryan Shazier will need to perform.
Protecting sophomore quarterback Blake Bortles will be a relatively experienced line, despite returning just two full-time starters from a year ago.
Defensive ends John Simon and Nathan Williams will be responsible for the most outside pressure, and freshman Noah Spence will get some time in passing situations. Defensive end Michael Bennett is still out, however.
Bortles threw for 168 yards and three touchdowns last week. Receiver Rannell Hill caught four passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns last week, and he's not even listed as a starter.
UCF likes to establish the run so that they can get the play-action pass involved, and that will be no different this week. After some rough pass defense to start the game last week, the Buckeyes eventually settled down against Miami and limited the RedHawks' big plays. Safeties Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett need to make sure the miscommunications between themselves and the cornerbacks are kept at a minimum this week.
Last week cornerback Travis Howard came away with two interceptions. He will again be busy this week as Bortles will likely avoid attacking cornerback Bradley Roby.
The Knights have a solid kicking game and a dynamic return game. Kicker Shawn Moffitt was 7-7 on extra points last week, and punter Jamie Boyle averaged 40.4 yards per punt.
J.J. Worton had a 50-yard punt return last week, and both Quincy McDuffie and Rannell Hall have earned All-American recognition as kick returners.
UCF also did a fantastic job of defending the return last week, holding Akron to -7 yards on two punt returns, and just 14.9 yards per kickoff return.
When Ohio State Has the Ball
The Buckeyes ran for nearly 300 yards last week and will win quite easily if they are able to do the same thing again this week.
After quarterback Braxton Miller's record-breaking 161-yard rushing day against Miami (OH), it might behoove the Knights to try and get the ball out of Miller's hands as quickly as possible.
Miller is Ohio State's most dynamic running threat, and forcing the ball to another runner might be the best of a bad situation for UCF.
The Buckeyes were very basic last week in their running game, so expect a few new wrinkles this week if need be. Ohio State's running game got better last week the more that tailback Carlos Hyde was involved. He should be involved early and often on Saturday.
That running game won't necessarily have an easy day, however, as the Knights have some certifiable mass on the defensive line. At 6'3" and 327 pounds, Jose Jose certainly looks the part of a defensive tackle, but he has only picked up three tackles in ten career games (six starts).
Sophomore E.J. Dunston (6'2" 302) is more active than Jose, but both are able to clog the middle. The Buckeyes were inconsistent running the ball inside last week, but it was a major point of emphasis this week in practice.
If the UCF defensive tackles can't hold their ground, middle linebacker Terrance Plummer will have his hands full.
Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman weren't thrilled with the passing game last week, but at least now they have a baseline to improve upon. They know what worked and what Miller is comfortable with.
The sprint outs and play-actions were very effective last week and should be again this week. The threat alone of Miller's running on rollouts will make the intermediate defense have to pick their poison when it comes to defending the pass or attacking Miller on the edges.
UCF free safety Kemal Ishmael is on the Thorpe Award Watch List and is one of the most prolific tacklers in school history. He will be a very busy safety on Saturday, and if he gets spun around, the Buckeyes will have to make him pay for it.
Meyer has been looking for playmakers at receiver and against Miami, Evan Spencer, Devin Smith and Corey Brown all made plays. The confidence has to be growing, and with that, the responsibility will grow as well.
Ohio State kicked the ball perfectly last week. Punter Ben Buchanan averaged 42.1 yards per punt, and didn't allow a return. Meyer was also very happy with Drew Basil's kickoffs, which were consistently put right where Meyer asked them to be.
There is still room for improvement on returns, as the Buckeyes have yet to show anything in that regard.
How It Will End Up
Ohio State ran 86 plays to UCF's 65 last week, which should tell you about both teams' goal on Saturday. The Buckeyes will continue their no huddle attack in an effort to get as many snaps in as possible, and the Knights will try to shorten the game by keeping the ball on the ground and taking their sweet time in the huddle.
If the Buckeyes can get up early, much of UCF's plan goes away.
Ohio State should open much crisper this week as they look to continue the success of their three most recent quarters, and their ability to do different things out of the same formations will confuse a tired Knights defense as the game goes on.
Carlos Hyde may not have more than the 17 carries that he had last week, but he will do better than the 82 yards he got against Miami. With a cut back here or there last week, he would have busted a long one. He should see that cut back this week.
If UCF scores enough to keep the game within a few scores, Braxton Miller should have another outstanding statistical performance. However, there may be a few more passes called this week just to keep him from carrying it so many times.
Of course, those will likely just end up in scrambles.
Even though Central Florida has a very solid secondary, this should be the best passing day in Braxton Miller's career. Carlos Hyde will also top his career high of 105 yards rushing.
Ohio State 41 - UCF 17