The #3 Ohio State Buckeyes (2-0) take to the road for the first time this season to take on the California Golden Bears (1-1) on Saturday night.
This is the sixth all-time meeting between the two programs and the boast a Buckeyes a 6-1 against the Golden Bears, including last season’s 35-28 win in Columbus.
This will be Ohio State’s first trip to Berkeley since 1972, when OSU returned home with a 35-18 victory.
When Cal Has The Ball
Both sides will look to play fast on offense, but Cal’s offense is trying to redefine fast. If they cannot do that, they are certainly attempting to update the record books.
New head coach Sonny Dykes has already laid his fingerprints all over this offense. Last year, Dykes’ Louisiana Tech team led the nation in scoring.
Cal is not in the top 50 nationally in scoring, but they do boast the nation’s top passer in yardage. Freshman quarterback Jared Goff leads the NCAA with 930 passing yards, to go along with four touchdowns and three interceptions.
Goff also leads the nation in pass attempts – 114 – completing 62.3% of those.
The Ohio State secondary will be tested early and often in Berkley, as the Golden Bears ran 194 plays in their first two games (99 and 95 respectively) and will put the ball in the air frequently.
Buckeye starters Bradley Roby and Doran Grant will be matched up against sophomores Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper who have combined for 36 receptions, 475 receiving yards, and two touchdowns in the first two games.
In comparison, Ohio State goes seven players deep before collecting 35 total receptions, so Roby and Grant should expect to be busy.
The Scarlet and Gray will be in nickel more often than not in this contest. This means more time for Tyvis Powell and Armani Reeves and less of Joshua Perry in order to defend multiple receiver sets.
This means OSU must get pressure with their front four, which is made more difficult due to the possible absence of Adolphous Washington. The sophomore defensive lineman missed most of the game against San Diego State with a groin injury and is listed as day-to-day.
Noah Spence has recorded tackles for a loss in each of the last two games. Michael Bennett had possibly the best game of his career against the Aztecs. Others filled in as well, specifically Joey Bosa and Steve Miller, along the defensive line.
The Bears’ offensive line has allowed nine sacks in the first two games, so a young Ohio State defensive line should be able to put pressure on Goff.
In last year’s meeting, the Buckeyes had issues with Cal running back Brendan Bigelow, conceding 160 yards on four carries. So far this season, Bigelow has rushed for less than that – 140 yards – in two games.
The linebackers will want to avoid the big plays allowed last year that kept the Golden Bears in the game. So far this season, Ryan Shazier and Curtis Grant have both been strong tacklers thus far and will be tested out West.
Vincenzo D’Amato is 6 for 7 on field goals this year with a long of 39 yards. His only miss came from over 40 yards last week.
Cole Leininger has punted 10 times this season with a long of 70 yards and an average of 41.9.
They will look to keep the ball away from Dontre Wilson on kickoffs, as he has already shown an aptitude for big returns. Hall also has the ability when given the opportunity to get good field position.
When Ohio State Has The Ball
This will be the first time this version of Ohio State’s offense takes the field on the road. So far, they have only played in front of the home fans that remain quiet while the Buckeyes’ offense is driving.
The question surrounding this team is the health of Braxton Miller, who left the game with a sprain MCL last week. Miller could have returned if needed, but the coaches elected to save him due to the score.
Kenny Guiton continued his success as a backup, leading the Buckeyes to a 42-7 win.
California will have to prepare for both players, though they run the offense similarly. Regardless of who Ohio State lines up behind center, they should be able to move the ball.
Against Northwestern, this defense allowed 299 with Kain Colter missing most of the game and gave up 308 through the air against Portland State.
The secondary has experience, but is yet to slow a passing attack down. Both Miller and Gution should be able to find their receivers and could be set up to have big days.
The Buckeyes should also be able to move the ball on the ground with success. The Golden Bears have given up 454 yards on the ground this year and are yet to face what Ohio State will brings to the table.
The carries were spread around in last week’s game, but Hall will continue to be the featured back. OSU will likely continue to mix things up on the ground in order to get playmakers more touches, but it would not be surprising to see freshmen carry less on the road.
Freshman Michael Barton is leading Cal in tackles with 17, which speaks to the issues they are having on defense. The inexperience of the linebacking corps has hurt this team and is something the Buckeyes will look to exploit.
After just two catches in the first game, Philly Brown had six grabs for 73 yards and two touchdowns. Urban Meyer wants him to be the number one target for the quarterbacks, so expect either Miller or Guiton to lean on him on the road.
Kameron Jackson is the top cornerback for Cal and has talented. He will be matched up with Brown as much as possible, but Ohio State has other targets too. Devin Smith has 10 receptions on the season and Chris Fields has two touchdowns through the air.
The Buckeyes’ coaching staff raved about the tight ends before the season, yet Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett have been minimally used in the receiving game over the first two games. It would not be surprising to see OSU rely on one of their tight ends on the road as a safety valve at least.
The Buckeyes had some issues in the kick return game against San Diego State. Colin Locket averaged 21 yards on five returns, but was never able to break one.
After a strong opening day, Drew Basil kicks were short in week two, but he was a perfect 6 for 6 on extra points.
Cameron Johnston continues to develop as a punter, with a long of 47 yards against the Aztecs. He may be tested with his first road tilt.
Returning the ball has been a struggle for Cal with a long of just 34-yard kick return on the year. Ohio State should be able to hold this unit in check.
How It Will End Up
The most difficult thing about this game for Ohio State should be going on the road. Big Ten teams historically fare poorly on the west coast, but this should not hurt the Buckeyes too much.
This is a California team that has talent and can put up yards and points on offense, but does not have enough to get the wins yet.
Northwestern beat them without their main quarterback and they struggled against an FCS team.
The Golden Bears will raise their game for the Buckeyes because they know this could be a statement game if they can pull it out, but there is simply too much talent for the Scarlet and Gray for Bears to hang around for too long.
Ohio State 56 California 23
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