Saturday’s kickoff between #2 Ohio State (1-0) and San Diego State (0-1) will be the fourth meeting between the schools all time. The Buckeyes have won the previous three by a combined score of 70-31
Under head coach Rocky Long, the Aztecs are 2-4 in their last six games against opponents ranked in the top 25.
Urban Meyer is 2-0 in his career against San Diego State, but did lose to Long’s New Mexico team in 2003 while at Utah.
When San Diego State Has The Ball
In their opening game loss to Eastern Illinois, the Aztecs attempted a school-record 64 passes. Junior quarterback Adam Dingwell finished the night 27 of 63 for 318 yards, no touchdowns, and four interceptions.
Dingwell took over the quarterback job last season after a season-ending injury to Ryan Katz. Dingwell went 5-1 as a starter with a completion percentage of 57.6%. He is capable of running when necessary, but that is not a weapon he often utilizes.
Dingwell will look to be more efficient than he was in a disappointing outing to begin the season. He will have a difficult task against the Ohio State secondary that should welcome back All-American cornerback Bradley Roby and senior safety C.J. Barnett.
Despite being without these two veterans, the Buckeyes’ defense only surrendered 185 yards through the air in the opener. The secondary should be even better this week with the return of two of their more experienced players.
Ohio State’s primary cornerback will be matched up with fifth-year senior Colin Locket. Locket, who played defense his freshman season, led the Aztecs with eight reception for 98 yards in their opener. If they are to have success through the air, it will likely be through him, though Ezell Ruffin showed potential with four catches for 91 yards against Eastern Illinois.
Offensive coordinator Bob Toledo historically likes a downfield passing attack, but they may adopt the short passes to the outside based on Buffalo’s success. With Roby’s likely return, Ohio State should be able to play more tight man in order to prevent this tactic.
Previously San Diego State aimed to be a run-based team and this should not change too much based on their personnel. Last season they ranked 20th nationally with 220.69 yards per game, 27th in yards per carry, 5.0, and 30 rushing touchdowns which tied for 27th.
Adam Muema is the starting running back for the Aztecs, but left the Eastern Illinois game after just 10 carries with an ankle injury. Despite being in a walking boot this week, Muema is expected to play against Ohio State. The junior finished 2012 with 1,458 yards and 16 touchdowns to pave the way for San Diego State. He is a member of the preseason watch list for Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s best running back.
If healthy, Muema will be the focal point of the offense for San Diego State and someone the Buckeyes will have to keep in check.
The Aztecs did lose three starting offensive linemen and their two tight ends, so the scheme may changes some.
Because of their ability to run the ball, the Buckeyes will likely spend most of the game in their based defense. This means more three linebacker sets than in the game against Buffalo.
Joshua Perry will be the starter alongside Curtis Grant and Ryan Shazier. They will be counted on to be the run stoppers once again. The Bulls managed only 73 rushing yards, so Ohio State will look to limit another opponent this week.
Shazier and Grant tied for the team lead in tackles, along with Christian Bryant, with seven against Buffalo, helping to slow down the Buffalo rushing attack. The defense did not allow a rush for more than 10 yards all day.
The linebackers will also have to be aware of the running backs catching passes out of the backfield. In their first game, the Aztecs had one third of their receptions to running backs or full back for 60 yards.
San Diego State’s offensive line did not have the best day against the Panthers last week. They gave up four sacks and only allowed for a total of 122 rushing yards.
Their line is a mixed bag of veterans and inexperienced players. The most experienced of the group is left tackle and captain Bryce Quigley. The senior is a three-year starter and has contributed in all four of his seasons.
The inexperience comes from sophomore center Jordan Smith, who played on special teams last year, redshirt freshman right guard Nico Siragusa, and community college transfer Terry Poole.
The Buckeyes’ defensive linerecorded only one sack against Buffalo, but did manage three and a half tackles for a loss. These numbers are not what the staff expects, so look for them to get more pressure against a more inexperienced group this week, as this unit should be a strength for Ohio State.
San Diego State’s senior kicker started the season off four for four on field goals with a long of 41 yards. He played in only two games in 2012, averaging 54 yards on kickoffs.
Punter Joel Alesi averaged 46.4 yards per punt with a long of 54 in the first game.
The Buckeyes should have a solid day in the return game. Either Dontre Wilson or Jordan Hall should be able to get solid return yards if the Aztecs elect to kick to them. They only gave up an average of 17 yards on returns last week, but these two returners are more dangerous than what Eastern Illinois offered.
Philly Brown had trouble fielding punts against the Bulls, bobbling catches and fumbling once. He finished with 44 return yards, but had a big return called back for a penalty. He will want to be cleaner this week or risk losing his return duties.
When Ohio State Has The Ball
It was a game of one quarter and three others for the Buckeye offense against Buffalo. They will hope to be more consistent this week against a San Diego State defense that allowed 533 total yards against Eastern Illinois.
Braxton Miller was kept in check by the coaching staff last week, wanting to see his ability as pocket passer. It would not be surprising to see Miller be unleashed a little more, though Meyer has said they cannot be dependent on Miller’s running ability.
Instead it was Jordan Hall who led the team in rushing with a career high 159 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns. He should be the starting running back for Ohio State again against the Aztecs, though with the return of Rod Smith from suspension he may get a lighter load.
Meyer also mentioned wanting to get more touches for Ezekiel Elliott, so expect to see the ball spread around some, especially if the Buckeyes can sustain a sizeable lead.
The San Diego State linebackers are an experienced group, led by middle linebacker Jake Fely. He is on Bednarik and Rotary Lombardi Award Watch Lists and was second team all-MW last season.
Miller will want to be more reliable this week throwing the ball, as it seemed he was on pace for a big day in the first quarter last week, but only ended up with 178 yards on 15 competitions. The coaches have confidence in Miller’s arm so he should get his chances again to air it out.
Last week Miller spread the wealth to his receivers as seven different Buckeyes caught passes. Devin Smith and Chris Fields led the team with three receptions each. Those two should be involved again, but Meyer also stated that Brown’s two catches on the day simply were not enough.
San Diego State runs a similar 3-3-5 system that Buffalo used that involves a lot of movement pre-snap.
The defensive line, which will look to get to Miller as much as possible, is led by junior defensive tackle Sam Meredith. He is flanked by experienced ends Jordan Thomas and Cody Galea.
The Aztecs have what they call the Aztec position, played by Nat Berhe. The senior is a defensive back, but will line up all over the field in a hybrid spot. At some points he will be close to the line, while others he will be back as a safety. They use him to disguise coverages and blitzes. He finished last season as their top tackler.
The front of seven for San Diego State is not very big, so the Buckeyes may have their way with them. Taylor Decker struggled in his first start, so the Aztecs may look to attack the right side of the line. He must be improved in order to keep pressure off Miller.
Despite boasting about the talent of the tight ends during the fall, Ohio State only had two catches from the group, both by Jeff Heuerman. There were times when Nick Vannett lined up as a receiver and that will likely continue. The Buckeyes do not intend to use these two solely as blockers this season.
Senior Drew Basil made his one field goal – from 39 yards – and all three extra points he attempted. He was also the blocker on the first two-point conversion, getting run over on the way to Kenny Guiton’s score.
Cameron Johnston averaged 41.3 yards on his three punts in his debut, putting one inside the 20-yard line.
The return game for San Diego State wasn’t anything special in their first game. The longest kick return was 28 yards and the piranhas on the Buckeye kickoff team should hold them in check.
How It Will End Up
Both teams come into this game with something to prove. The Aztecs’ loss to a FCS school was an embarrassment to a team that was in a bowl game a year ago.
The Buckeyes did not execute the way were expected after dominating the first quarter. Despite winning by 20, there were things that needed to be cleaned up to live up to the No. 2 ranking that has been bestowed upon them.
After only one game in which San Diego State played without their most productive player, the Ohio State coaching staff has to prepare for everything defensively. With two starters returning, and hopefully no cramping, the unit should be ever better than last week.
Offensively the Buckeyes saw something similar to what Miller and company will go against this weekend. There is no one as talented on the defensive side of the ball as Khalil Mack, but the unit as a whole might be better.
Expect a cleaner game from Ohio State after another week of practice. Having starters return means more talent where it should be.
Ohio State 45 San Diego State 10