Ohio State Football: Braxton Miller and Stars That Must Shine for Urban Meyer

With another wild year of college football on the horizon, there is a serious focus on the Ohio State Buckeyes football program and its new head coach Urban Meyer.
After a disappointing season on and off the field, Buckeye nation is looking to rebuild and Meyer is the man that the Ohio State faithful feel could deliver them from the mediocrity of 2011.
Meyer will look to stars like Braxton Miller to take the reins of the team and help lead them to the elite levels of college football again.
While the Buckeyes aren’t eligible for a Big Ten or Bowl win this year, they can build for the future with a great 2012.
 
Carlos Hyde

With the departure of Dan Herron to the Cincinnati Bengals, the primary running back on the field will be junior Carlos Hyde. As much as Braxton Miller will rack up the rushing yards, the Buckeyes need Hyde to step up and take the workload as well.
With another year of experience and the confidence of the coaching staff, Hyde will be looking to have…

Continue reading at Bleacher Report – Big Ten Football

Ohio State Football: Braxton Miller and Players Set to Shine Under Urban Meyer

The Ohio State Buckeyes football program has come under fire in recent seasons for multiple reasons, but in 2012 that will all change.
Ohio State will be led by two-time national champion head coach Urban Meyer this season. Meyer is renowned for his ability to create indefensible offensive schemes and getting the most out of his players. 
Fortunately for Ohio State, Buckeyes fans can expect more of the same from Meyer this coming fall. 
Here are some returning players set to shine under Urban Meyer in 2012.
 
Braxton Miller

Expect Meyer’s presence in Columbus to pay off most for sophomore signal caller Braxton Miller in 2012. Miller won 2011 Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors last season, racking up over 1,800 yards and 20 touchdowns in all. 
The local product only completed 54 percent of his passes as a freshman though, which will likely change this season. Meyer is a mastermind at developing offensive schemes to fit the strengths of his players. Meyer…

Continue reading at Bleacher Report – Big Ten Football

No. 21: Ohio State

Not that Luke Fickell didn’t have his hands full. And not that this wasn’t one of the youngest Ohio State teams in recent memory. And not that the team, planning on having Terrelle Pryor and company in the fold in time for the heart of Big Ten play, wasn’t thrown a loop when the old guard didn’t ride into town and save the day in October. But there’s one fact that can’t be ignored: not counting the forfeited season of 2010, Ohio State finished with a losing record for the first time since 1988 and for only the second time since 1967. The slide was inevitable, perhaps, and so was the glee with which it was greeted by the rest of the Big Ten. Here’s guessing that Ohio State will have the last laugh: Enter Urban Meyer — and you can hear the collective giggles over Ohio State’s slide catch in the collective throat of the Big Ten.

Conference
Big Ten, Leaders

Location
Columbus, Oh.

Nickname
Buckeyes

Returning starters
15 (7 offense, 8 defense)

Last year’s ranking
No. 17

2011 record
(6-7, 3-5)

Last year’s
re-ranking

No. 54

2012 schedule

Sept. 1
Miami (Ohio)
Sept. 8
U.C.F.
Sept. 15
California
Sept. 22
U.A.B.
Sept. 29
at Michigan St.
Oct. 6
Nebraska
Oct. 13
at Indiana
Oct. 20
Purdue
Oct. 27
at Penn St.
Nov. 3
Illinois
Nov. 17
at Wisconsin
Nov. 24
Michigan

Last year’s prediction

There’s just too much swirling around this program for Ohio State to maintain its legendary run atop the Big Ten. And that’s a problem for Ohio State – not a 6-6 problem, but this sort of youth and inexperience would lead me to think closer to 8-4 or 9-3 when taken in conjunction with the coaching changes. What will O.S.U. get at quarterback? Will anyone step up at wide receiver? Depth along the offensive line? These are pretty meaningful questions for any team, let alone one entering a period of great unknown: no real idea of who its next coach will be, no idea about the future of its athletic department, Ohio State is in a state of transition. For now, until everything becomes settled, O.S.U. can’t be viewed as the Big Ten favorite. It’s been a long time since anyone’s uttered that phrase.

2011 recap

In a nutshell An ugly season. There were four wins against B.C.S. conference competition, led by a glorious last-minute victory over Wisconsin. But the three remaining wins came over Colorado, Illinois and Indiana — in other words, nothing to write home about. A fifth win came over Akron, the worst team in college football. The sixth came by the skin of Ohio State’s teeth: Toledo came with 20 yards of notching an historic upset in the Horseshoe on Sept. 10. On the other hand, six of the seven losses, all those outside of Miami (Fla.), could have gone Ohio State’s way. But one of the seven included a loss to Michigan.

High point The 33-29 win over the Badgers on Oct. 29. Braxton Miller threw for 89 yards on the evening, 40 of which came on his touchdown pass to Devin Smith with 20 seconds left.

Low point The loss to Michigan. It had been 2,926 days since Michigan last beat… and so on.

Tidbit Each of the three head coaches who led Ohio State to a national championship were born in Ohio and graduated from a college located in Ohio. Paul Brown, who led the Buckeyes to the 1942 national title, was born in Norwalk and educated at Miami (Ohio), in Oxford – Brown tried to play in Columbus as a walk-on but didn’t make the cut. Woody Hayes, a five-time title winner, was born in Clifton and went to college at Denison, in Granville. Jim Tressel, the head coach in 2002, was born in Mentor and went to Baldwin-Wallace, in Berea. Urban Meyer: born in Toledo, raised in Ashtabula, undergraduate at Cincinnati, Master’s at Ohio State.

Tidbit (Fickell edition) While Meyer hired a nearly brand-new coaching staff – more on the new staff below – he did bring back Fickell, the former linebackers coach who took on the daunting task of serving as Jim Tressel’s interim replacement last fall. Fickell will now serve as Ohio State’s defensive coordinator, meaning that Meyer has retained a program’s coordinator at each of his four head coaching stops. And it’s a pretty impressive list: Tim Beckman was retained at Bowling Green, Kyle Whittingham at Utah and Charlie Strong at Florida – Illinois, Utah and Louisville, respectively.

Tidbit (coaching tree edition) Considering that he didn’t land his first top job until 2001, Meyer has a pretty impressive coaching tree. Seven of his former assistants are head coaches: Strong, Wittingham, Beckman, Dan McCarney, Steve Addazio, Doc Holliday and Dan Mullen. Another seven are currently coordinators on the B.C.S. conference level: Greg Studrawa, Billy Gonzales, Vance Bedford, Chuck Heater, Scot Loeffler and Greg Mattison. Current running the show on defense for Michigan, Mattison was Florida’s defensive coordinator and defensive line coach from 2005-7.

Tidbit (rare loss edition) Ohio State lost two games last fall when averaging more than 5.9 yards per play, against Nebraska and Michigan. How rare is that? It had happened only once in the previous four years, in a bowl loss to L.S.U. to cap the 2007 season.

Former players in the N.F.L.

51 OT Mike Adams (Pittsburgh), S Will Allen (Pittsburgh), TE Jake Ballard (New England), OT Alex Boone (San Francisco), OG Justin Boren (Baltimore), C Michael Brewster (Jacksonville), OG Bryant Browning (Carolina), LB Bobby Carpenter (New England), CB Chimdi Chekwa (Oakland), CB Nate Clements (Cincinnati), S Kurt Coleman (Philadelphia), C Jim Cordle (New York Giants), S Nate Ebner (New England), CB Chris Gamble (Carolina), LB Thaddeus Gibson (Chicago), WR Ted Ginn (San Francisco), LB Larry Grant (San Francisco), WR Brian Hartlin (Miami), TE Ben Hartsock (Carolina), LB A.J. Hawk (Green Bay), RB Dan Herron (Cincinnati), DE Cameron Heyward (Pittsburgh), S Jermale Hines (Indianapolis), WR Santonio Holmes (New York Jets), S Malcolm Jenkins (New Orleans), WR Michael Jenkins (Minnesota), LB James Laurinaitis (St. Louis), C Nick Mangold (New York Jets), LS Jake McQuaide (St. Louis), K Mike Nugent (Cincinnati), DE Ryan Pickett (Green Bay), WR DeVier Posey (Houston), QB Terrelle Pryor (Oakland), DE Jay Richardson (New York Jets), WR Brian Robiskie (Jacksonville), LB Brian Rolle (Philadelphia), S Anderson Russell (Miami), RB Brandon Saine (Green Bay), WR Dane Sanzenbacher (Chicago), OT J.B. Shugarts (Cleveland), OG Rob Sims (Detroit), DE Will Smith (New Orleans), LB Austin Spitler (Miami), CB Devon Torrence (New York Jets), S Donald Washington (Kansas City), RB Beanie Wells (Arizona), S Donte Whitner (San Francisco), CB Antoine Winfield (Minnesota), DT Doug Worthington (Washington), CB Ashton Youboty (Jacksonville).

Arbitrary top five list

American male Olympians (only Summer Games)
1. Jesse Owens.
2. Jim Thorpe.
3. Carl Lewis.
4. Michael Phelps.
5. Greg Louganis.

Coaching

Urban Meyer (Cincinnati ’86), entering his first season with Ohio State. He spent last season out of coaching, working as an analyst for ESPN, after posting a 65-15 mark over six seasons at Florida. It was nearly five years for Meyer, who momentarily stepped down from the position following Florida’s loss in the SEC title game in 2009, citing health issues and a desire to spend more time with his family. His sabbatical lasted only a few days, though Meyer did not lead the Gators onto the field in their Sugar Bowl win over Cincinnati. This period was confusing, raising a few doubts over Meyer’s ability to continue serving as a long-term answer as the face of the program. Looking back on his 2010 season, you can easily make the case that Meyer should have stuck with his initial decision – that last team was his worst with the Gators, an eight-win squad that took a significant step back on offense and lacked the same fire, anger and determination of his vintage teams with the program. Overall, however, all Meyer achieved over his five seasons with the Gators – all, with tongue in cheek – was win a pair of national championships, each with a different starting quarterback, and raise Florida squarely into the nation’s elite after a short lull of mediocrity. While it is his work with the Gators that has earned him his national stature, Meyer was a highly successful coach at two non-B.C.S. conference stops prior to arriving in Gainesville. His first stop was at Bowling Green, from 2001-2, where Meyer and the Falcons went 17-6 overall and 11-5 in MAC play. From 2003-4, Meyer led Utah to a 22-2 record, including a perfect 12-0 season in 2004 that culminated in a B.C.S. bowl win over Pittsburgh. There are a handful of coaches from this generation who will be remembered for decades to come: Meyer is one. With a recharged battery and newfound dedication, look for Meyer to lead O.S.U. back into the national title picture once he installs his system over the next two seasons. This is going to be exciting.

Tidbit (coaching edition) Three assistants were held over from the previous staff: Fickell, who now carries the coordinator title; Mike Vrabel, who will work with the defensive line after leading the linebackers a year ago; and running backs coach Stan Drayton, who spent last fall with the wide receivers. As you might expect, there are no holes on this staff – every new hire is an ace. Everett Withers, the other interim head coach in the F.B.S. last fall, comes over as Ohio State’s co-defensive coordinator; that’s a big addition, as Fickell isn’t ready to take full charge of a defense. Defensive backs coach Kerry Coombs comes over from Cincinnati, where he spent the last five seasons in the same capacity.

Zach Smith, a former Florida graduate assistant and quality control coach, will coach the Buckeyes’ wide receivers. Smith is a young assistant to watch: he’s moved fast, going from Marshall to Temple to O.S.U. over the span of three seasons, and, in my opinion, is someone who will move up Meyer’s staff over the next half-decade. Former Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Herman is a professional – I mean that in the most positive way possible. He’ll share coordinator duties with new line coach Ed Warinner, who comes over from Notre Dame, but Herman, who is one of the nation’s most cerebral coaches, is running the show. Warinner is one of two former N.D. assistants, joining tight ends and fullbacks coach Tim Hinton. Two things you see immediately: experience and Ohio ties. Seven of Meyer’s nine assistants were either born, raised or educated in the Buckeye State; I bet a few know a high school coach or two.

Players to watch

Meyer has worked with Tim Tebow, he’s worked with Chris Leak, he’s worked with Alex Smith and a slew of others, but he’s never had a quarterback like Braxton Miller. In Meyer’s words: “Miller is the most dynamic quarterback I’ve ever coached.” That’s a good term to throw at Miller, especially now, as a sophomore, and it does provide some differentiation between Meyer’s quarterbacks past and present – because there’s only one Tebow, and only one combination like Tebow and Leak, but Miller is unquestionably the finest athlete Meyer has ever had the pleasure of lining up at the heart of his old-new offense.

Old-new: Ohio State’s system is new in a sense, in how the Buckeyes will approach formations, alignments, tempo and more, but it’s also a system grounded in a decades-old offensive philosophy – as many have noted, Meyer’s system does incorporate parts of the single-wing offense, which helped Paul Brown and the Buckeyes win the national title in 1942. While there will be growing pains, O.S.U. will look like Florida in every way but one: Miller, unlike Tebow, won’t be an inside running threat. Instead, the Buckeyes will need their backs to do the dirty work between the tackles while Miller chews up yardage outside of the box. That’s a major difference.

But you’ll see the similarities. Up-tempo, no-huddle, shotgun; under center near the goal line; three receivers; zone read and counter trey; speed outside, strength up the middle; and play-action in the passing game, with nearly every running play joined by a matching pass, mostly off of play-action. It’s a slippery offense, one that’s hard to define, but at its most basic, it’s a down-to-down system – meaning that every play folds into the next, with one play setting up the next play and so on down the line until Meyer and Herman have identified the one weak spot capable of being exploited for 60 minutes.

Now, back to Miller. The reason why Meyer is excited about his potential is simple: Miller is one of the most dangerous running quarterbacks in the country. He started the final 10 games of last season, from Colorado through Florida, and rushed for a team-best 715 yards and 7 scores, cracking the 100-yard mark three times. He brings a different dimension to Meyer’s running game, as noted; Miller is electric – dynamic, in Meyer’s words – in the open field. And he handled a tough situation admirably, serving as the centerpiece of last year’s team despite his youth and lack of experience.

You know Miller can run. But like most young quarterbacks, especially those with a run-first background, Miller needs some fine-tuning as a passer. While Ohio State’s underwhelming receiver corps played a role, Miller’s inexperience in the passing game led to one of the weakest performances in program history – O.S.U. was not only inefficient but also ineffective, negating any semblance of team speed out wide. A light turned on late, against Michigan and Florida, but Miller’s mechanics and overall passing acumen remain a work in progress as the Buckeyes prepare for September. Once that gets in order – and it’s something this staff is working on non-stop – Miller will be a Heisman candidate. With his skills, this staff and this system, the sky is the limit.

It’s not about a lack of talent at receiver: Ohio State has speed and athleticism to burn out wide and at tight end, but this assets went unused a year ago. Look for a vastly improved performance from receivers like juniors Corey Brown (11 receptions for 144 yards) and Chris Fields and sophomores Devin Smith (14 for 294), Evan Spencer and Verlon Reed, the upper slice of the rotation. Another player to watch is true freshman Michael Thomas, who enrolled early and impressed the staff with a strong spring. You’ll even see senior Jake Stoneburner (14 for 193, 7 touchdowns) split out wide, which presents any number of looks and mismatches for O.S.U. to exploit in the passing game.

Stoneburner is also extremely dangerous in the red zone, as he showed over the first month of last season. As at Florida, Meyer is going to place added emphasis on utilizing multiple tight ends both as blockers and in the passing game, which should mean action for sophomore Jake Heuerman and redshirt freshman Nick Vannett. Another thing to watch for is how Meyer uses his receivers’ speed in the running game; the sweep is one of his staples, and players like Smith and Brown look like potentially dangerous weapons on the outside.

The Buckeyes have identified a starting front, more or less; next comes a crash course in the intricacies of Meyer’s system. The team’s biggest issue isn’t depth, as Warinner should have at least eight linemen at his disposal. I’m more worried about tackle play: Jack Mewhort moves from right guard to left tackle, which will test his footwork and agility, and the Buckeyes can go with either senior Reid Fragel or true freshman Taylor Decker on the right side – it’s Fragel’s job to lose, but Decker is clearly the future. Inside, O.S.U. will flank junior center Corey Linsley, one of the great surprises of the spring, with junior left guard Andrew Norwell and junior right guard Marcus Hall. Four of these five would-be starters made at least three starts last fall, with Mewhort and Norwell starting every game.

One thing you notice right off the bat: this line is smaller than last year’s group. That might help the starters keep pace with the faster, more up-tempo offense. But while there is depth – and more coming, once the freshmen get into the mix – most is young, and doubly so at tackle. While the staff is high enough on Decker to survive an injury to Fragel, O.S.U. cannot afford to lose either Mewhort on the blind side and Linsley in the middle. Those injuries could be devastating.

There aren’t many defensive lines in college football with this much talent, let alone this much depth. It’s a group anchored by two potential all-Americans in senior end John Simon (53 tackles, 16.0 for loss, 7.5 sacks) and junior Johnathan Hankins (67 tackles, 11.0 for loss) – at least one will be a consensus all-American, and I could see both earning some heavy postseason honors. Simply put, Texas is the only other team that puts forth such a one-two line pairing; the Longhorns’ duo are ends, however, while O.S.U. can line Simon and Hankins next to each other and watch offensive linemen’s knees buckle.

The Buckeyes also return senior nose tackle Garrett Goebel (33 tackles, 4.0 for loss) and junior Adam Bellamy (25 tackles), rounding out the starting lineup. But what’s as impressive as the Buckeyes’ starting line is the depth Fickell and Withers can trot out along the second level: Michael Bennett is pushing Hankins for snaps at tackle – and could shift outside when O.S.U. wants to get big; Steve Miller and Joel Hale will see extensive time at end and nose tackle, respectively; and if healthy, senior Nathan Williams could push Bellamy into a reserve role. Williams, a starter in 2010, missed all of last season following knee surgery. While a dangerous situational rusher at 100 percent, I wonder if Williams’ knee injury is going to rob him of his quick first step. And before I forget: O.S.U. also signed a pair of five-star ends in February – Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence.

The line should be filthy. And having a stout and deep defensive front will help O.S.U. land increased production at linebacker; this group was a massive disappointment last fall, perhaps because of coaching – Fickell was the new head coach and Vrabel, while knowledgeable, was in first year with the program. Looking ahead to September, Ohio State’s hope for an improved performance lands on the shoulders of sophomore Curtis Grant, who takes over in the middle for Andrew Sweat. While the more ballyhooed of the program’s two incoming recruits, Grant was a non-factor while his classmate, Ryan Shazier (57 tackles, 3.0 sacks) grabbed a starting role on the weak side.

Shazier has retained his starting role, as expected, as has senior Etienne Sabino (62 tackles, 6.5 for loss). This pair will flank Grant, helping him slide into a starting role, but it’s on the sophomore to carry his strong spring over to September. The line will occupy blockers, especially Hankins, who will be double-teamed at every opportunity – and Simon, and the rest. That will leave Grant in a position to make plays in space. The question isn’t talent, because Grant, like many others on this defense, has all-conference ability; the issue is experience, or lack thereof, and Grant is holding one of the key roles on this entire team. While Simon and Hankins are stars, this defense will not reach its potential unless Grant proves himself to be up to the task.

Last year’s secondary was uncharacteristically inconsistent. But as with T.C.U., the Buckeyes were working with a high standard: Ohio State wasn’t terrible against the pass, but last year’s performance paled alongside the program’s recent efforts – that’s one of the drawbacks of annual defensive excellence, I suppose. Three things to like about this year’s group: the returning experience, the new position coach and Ohio State’s pass rush. All should help O.S.U. recover much of its lost momentum, even if I’m not convinced that we’re going to see a classic showing from the secondary.

As along the line, the Buckeyes will have the ability to play as many as six or seven defensive backs. This depth is evident at cornerback, where O.S.U. returns three starting-caliber defenders for two spots: senior Travis Howard (41 tackles, 2 interceptions) and sophomores Bradley Roby (47 tackles, 3 interceptions) and Doran Grant. Roby’s a future star, even if his all-conference days lie a year down the road, but I’m not entirely sold on Howard – I’m sold on the senior as a third cornerback, a spot he filled wonderfully two years ago, but he was underwhelming in a starting role last fall. That opened up the door for Grant to make a push during the spring, and I wouldn’t be totally surprised if the sophomore eventually pushed Howard out of the starting lineup.

While cornerback remains a slight concern – less of a worry than it was last fall, I should add – look for vastly superior safety play. A year ago, then-sophomores C.J. Barnett (75 tackles, 2 interceptions) and Christian Bryant (68 tackles) scuffled as they broke into the starting lineup. While you saw some steady improvement over the course of the season — from Barnett in particular; he earned all-Big Ten honors — Barnett and Bryant are ready to take a major step forward. What you’d like to see is greater leadership from the back end of the defense; I think Barnett’s ready to take on that mantle, giving O.S.U. steady and experienced play along each level – Simon and Hankins up front, Sabino on the second level and Barnett along the back. Senior Orhian Johnson’s starting days are behind him, but he’s a very valuable third safety.

With his time at Florida as our evidence, Meyer will quickly rebuild Ohio State’s special teams into one of the nation’s best. He has weapons to work with from the start, though the Buckeyes must get ample production from Fields while Hall recovers from his foot injury; for now, Fields should be the go-to return man on kickoffs and punts. Junior kicker Drew Basil heads into September with confidence, having made 12 straight field goals to end last season. And senior punter Ben Buchanan was one of the few returning starters on last year’s team to actually make a drastic improvement: Buchanan was far, far better in 2011 than he was as a first-year starter in 2010.

Position battle(s) to watch

Running back I was prepared for nearly anything when it came to Meyer’s handling of the Buckeyes’ offensive two-deep – outside of Miller not being the starter, perhaps – but I was not quite prepared for this: Meyer, a big proponent of a by-committee rushing attack at Florida, plugging junior Carlos Hyde as a likely every-down back. While Meyer loves Hyde’s “body type” – I think stocky is one word that fits – Hyde’s build was one reason why I though he wouldn’t be a great fit for this offense outside of short-yardage duties. Still, Hyde (566 yards) did the fill a role as the Buckeyes’ top back for the first six or seven games of last season before disappearing over the second half.

But it’s looking more and more likely that Hyde is the 15-carry back for this offense, especially with senior Jordan Hall (408 yards) expected to miss the first month of this season due to a foot injury. It’s on Hyde to take this opportunity and run with it, as Meyer himself pointed out earlier this month. With Hall out of the picture for the foreseeable future, O.S.U. will need to land more consistency from sophomore Rod Smith, who played himself far, far out of the rotation last fall due to sloppy ball control, and get some help from at least one of the two incoming freshmen, Warren Ball and Bri’onte Dunn.

While Ball has been forgotten, perhaps due to his early commitment to last year’s class, he may be needed early while Dunn deals with the potential ramifications stemming from his recent arrest on minor charges – while Dunn was not indicted on what would have been a very serious charge of drug possession, Meyer’s recent handling of off-field missteps might cost Dunn the first game or two of this coming season.

In the early going, O.S.U. will need a shiftier back to lend some speed to Hyde’s ability between the tackles. When he’s healthy, Hall can join Hyde to give the Buckeyes a very nice one-two punch in this offense – a pairing perhaps not unlike what Florida had in 2009, when Emmanuel Moody was the bigger back to Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey. Another thing to keep in mind: Ohio State’s receivers are also going to get into the mix, and there’s speed to burn out wide, if not proven production in the passing game.

Game(s) to watch

In order of importance: Michigan, Wisconsin and, surprisingly enough, U.C.F. and California — because O.S.U. needs to start strong. Both of those teams are going to provide a sterner test than most realize, even if I’d be a bit surprised if Ohio State doesn’t win both by at least a touchdown. They’re half of a home-only non-conference slate, sandwiched by Miami (Ohio) and U.A.B., and that should get the Buckeyes into Big Ten with a perfect 4-0 mark. The Leaders division will go to the Badgers either way, but the back story to this year’s meeting includes not only the chance for O.S.U. to send a message – you can have your divisional title; it’s really ours anyway – but also an on-field meeting between Meyer and Bret Bielema. If you recall, the pair were at odds during the most recent recruiting cycle over what Bielema termed Meyer’s violation of the Big Ten’s “gentlemen’s agreement” when it comes to recruiting committed prospects. The final game of the season is at home against the Wolverines, and win or lose, that’s what O.S.U. will carry into the offseason.

Season breakdown & prediction

In a nutshell And so begins one of the most exciting pairings of a head coach and a program in college football history – not recent history, not the last generation, but history, from Rutgers and Princeton until today. At a crucial juncture, fresh off a losing season and still under a bit of a cloud following the previous staff’s missteps, Ohio State went out and nabbed one of the finest coaches to ever stalk the sidelines: Meyer is a star, a headline-grabbing, detail-obsessed, grind-it-out coaching legend – and an Ohioan, no less – and his system, style and skill set will quickly lead Ohio State out of its short-lived malaise and back into the national title hunt. This isn’t merely exciting; this is trip-to-Disneyland exciting, day-before-Christmas exciting.

But you’ll also notice that I’m not as high on this specific team as most – and that wasn’t a seamless transition, I know. While it’s obvious that O.S.U. is going to take a nice step forward after last season’s seven-loss finish, the Buckeyes remain not only young and fairly inexperienced but also completely new to Meyer’s system. It’s an overly simplistic breakdown, but to expect this offense to hit the ground running in September ignores the inevitable learning curve; more likely, it’s going to take one full season before every piece of this offense starts running in concert. That includes Miller, who has all-everything potential but remains in-progress as a passer. And don’t sleep on the difficult road ahead for this offensive line, which breaks in three new full-time starters, shifts a former guard out to left tackle and must adapt to the new up-tempo feel of this offense.

Let’s play devil’s advocate for a paragraph. Say that Miller skyrockets from uneven freshman to Heisman-worthy sophomore – he runs for 1,200 yards and adds another 2,000 through the air. The offensive line adapts more quickly to this offense than I imagine it will. The receiver corps steps up in the passing game and adds another wrinkle on the ground. The front four dominate the line of scrimmage. Grant solidifies the second level. Howard and Roby earn all-conference honors at cornerback. Eleven wins, right? That’s what Meyer is working with: Ohio State is wonderfully talented, amazingly gifted and just young enough for the dream situation to come to pass.

But how many of those above scenarios might actually occur? Only one, in my mind: dominating defensive line play. In fact, this defense should regain much of its lost luster thanks to linemen like Hankins and Simon, two of the best in the country at their respective positions. But in all, I see a younger team that will need time to acclimate itself not only to Meyer’s system but to the new standards set in place by this staff. What’s a successful season, all things considered? The Buckeyes should take eight wins and be happy. But the potential is there for much more – Meyer is the new captain, after all, and you’d almost expect nothing less than excellence right from the start.

Dream season How about this: Ohio State beats everyone, including Michigan. Especially Michigan, and the win comes by 24 points.

Nightmare season The offense doesn’t click. The Buckeyes lose to California and Michigan State in September, Nebraska and Purdue in October and Wisconsin and Michigan in November, the latter by 24 points.

In case you were wondering

Where do Ohio State fans congregate? Begin with Eleven Warriors, which is absolutely superb — it’s one of the very elite college football sites. For message board chatter, take a trip to Buckeye Planet, The-Ozone, Buckeye Grove and Buckeye Sports. For additional coverage, check out Buckeye Commentary, The Buckeye Blog and Our Honor Defend.

Ohio State’s all-name nominee TE Jake Stoneburner.

Word Count

Through 104 teams 423,420.

Up Next

Who is No. 20? Tomorrow’s program has won one more game than its fiercest rival over the last six seasons.

Big Ten rankings: No. 19, Braxton Miller

It’s time to dive back into our preseason countdown of the Top 25 players in the Big Ten.

As a reminder, we’re considering past performance and 2012 potential in these rankings. And speaking of potential, here is a player who just oozes it …

No. 19: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State, soph., 6-2, 210 pounds

2011 postseason rank: Not ranked

2011 numbers: Completed 54.1 percent of his passes for 1,159 yards and 13 touchdowns, with four interceptions.

Continue reading at ESPN.com – Big Ten Blog

Ohio State Football: Is Braxton Miller Worthy of OSU’S All-Time Top 25 Status?

Believe me, I know exactly what you’re thinking, and I completely agree with you. Just hear me out from start to finish, and I think in the end we should see eye to eye.
Braxton Miller had a phenomenal freshman season for multiple reasons. Miller was a complete stud on the stat sheet, throwing for 1,159 yards and 13 touchdowns and running for 715 yards and seven touchdowns. As a young and bewildered freshman, Miller continued to move the ball down the field and put points on the board against all odds. He was one of the only bright spots of the 2011 season.
Aside from the numbers, Miller really emerged as a playmaker and a true competitor in his first season as the field general in Columbus. The young quarterback never backed down from the big moment, raising the level of his play in the fourth quarter and when the going got tough.
There were numerous times when Miller would pull his team from the fire or put the finishing touches on a game and play beyond his years. Even in losing…

Continue reading at Bleacher Report – Big Ten Football

Ohio State Football: How Braxton Miller Will Outperform Denard Robinson

The idea of Ohio State’s sophomore QB Braxton Miller outperforming Michigan’s decorated senior Denard Robinson is a crazy notion on the surface. After all, Robinson has slowly started to develop into a very deadly dual-threat.
When you look much deeper, however, Miller’s chance to be better than Robinson is not very far-fetched at all.
Robinson is an amazingly talented runner, but his passing remains somewhat of a hit-and-miss—it improved greatly in his junior year.
Miller showed some struggles through the early part of his freshman year, but grew tremendously as the season went on, including his fantastic four-touchdown night against Wisconsin—three of which were on the ground.
He was very protected in terms of the passing game, and his accuracy needs some work, especially on the deeper throws where multiple times he overshot open receivers down the field.
A spring with Urban Meyer and Tom Herman showed some good improvement in terms of the short passing game and getting…

Continue reading at Bleacher Report – Big Ten Football

Ohio State Football: How Braxton Miller Will Outperform Denard Robinson

The idea of Ohio State’s sophomore QB Braxton Miller outperforming Michigan’s decorated senior Denard Robinson is a crazy notion on the surface. After all, Robinson has slowly started to develop into a very deadly dual-threat.
When you look much deeper, however, Miller’s chance to be better than Robinson is not very far-fetched at all.
Robinson is an amazingly talented runner, but his passing remains somewhat of a hit-and-miss—it improved greatly in his junior year.
Miller showed some struggles through the early part of his freshman year, but grew tremendously as the season went on, including his fantastic four-touchdown night against Wisconsin—three of which were on the ground.
He was very protected in terms of the passing game, and his accuracy needs some work, especially on the deeper throws where multiple times he overshot open receivers down the field.
A spring with Urban Meyer and Tom Herman showed some good improvement in terms of the short passing game and getting…

Continue reading at Bleacher Report – Big Ten Football

Ohio State Football: Time for Braxton Miller to Showcase His Skills

To get this out of the way, as a fan, I’m pretty optimistic for this season coming up for Ohio State. But most importantly, I’m most excited for Ohio State’s sophomore Quarterback Braxton Miller.
One can’t help but think of the things new head coach Urban Meyer did with Tim Tebow and not ponder how Miller could be a  possible replica in Meyer’s spread offense.
Not that Braxton Miller will put up 30 passing, 20 rushing touchdown numbers, but with his size (6’3″, 210 lbs.), throwing and running skill, expectations are high.
Because Luke Fickell was cut from the same cloth as Jim Tressel, Braxton Miller’s freshman season was similarly played out the way Terrelle Pryor’s was during his freshman year in 2008.
Both were restricted in fully expressing their potential, although Jim Tressel allowed Pryor to improvise on many occasions, as Fickell did for Miller last season.
With the Tressel era completely over, Urban Meyer may…

Continue reading at Bleacher Report – Big Ten Football

Ohio State Football News: Scarlet Tops Gray 20-14, Mike Thomas Has Huge Day, Anzalone Commits

Ohio State Buckeyes Football

Meyer in total command of Ohio State football The theory that Urban Meyer — either by magic wand or piercing whistle — really is in total command of all things Ohio St…

Scarlet Tops Gray 20-14 In 2012 Ohio State Spring Game Michael Thomas making an impact early New head coach Urban Meyer told everybody he planned to work on the passing game during Saturday’s…

Ohio State Football: WR Mike Thomas Has Huge Spring Game I know, your first reaction is, “who is Mike Thomas?” It was mine, too. Thomas, a 6’2″, 192-pound freshman wide receiver from Los Angeles,…

Analysis: Rating the spring game Urban Meyer’s first spring game at Ohio State earned an A for entertainment, as quarterback Braxton Miller led the Scarlet to a 20-14 win…

2013 4-Star OLB Alex Anzalone Commits To Ohio State The 11th commitment for the Buckeyes2013 4-star linebacker Alex Anzalone made his third visit to Ohio State is less than two months and a…

Ohio State Football 2012: Winners and Losers of the Spring Game On a fall-like day in Columbus, Urban Meyer swash-buckled his way into the ‘Shoe and gave the public a first look at what kind of feast is…

Ohio State Football News: Braxton Miller Shows Promise, Urban Meyer’s Game Plan, Newest Commit

Ohio State Buckeyes Football

Ohio State Spring Game: Buckeyes’ Braxton Miller Shows Promise Ahead of Big Game Ohio State is in the midst of a huge transition the size of Urban Meyer’s reputation, and it’s just now showing signs or promise. The Buckeyes’ spring game is coming up, and that gives us our first real look at how this team will fare in the new Mey…

Ohio State Football: How Urban Meyer’s Gameplan Will Affect Offensive Output Ohio State fans should feel extremely confident as to what they’ll see out of their offense in 2012 and moving forward under new head coach Urban Meyer.Meyer’s resume speaks for itself. Everywhere he’s been, he’s won and his offenses have put up huge…

Ohio State football: Meyer defends Florida record Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was unapologetic yesterday responding to allegations in a story in “The Sporting News” this week that he gave preferential treatment to players at the end of his tenure at Florida that contributed to the decline of the Ga…

Scouting Ohio State’s Newest Commit Marcus Baugh (6’4/230) is a 4-Star tight end prospect from Riverside, Calif. who recently committed to the Ohio State Buckeyes. Let’s take a look at the prospect that Ohio State is getting from the Golden State.

Meyer, Hoke reignite rivalry The Ohio State-Michigan rivalry had some rough patches since an historic game in 2006. That trend is about to change with the arrival of Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke.

No. 17 Michigan beats Ohio State 40-34

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Denard Robinson took the snap, took a knee and set off a long, loud, maize-and-blue celebration in the Big House.

Robinson accounted for five touchdowns, helping 17th-ranked Michigan beat Ohio State 40-34 on Saturday and snap a school-record seven-game losing streak against the Wolverines’ archrival.

“This game is more than a win,” defensive end Ryan Van Bergen said. “It’s bigger than that. It encompasses way more.”

Michigan (10-2, 6-2 Big Ten) was forced to settle for a six-point lead with 1:59 left on Brendan Gibbons’ career-long 43-yard field goal after two apparent TDs were negated by a video review and then penalties.

The Buckeyes (6-6, 3-5) had a chance to win the game on their final drive, but freshman Braxton Miller sailed a pass over Deviser Posey’s head on what could’ve been a 76-yard TD and threw a loss-sealing interception to Courtney Avery.

Michigan finally won a game in the storied series because it had a better quarterback than Ohio State, for a change.

Robinson was 14 of 17 – completing 11 straight passes during one stretch – for 167 yards with TD passes to Kevin Koger, Junior Hemingway and Martavious Odoms. He ran 26 times for 170 yards and two more scores and lost a fumble.

Miller was 14 of 25 for 235 yards with TD passes to Posey and Corey Brown. He ran 16 times for 100 yards and a score.

The Wolverines also had more success creating holes for their featured running back.

Fitzgerald Toussaint had 120 yards rushing, but didn’t score because video review overturned his apparent TD late in the game. He was ruled down before getting in the end zone. Robinson then had a TD run negated by a holding penalty – and yet another flag after the play pushed Michigan back to the Ohio State 26, forcing Gibbons to make the longest field goal of his career to force the Buckeyes to score a TD to win.

“There wasn’t a doubt in my mind,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said.

Ohio State’s Dan Herron was held to 37 yards rushing and a TD on 15 carries, but the Wolverines had trouble slowing down Miller just as they had previously with Troy Smith, who started Ohio State’s winning streak in 2004, and Terrelle Pryor who extended it with last year’s win.

Pryor, though, wasn’t around to win again in The Game. He left Ohio State in the wake of being caught up in a cash-for-Buckeyes memorabilia scandal that resulted in coach Jim Tressel’s departure and several other players serving multiple-game suspensions in what became the program’s worst season on the field since 1999.

The Buckeyes have already said they won’t pass up the chance to go to a bowl game – if the NCAA allows them to play in the postseason.

Regardless, former Florida coach Urban Meyer is widely expected to take over the program.

Former Ohio State running back and 1995 Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George said the fact that Meyer wasn’t in Ann Arbor with his ESPN crew was another obvious sign that he’s the next coach of the Buckeyes.

“I think it’s pretty much set in stone,” George told The Associated Press on Saturday morning at Michigan Stadium, where he was working as an analyst. “There are rumors already about what he’s signing for and who’s coaching with him. After this game, the chatter is obviously going to get even louder and I think we’ll know something definitely by Monday.”

Michigan, meanwhile, might be in a BCS bowl game for the first time since 2006 under first-year coach Hoke, who took many of Rich Rodriguez’s players and helped them perform much better this season.

Michigan Stadium’s field was filled with fans after the Wolverines finally beat the Buckeyes, ending a drought that lasted more than 2,900 days as the players were reminded each day they stepped into Schembechler Hall.

The public-address announcer tried in vain to get the field cleared for the bands, but they stayed in a cluster around the block `M’ at midfield and were sprinkled throughout the rest of the field as they soaked up the moment. About 20 minutes later, Michigan’s band finally was able to take the field.

© 2011 The Associated Press

Buckeyes content to be one-dimensional

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State embraces being one-dimensional.

The Buckeyes run, run and run some more — and have found success doing it. Over their last three games, they’ve run the ball 155 times for 825 yards — an average of 275 yards a game — and not so coincidentally have won all three.

By contrast, over that same span, they’ve passed just 27 times, completing 13 throws for 161 yards — a mere 54 per game.

“People know we’re going to run and we’re going to continue to do it anyway,” center Mike Brewster said after Saturday’s 34-20 victory over Indiana.

Ohio State has run on over 85 percent of its plays against Illinois, Wisconsin and the Hoosiers.

So much for being predictable.

The Buckeyes (6-3, 3-2) find themselves in the thick of the Big Ten’s Leaders Division race. If they can win their final three games — at Purdue on Saturday, at home against Penn State and at rival Michigan on Nov. 26 — they could still make it to the conference’s first title game.

All they need is for Penn State to lose one other game to play in the conference championship. Should the NCAA hand down sanctions — which are likely to include a bowl ban— before the Dec. 3 Big Ten title game then Ohio State would not be permitted to play.

In their most recent win, freshman quarterback Braxton Miller led an attack that pounded out 346 yards on the ground on 46 attempts, 7.5 yards per carry.

“I was very happy to get the run game going,” said Dan Herron, who had 141 yards and a touchdown on just 14 tries. “The line had some holes and we went out there and did our job.”

Miller ran it 14 times for 105 yards. Carlos Hyde added 105 more on 15 attempts.

It was the first time since 1989 that Ohio State had three backs over 100 yards in a game. It was only the fourth time the Buckeyes have accomplished the feat — the first two times (1956, 1970) under that revered, ground-oriented, running-game icon, Woody Hayes.

The players don’t mind the singularity of purpose, either.

“Our confidence is really high,” said Hyde, who had barely touched the ball in the previous two games. “To have three guys go over 100 yards in the same game is huge.”

Ohio State’s offense begins and ends with Miller, who frequently turns a pass play into a mad scramble down the field. He was sacked six times for 41 yards in losses and completed 5 of 11 passes for a meager 55 yards with one interception.

It doesn’t bother him that he doesn’t get to showcase his strong arm or his touch.

“As long as we get the W, it’s production points for the touchdowns,” said Miller, who picked up most of his yards — including touchdowns of 81 and 20 yards — on draw plays. “As long as we’re doing well with that, I’m fine with it.”

In a stadium built on “three yards and cloud of dust,” the recent re-dedication to the running game is not only accepted, it’s adored. Even when the Buckeyes fell behind 10-0 early to the Hoosiers (1-9, 0-6), no one ever contemplated filling the air with footballs.

That’s not this team’s style.

Miller to start, Guiton could play QB for OSU

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — For a change, Ohio State’s quarterback controversy isn’t who will start.

Braxton Miller is healthy enough to take the first snap when the Buckeyes travel to play at No. 16 Illinois on Saturday.

Interim coach Luke Fickell said that Miller has been working out with the team and doing everything he needed to do to show he’s fully recovered from a sprained right ankle sustained in last week’s 34-27 loss at Nebraska.

“He’s done a great job,” Fickell said Thursday. “He’s moved around. He hasn’t let it hamper him, hasn’t let it affect him emotionally. I think that’s the most important thing.”

That doesn’t mean that Miller is 100 percent. Fickell concedes the true freshman is still probably sore.

“Whether it hurts or not he hasn’t shown a whole lot of that,” he said. “I’m sure it hurts a little bit, just like everybody on the team has got a little bit of something (hurting) in the seventh week of the season. But he’s done a great job of battling and continuing to get better through the week.”

The Buckeyes staff must balance Miller’s physical pain with his growing pains.

“He’s had a good couple of days of practice,” quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano said Wednesday. “He’s starting to grasp what we’re doing. He’s going to get better as time goes on. He’s going through some growing pains with everybody right now.”

Perhaps a bigger question for the Buckeyes right now is who is backing up Miller.

Joe Bauserman was just 1 for 10 passing with an interception last week. Kenny Guiton received more snaps during this week’s practices and Fickell said he may see his first time at quarterback this season if needed in relief of Miller.

“Both of those guys have gotten some reps,” Fickell said. “Kenny has definitely got a lot more reps this week. We want those guys to be ready. There’s times when — who knows what can happen? — that one or two guys go down. So, you’ve always got to have people who are ready, you’ve always got to have a plan for what you’re going to do.”

Miller, Bauserman and Guiton, along with Taylor Graham, were in a four-player battle for the quarterback spot throughout the spring and summer workouts. Two weeks into preseason practice in August, Miller and Bauserman became the top two. Bauserman started the first three games but Miller has started the last three.

The Buckeyes were ahead by two touchdowns at Nebraska when Miller was injured. After that, however, the offense under Bauserman struggled to move the ball while the defense was gashed for huge yardage.

“The momentum swing was big,” center Mike Brewster said. “It just seemed like after Braxton went down we really just couldn’t get anything going.”

Players said earlier in the week he favored the injured ankle, taking it easy whenever he had to pivot or turn a corner.

But Fickell said he was full go and running full speed on all plays in the latest practice.

The Buckeyes (3-3, 0-2 Big Ten) are trying to avoid their first three-game losing streak since 2004.

Braxton Miller will start at QB for Buckeyes

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Freshman Braxton Miller will start when Ohio State hosts Colorado on Saturday.

The decision was announced by interim coach Luke Fickell on Thursday on his weekly radio call-in show.

Fifth-year senior Joe Bauserman had started the first three games for the Buckeyes (2-1), but the passing game — with Bauserman and Miller splitting time — suffered in Saturday night’s 24-6 loss at Miami. They combined to hit just 4 of 18 passes for 35 yards with an interception (by Miller), with all four completions going to running backs.

Fickell said he hoped the change might energize the offense. He said he felt Miller could handle the pressure, and that his running ability would be a big asset.

No. 17 Ohio State falls at Miami, 24-6

MIAMI (AP) — Ohio State interim coach Luke Fickell was hoping his team would start quickly, avoid giving up big plays and take advantage of any opportunities Miami provided.

The Buckeyes failed on all counts, and now are in danger of slipping out of the AP Top 25 for the first time in nearly seven years.

Lamar Miller ran for 184 yards – 54 on Miami’s first play from scrimmage – and Jacory Harris threw two first-quarter touchdown passes to Allen Hurns, helping the Hurricanes top No. 17 Ohio State 24-6 on Saturday night in a matchup of teams dealing with NCAA scandals.

Miami outgained Ohio State 363-209 and held the Buckeyes to an abysmal 4 of 18, 35-yard passing performance by quarterbacks Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller.

“We’ve got to do a better job all around,” Fickell said. “They made a lot more plays than we did and ultimately that’s what the game came down to.”

Ohio State got into the red zone twice and settled for field goals. The Buckeyes allowed Miami to go 9 for 15 on third-down conversion chances, and the Hurricanes held the ball for 11:16 in the final quarter – nine of those minutes coming after Marcus Robinson punched the ball away from Braxton Miller in Miami territory. Mike Williams recovered for the Hurricanes and the celebration started revving up right there.

“That’s what Miami Hurricane football should be,” Miami coach Al Golden said. “Play good defense, make some explosive plays on defense and then run the ball in the fashion that we did.”

The Buckeyes have appeared in every The Associated Press poll since Nov. 28, 2004. And for the first time in exactly 23 years, the Buckeyes lost a road game to an unranked nonconference opponent – the last time that happened was Sept. 17, 1988, a 42-10 defeat at Pittsburgh in John Cooper’s first season.

Now Fickell knows how that feels. His team went three-plays-and-out on the first two possessions, got into a 14-0 hole before the game was 10 minutes old, and never got rolling. A team dealing with suspensions and injuries, at least at this point, looks nothing like Ohio State teams of recent years, the ones who owned the Big 10 and typically found their way into the national-title picture.

“We pride ourselves on not giving up big plays,” Fickell said. “But the big plays hurt us.”

Braxton Miller completed his last two passes on the game’s final, meaningless drive – which at least salvaged something, albeit merely in the statistical sense, for Ohio State. The four completions matched the program’s worst total for any game in the last 15 years, something that happened on three other occasions.

“You just have to move on,” Bauserman said. “It’s a next-play mentality, whether it’s a great play or a bad play.”

Or in this case, a bad game.

“I’m kind of shocked,” Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde said. “I wasn’t expecting to lose to these guys.”

The win snapped a four-game slide dating to last season for the Hurricanes (1-1), who got their first win over a ranked opponent since beating Oklahoma on Oct. 3, 2009.

Miami gave up 348 yards passing in a season-opening loss at Maryland. Of the six Terrapins who caught passes that night, five finished with more yards than Ohio State had through the air as a team on Saturday, and the one who fell short had 34 yards.

“We have a lot of talent,” said Miami linebacker Sean Spence, one of five Hurricanes returning from one-game suspensions for accepting extra benefits from a former booster. “As long as we continue playing with pride and passion, the sky’s the limit for us.”

How bad was it for the Buckeyes? Ohio State seemed to give up on the game in the final minutes, not even bothering to stop the clock with one of their three timeouts as Miami moved down the field in the final minutes with a 17-6 lead.

Mike James plunged in from the 1 with 33 seconds left, capping the scoring, as many of the 10,000 or so scarlet-clad fans began leaving in earnest.

“We lost, so apparently we didn’t do a good enough job,” Ohio State safety C.J. Barnett said. “I don’t know what to tell you.”

Harris finished 16 of 23 for 123 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for Miami, which opened a three-game homestand.

Jordan Hall had 87 yards on 14 carries for Ohio State, which got 54 more rushing yards from Hyde. Until the final seconds, the Buckeyes did not have a single pass for more than 10 yards.

Even Harris’ mistakes – two more interceptions, pushing his career total to 41 – couldn’t get cashed in by Ohio State, which struggled with Toledo at home last weekend and were kept out of the end zone entirely by the Hurricanes.

“This win feels wonderful,” Harris said. “It feels great to get out there and beat a great team like Ohio State. We have much respect for them, but we made sure we came out with the ‘W.’”

© 2011 The Associated Press

No. 15 Buckeyes barely hang on to beat Toledo

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — For 90 years, Ohio State has stayed unbeaten against every in-state opponent it’s played.

On Saturday at Ohio Stadium, the streak nearly snapped.

John Simon pressured backup Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens, forcing an incompletion on fourth down with 48 seconds left, to preserve No. 15 Ohio State’s 27-22 victory over the error-prone Rockets.

The Rockets, striving to become the first team from the state to defeat the Buckeyes since 1921, weren’t disconsolate that they lost so much as upset that they had a hand in their own undoing. They threw one interception, had 102 yards in penalties, missed a 45-yard field goal, mishandled the hold on a 50-yard field-goal attempt, gave up a special-teams touchdown and continually made mistakes that saved Ohio State drives or shortened their own.

“There’s no doubt,” starting quarterback Austin Dantin said when asked if the Rockets had let the game slip away. “We had (14) penalties, a missed field goal, another missed opportunity on a field goal, then had a punt returned against us – things that are just inexcusable.”

The Rockets (1-1) drove from their own 28 and were 17 yards away from ending Ohio State’s 43-0-1 run against in-state foes since a 7-6 setback to Oberlin in 1921. But they couldn’t finish the deal.

“We got some respect, but that wasn’t what we were trying to get,” said Toledo defensive end Malcolm Riley.

The Rockets led 15-7 after a quarter and were on top 22-21 before Carlos Hyde went 3 yards for the winning points late in the third quarter.

The Buckeyes (2-0) only had to run out the clock on their last possession, but freshman Rod Smith lost a fumble to give the Rockets a final shot. But then Simon, who went to the locker room earlier in the game with leg cramps, turned the tide.

“That was huge. We knew we had to stop them or they were going to win the game,” Simon said of his late pressure. “It was a big play for us. The secondary did a great job covering and giving me extra time to get back there.”

Several players made big plays for the Buckeyes, who travel to Florida to play Miami next week.

Chris Fields returned a punt 69 yards and Hyde ran for two scores for the Buckeyes, still reeling from NCAA suspensions which held out seven top players.

“I think and I hope that this is what’s going to make us better, all the adversity,” interim head coach Luke Fickell said.

Down 21-15 at the half, the Rockets took the second-half kickoff and, five plays later, took a one-point lead after Adonis Thomas ran 4 yards on fourth and 1.

After a punt, the Rockets drove to the Ohio State 33. But a fumbled snap ended any chance of a 50-yard field goal.

The Buckeyes promptly came back. The key was a 36-yard pass from Joe Bauserman to Devin Smith, and Hyde capped the march with the TD run. A failed 2-point conversion pass kept the margin at five points.

Toledo punted away the ball on its next three possessions. After the third, the Buckeyes got the ball with 5:45 left at their own 25. A 31-yard completion from Bauserman to Smith gave Ohio State a first down at the Toledo 33.

But then Rod Smith fumbled after a 5-yard gain and the Rockets’ Johnathan Lamb fell on the loose ball.

Suddenly, the game was in doubt and Ohio State’s in-state winning streak was in jeopardy.

“We knew the game was on the line,” said Buckeyes defensive back Tyler Moeller. “It was up to the defense to win it. You’re bummed he did fumble but you’re excited the game’s in your hands.”

Down 7-0, the Rockets scored on consecutive possessions to knock the Buckeyes back on their heels.

First, Dantin, who was 14 of 26 for 155 yards and one score, hit Eric Page for a 6-yard touchdown. Page then took a direct snap in a spread set and passed to Hank Keighley for the two-point conversion. The scoring drive was a short one, set up when Kishon Wilcher blocked an Ohio State punt and T.J. Fatinikun rumbled 23 yards to the Ohio State 1 with it.

The touchdown marked the first points Toledo had scored against its big, downstate neighbors. The Rockets had been steamrolled by a combined 87-0 in two previous losses in 1998 and 2009.

After forcing a Buckeyes punt, the Rockets came right down and did it again. This time Owens tossed a 66-yard touchdown pass to Page, who had beaten Ohio State’s C.J. Barnett deep.

The Buckeyes rebounded. They’d scored the first time they touched the ball on offense, with Bauserman, who was 16 of 30 for 189 yards in a surprising solo performance (co-starter Braxton Miller never left the sideline), hitting his favorite target, tight end Jake Stoneburner, on a 26-yard scoring strike.

Hyde burst through a hole off left tackle and angled to the sideline on a 36-yard touchdown run.

Toledo then committed a critical mistake.

Vince Penza’s punt rolled dead at the Ohio State 17 with a minute left in the half, but the Rockets were offside on the kick. The ball was brought back and Penza kicked again – this time a line drive directly to a waiting Fields who was nearly tripped but regained his footing and raced to the end zone.

The game still would come down to one play.

“That’s what we intended to do: In the fourth quarter, to be there, to give yourself a chance to win it,” Toledo coach Tim Beckman said. “We fell (17) yards short.”

© 2011 The Associated Press

Joe Bauserman the likely starter for Ohio State at QB

Dressed in a white oxford shirt with an Ohio State logo on the chest—no tie, no sweater vest—Luke Fickell made the first big call of his head coaching career…..Fifth-year senior Joe Bauserman would most likely be the starting quarterback when the 18th-ranked Buckeyes open their season on Saturday at home against Akron.

Bauserman and true freshman Braxton Miller had battled for the starting job in recent weeks in camp. They were listed with an `or’ separating them on Ohio State’s two-deep roster this week.

“Joe would probably take the first snap,” Fickell said at his first weekly news conference. “Just talking with those guys, talking with the offensive staff, we know we’re going to need them both. The whole idea is we want to make sure that we can put them out there in front of 106,000 and see how guys respond.”

This isn’t much of a shock. It’s always a good idea to start the fifth year senior and bring the freshman along a little slower. I would not be surprised if Miller becomes the starter pretty quickly though.

Source: Yahoo