1. Seasoned beef. Ohio State pounded teams into submission on the ground last season, compiling 242.2 yards per game, an average that ranked 10th in the nation. All the ingredients are in place to reprise and perhaps even better that number. The Buckeyes return four starters, all seniors, on the offensive line, and they average out at 6-foot-5, 306 pounds. The newcomer is SO LT Taylor Decker, who will be making his first career start. Have to expect UB to cheat run and try and force Braxton Miller, right, into passing situations. If the Bulls can’t do a decent job containing the run this will be a very long afternoon.
2. Elusive and elite. Miller, the Buckeyes’ JR QB, is a top-tier Heisman Trophy candidate and in some circles the odds-on preseason favorite. He’s tall (6-foot-2), big (220) and Kentucky Derby-eligible with a searing 40 time of 4.36. Miller needs 14 rushing yards for 2,000 career and 95 yards to surpass Cornelius Greene as OSU’s all-time leading rushing QB. Miller completed just 58 percent of his throws last season but worked with a QB tutor to improve his mechanics and should also have a better array of receivers this time around. UB’s mission is discern the truth by forcing passing downs.
3. Steady does it. UB’s best hope is to shorten the game with time-consuming drives. To do that the Bulls will have to move it on the ground against an Ohio State front seven with six new starters. The left of UB’s line – returning starters Andre Davis, Jasen Carlson and Trevor Sales – is the go-to side but UB suffered a blow this week when fullback Boomer Brock, a 5-10, 260-pound battering ram, went down with a knee injury. Former defensive lineman Kendall Patterson is Brock’s backup and likely will play a role in the game plan that’s constructed. Running the ball is paramount and Oliver has always welcomed a fullback presence leading the way.
4. Air supply. UB’s passing game lacked continuity throughout training camp. Was that because of an experienced defense familiar with the play calls? Was it because the Bulls ran out an assortment of WRs with the first team in search of a No. 3? Or is the unit still struggling to find a rhythm? Doubtless the Buckeyes will focus on primary wideout Alex Neutz, forcing SO QB Joe Licata to look elsewhere. That will include RB Devin Campbell out of the backfield or slot or a bevy of tight ends. Campbell, an elusive runner, had an 88-yard TD burst in the Ohio all-star game here in April 2012.
5. Extra points. The Buckeyes have five players suspended today for offseason indiscretions: DBs Bradley Roby and Najee Murray, RBs Rod Smith and Carlos Hyde and TE Marcus Baugh. Hyde and Smith were 1-2 on the depth chart and Roby is on four preseason watch lists. … OSU owns the nation’s longest winning streak (12), has won every season opener since 2000 and has won 61 straight non-conference home games against teams outside the Top 25. … The is the first meeting ever between the programs. … UB has opened a season with a road win once since 1980 (UTEP, 2009).
Outlook: Second-ranked Buckeyes on a season-long mission after last year’s bowl-less 12-0. UB offense has to show it’s improved before thoughts drift to the Bulls hanging close against an opponent of this magnitude. Ohio State, 37-13.