The fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes had little trouble getting past their first two opponents, but the road gets a little tougher this week as they head west to battle the California Golden Bears.
Urban Meyer's Buckeyes extended the nation's longest winning streak to 14 games by blasting visiting San Diego State last Saturday, 42-7. The game was nearly marred by the knee injury sustained by starting quarterback and Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller, but Meyer stated after the game that the injury isn't believed to be serious and there was a chance he could have actually gone back into the game if needed.
"We had a long discussion on the sideline," Meyer said. "I think he could have. But things that make him dangerous are his wheels. And I don't think it would have been so we all decided it was best not to. I think there's a chance he'll be ready next week."
Ohio State will play one more non-conference game next week versus FCS foe Florida A&M before lifting the lid on Big Ten play the following weekend against nationally-ranked Wisconsin.
California is playing its first season with Sonny Dykes at the helm, and the Golden Bears bounced back from a season-opening loss to Northwestern (44-30) to take down FCS foe Portland State (37-30) last weekend to give their new coach his first win.
This bout marks the finale of Cal's three-game homestand to kick off the season, and the team will play its Pac-12 Conference opener at No. 2 Oregon on Sept. 28 after enjoying a bye next week.
Ohio State has won six of the previous seven meetings in the series with California, with the most recent encounter taking place in Columbus last season (35-28 OSU victory). This is the Buckeyes first visit to Berkeley since 1972 (35-18 OSU victory). Cal's only win came in the 1921 Rose Bowl (28-0).
Miller hit on both of his pass attempts (30 yards) before suffering the knee sprain that would sideline him for the rest of the afternoon, but the Buckeyes didn't skip a beat as backup Kenny Guiton had a career day in rushing for one score and throwing for two more, helping the Buckeyes out gain the Aztecs by a 445-280 margin. Devin Smith and Corey Brown caught 13 balls between them for a combined 119 yards. Brown was on the receiving end of both of Guiton's scoring strikes.
Jordan Hall was also instrumental in keeping SDSU on its heels, averaging nearly six yards per attempt in posting 75 yards and a TD on 13 carries.
From a defensive standpoint, Ohio State controlled matters in yielding a mere 64 net rushing yards, and the Buckeyes came up with four turnovers and three sacks. Through two games, opponents are averaging just 68.5 ypg on the ground, and they have yet to score a rushing TD.
C.J. Barnett battled his way back from an ankle sprain to lead the way with seven tackles against the Aztecs, and seven others were credited with at least four stops on the day. Bradley Roby (four tackles, one PBU) also made his first appearance of the season after serving a suspension in the opener.
Jared Goff continues to shine for California here in the early going, as the freshman quarterback has thrown for more than 400 yards in each of his first two games -- the first Golden Bear signal caller to achieve that feat since Pat Barnes turned the trick back in 1996.
In the Golden Bears' win over Portland State last weekend, Goff went 33-of-51 for 485 yards and two TDs, but he was sacked five times. He scored his first career rushing TD as well, and completed at least one pass to 10 different receivers, including Bryce Treggs and Richard Rodgers who each posted 100-yard receiving games. The Cal ground attack was led by Brendan Bigelow and Khalfani Muhammad, who combined for 143 yards and a TD.
Neither team played well defensively, as the two combined for 1,169 yards and 54 first downs. Cal surrendered 245 rushing yards and 308 through the air, as the Vikings averaged better than eight yards per offensive play.
The Golden Bears managed to log two takeaways and a pair of sacks, and Hardy Nickerson led the way with a career-high 12 tackles, while Khairi Fortt had nine and Michael Barton eight.
Dykes knows his defense is going to have to perform much better in the coming weeks, and he put the onus on himself to have his team prepared.
"We just have to do a better job, it is up to me to get our guys ready to play, Dykes said after the PSU game. He continued, "I think we made huge progress to give up as many yards as we did in the first half and as few as we did in the second half. We definitely got better and I thought we made some adjustments that gave us a chance to win the ballgame. You have who you have, that is your football team. You are always going to have some injuries and your team has to step up."