The Cal Bears welcome the #4 Ohio State Buckeyes to Memorial Stadium this Saturday with hopes of crushing the dreams of a national title contender.
Last season, these two teams met in Columbus and the upset-minded Bears almost pulled it off, but Ohio State’s Braxton Miller found Devin Smith for a decisive 72-yard touchdown pass with just over three minutes remaining in the ball game. The Buckeyes escaped with a heartbreaking 35-28 victory. Will the Bears be able to finish the job this time, or will the Buckeyes show why they are a favorite to compete in the national title game?
The game comes down to two highly potent offenses that are polar opposites of each other. The Bears come in with the eighth best offense in the nation with 582.5 yards per game and the number one ranked passing offense with 472.5 yards per game. The offense is led by baby faced gunslinger Jared Goff, who is second in the nation in passing with 935 yards in just two games. The true freshman has been impressive in his first two games, and his future looks extremely bright.
Goff will be helped out by having two outstanding wide receivers in Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper. Both players are extremely quick and are adept at getting open. Treggs is the team’s leading receiver with 21 receptions for 266 yards. Treggs was a highly regarded prep prospect coming out of high school and is the most athletically gifted receiver on the team.
Not far behind is Chris Harper, who has 15 receptions for 209 yards and two touchdowns on the year. Harper was not as highly regarded but he was the most productive of the two last season, as he possesses excellent hands and runs great routes to get open. These two might be one of, if not the top receiving duo in the conference. Their ability to get by and behind opposing defensive backs makes Goff’s job much easier.
The running game has yet to fully materialize with just 110 per game. Playmaker Brendan Bigelow is the feature back, but has yet to find his rhythm with just 136 yards in two contests. Bigelow has big play potential every time he has the ball, but has yet to find a way to get past that last man. He is backed up by speedy freshman Khalfani Muhammad. Muhammad is a two time state champion in the 100 and 200 meter and he is just as dangerous with the ball in his hands. Muhammad has 76 yards on 16 carries and one touchdown on the season.
The Buckeyes’ offense makes its living on the ground with an average of 262 yards per game. The offense is led by Heisman contender Braxton Miller. Miller is a dual threat with 208 yards and two touchdowns through the air and 82 yards on the ground. Miller missed nearly all of the last game with a sprained knee, which he injured on the Buckeyes’ seventh offensive play of the game. Miller is the catalyst of the Buckeyes’ spread option running game. His backup is senior Kenny Guiton, who showed that he is equally capable of running their offense.
They have a deep stable of running backs with Carlos Hyde, Jordan Hall, and Dontre Wilson. Hyde is suspended for this Saturday from an off the field issue from the preseason, but Hall is highly capable of being the feature back. Hall has 234 yards on 34 carries and three touchdowns. Miller and Guiton are the next two rushers with 82 and 89 yards, respectively. The electric true freshman Wilson is multi-tool, similar to how Urban Meyer utilized Percy Harvin at Florida. Wilson has 86 yards on 12 touches in the passing and running game.
The Buckeyes use their passing game for shock plays after opposing defense commit extra defenders in the box to stop the run. It is evident when you look at the average yardage per reception, with the top four receivers averaging over 10 yards per catch. The top two receiving threats are Smith and Corey Brown. Smith has 10 receptions for 107 yards and one touchdowns, while Brown has eight receptions for 98 yards and two touchdowns. The Buckeyes do not really feature their passing, but they use it to pick up big chunks of yards to take advantage of an overaggressive defense.
Both defense are major questions marks, with Cal struggling in its first two games and Ohio State breaking in seven new starters and not facing worthwhile competition.
Cal has been porous at best with an average of 530.5 yards allowed per game and ranks among the bottom of the nation with 37 points allowed per game. The Bears are thin on their defensive depth chart and have suffered numerous injuries that have forced younger plays to step into larger roles.
The Buckeyes were a good defense last year, but is only returning four starters this year. They have not faced tough competition with games against Buffalo and San Diego State. This will be the first potent offense they and they could be in for a long afternoon, but they do have three returning starters in the secondary. Their experience in their defensive backfield could be their saving grace, especially if the front seven can cause pressure and rattle the young signal caller.
This has all the makings of a high scoring affair, with neither defense really prepared to faced either offense. The Bears have a chance to steal this one, if they play a clean game on offense and do a better job of converting drives into touchdowns instead of field goals. It would also help if the defense can create a couple turnovers to give the offense extra possessions. Overall, Ohio State is a more talented and much deeper team. The Buckeyes pull away from the Bears late, as they wear down the defense and put pressure on the freshman quarterback to put the game on his shoulders. Ohio State takes this one 45 – 27.