- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The nonconference schedule comes to a close this afternoon as No. 4 Ohio State gets one last tuneup before diving into the Big Ten.
Signal-caller shuffle: The Buckeyes are enormous favorites at home against the Rattlers, and it doesn't figure to make much difference who lines up at quarterback to lead the offense to a victory. But there is still some uncertainty about Braxton Miller's injured knee, and after playing just seven snaps two weeks ago and not at all in the win over California, there might also be some rust given his lack of live reps so far this season. So if Miller is close to 100 percent, coach Urban Meyer will have to decide how much work to give the starter ahead of next week's league opener with Wisconsin. Either way, Kenny Guiton will still have chances to add to his impressive numbers early in the season -- but deciding when or if to get Miller back in the mix is perhaps the most pressing concern this weekend.
On the run: The return of Carlos Hyde after a three-game suspension will change the other dynamic in the Ohio State backfield also, and Meyer and the staff will have another decision to make as it determines how to best split up the workload on the ground. Jordan Hall has done nothing to lose his starting spot and ranks among the most productive rushers in the country through three games. Dontre Wilson's blistering speed is already allowing him to make a big splash early. But Hyde was critically important to the attack last year with his bruising rushing style and brutal effectiveness in the red zone, and if nothing else, having him back gives the Buckeyes options.
Wrap it up: Given the volume of plays the Buckeyes faced last week at Cal, a few blown assignments were bound to happen on the road against an uptempo attack. But defensive captains Christian Bryant and Ryan Shazier aren't excusing those errors for themselves or anybody else on the unit, and they easily rattled off the exact number of blown tackles (16) to make it clear that expectations weren't met. Potentially having the chance to put more linebackers on the field this week could help with that after needing to deploy a personnel grouping with seven defensive backs against Cal, but regardless of who is on the field, the Buckeyes are focused on limiting mistakes before the competition gets tougher.
Look alive: What the Rattlers may lack in overall depth and talent, they should more than make up for with relentless aggression on defense. The Buckeyes are expecting to face an onslaught of blitzes and pressure packages from Florida A&M, which will make it imperative for the offensive line to be locked in to protect either Miller or Guiton. It could also be a useful tool for Miller if he does see some action, since the live bullets flying at him could force him to make his reads quickly, get the ball out of his hands and get used to game speed again.
Massive mismatch: On paper, Florida A&M may come in as the most overmatched squad Ohio State has faced in the modern era. That certainly gives the Rattlers a chance to pull off something special and unforgettable, but if the Buckeyes have taken practice as seriously as they claimed and haven't overlooked this opponent in favor of glancing ahead at Wisconsin, there really shouldn't be any resistance for them once kickoff rolls around. Meyer will be looking for any sign that his team isn't focused, though, and with a huge game looming, he won't hesitate to let the Buckeyes know if they're not meeting his standards.
8hDan Murphy and Mitch Sherman
7hSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
1dMitch Sherman and Dan Murphy
3dDan Murphy and Mitch Sherman