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Five storylines: Ohio State

9/13/2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Looking at the hot topics for the Buckeyes as they prepare for a visit from California to the Horseshoe on Saturday.

1. Spread it around: The new offense depends on the quarterback to make a decision on every play. Ohio State would probably benefit in the long run if the guy behind center didn’t have to do quite so much work himself on every snap. There is essentially unanimous consent that Braxton Miller can’t continue to average 22 rushing attempts per game and stay healthy, especially when those hits are added to those he’s also taking on occasion as a passer. His talents as a rusher make it tempting to just let Miller do his thing, and the Buckeyes gave in last week thanks to the combination of his skills and the rash of injuries at running back. Miller proved his toughness with those 27 carries and three touchdowns, but he’s going to need to cut that first number in half to get to the 12 to 15 attempts Urban Meyer views as ideal.

2. Coming hot: Whether it’s injuries, blocking schemes or something else entirely that has slowed down the pass rush doesn’t make any difference to the Buckeyes. All that matters is they haven’t been getting enough pressure from the defensive line, and they have vowed to correct that. California has enough talent at the skill positions to make a defense pay if given time to operate, so if Ohio State can’t get to the quarterback with four guys, it’s more than willing to dial up a few more blitzes this week. That would potentially put more strain on a secondary that has been hit for some big plays down the field. But if the throwing window is closing more quickly, it also could help them add to an interception total that is already at five through two games.

3. On the run: The Buckeyes will tinker with their rushing game by borrowing players from other positions, starting with fullback Zach Boren and wide receiver Corey "Philly" Brown. But they’re going to need a true tailback to step up and lend a hand in the absence of the top two guys on the depth chart, and true freshman Bri’onte Dunn is going to have a bright spotlight on him. Jordan Hall could return against the Golden Bears, but for now Dunn is listed as the starter and will be counted on heavily to help keep the rushing attempts down for Miller. The early returns have been encouraging for Dunn, with 12 carries accounting for 60 yards with a touchdown over two games. Even if he just matched those numbers in one afternoon of work against Cal, Ohio State would likely take it.

4. Talk it out: For all the early success forcing turnovers, there have been some communication breakdowns in the secondary that have allowed a few receivers to find ample room to operate and given the Ohio State coaching staff plenty of teaching points. There’s little margin for error against a wide receiver as skilled as Cal's Keenan Allen..

5. Something special: If he doesn’t have to, Meyer would prefer not to simply boot a kickoff through the end zone with the ball coming out to the 25-yard line this season. With a kicker who can pick his spots and an athletic, eager-to-please unit in coverage, the Buckeyes' coach might be able to consistently get his way. Last week against a potentially dangerous return team, Ohio State pinned Central Florida inside the 20-yard on three consecutive kickoffs -- a key stat for a coach who prizes field position and effort on special teams. Jamal Marcus is leading a pack of young guns trying to catch Meyer’s eye, and the freshman linebacker did just that with a couple tackles in the win over the Knights.