As always, we have our Ten Pressing Questions feature to prepare you for today’s season-opening game as No. 18 Ohio State hosts Miami (Ohio) at Ohio Stadium (noon, Big Ten Network).
Braxton Miller returns for his second season as OSU's starting QB
We will provide the answers on Sunday. Here we go:
* 1. So what does this new Ohio State spread offense really look like? – We’ve heard all about it, but look for Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman to take the wraps off their shiny new offense on Saturday. It will be interesting to see what formations are utilized and which players are featured, certainly.
* 2. How has Braxton Miller improved as a passer? – On his call-in show this week, Meyer talked about how Miller’s fundamentals fell apart when he had wide open receivers last year. He’s had the whole off-season to correct those issues and will be counted upon to be a master distributor of the ball in the new offense.
* 3. How does Carlos Hyde handle being the lead tailback? – All of the talk in camp was how the junior Hyde had polished his game and become the kind of every down back the Buckeyes want to rely on. With at least another week until Jordan Hall will be back, Hyde should have every chance to show what he can do.
* 4. Who will emerge as the playmakers at the wide receiver positions? – They moved Jake Stoneburner from tight end to wide receiver to take full advantage of his abilities. At the same time, Devin Smith and Philly Brown seemed poised to take the next step as well. These three should battle all season for top receiver honors.
* 5. How will Ohio State’s new offensive line respond? – There are three new starters on the line and one of the returnees is playing a new position with Jack Mewhort moving from guard to tackle. This is a great first test for that unit – even if it is “just” a MAC opponent.
* 6. Can the Buckeyes fire up the pass rush and will Nathan Williams be a part of it? – The Buckeyes could have one of the best defensive lines in the country this year, led by All-American candidate John Simon at end. But the Buckeyes must exert consistent pressure against Miami QB Zac Dysert, back for his third year as the starter. Williams missed all but one game last year due to a knee injury. His return could aid this cause.
* 7. How will the OSU linebackers hold up? – It was a down year for OSU’s linebacker play last year. The hope is that Ryan Shazier, Etienne Sabino and new MLB Curtis Grant will come through big as rugged playmakers. Shazier and Sabino have at least played some previously. But Grant hardly saw any meaningful snaps last year.
* 8. Can the secondary keep up with Miami’s passing attack? – OSU has five of its top six secondary players back from last year. But Meyer is adamant that group must improve. Their first test is against Dysert, who is closing in on Ben Roethlisberger’s MU career passing record.
* 9. What will the defensive package look like? – OSU’s defense, as a whole, took on some water in last year’s 6-7 season. It’s time for that unit to get back on point. Luke Fickell takes over as the coordinator with Everett Withers as the co-coordinator. Let’s see what they’ve been working on.
* 10. What impact will the special teams have? – The Buckeyes have a veteran kicker (Drew Basil) and punter (Ben Buchanan). But their new punt block unit has been labeled a “freak show.” They are on the clock and we will see how good they can be.
* Bonus Question: Can the Buckeyes get their first win since early November last year? – The Buckeyes lost their last four games to end the 2011 season. They have not had a string of five straight losses over two seasons since the first two years of the program in 1890-91. They haven’t lost to an Ohio team since 1921 and they haven’t lost a home opener since 1978. In Meyer’s debut as the OSU head coach, this is not the time for that trend to change.
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