When Cal and Ohio State met in Columbus in 2012, very few gave Cal much of a chance of making a game of it, much less winning the game. Ohio State was 2-0 and loaded with talent; Cal was 1-1, coming off a disappointing opening game loss to Nevada and a lackluster win against FCS foe Southern Utah. Against the odds and conventional wisdom, though, Cal's speed made things tough on Ohio State and the Bears gave the Buckeyes all they could handle before falling, 35-28, the winning points coming on a Braxton Miller-to-Devin Smith 72-yard touchdown pass against broken coverage with a little over three minutes remaining in the game. The outcome overshadowed a breakout performance from Cal running back Brendan Bigelow, who ran for 160 yards and two touchdowns on just four carries. You've probably seen the highlights of Bigs' runs a million times. So what's one more time?
One year later, the rematch is upon us and the more things change, the more things stay the same. Cal looks a lot different this year than last, with new head coach Sonny Dykes bringing the Bear Raid offense to Berkeley. But just like last year, conventional wisdom gives the Bears little chance to win this one. Ohio State (#3 USA TODAY / #4 AP) comes into Berkeley as a national title contender, riding a nation's best 14-game winning streak and is the prohibitive favorite to win today's game. Cal, meanwhile, is 1-1, albeit with a decidedly different feel from last year's 1-1 start. True, the Bears struggled against an FCS opponent last week, but Cal opened the season by acquitting itself well in a loss to Northwestern (currently #16 USA TODAY / #17 AP), giving Cal fans some hope that this team might be capable of good things And with freshman quarterback Jared Goff leading the nation in passing after the first two games, Cal fans have high hopes for what this season and the future may bring for the Bears' offense.
But high hopes for the season are one thing. Beating Ohio State is quite another. And though Cal made a game of it last year, the fact that the game was so close in Columbus means absolutely no chance that the Bears will sneak up on the Buckeyes this year. Ohio State is coming into Berkeley for its first road game of the season with something to prove to a national television audience.
What can we expect to see from Ohio State offensively? Lots of talent, for sure. Whether OSU quarterback Braxton Miller, injured in the first series of last week's game, will play today will be a gametime decision. Even if he does not, backup quarterback Kenny Guiton has plenty of talent to lead Ohio State's potent offense. Berkelium 97 previewed the OSU offense and the tough task the Cal defense will face:T
The offense is best summed up by this quote we saw earlier:
Meyer's offense is predicated upon arithmetic. The Buckeyes want to run against two deep safeties until they force a defense to commit an additional defender against the run. The passing game is designed to attack one-high safety schemes. If a defense gets even more aggressive and plays with no safety support, Meyer and Herman's primary answer is one of two things - beat man coverage over the top or attack the edge with speed option.
Once the bleeding starts on Saturday, it will be very difficult to stop. They key is playing well enough to avoid making such advantageous (for tOSU) adjustments. Can we do that on Saturday? Probably not.
norcalnick previewed the Ohio State defense. While noting that the Buckeyes have a whole lot of new personnel on that defense, it is still not going to be an easy task for the Bear Raid to put up points against a talent-laden (albeit young talent) unit.
The Buckeyes aren't just remaking their defensive line - they're basically remaking their entire front seven. Ryan Shazier is the only returning starter at linebacker, which means that they are breaking in six entirely new players up front.
To be fair, Shazier is a pretty damn good foundation, and Curtis Grant has seen plenty of the field in a non-starter role. [Joshua] Perry is a 4 star recruit himself. This is what you get when you have back-to-back top 5 recruiting classes. Cal fans really need to hope that the young guys aren't 100% ready for the first decent offense they've seen in 2013.
Key Matchup: Linebackers vs. Nickel/Dime coverage. Does Ohio State decide to keep their linebackers on the field to cover Cal's 4 and 5 WR sets? Do they play constant nickel and dime coverage?
And that's not even mentioning the Ohio State secondary, which features three returning starters and an All-America candidate in cornerback Bradley Roby.
Can Cal pull the upset? If so, it will be Cal's best win since...since...since...well, since probably the last time Cal beat the third-ranked team in the country. Remember it?
That was a looooong time ago. Time to get another one like that at Memorial Stadium, amirite?
This is your pregame open thread. Limber up for kickoff here. Watch for the link to the first quarter thread as the gametime draws near and follow all the quarter threads as the game goes on.
Enjoy the game and GO BEARS!