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Q&A: What do those Buckeyes think about Cal?

We're going crazy in anticipation of the big match-up against Ohio State and expanding past our normal MO of talking to one opponent blog and talking to two whole blogs: The Buckeye Battle Cry and Land-Grant Holy Land. That's a 100% increase in blog talkery!


1. So, Ken Guiton? If he in fact is Ohio State's starter on Saturday, how much if at all would that change OSU's offense?

The Buckeye Battle Cry--Eric Gingrich (tBBC--EG): Yes, Ken Guiton! We know him as "Smooth Jazz" Kenny G, and it matches his play style well. Guiton is a smart quarterback who fits into Urban Meyer's system perfectly. He's a dangerous runner and a capable passer, but doesn't have an "Elite" quality arm like Braxton Miller is said to now possess. He's confident and gets the job done.

Guiton being in the game won't change much. He's probably going to miss on a longer pass or two that Braxton might hit due to his inaccuracy, but he's going to run the zone read and the screen play a little better and not put the entire offense on his shoulders. In other words, he's a more balanced QB than Braxton is.

Land-Grant Holy Land--Ted Glover (LGHL--TG): None. He's not as fast, but he knows the offense and he's talented enough. He can make all the throws that are required, and he is actually better executing the read option handoff than Miller is. He's not as dynamic, but he's an extremely capable backup, and Ohio State's offense will be fine with Guiton, should he play.

2. Last year, Johns Hankins and Simon terrorized Cal's backfield. Both are departed for the NFL. How does Ohio St.'s defensive line look this year without those talents?

The Buckeye Battle Cry--Ken Kohl (tBBC--KK): Yes, Jonathan Hankins did treat Cal's backfield like it was an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord last year. But he's gone, as are the balance of last year's starters. This year's starters can be summarized in two words; 'talented' and 'young'. Of the nine players most likely to see the field, there are 3 Juniors, 4 Sophomores and 2 Freshmen.

We, as fans, knew the defensive line would be a concern this year because of the youth and inexperience in playing together, as well as their meshing in with linebacker play. Their opening game play seemed a bit tentative to me, but it looked like they were much more aggressive against San Diego State. They need to be aggressive this week, because Cal has too good of an offense to sit back.

The tackles (Michael Bennett 6'3" 285) and Joel Hale (6'4" 310) are decent sized and very active.The ends of Noah Spence (6'3" 252) and Adolphus Washington (6'4" 295) are strong and athletic. Spence is an absolute terror coming off the edge, so Goff (and his linemen) loses sight of him at his peril. Washington was a bit dinged last week with a groin injury, but Steve Miller (6'3" 255) had a very good game in his place.

I imagine that Coach Vrabel has a plan in place to rotate players through frequently to keep them relatively fresh to enable a significant pass rush.

LGHL-- TG: It's as talented, but obviously not as experienced. There's a bit of a depth issue at defensive tackle with Tommy Schutt out for another month, but the DE position is doing fine with Adoplhus Washington (who is also hurt) and Noah Spence. Michael Bennett is a DT that's really come on in the last couple weeks, and is on the verge of really becoming an inside force.

3. Buffalo and San Diego State didn't provide much of an obstacle. What, if anything, did you learn about the Buckeyes from their first two wins?

tBBC--EG: They may not have provided much of an obstacle, but they did serve their purpose well. Considering our defense is so new (6 new starters in the front seven) it's handy to have a game or two to grow into the roles and slow the game down a little. It keeps the new guys from feeling like they're getting tossed off a cliff to see if they can fly.

The biggest problem with the Buffalo game is that we were missing a few key players. Carlos Hyde and Bradley Roby were both out with suspensions (Hyde still is), Corey Linsley was held out after only 16 snaps due to an injured foot, and then we lost Ryan Shazier (the only returning starter in the front seven). So, taking much away from Buffalo was difficult at best.

San Diego State was a better litmus test for this team, except for missing Braxton Miller for functionally the entire game. The defense, not surprisingly, looked a lot better against the Aztecs and held them to only 7 (really 14, but saved by the half) points. Essentially we learned that the young guns are going to get the job done well, but we'll go through some growing pains to get there.

LGHL--TG: On offense, it seems that Braxton Miller is a lot more poised in running the offense, and has better touch on his throws than last year. The Buckeyes also are deep at running back, with Jordan Hall, Rod Smith, and Carlos Hyde coming back next week. Also, freshman Dontre Wilson is the real deal. Ignore him at your peril. On defense, it's a much better tackling unit early on, and MLB Curtis Grant has helped OLB Ryan Shazier stabilize a front seven that saw six guys leave due to graduation last year.

4. Considering the type of offense Urban Meyer favors, I don't think he'll be surprised by anything Sonny Dykes and Tony Franklin scheme up. Is there any reason to think that Cal will be at a major advantage or disadvantage based on the new, high-tempo offense?

tBBC--EG: There will probably be a slight disadvantage, but it will be a wash since it will act against both teams. Both defenses regularly face this high-tempo offense in practice, something a number of teams in D1 don't do - or at least don't do regularly, or don't do well. That means the defense is going to be somewhat more ready for what will be thrown at them than usual.

The disadvantage may come in the fact that OSU has had 2 years to get this system down, whereas Cal has had only one. Perhaps experience and familiarity play a more significant role?

LGHL--TG: I don't think they'll have any particular advantage. Ohio State plays an up tempo style, and should be able to mimic what Cal does in practice. I like OSU's athleticism on defense, and although freshman QB Jared Goff is talented, he'ss till a freshman. I like the matchup on both sides of the ball for OSU.

5. On a scale of 1-10, how terrified should the Bears be of Dontre Wilson? Are there any other offensive weapons we will need to worry about?

tBBC--EG: Dontre Wilson's terrifying factor at the moment is only about a 5. He's a speedy, potentially dangerous weapon, but we've yet to see him totally unleashed. He did some nice things against Buffalo as a kick returner, but both of OSU's turnovers that game were directly related to giving him the ball (he fumbled one, and we threw a pick that was intended for him). Against San Diego State, he scored a nice touchdown and executed well in the offense, but he wasn't a major target. If we start targeting him a lot, feel free to ratchet that up to about a 7.

As for other weapons? Be very afraid of Jordan Hall (#2 last week, #7 in the past), who can gash you for big carries either in the running game or as a receiver. Corey "Philly" Brown (#10) is an excellent possession receiver and a potentially game-breaking punt returner. And last but not least is Devin Smith, who is our leading receiver in terms of yardage.

Amusingly, when I checked the stats, Dontre Wilson has 8 carries for 62 yards (7.8 ypc) and a touchdown on the season, plus 4 receptions for 24 yards. That's a lot different than I had him mentally pegged at. Put him at a "6" on the terrifying scale, if you please.

LGHL--TG: About an 8. He is slowly getting worked into the offense more and more, and he has speed for days. If Miller plays, he's the guy you need to stop, but WR's Philly Brown and Devin Smith have really stepped up their game from last year. RB Jordan Hall has looked dominant early on, and has run with authority.

6. Now that Jake Stoneburner has departed 1) who is the team's top tight end and 2) who now has the best name on the team?

The Buckeye Battle Cry--MaliBuckeye (tBBC--MB): Ohio State's two primary tight ends this season are Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman (pronounced "Higher, Man"... something that folks in Berkeley might be able to relate to), the latter of which seems to be the most active in the offense to this point. While both have decent wheels, they're not going to be used to take the lid off of a defense the way Stoneburner did; he was a converted receiver.

My vote for "Best Name On The Roster" would be Joe Ramstetter, a freshman receiver from Cincinnati that sounds as if he should be singing lead for a thrash-core band.

LGHL--TG: 1) Jeff Heuerman

2) Frank Epitropoulos, WR. Ehp-uh-trop-uh-lus. Just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?

7. Are you afraid that potential future the Ohio State Buckeyes might see the beauty of Berkeley and Memorial Stadium in this game and decide to come to Cal instead?

tBBC--MB: That's a valid concern, but I'm not sure that Ohio State and Cal are pursuing the same types of athletes. California is a rich recruiting bed, and there's more than enough talent to go around... and the same is true for Ohio (and the rest of the midwest, which OSU currently owns). Looking forward to seeing the beauty up close, but not too worried yet about recruiting battles with the Golden Bears.

Plus, you can dodge a tornado but you're pretty much screwed in an earthquake- you've still got a fault line under your stadium, right?

LGHL--TG: No. Your governor is Jerry Brown, your state can't balance a checkbook and is perpetually on fire or covered in mud. Although it would be cool to play for a man named Sonny Dykes.

8. What does OSU have to do to win this game?

tBBC--KK: Short answer; outscore Cal. OK, on to your question...

If Ohio State is patient, on both offense and defense. they'll win. In the very possible event of Cal taking an early lead, the Buckeyes need to stay with their game plan. Cal runs a lot of plays per game and chances are that a few of them will get away from OSU.

Offensively, the Buckeyes need to focus on their ground game. Thus far, the Cal defense hasn't shown much capability to stop the run, allowing 5.75 yards per carry. Ohio State has a lot of quality running backs that bring different skills; Cal may very well see them all.

Defensively, the Buckeyes need to make Cal one-dimensional, which truthfully, shouldn't be that hard. Cal struggles running the ball (2.9 yards per carry) but hoo boy, do the Golden Bears love to throw the ball. If OSU gets an early lead and "forces" Cal into a passing game, then OSU's linemen (see Question #2) will pin their ears back and make life interesting for young Mr. Goff..

Next, Ohio State needs to protect the ball. They've had three turnovers in two games. The Buckeyes cannot give Sonny Dykes' offense any additional possessions. Finally, the Buckeyes need to eliminate committing penalties. Through two games, OSU has committed 17 penalties for 169 yards. Against the explosiveness of Cal, this area needs to be cleaned up.

LGHL--TG: Make sure Brendan Bigelow doesn't get 652 yards and six touchdowns on three carries again, force Jared Goff into making mistakes, and when they can't do that, don't give cal a short field. If you can make them have to consistently drive the field on OSU's defense, they're going to have a tough time scoring enough to beat the Buckeyes.

9. Whom do you want to punch in the face?

tBBC--EG: I'm probably a little outside the norm among most Buckeye fans, but the answer would almost certainly have to be Bo Ryan, Head Basketball Coach of the University of Wisconsin. What a raging tool that guy is.

Also, Robert Reynolds, a former OSU linebacker who choked Jim Sorgi in the 2003 Ohio State - Wisconsin game. That was a decade ago, and I still rage about it.

The Buckeye Battle Cry--Clair: I want to punch grumpy cat in the face for ripping off Nick Saban's likeness. I want to punch anyone in the face that uses the terms "pre-planning", and "it is what it is". I want to punch Brady Hoke in the face but I don't want to get loser on my fist. If the NCAA had a face I'd punch it for allowing Johnny Manziel to play football this year, for screwing up with Cam Newton, Miami U and what I'm sure will be no repercussions for Oklahoma State or the entire SEC.

LGHL--TG: Brady Hoke. Always Brady Hoke.

Our thanks to Ted Glover of Land-Grant Holy Land and the neverending crew of those poor bloggers stranded in Columbus with The Buckeye Battle Cry for answering our questions. The privilege was theirs! Please check out their sites as they've got some great Cal-related content this week, including some As that CGB provided for tBBC's Qs.