OSU Preview: Passing Game Could Be The Difference On Saturday
This weekend in Columbus brings another dreaded 12:00 p.m kick-off. Nobody under the age of 65 likes going to midday games – it’s hot, early, and interrupts standard lunch hours. At least there is ample time for that essential post-game nap.
Regardless, the UCF Knights travel to the banks of the Olentangy on Saturday, fresh off a 56-14 victory over mighty Akron. The Buckeyes come into the game 1-0 after a 56-10 win against Miami (OH). This is actually the first meeting between the two programs, though head coaches Urban Meyer and George O’Leary faced each other in the 1999 Gator Bowl, with O’Leary the head coach at Georgia Tech and Meyer an assistant at Notre Dame. O’Leary’s squad came out on top in that contest, 35-28.
Both of these teams feature run-heavy offenses with sophomore quarterbacks in Blake Bortles and Braxton Miller. Miller has nearly a full year of starting experience under his belt, while last week’s win at Akron was Bortles’ first collegiate start. In order for UCF to remain competitive in this game, it will have to get off to a fast start. A few completions and a score would do wonders for the young quarterback’s confidence, as the Knights will be playing in front of nearly 100,000 more people than they did last week.
A quick start is also important for Ohio State, as it struggled early last week against Miami and did not get on the board until the 2nd quarter. Another key for the Bucks is winning the turnover battle. UCF forced four turnovers against Akron, three of which were converted into touchdowns. Urban Meyer places great emphasis on field position, so OSU will be focused on protecting the ball and not giving the Knights a short field.
Though both teams boast strong rushing attacks, the passing game will be the determining factor this weekend. Last season, both defenses gave up less than four yards a carry. Last week was even stingier, with UCF allowing 2.6 yards a carry and OSU yielding a modest -0.1. The teams also allowed a combined 24 points in their opening games. Granted these games were against lesser opponents, but points may be in short supply. The team that can have the most success throwing the ball should come out on top in this game.
Aside from the battle on the field, there will also be a colorful battle in the stands, as the OSU Athletic Department is asking fans to “Scarlet and Gray” the Shoe. Apparently UCF has also set forth instructions to its fans to wear black on Saturday. Not an ideal color for the mid-day heat, but it’s some good school spirit and friendly competition.
Look for this game live on ESPN2 at Noon eastern, or taped-delayed on NBC.