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Five Thoughts on Ohio State’s 35-28 Victory Over California

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | On Saturday, September 15, 12th-ranked Ohio State held on to beat California 35-28. Braxton Miller was 16 of 30 for 249 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Buckeyes.

Here are five thoughts on the game:

The Buckeyes have their receiver of the future

Ohio State's wide receivers were a question mark entering the 2012 season, but it's becoming clear that there is at least one that they can rely on. Devin Smith wowed the college football world when he jumped up and caught Braxton Miller's pass one-handed for a touchdown in Week 1. Against Cal, he made a brilliant play in the end zone to score his first touchdown of the game. Then with the game on the line, Miller and Smith connected on a 72-yard catch-and-run for the score to give Ohio State the 35-28 lead.

Smith is still young and inconsistent, but he's proving to be Miller's best option at wide receiver. With his ability to connect with Miller and make plays in the end zone, it's beginning to look like Smith is going to be a star at Ohio State.

Poor tackling

Ohio State's defense did a lot of good things against Cal, but the unit is still having problems finishing plays. For example, the Buckeyes missed at least three tackles on Brendan Bigelow's 81-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. They also missed two tackles on Bigelow's second touchdown run. This is an issue that Ohio State's defensive staff must solve now. The team's Big Ten slate is full of opponents that will focus on the run, and if the Buckeyes' front seven can't finish their tackles, it's going to be a long season.

The pass rush

After proving unable to rush the passer in the first two games of the season, the Buckeyes sacked Golden Bears' quarterback Zach Maynard six times on Saturday. The difference appears to be more blitz packages and the return of defensive end Nathan Williams to the lineup. Williams attacked the Cal offensive line from the moment he set foot on the field, which gave defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins and John Simon more freedom to rush inside. That combination plagued the Golden Bears all afternoon.

Miller's progress

There's a lot to like about Braxton Miller's performance against Cal. He made better decisions than he did last week against Central Florida, and he took fewer risks with the football. However, the problem that I'm seeing with Miller is that he's impatient. There were moments when he had more time to stay in the pocket and run through his progressions instead of scrambling, especially in the third quarter.

Hopefully, he'll grow more patient as he continues to learn the offense and mature as a quarterback. There's little doubt that Miller has talent to win the Heisman Trophy during his career. He just needs to calm down, read his progressions and make the throws.

How good is Ohio State?

The Buckeyes are 3-0, but they haven't been dominant. In fact, there have been times this season when Ohio State hasn't looked very good at all. For example, Cal's defense held the Buckeyes to just 25 yards of total offense in the third quarter. The Golden Bears also racked up 512 yards of their own, including 224 yards rushing against the normally strong Buckeyes' run defense.

When you consider that Cal is unranked and has struggled in the past two seasons, you have to wonder just how good Ohio State is. Are the Buckeyes an above-average team or are they really worthy of their record? Fortunately, we're going to find out soon enough. The Michigan State game is just two weeks away.

Derek Ciapala has been following Ohio State athletics since childhood. He has been published on Yahoo! Sports, and multiple other websites. You can check him out on Facebook or Twitter @dciapala.

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