COMMENTARY | Now it's time to see what the Ohio State Buckeyes are really made of.
After defeating Buffalo of the MAC and San Diego State out of the Mountain West by a combined score of 82-27 in their first two games, the Buckeyes will face their first true test of the 2013 season with a trip to Berkeley to face to the California Golden Bears on September 14.
The Golden Bears are 1-1 so far in 2013 under first-year head coach Sonny Dykes. After a 44-30 loss to OSU's Big Ten rival Northwestern on August 31, Cal rebounded with a closer than expected 37-30 victory over FCS opponent Portland State in Week 2.
Despite their record, and their underwhelming performance against a lower-division school, the Golden Bears could be the team to snap Ohio State's 14-game winning streak. These are three reasons why:
The Bucks Could Be Without Braxton Miller
Bothered by a knee injury suffered against San Diego State, it's looking more and more like quarterback Miller will be a game-time decision versus the Golden Bears. If Miller isn't cleared to play, backup Kenny Guiton will make his first start of his Ohio State career.
Guiton did play fairly well in relief of Miller in the win over the Aztecs, going 19 of 28 for 152 yards through the air, along with 83 yards on the ground. Guiton's performance came against a San Diego State team that was torched for 40 points by an FCS team in Week 1, so it's difficult to gauge how he will fare against a California defense that, while they have struggled thus far in 2013, is still of a much higher caliber than that of the Aztecs.
Regardless, an Ohio State offense without Miller is certainly a less explosive unit, and that could spell trouble for the Buckeyes against the Golden Bears, especially because:
Cal Can Move The Football
For a team that has generally been one of the better offensive teams in college football over the last decade, 2012 was a disaster offensively for the Golden Bears in 2012. Despite returning their dynamic duo of quarterback Zach Maynard and wide receiver Kennan Allen, Cal's offense averaged just 23 points per game in 2012, which was a major reason longtime coach Jeff Tedford was let go after last year's 3-9 campaign.
Enter Dykes, who spent the last three seasons as head coach at Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs had possibly the most dangerous offense in college football in 2012, ranking first in the FBS with a whopping 51.5 points per game. The Golden Bears aren't nearly at that level so far in 2013, but they are averaging a respectable 33.5 points per game.
True freshman quarterback Jared Goff has put up some eye-popping numbers in Dykes' pass-happy offense. So far in 2013, he is averaging an FBS-best 467.5 passing yards per game. Goff could cause plenty of headaches for a Buckeyes defense that did struggle at times last season.
Cal Has Already Proven They Can Hang With OSU
On September 15 of last year, the Buckeyes faced the Golden bears at the Horseshoe. In one of the most nerve-wracking games the Bucks played during their undefeated 2012 season, the upstart Golden Bears hung with Ohio State for the entire game that day. After Miller's 72-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith with 3:26 to go, a late interception by safety Christian Bryant finally sealed a 35-28 win for the Buckeyes.
Needless to say, if the Buckeyes had that much trouble with what turned out to be a lousy Cal team in a home game and with Miller at the helm, this trip to Berkeley could provide some real obstacles for Ohio State. The game will be nationally-televised, and the Memorial Stadium crowd is sure to be a raucous one.
It's not going to be the cakewalk that OSU's first two games were, but hopefully, the Buckeyes will able to overcome all of the hurdles facing them against the Golden Bears and increase their current winning streak to an FBS-best 15 games.
Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo Contributor who has followed Ohio State football for over 25 years.
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