Created on Tuesday, 17 September 2013 Written by RUSTY MILLER, AP Sports Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — What's brewing with the 2013 Ohio State Buckeyes ..
Buckeyes try their best to get up for Florida A&M
RUSTY MILLER, AP Sports Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — No. 4 Ohio State's players aren't exactly thrilled to be playing a Football Championship Subdivision opponent on Saturday.
Asked if he'd prefer to be playing a team similar in stature to the Buckeyes, safety Christian Bryant said, "I would. I like to showcase our talent. I would like to play, like, bigger games."
That's the dilemma facing the Buckeyes (3-0) heading into Saturday's game at Ohio Stadium against Florida A&M (1-2). They would like to tune up for the start of Big Ten play the following week, but first they must play an overwhelming underdog that doesn't exactly get the juices flowing.
Coach Urban Meyer recognizes the problem. He's heaped praise on the talent of opponents Buffalo, San Diego State and California — calling at least one player from each as one of the best in the nation at their position. But even he can't make the Rattlers sound like a viable threat.
"I could give you some coach-speak up here (but) it does make a difference" when the opponent is from a lower division, Meyer said. "So we are going to have to really coach (the players) hard this week."
The game marks the second time in recent years that Ohio State has elected to pay big money to an FCS — or, in the case of Youngstown State back in 2008, NCAA Division I-AA — school to come to Columbus.
Florida A&M, coming off losses to Tennessee State and Samford, will get $900,000 to take on the Buckeyes at noon on Saturday.
If he had a choice, Bryant said the opponent would "definitely be a top-10 team."
"But it's really out of our control," he said. "I'm not really sure who makes the schedule, but we've still just got to go out there and face whatever team is put in front of us."
The days of ranked teams playing FCS teams may be nearing the end, with Ohio State and most other top teams upgrading their schedules to accommodate the new four-team football playoff which begins next season. The Buckeyes have home-and-home series with Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, TCU, Oregon and Texas over the next decade.
For now, though, the Rattlers will have to do.
Ohio State is averaging 44.7 points a game — and that's without its top quarterback, Braxton Miller, who has missed almost all of the past two games with a sprained ligament in his left knee.
Meyer isn't worried. He stopped short of calling an overmatched team a "faceless opponent," but said he believes his team is in the right frame of mind.
The Buckeyes entertain Wisconsin a week from Saturday in their first conference game of the season. It's difficult to muster much motivation for the Rattlers.
"The one thing I told my guys today, I said, 'Listen, this week is about us,'" tight ends and fullbacks coach Tim Hinton said. "This is a challenge (for) us. The bottom line is how well do we do what we need to do. Normally the odds are in our favor that if we do a pretty good job, we'll win the game."
The Buckeyes don't have a whole lot to clean up. They've walloped all three opponents so far, outrushing them by a 3-to-1 margin while passing for almost as many yards and forcing almost twice as many turnovers.
There still are some wrinkles to iron out, however. Cal quarterback Jared Goff threw for 371 yards, so maybe the pass rush could supply more pressure.
Defensive line coach Mike Vrabel said there's no hiding from the fact that an FCS team doesn't capture the imagination of the players.
"The players know it, everybody knows it," he said. "But our job is to go out there and be ready to play 60 minutes of physical, tough, Ohio State football."
Backup quarterback Kenny Guiton has been stellar since stepping in for the injured Miller. He's completing almost 70 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and just one interception. This week's Big Ten offensive player of the week has also run for 175 yards the past two games.
Regardless of the opponent, Guiton said, the goals are always pretty much the same.
"You come out and you sharpen up your tools," he said. "We want to be perfect. You're never going to be perfect, but that's what you play for."
BUCKEYES BUZZ: There's nothing really new when it comes to QB Braxton Miller's status.
Speaking at his weekly news conference, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said as last week progressed he knew that it would be difficult for Miller to bounce back from a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
"I know the MCL injury very well and he had a grade two, which means those things heal," Meyer said. "With a lineman or an immobile quarterback you can probably get them in there quicker. For who Braxton is as a player, I kind of in my heart knew it was going to be hard, but I kept hoping that he would be ready in an emergency situation. ... But I knew probably on Thursday that (his playing) was going to be a long shot. And then on Friday, it didn't look good, and then Saturday we tried it one more time and it just wasn't stable."
Miller, wearing a large, thick brace on the knee, came out early before the game and soft-tossed passes. But he then went back into the locker room and didn't return for the pregame warmups.
Meyer said he thought Miller will be available to go for Saturday's home game with Florida A&M (noon, Ohio Stadium, Big Ten Network).
"I'd say there's a pretty good chance," Meyer said. "I don't want to give a percentage. He's probable to play this week."
NO BAND: One of the great marching bands in the country belongs to Florida A&M. But it will not be making the trip when the Rattlers play at Ohio State on Saturday.
AWARD WINNERS: Ohio State swept the top two weekly awards presented by the Big Ten office.
QB Kenny Guiton, a fifth-year senior from Houston, was the offensive player of the week. All he did was complete 21 of 32 passes for 276 yards and four touchdowns — all career highs — in the 52-34 win at California. He threw three TD passes in the opening 6 minutes, including a 90-yarder on the second play of the game to Devin Smith that stands as the longest play from scrimmage in school history.
Oh, and did we mention it was his first career start? Not too shabby.
LB Ryan Shazier captured the top defender award, despite the 34 points and 503 yards surrendered by the Buckeyes.
Shazier, a junior from Plantation, Fla., had 12 tackles including 10 solos. Ohio State's defense did "hold" Cal to 371 passing yards, 100 below its season average. Shazier also forced a fumble and had a sack while winning the award for the third time in his career.
The special teams player of the week was also from Plantation, Fla. — Illinois P Justin DuVernois. He averaged 45.2 yards on five punts in a 34-24 loss to No. 19 Washington at Chicago's Soldier Field.
The freshman of the week was Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg who completed 21 of 21 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown in a 34-31 loss to Central Florida.
HE SAID IT: Meyer, when asked about how difficult it was for coaches in a game that many believe to be a mismatch: "I've coached in a few games where I was a 21-point underdog. Those are not real fun to go coaching in, either. Been a while since I had one of those."
FAMU INJURY LIST: A&M will be without its offensive coordinator, of all things. Quinn Gray has been hospitalized with an undisclosed illness and is not expected to rejoin the team for the trip to Columbus. Receivers coach Ernie Mills will take his spot.
"I didn't know. That's a tough situation," Meyer said of Quinn's absence. "One time (at Florida) we lost the game against Auburn and my offensive coordinator had appendicitis the night before. He came back for the game, but he wasn't healthy. So (Iosing your coordinator), that's a problem."
OSU INJURY LIST: DE Adolphus Washington (groin) is questionable for this week. DL Tommy Schutt has had foot surgery and will be out for at least another month.
LOOKING ELSEWHERE: Ohio State TEs Jeff Heuerman (four) and Nick Vannett (two) have totaled six catches through three games.
Their position coach, Tim Hinton, says he hasn't been moved to try to get more throws to his big targets.
He said there have been some passes called that never went to the TEs because, "The doggone defense didn't cooperate."
LONG-DISTANCE CHARGES: Guiton said he spent 2 hours on the phone with his parents this weekend. They couldn't go to the game at Cal, but regaled him with how they were whooping and hollering around the TV set back in Texas.
He also said a lot of old friends and acquaintances came out of the woodwork to congratulate him after his record-setting day.
"There were too many, too many people to even speak about one by one," he said with a broad smile.
Regarding his honors — he was selected as the Walter Camp national player of the week in addition to taking Big Ten and team honors — the career backup said, "I never saw that coming."