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The Suburbanite
  • Meyer expects better start to Ohio State season this year

  • No one could really blame Urban Meyer a year ago if he looked at the scoreboard after his first quarter as Ohio State’s head coach and wondered “What have I gotten myself into?” There are much higher expectations for Meyer’s second year.

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  • No one could really blame Urban Meyer a year ago if he looked at the scoreboard after his first quarter as Ohio State’s head coach and wondered “What have I gotten myself into?”
    The Buckeyes were down to Miami University — the Mid-American Conference team — 7-0 after the first quarter in Meyer’s debut. The offense looked unprepared. Meyer, at times, looked like an unmade bed on the sidelines. Fans watched in a stupor.
    “It should have been worse, could have been worse,” Meyer said, jaws clenched as he thought back to last year’s season opener.
    Saturday at noon the Buckeyes, ranked second in the coaches’ and writers’ polls, host another Mid-American Conference opponent. Buffalo heads to Ohio Stadium, and the Bulls spent last season in MAC mediocrity like Miami did.
    There are much higher expectations for Meyer’s second year.
    While Meyer won his opener — he has never lost a season opener in 11 games — he wasn’t pleased with his team’s performance.
    What would put Meyer in a better mood this year after the first four quarters?
    “I want us to play well. I want us to play clean,” Meyer said. “… I just didn’t think, really, up until about the third or fourth game (last year) that we acted clean. Fundamentally, we were 12-0 and some really great things happened, some incredible leadership, motivation and a team that got really, really close. That is the most important thing.
    “The second-most important part is just blocking, tackling and being in great football position. … I’m hoping that we leave that field Saturday with a win, but you feel good about the fundamentals of your football team. If you do that, that’s a real positive. We didn’t start that way. It took us a while last year.”
    Ohio State is a 36-point favorite against Buffalo, which finished 4-8 last year. The Bulls return every skilled player on offense, and linebacker Khalil Mack is a potential first-round NFL draft pick.
    So while fans and national media have jumped on Ohio State’s bandwagon and practically driven it to Pasadena already, Meyer isn’t buying a ticket just yet.
    “First of all, we’re not that good yet,” Meyer said. “I’ll tell you if I believe we are, and we’re not. We have a long way to go, especially in certain areas. So I don’t feel that.”
    The position that is of the biggest concern to Meyer is linebacker. Ryan Shazier is back, but Curtis Grant is starting in the middle and sophomore Joshua Perry takes over at the strong-side linebacker. Shazier is the only returning starter in the front seven.
    Meyer’s offense should resemble more of the spread offense that fans wanted to see all of last season. Buffalo is replacing starters on that side of the ball as well. The Buckeyes do have an offensive line that has a combined 80 starts between them. Quarterback Braxton Miller is supposed to be a better passer and is a leading Heisman Trophy candidate.
    Page 2 of 3 - Ohio State is deep at running back, even without projected starter Carlos Hyde, suspended for the first three games. Meyer will give Jordan Hall the first opportunity there, then it will be GlenOak graduate Bri’onte Dunn and Warren Ball after that. Expect freshmen Ezekiel Elliott and Dontre Wilson to have a chance to show what they can do as well.
    “I’m hoping my team comes out fast and is not looking past the team we play,” wide receiver Corey Brown said. “I’m hoping we have a great respect for this team and look at them like any other team we play.”
    Brown admitted that was part of the problem in the opener last year. The Buckeyes took Miami for granted.
    “We’re gonna try to put up as many points as possible,” Brown said. “We watched Buffalo on film. They’re not a bad team. They’re a good team on film, from what we’ve seen. You can tell they’re well coached.”
    Buffalo head coach Jeff Quinn, whose school will get $1 million for playing the Buckeyes, said his team has to play like it already has had five games. To have a chance, Buffalo has to be in midseason form and Ohio State stuck in preseason form.
    Quinn said earlier this month President Obama visited the Buffalo campus and he knows “they have a fan in the White House.” Obama probably isn’t taking the Bulls plus 36  Saturday, though.
    “Our kids are gonna line up and play,” Quinn said. “They know who they are. I know who they are. We have better leadership. These are young men who have played against Georgia, Tennessee, Baylor … they’re going to compete. I know it’s going to be a challenge. Our kids are going to compete every snap and the end result will take care of itself.”
    Quinn said he has a plan to “slow down” Braxton Miller. That will be interesting, because it appears Ohio State has a plan to speed up the offense. Offensive coordinator Tom Herman and Brown both hinted at a faster-paced offense that leads to more snaps.
    “I think when and how the ball is distributed may be a little bit different, being that we’ve improved in some areas on the perimeter,” Herman said. “We have improved a little bit at quarterback, too. I think in play selection and ball distribution, there may be some difference from last year. I don’t think our core foundations of who we are and what we believe in will change.”
    This is one of those games that can hurt Ohio State’s national image, too. A win by two touchdowns, and pundits will talk about how the Buckeyes struggled against the MAC. A win by 40, and pundits will want to see the Buckeyes against better competition.
    Page 3 of 3 - “We haven’t done anything yet,” Brown said. “We went undefeated last year, but we didn’t win anything. The people who are still on this team kind of got a taste of what it feels like to go undefeated, but really not to play for anything. Now that we know we have something to play for this year, it’s made everyone hungry, and everyone wants to do it again.”
    Reach Todd at 330-580-8340 or
    todd.porter@cantonrep.com
    On Twitter: @tporterREP