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Austin Ward previews the final home game of the season for No. 3 Ohio State as it looks to keep pace in the BCS standings as it hosts Indiana (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2).
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The chance to win a championship was right there at the top of the list for the team. Not far behind that, developing better leadership skills was critical as an individual.
But even when he was rattling off the reasons he elected to return for another year at Ohio State way back in the spring, Bradley Roby, a fourth-year junior, didn’t exactly hide from the fact that this likely will be his last season in Columbus. And while the chance to boost his professional stock might not have been among the most important factors in his return, Roby certainly has been aware all along that he would have plenty of high-profile opportunities to audition when the lights were on and all the attention would be on him.
“This is definitely one of the games that I came back for — prime time, ABC, night game, nobody else playing. Why not?” Roby said just before opening Big Ten play against Wisconsin last month. “That’s why I play football, to play in big games against good opponents, versus very good opponents when everybody is watching.
+ EnlargeChuck Rydlewski/Icon SMIBradley Roby stayed in school for a lot of reasons. Playing prime-time, spotlight games was one.”I love to make plays when everybody is watching.” Those turns in the spotlight and a decision to stick around at Ohio State don’t come without risk, though, since just as many people are tuned in and watching closely when things don’t go quite as well as planned.
Roby certainly hasn’t been bad for the No. 4 Buckeyes so far, currently sitting fourth on the team in tackles with 32, making two interceptions and breaking up six other passes. Heading into his third crack at a primetime showcase in four games, he has offered more than a few reminders why he was a first-team All-American a year ago while showing the kind of natural talent that allowed him to flirt with the NFL in the first place.
But like his season as a whole, the two previous outings in front of a national audience have been a mixed bag, and Ohio State certainly could use something more closely resembling the consistently elite version of Roby from a year ago when it hosts Penn State and star receiver Allen Robinson on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, ABC).
“I think he did set a high standard last year, and he sets a high standard for himself,” Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. “He’s not playing at the same level he did a year ago. At times he plays fantastic, but when there’s a mistake at the corner position, it’s glaring.”
Roby obviously can’t shoulder the blame for every breakdown in the secondary, particularly since Ohio State is asking a lot of its most skilled cover guy as it makes an emphasis to stop the run while also dealing with a significant injury to safety Christian Bryant that has cut down on the depth in the backend.
And while there still have been highs that perhaps only Roby could provide, like a timely interception against Wisconsin or the punt he blocked with his freakish athleticism before recovering it for a touchdown against Northwestern, there have been more lows than expected as well.
There was a one-game suspension for an offseason incident at a bar in July
October, 20, 2013 Oct 20 9:00 AM ET COLUMBUS, Ohio — A closer look at the standouts in No. 4 Ohio State’s 34-24 win over Iowa on Saturday at the Horseshoe. QB Braxton Miller: After admitting earlier in the week that he wasn’t feeling like his “old self,” the junior quarterback turned in a vintage performance both on the ground and through the air to keep the Buckeyes unbeaten. Miller was staggeringly efficient as he completed 22 of his 27 passing attempts, throwing for 222 yards and 2 touchdowns. And his knee clearly wasn’t holding him back, as he rushed for 102 yards, including a highlight-reel scramble in the fourth quarter to set up the go-ahead touchdown.
LB Curtis Grant: Playing with a heavy heart after the loss of his father during the bye week, Grant channeled the emotions into a productive outing in the middle of the defense and helped spark the unit into a strong finish after a sloppy first half. The junior linebacker didn’t make as many tackles as Ryan Shazier, but Grant’s eight hits were next on the list and continued his emergence after two mostly lost seasons on the sideline.
RB Carlos Hyde: The bullish rusher might have the ultimately highlight to illustrate his style now. The senior took a handoff around the right side in the red zone, bounced off a tackler inside the 10-yard line and actually went backwards for a few yards before regaining his footing for the game-winning touchdown. In all, Hyde racked up 149 yards and added one other score. Covers Ohio State and the Big Ten.Joined ESPN in 2012.Attended the University of Wyoming.
September, 29, 2013 Sep 29 10:00 AM ET COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lessons from No. 4 Ohio State’s 31-24 win over No. 23 Wisconsin to open Big Ten play on Saturday night at the Horseshoe. Miller’s arm is better than ever. The Buckeyes needed his legs to be functioning fully again before putting Braxton Miller back on the field. But once that was out of the way, the junior quarterback quickly reminded everybody why the coaching staff had been raving about his improvements as a passer before his knee injury robbed him of three games outside of the league to prove it. Miller’s back-shoulder throw to Devin Smith for a 26-yard touchdown was a pass he probably couldn’t have made a year ago, and it was delivered with the perfect accuracy and strength — only Smith could have made a play on it. Miller also was willing to step up in the pocket and wait for routes to develop on a couple crucial third downs, and while his decision-making still isn’t perfect, he’s becoming even more well rounded and dangerous.
The front seven passed the test. There’s plenty of football left, but it might be safe at this point to consider the rebuilding project on defense a success in the trenches. Adolphus Washington returned from a groin injury to wreak some havoc in the backfield with Michael Bennett and Noah Spence, generating an effective pass rush and largely shutting down Wisconsin’s powerful rushing attack. Bennett was credited with the only sack among the linemen, but Washington forced an errant throw that was intercepted by Bradley Roby and Spence was a real pain for the Badgers off the edge at times. Another tough examination is coming up on Saturday at Northwestern, but the Buckeyes appear to be well equipped for it.
The secondary is going to need some attention. Roby snagged an interception and broke up three passes at cornerback, but he and the defensive backs had more communication issues pop up against the Badgers that looked similar to a few they had against California a couple weeks ago. Giving up 295 passing yards to a run-first team with only one real target at wide receiver won’t make the defensive coaching staff all that happy, and losing senior safety Christian Bryant to a fractured ankle only complicates matters for a unit that was expected to be the strength of the defense. …
Welcome back Braxton Miller. The one-time Heisman Trophy candidate is back after missing several weeks with a knee injury, but how will the Buckeyes react after they’ve been cruising with backup Kenny Guiton? Both these teams can score, it’s going to be who plays the best defense that will make the difference.
September, 21, 2013 Sep 21 7:00 AM ET COLUMBUS, Ohio — The nonconference schedule comes to a close this afternoon as No. 4 Ohio State gets one last tuneup before diving into the Big Ten. Signal-caller shuffle: The Buckeyes are enormous favorites at home against the Rattlers, and it doesn’t figure to make much difference who lines up at quarterback to lead the offense to a victory. But there is still some uncertainty about Braxton Miller’s injured knee, and after playing just seven snaps two weeks ago and not at all in the win over California, there might also be some rust given his lack of live reps so far this season. So if Miller is close to 100 percent, coach Urban Meyer will have to decide how much work to give the starter ahead of next week’s league opener with Wisconsin. Either way, Kenny Guiton will still have chances to add to his impressive numbers early in the season — but deciding when or if to get Miller back in the mix is perhaps the most pressing concern this weekend.
On the run: The return of Carlos Hyde after a three-game suspension will change the other dynamic in the Ohio State backfield also, and Meyer and the staff will have another decision to make as it determines how to best split up the workload on the ground. Jordan Hall has done nothing to lose his starting spot and ranks among the most productive rushers in the country through three games. Dontre Wilson’s blistering speed is already allowing him to make a big splash early. But Hyde was critically important to the attack last year with his bruising rushing style and brutal effectiveness in the red zone, and if nothing else, having him back gives the Buckeyes options.
Wrap it up: Given the volume of plays the Buckeyes faced last week at Cal, a few blown assignments were bound to happen on the road against an uptempo attack. But defensive captains Christian Bryant and Ryan Shazier aren’t excusing those errors for themselves or anybody else on the unit, and they easily rattled off the exact number of blown tackles (16) to make it clear that expectations weren’t met. Potentially having the chance to put more linebackers on the field this week could help with that after needing to deploy a personnel grouping with seven defensive backs against Cal, but regardless of who is on the field, the Buckeyes are focused on limiting mistakes before the competition gets tougher.
Look alive: What the Rattlers may lack in overall depth and talent, they should more than make up for with relentless aggression on defense. The Buckeyes are expecting to face an onslaught of blitzes and pressure packages from Florida A&M, which will make it imperative for the offensive line to be locked in to protect either Miller or Guiton. It could also be a useful tool for Miller if he does see some action, since the live bullets flying at him could force him to make his reads quickly, get the ball out of his hands and get used to game speed again.
Massive mismatch: On paper, Florida A&M may come in as the most overmatched squad Ohio State has faced in the modern era. That certainly gives the Rattlers a chance to pull off something special and unforgettable, but if the Buckeyes have taken practice as seriously as they claimed and haven’t overlooked this opponent in favor of glancing ahead at Wisconsin, there really shouldn’t be any resistance for them once kickoff rolls around…
No. 3/2 Ohio State (1-0) plays host to San Diego State (0-1) at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Ohio Stadium (ABC/ESPN2). The Buckeyes enter the game with the nation’s longest winning streak at 13 games. Ohio State and SDSU are …
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BTN will help fans relive Ohio State’s 2012 undefeated season by airing all 12 Buckeye victories over the next three days. The action kicks off tomorrow with four back-to-back games, beginning at 3 PM ET with last year’s win against …