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The Braxton Miller Show

Image source: Ohio State Football Facebook page

That pretty much describes the Ohio State Buckeyes so far in 2012.

The special teams have been terrible. Last week they gave up a punt return for a touchdown. This week it was a pathetic blocked punt.

The defense has been disappointing. They’ve had their moments, and the unit has real potential, but we don’t see a dominating unit, at least not yet.

Meanwhile, on offense, the Buckeyes can’t seem to get much going until Miller start cutting a spinning his way to some incredible runs. His passing has improved, so now he’s a legitimate dual threat quarterback, but he excels when he’s running with the ball.

He doesn’t have quite the speed of a Denard Robinson, and he isn’t quite as strong as Terrelle Pryor, but as a runner Miller is just as good as both of them. He has the natural moves and cutting ability of an elite running back as he seems to effortlessly cut through defenses.

We’ll see if this Ohio State team can get better as they work their way through a mediocre Big Ten schedule, but so far they’re being carried by Braxton Miller.

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Do the Buckeyes have a chance against Nebraska?

This one could get ugly. The Ohio State offense is so anemic right now that everyone around the country seems to think this game is over before it gets started.

One key will involve the Buckeye defense. This unit has been pretty strong all season. They will have to keep it up this week and probably force some turnovers. Nebraska has it’s own problems with interceptions, so we might see the defense carry the load this week.

On offense, the Buckeyes just need to be competent, and that hasn’t been the case against good teams. Luke Fickell and Jim Bollman need to understand that they don’t have Troy Smith or Terrelle Pryor running this offense. They either need to go with other quarterbacks, or they need to craft a game plan that makes sense for Braxton Miller. They need to wake up.

5 observations about Ohio State’s opener

Ohio State tight end Jake Stoneburner (11) scores a touchdown as he is chased by University of Akron safety Josh Richmond (L) during the second quarter of their NCAA football game in Columbus, Ohio September 3, 2011. REUTERS/Matt Sullivan (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Following a brutal off-season dominated by tattoos and the departure of Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor, many people were counting out the Buckeyes for 2011. Others were just a little uncertain about what the Buckeyes had for this season. A few like Kirk Herbstreit and some other experts were willing to go out on a limb and say that the Buckeyes would be a force again in the Big Ten.

You can’t draw too many conclusions from watching one game against a very weak Akron team, but there was plenty to get excited about after one game.

1. The Buckeyes have two good options at quarterback

I was very skeptical about Joe Bauserman but he looked very good yesterday. He played against a weak defense and had open receivers, but he consistently hit them. He also showed some mobility and solid leadership. Meanwhile, Braxton Miller looked very good as well, and you could see why he was a highly touted recruit. He has a great arm with a quick release, and he’s also very athletic. He also has a quiet and clam demeanor about him, which makes him look like a potential leader. At the end of the game, Chris Spielman noted that we didn’t see one bad throw from either quarterback. After watching Terrelle Pryor consistently miss easy throws this was a refreshing change.

I can see them using both quarterbacks for a while and that’s just fine with me. I don’t compare this to the Stanley Jackson/Joe Germaine fiasco where Germaine was clearly the better option. Here, we have a 25-year-old senior who seems to be rising to the challenge and a very talented true freshman who has a ton of upside. I think we’ll need Miller to beat teams like Wisconsin and Nebraska, but Bauserman gives the Buckeyes a security blanket and gives Miller room to grow into the role of team leader.

2. The Buckeyes are loaded at running back

We knew that going in, but this unit was put to the test as only sophomore Carlos Hyde and freshman Rod Smith were available for the game. Frankly these guys reminded me of Beanie Wells and Eddie George as they’re both 235 pounds and they ran with authority. There’s no doubt that Fickell is going to stress the running game this year, and it’s clear he has the horses to do it. The biggest issue will be finding carries for everyone when the rest of the guys return.

3. The receivers will be fine

They’re young an inexperienced, but the receiving corps looks fine. They didn’t drop any passes and Evan Spencer made a spectacular one-handed catch. Meanwhile, tight end Jake Stoneburner looks like a real threat as he pulled down three touchdowns and provided a big target for the QBs.

4. The defense keeps on rolling

We really don’t know how good this defense can be, but again we saw the size and athleticism you would expect from a Buckeye defense. This team is still loaded with athletes and all the off-season BS just doesn’t matter.

5. Luke Fickell is ready

Again, one game means nothing. But Luke Fickell had the Buckeyes ready to play, and he’s pushing this team to excel. He’s focusing on the running game, yet he’s smart enough to let the run set up the pass. I want him to succeed, because we don’t need to be that program that looks to the big-name coach as a savior. We have the recruits, and Fickell bleeds scarlet & gray, so he should be given every opportunity to lead this program for years to come.

I think many people around the country took notice yesterday. Even though it was an Akron game, the Buckeyes served notice that they are still loaded with talent. Hopefully the NCAA won’t rain on this party with idiotic sanctions.

Terrelle Pryor makes a statement

Ohio State University quarterback Terrelle Pryor (2) celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass against Marshall University during the first quarter of their NCAA football game in Columbus, Ohio, September 2, 2010.  REUTERS/Matt Sullivan (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

What a difference a year makes. Last season, following the embarrassing loss to Purdue, many of us wondered whether it was time to bench Terrelle Pryor. As time went by following that terrible performance, we learned that Pryor really wasn’t putting in the kind of work necessary to succeed at the highest level, and he took the Purdue game for granted. Fortunately, Tressel stuck with him. He simplified the offense, and in a sense let Pryor start over.

Then, Tressel turned Pryor loose in the Rose Bowl, and we saw a preview of what Pryor could become if he continued to work on his game. During the off-season, we continued to hear reports of how Pryor had dedicated himself to improving his game and being a leader on the team. Translation – Pryor was putting in time beyond what the coaches could require of him according to NCAA rules.

On Thursday night against Marshall, we saw just how good Pryor could be. He had command of the offense and he made beautiful throws. He’s learned to step up in the pocket, and he doesn’t take off and run when he senses trouble. Sure, he’ll have to repeat this performance against tougher defenses like Miami, but Terrelle Pryor made a statement on Thursday night. He’s here to live up to his promise. He may or may not lead the Buckeyes to a National Championship, but he’s reset the bar of expectations again.

Ohio State Buckeyes are #2 in first coaches’ poll

Ohio State Buckeyes' quarterback Terrelle Pryor (R) hugs head coach Jim Tressel after victory over the Oregon Ducks 26-17 in the 96th Rose Bowl game in Pasadena, California on January 1, 2010. UPI/Jon SooHoo Photo via Newscom

Coming off their huge win over Oregon in the Rose Bowl, the Buckeyes start the season with the #2 ranking in the first USA Today coaches’ poll.

The Big Ten also gets some recognition to open the season.

With four teams in the top 15, the Big Ten had more than any other conference. Iowa is No. 10, Wisconsin No. 12 and Penn State No. 14. The Buckeyes play all those teams, as well as playing host to No. 13 Miami in the second week of the season.

I thought that the Buckeyes would have to go undefeated to earn a shot at the National Championship, but the schedule might give them a shot even if they suffer a close loss in one of the Big Ten games, though I still think that’s a long shot.

The key is beating Miami. The Buckeyes have no chance at a title shot without beating a respected non-conference opponent.

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