(5) Ohio State (0-0) vs. Navy (0-0)|
Saturday, August 30, 12 p.m. (ET)
The Sports Network
GAME NOTES: The fifth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes are set to begin life without
Braxton Miller as they kick off their national title pursuit against the Navy
Midshipmen at M&T Bank Stadium.
In 2013, Urban Meyer's Buckeyes won 12 games, went to the Orange Bowl and
finished ranked No. 12 in the nation. But for OSU fans fixated on a spot in
the BCS Championship Game in Pasadena after a 12-0 start, it was the back-to-
back losses against Michigan State in the Big Ten title game and then against
Clemson in the Orange Bowl that ultimately serves as the lasting memory of the
Looking ahead to 2014, the road to success got considerably tougher before the
campaign even started, in light of the recent season-ending shoulder injury to
star quarterback Miller, the reigning two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the
The 2014 season will be the last for Navy playing as an Independent before the
team joins the American Athletic Conference next year. Led by record-breaking
quarterback Keenan Reynolds, the Midshipmen won nine games a year ago,
including a 24-6 triumph over Middle Tennessee in the Armed Forces Bowl.
OSU has won all four prior meetings in the head-to-head series with Navy, the
most recent of which came in the 2009 season opener in Columbus (31-27).
The Buckeyes boasted the nation's No. 3 scoring offense (45.5 ppg) and No. 5
rushing attack (308.6 ypg) in 2013. However, most of that production came from
All-Big Ten back Carlos Hyde, who was a second-round pick of the San Francisco
49ers, and Miller, who contributed 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns on the
ground. Coach Meyer tabbed redshirt freshman T.J. Barrett as Miller's
replacement under center, and the youngster will be asked to pick up the reins
and operate behind a largely inexperienced offensive line, which Meyer
recently voiced concerns about at Big Ten Media Day.
Leading receiver Corey Brown has moved on, but senior Devin Smith appears
ready for an increased role after catching 44 passes for 660 yards and eight
scores last year. The same goes for senior tight end Jeff Heuerman (26 rec,
466 yds, four TDs).
The OSU defense returns eight starters, although two of the unit's biggest
stars, linebacker Ryan Shazier and cornerback Bradley Roby, were picked in the
first round of the 2014 NFL draft. Cornerback Doran Grant had three
interceptions to go along with 13 passes defended and 58 tackles last season,
and he now steps into a leadership role as a senior. Up front, disruptive
tackle Michael Bennett (11.5 TFL, 7.0 sacks) returns along with sophomore
defensive end Joey Bosa (13.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks).
Meyer noted that his linebacking corps lacks a big-name talent such as former
OSU standouts James Laurinaitis, A.J. Hawk or Shazier. However, he said he
likes the chemistry and progress the group has made as a whole.
"We completely have blown up and started from scratch, an area that we were
not very strong in, pass defense," Meyer said. "And (def. coordinator) Chris
Ash has done an admirable job of installing a brand new pass defense that
we're going to test and see how it goes."
Reynolds is to Navy's offense what Miller was to Ohio State's, as the
Midshipmen finished second in the nation in rushing a year ago (325.4 ypg)
with Reynolds leading the triple-option attack. In fact, he set the NCAA
record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with a whopping 31 on 300
carries. Reynolds, who also set a NCAA single-game record for rushing
touchdowns with seven against San Jose State, ran for a team-best 1,346 yards
while also throwing for 1,057 yards and another eight scores, against just two
interceptions. Only three other Navy QBs have ever thrown and run for at least
1,000 yards in a season.
As usual, the Mids backfield will be a committee approach (eight players
topped 200 yards and a TD last year), while the offensive line returns four
Navy's defense had a rough season in 2013, and standouts Cody Peterson (142
tackles) and DJ Sargenti (110) have both moved on. That leaves Chris Johnson
as the top returning tackler after posting 84 takedowns in 2013. Johnson also
tied with Parrish Gaines and Brendon Clements for the team lead with three
interceptions, adding a pair of forced fumbles for good measure. Clements was
a pleasant surprise holding down the middle linebacker spot last year as a
freshman. Senior Jordan Drake and James Britton will also patrol the middle of
the field again, while fellow senior Paul Quessenberry helps to anchor the
defensive line at one of the end positions.
The Mids were the least penalized team in the nation last year (2.62
penalties/game), but they boasted only a 54 percent success rate on third
Ohio State enters Saturday with the nation's longest regular-season winning
streak at 24 games. Surely that is not news to Barrett, who is set to become
only the second freshman QB in the modern era to start a season opener for the
Buckeyes. If Reynolds breaks loose for a few big runs, the Mids may be able to
hang around and keep this one tight for a while. But in the end, OSU simply
has too much firepower from top to bottom.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ohio State 42, Navy 24
08/29 15:16:00 ET