Ohio State coach Urban Meyer wants killer attitude in season opener against Buffalo

No replay of 2012 opener

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Enough with the appetizers and the preludes for the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Spring workouts, fall camp -- they're all finished. Now it's on to the real thing.

Next in the sights of the nation's second-ranked team is its opener on Saturday again Buffalo.

Coach Urban Meyer says he doesn't want a rerun of what happened a year ago, his first prowling the sidelines at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes struggled in the first quarter, punting on their first four possessions, and trailed 7-0 to the Miami RedHawks. There were mistakes everywhere and, even though they finished up coasting to a lopsided 56-10 win, Meyer was upset.

Now he's looking for crisp play, efficiency and a killer attitude.

"I want us to play well. I want us to play clean," he said of his team's opener at the Horseshoe against the Bulls. "I'm hoping that we leave that field Saturday, obviously with a win, but you feel good about the fundamentals of your football team. If you do that, that's a real positive."

Meyer also was unhappy with the way his team played in the ensuing three weeks after the Miami victory. But then something clicked in the Big Ten opener at Michigan State and the Buckeyes were off and running to a 12-0 season.

This year he wants to see his team playing well from very start.

Despite the Buckeyes' lofty ranking, they still have some areas of concern. The defense will be missing eight starters against Buffalo, with new faces filling all four spots on the line and two of the three linebacker spots.

It's enough to make anyone a little nervous, even though the Buckeyes know they have a lot of talent on offense and a bunch of quality players waiting in the wings on defense.

"The only concerns I have right now is about the linebackers," said Ryan Shazier, the only holdover starter on the front seven from a year ago. "I have to try to get them right. Everything else, on the D-line and the secondary, I feel they're doing a great job. We have a lot of inexperience right now in the front seven and a lot of young guys.

"When we get a lot of guys that haven't played together, it's kind of a struggle."

It may be difficult to tell just where the defense stands. Buffalo was just 4-8 a year ago and the offense was 99th in scoring at just over 21 points a game.

Luke Fickell, the Buckeyes' co-defensive coordinator, doesn't have any major concerns about the linemen and linebackers, however.

 "I feel great about (the front seven), to be honest. I really do," he said. "I really have a lot of confidence in what they've done, the maturity they've shown throughout camp."

Ohio State will also be without standout cornerback Bradley Roby, suspended for the opener after a legal problem.

The Buckeyes are the highest-ranked team ever to face the Bulls. No wonder coach Tim Quinn, 9-27 heading into his fourth season at the school, recognizes that his team can't fumble and bumble at the outset either.

In fact, he believes the Bulls have to play like a team with five or six games under their belts.

"We know Ohio State's a tremendous football team," he said. "It's one of the elite programs when you look at what they did last year, being 12-0. We know it's a race to be in midseason or late-season form, right at the beginning."

The Buckeyes haven't changed much. On offense, Braxton Miller is back running the same uptempo, no-huddle spread offense, with mostly the same players -- his side of the ball has nine starters back.

"When and how the ball is distributed may be a little bit different being that we have improved on the perimeter and at little bit at quarterback, too," said co-offensive coordinator Tom Herman.

Jordan Hall, back from an injury-plagued season, will get the call at tailback and occasionally, the hybrid H-back. Last year's leading-scorer, Carlos Hyde, and top backup Rod Smith are both also suspended, so Bri'onte Dunn, Warren Ball and freshmen Ezekiel Elliott and Dontre Wilson will all see action.

Meyer hung large signs up at the end of the Buckeyes' indoor practice field heralding "The Chase."

A year ago his team was just trying to regain some respectability and came up with a shockingly perfect season. Now that they are highly ranked, the scales have tipped the other way and other teams will target them.

   "(Last year) we were 12-0 and some really great things happened, some incredible leadership, motivation and a team that got really, really close," Meyer said. "(Now it is) blocking, tackling and great football position and the things we work so hard at.

   "That's a big part of The Chase."

OVERWHELMING: Ohio State is listed as a 36-point favorite over Buffalo by the Glantz-Culver Line.

BUILDING A BACKUP: Meyer said he hoped that J.T. Barrett, a QB recruit out of Texas, might be redshirted to give him another year of learning the offense and getting settled into college. He would then be available next year to back up Miller, replacing fifth-year senior Kenny Guiton.

 "I would hope we have that luxury and that he would

be able to have a year to season himself a little bit," Meyer said this week. "At this point, who knows? You know, your fourth quarterback, you hope you don't get to that point, I guess."

BULL SESSION: Buffalo's Bulls are coming off a 4-8 season, tying for fourth in the Mid-American Conference's East Division with a 3-5 mark. They return nine starters on offense and seven on defense from a team that won three of its final four games, dropping its final game to Bowling Green at Crew Stadium in Columbus on Thanksgiving weekend.

They are led on offense by sophomore QB Joe Licata, who completed 52 percent of his passes in 2012, throwing for 1,045 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions. Licata began 2012 as a backup but earned starts in the final four games. Senior running back Branden Oliver returns after leading Buffalo with 821 yards on the ground, despite missing five games with an injury. He averaged 117 rushing yards per game with five touchdowns. The defense is led by senior linebacker Khalil Mack, who led the Bulls with 94 tackles in 2012. He is considered one of the top LB prospects in the next NFL draft.

NOTE THIS: Ohio State and Buffalo are meeting for the first time in football. ... Ohio State enters the season with the nation's longest winning streak at 12 games. ... Ohio State is 32-2 in its last 34 season-openers. Both of those 0-1 starts took place in the Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium (1999 to Miami and 1986 to Alabama). ... Ohio State has won 61 consecutive regular-season non-conference home games against teams not ranked in the AP Top 25. The last loss: 34-17 to Florida State, Oct. 2, 1982. ... Junior QB Braxton Miller is 14 rushing yards shy of 2,000 for his career (1,986). ... Miller needs 95 yards to pass Cornelius Greene (2,080) and become Ohio State's all-time leading rusher among QBs. ... Urban Meyer is 42-4 in his career in games played in August/September. ... A Meyer team last faced Buffalo in 2001 -- his first year as a head coach -- in Bowling Green's home opener, a 35-0 victory in Meyer's second game as a head coach.

 

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