Ohio State Football: Keys to a Buckeyes Blowout vs. Cal

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistSeptember 11, 2012

September 8, 2012; Columbus, OH, USA; The Ohio State Buckeyes and mascot Brutus Buckeye celebrate a touchdown run by quarterback Braxton Miller (5) against the UCF Knights at Ohio Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-US PRESSWIRE

After a closer-than-expected 31-16 victory over UCF last week, the Ohio State Buckeyes come into their home tilt against the California Golden Bears hoping for a far better performance this Saturday.

The 12th-ranked Ohio State squad relied on critical interceptions from UCF quarterback Blake Bortles and timely scampers from its own signal-caller, Braxton Miller, to take home a win.

Cal was also victorious while toiling in a mediocre performance, beating FCS school Southern Utah 50-31 behind a breakout performance from the team's running attack. 

Nevertheless, this will likely be a down season for the Bears and they come into Columbus as heavy underdogs. According to Vegas Insider, the Buckeyes are 13-point favorites for Saturday's game. 

Considering the level of talent on both sides of the ball for Ohio State, it should cover the home spread easily as long as it handles a few key tasks. 

With that in mind, here's a look at how the Buckeyes could come away with a blowout win over Cal. 


Stop the Cal Rushing Attack

Though head coach Jeff Tedford is regarded as one of the best quarterback gurus in all of football, it's been his running game that has carried the team so far this season.

In last week's victory over Southern Utah, the Bears' backs scampered for 289 yards and three touchdowns while quarterback Zach Maynard came through in the air only when needed.

Maynard isn't one of Tedford's most talented protégés, so this relative change in philosophy isn't shocking.

However, if the Buckeyes can stop running backs C.J. Anderson and Isi Sofele, they will force the Bears' senior signal-caller to throw more than he's comfortable. And considering Maynard's tendency to throw bad interceptions, that could lead to a long day for Cal. 


Put the Ball in Braxton Miller's Hands as Much as Possible

It seems like an obvious suggestion to make at this point, but anytime the sophomore dual-threat has had the ball in his hands so far this season, good things have happened for the Buckeyes.

Through two games, Miller has gone 32-of-48 (66.7 percent) for 362 yards and three touchdowns against just one interception. That marked improvement throwing the football has always been the key for the young quarterback, as his legs were always going to serve his team well.

And thus far, those legs have been scintillating. Miller has run for 302 yards and four touchdowns for the Buckeyes, essentially becoming what we all thought Denard Robinson would be for the rival Michigan Wolverines this season.

With Miller firmly in the Heisman race and Ohio State ineligible for a bowl game in 2012, it would behoove both the quarterback and the team to take every big-stat opportunity on the schedule. 


Find an Answer at Running Back

Miller's early-season impressive play has largely been the case out of necessity. Though he should be the focal point of the offense, there is no way he can survive the upcoming Big Ten slate if has to carry the ball 27 times like he did against UCF.

Integral to avoiding future injury for Miller is finding consistency behind him in the backfield. 

Only one problem: Ohio State's depth at running back is depleted. Carlos Hyde went down last week with a sprained knee and is listed as doubtful for Saturday's game (via USA Today). 

And with preseason starter Jordan Hall also not expected to be ready against Cal (via USA Today), that leaves freshman Bri'Onte Dunn and sophomore Rod Smith as the team's only healthy options in the backfield. 

While talented, those two have combined for just 47 collegiate carries. For the Buckeyes to get a Heisman-worthy performance from Miller, one of those two will have to step up big on Saturday.