Entering the third week of the 2012 college football season, first-year head coach Urban Meyer and his 12th-ranked Buckeyes will look to remain perfect on the year against the University of California Golden Bears this Saturday.
Lopsided victories over Miami-Ohio and UCF opened the campaign in Columbus, and Ohio State will host its third of four consecutive home games this weekend.
The Buckeyes have been victorious in the previous five matchups between the teams, but considering the last dates back to 1972, the head-to-head series doesn't hold much stock.
40 years later, OSU is still favored over the 1-1 Golden Bears. But Cal's high-powered offense won't be another cakewalk for the star-studded Buckeye defense.
Ohio State went after former University of Florida head coach Urban Meyer for his remarkable resume and premier recruiting ability. And just one year into the process, the two-time BCS National Champion has proven his worth.
In his first year, Meyer locked down the fourth-best recruiting class according to Yahoo! Sports' Rivals.com. And with injuries beginning to surface three weeks into the season, some of OSU's young stars figure to get their fair share of playing time.
Here are three names to keep an eye on against Cal.
I don't think anyone in Columbus would be proud to tell you that their leading rusher through two games plays quarterback. Obviously the talented Braxton Miller is capable of such versatility—just look at the numbers—but such a high volume of carries for a QB makes him extremely vulnerable to injury. And that's the last thing the Buckeyes need.
After Carlos Hyde was ruled out of Saturday's game with a sprained MCL, true freshman Bri'onte Dunn will get his shot to impress the coaches. Dunn slots first on the depth chart entering the weekend, and with Jordan Hall returning from foot surgery himself, look for Bri'onte to get a bulk of the carries against a Cal defense that surrendered 220 yards on the ground in a Week 1 loss to Nevada.
One of Meyer's two 5-star recruits, Noah Spence, would likely start and even star on any other defensive line in the Big-10. But thanks to a crowded OSU D-line, the true freshman from Pennsylvania has yet to make an impact through two games.
An impressive camp during the offseason showed everyone what Spence was capable of, and with the recent injury to DE Michael Bennett, chances are the Buckeyes will be forced to rely on Spence during his absence. With Cal's focus on J.T. Moore and Nathan Williams, don't be surprised if Noah Spence records a sack or two on quarterback Zach Maynard.
Another young freshman who made a name for himself during the offseason was Michael Thomas. The wide receiver's 12-catch, 131-yard performance in the Buckeyes' spring game caught the eye of nearly everyone in Columbus.
Thomas has yet to record a catch thus far at Ohio State. But after receiving accolades from his own defense during camp, it is only a matter of time before he gets implemented into Urban Meyer's spread offense as a key contributor. Opposing quarterbacks have had success against Cal's secondary in the first two games, and the Buckeyes certainly pose the biggest challenge yet. Look for Thomas to take advantage of some playing time in the high scoring affair this Saturday.