The Ohio State Buckeyes' Week 3 matchup against the California Golden Bears was supposed to be a tuneup for their vaunted defense as they approach Big Ten competition in two weeks. However, the Buckeyes narrowly escaped an upset bid from their Pac-12 foe.
Ohio State plays Michigan State on September 29, with Nebraska the following week, Wisconsin on November 18 and Michigan on November 24 to finish off the season.
Those teams have offenses that can and will give the Bucks defense fits, especially in light of the fact that it was unable to shut down offenses the likes of the UCF Knights and Cal Bears. While the Big Ten may not have the most explosive offenses, the Ohio State faithful should be concerned about the way the team’s defense has played thus far under Urban Meyer.
Meyer, who was brought into Columbus because of his offensive acumen, has not exactly wowed the country with consistent and high-powered offensive play to this point. Sure, things are beginning to turn around, but it took four quarters and broken coverage by the Bears secondary for the Bucks to sneak away with a 35-28 home win over California at the Horseshoe.
That brings me to the defense.
In years past, the Bucks have ridden a stifling defense to multiple finishes atop the Big Ten. In 2012, though, the defense seems to be an afterthought, while the focus has shifted to Meyer’s spread offense.
The Bucks defense was pushed around and dominated to the tune of 512 yards of total offense by the Golden Bears, much of them coming during an explosive second half in which the Bucks looked like a completely different team.
When it mattered most, though, the Ohio State defense held. Christian Bryant intercepted a Zach Maynard pass, and the Bucks escaped with the W. You can call it "bend but not break," or any other type of cliché you’d like to cope with the reality of this poor performance, but there’s one thing you can’t deny: You should be worried about this defense.
If the defense cannot play better and contain the big plays, the Bucks' No. 12 ranking may be short-lived and proved to have been a bit inflated due to the prominence of the school’s program and the pedigree of Urban Meyer.
Without Cal’s three missed field goals, this win may not have even happened, and the nightmare upset that fell short may have become a reality. How confident do you feel about the Buckeyes defense after Cal’s big plays almost sparked an upset Saturday afternoon?
Mike Hoag is a Trends and Traffic writer for Bleacher Report and also covers the Cleveland Browns and the NFL for the site.