Ohio State Buckeyes vs. San Diego State Aztecs Complete Game Preview
Date: Saturday, Sept. 7
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Place: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
Spread: Ohio State is favored by 28 points, according to Yahoo.com.
The No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes looked sloppy in a 40-20 season-opening victory over the Buffalo Bulls last Saturday. The San Diego State Aztecs looked lost in a surprising 40-19 loss to FCS opponent Eastern Illinois.
The Buckeyes (1-0) and the Aztecs (0-1) will be looking for better performances when they meet in Columbus this Saturday.
Ohio State started fast against the Bulls, piling up 216 yards of offense and 23 points in the first quarter. Buffalo's defense settled in, as well as the 90-degree heat, slowing the Buckeyes down as they sputtered to the 20-point victory.
San Diego State struggled defensively, particularly against Panthers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who completed 31 of 46 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns (and no interceptions). The game was tied at 19 midway through the third quarter, but Eastern Illinois scored three unanswered touchdowns to close out the game.
Ohio State and San Diego State have met three times, and the Buckeyes are a perfect 3-0 against the Aztecs, according to Ohio State's official website.
Ohio State Keys to Victory
Some of this game's luster may have been lost when San Diego State fell to Eastern Illinois, but that doesn't mean Urban Meyer is taking the Aztecs lightly.
Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller will have another chance to show off his improved mechanics. This time against a defense that surrendered 533 total yards (361 passing, 172 rushing) to the Panthers.
If the Buckeyes keep their foot on the gas pedal, something offensive coordinator Tom Herman admitted he should have done against Buffalo, then Ohio State will have a lot of opportunities offensively.
On the other side of the ball, Ohio State will need to keep up with a fast-paced offensive attack. The Aztecs ran 99 offensive plays against Eastern Illinois, according to San Diego State's Assistant Media Relations Director.
Ohio State's defense will look to continue its domination on third down. The Buckeyes prevented first downs on 11 of 14 Buffalo attempts, and if they have similar success against San Diego State, they should be in good shape.
San Diego State Keys to Victory
The Aztecs will need to find balance on offense against Ohio State.
San Diego State quarterback Adam Dingwell threw 63 passes against Eastern Illinois, many of which came in the second half after the Aztecs fell behind.
Another contributing factor to the heavily slanted run-pass ratio was the injury to Adam Muema, San Diego State's star running back. Muema, who rushed for 1,458 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, sprained his ankle in the second quarter. The Aztecs offense wasn't the same without him.
It remains to be seen whether Muema will be ready by Saturday. If he can't go, head coach Rocky Long will need to have a game plan ready to account for his absence.
The Aztecs will need to improve drastically on defense.
Panthers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had his way with San Diego State, piling up 381 total yards of offense and three passing touchdowns.
The Aztecs offense didn't do its counterpart many favors when it turned the ball over five times, though, so improvement at every level is needed.
Players to Watch for the Buckeyes
The Buckeyes get a pair of players back who missed the Buffalo game due to suspension in starting cornerback Bradley Roby and reserve running back Rod Smith.
Roby was missed against the Bulls, who picked on replacement Armani Reeves in the passing game. Alex Neutz, one of the best receivers in the MAC, consistently found openings in Ohio State's coverage, catching nine passes for 98 yards and a touchdown.
Roby's return will be huge for an Ohio State defense that performed decently against Buffalo. If San Diego State throws the ball as much as it did against Eastern Illinois, the Buckeyes will need Roby at corner.
If Smith can work his way back into the rotation, Ohio State could certainly use him at running back.
The Buckeyes missed Carlos Hyde's physical presence in the run game, especially in short down-and-distance situations. Jordan Hall was spectacular in relief of Hyde, but there were situations, like when the Buckeyes were stopped on 4th-and-1 at midfield in the second quarter, when they could have used a bigger back.
Smith could provide that physical tone in the running game.
Players to Watch for the Aztecs
With Adam Muema's status undetermined, the focus on offense shifts to Adam Dingwell.
The junior quarterback will need to be at his best to beat the Buckeyes, but Dignwell has struggled in his last two starts, completing just 39-of-92 passes (42 percent) for 462 yards, no touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Dingwell will need to make good decisions and get the ball to talented receivers Colin Lockett and Ezell Ruffin, both of whom registered more that 90 yards receiving against Eastern Illinois.
After earning All-Mountain West second team honors last year, Jake Fely entered the season as one of the top linebackers in the conference.
Fely led the Aztecs with eight tackles against the Panthers, and he'll need to spearhead a 3-3-5 defense that's similar to the one Buffalo used to slow the Buckeyes down.
What They Are Saying
Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer on How Often He Wants His Offense to Score
Very high expectations. I want to score every time we touch the ball. I'm disappointed if we don't score. That's, once again, high expectations. However, we have some talented guys. Our coaching staff has been together and we should have been better.
San Diego State Wide Receiver Colin Lockett on How Good Ohio State Looks
Great football team. They have a lot of players, a lot of athletes, guys who can fly around, guys who can cover, one of the best football teams we’ll play this year. They’re tops in the country—1, 2 or 3. Whatever point you look at them, they’re a great football team.
San Diego State Coach Rocky Long on Whether His Team Is Excited to Play at Ohio State
I sense the team is upset and embarrassed about the way they played (against Eastern Illinois). They’re more worried about getting better than who they play.
Ohio State will get off to another fast start, scoring two first-quarter touchdowns to race out to a 14-0 lead.
San Diego State will get on the board with its first possession of the second quarter when Wes Feer drills a 40-yard field goal to make it 14-3.
The Buckeyes will answer by scoring on three straight possessions—two touchdowns and a field goal—before the Aztecs close out the half with a late touchdown to make it 31-10.
Unlike Ohio State's opener against Buffalo, the Buckeyes won't slow the pace down in the second half. Braxton Miller will throw one more touchdown (three total) and rush for another before being pulled in the fourth quarter.
Both teams will score in the fourth, and Ohio State will improve to 2-0 with a 52-17 victory.
All stats per ESPN.com.
David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.