San Diego State vs. Ohio State: 10 Things We Learned in Buckeyes' Win

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistSeptember 7, 2013

San Diego State vs. Ohio State: 10 Things We Learned in Buckeyes' Win

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    Braxton Miller was injured on the seventh offensive play of the game, but even with its leader sitting on the sideline, Ohio State coasted to a 42-7 victory over San Diego State on Saturday.

    Miller injured his MCL after taking a big hit and was forced to miss the rest of the game. Though his absence was deemed a precautionary measure, it should be interesting to monitor his health and practice workload during the week.

    He was replaced by longtime backup Kenny Guiton, who ran the offense with self-assurance and helped prevent the outcome from ever being in doubt. But what else did the Buckeyes teach us on Saturday?

Kenny Guiton Can Really Run This Offense

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    OK, maybe this one wasn't so much learned as reinforced. Guiton has never done anything to make anyone think he can't run the offense, but in the wake of Miller's absence, he helped drive home the point.

    Playing the most extensive action of his five-year career, Guiton led back-to-back touchdown drives in the first quarter, helping extend the lead to 21-0. His first touchdown to Philly Brown was a thing of absolute beauty.

    When it was all said and done, Guiton finished the game with 152 yards passing and 83 yards rushing, including an impressive 44-yard touchdown scamper and three total touchdowns. If Miller is ever to miss a significant amount of time, OSU fans know they're in capable hands.

Urban Meyer Is Taking No Chances with Braxton Miller

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    When news of Miller's MCL injury came down, it was accompanied by reports that Urban Meyer was keeping Miller out for the game. But according to Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports, Meyer also said that Miller could have re-entered had he needed to.

    Meyer made a big statement by keeping Miller on the bench, sensing how overmatched the Aztecs were and opting to play it safe. Miller might have been itching to play, but Meyer would rather save him for games where he's needed more.

    Guiton looked good in a backup role, but he's obviously not in Miller's league. Ohio State's national title hopes rest, in large part, on Miller's health.

    So why risk his long-term availability in a blowout?

Noah Spence: Believe the Hype

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    Noah Spence was the only Buckeye who recorded a sack against Buffalo (though it was negated by a flag), and he followed up that performance by splitting a strip-sack with Michael Bennett in the first half against SDSU.

    While Adolphus Washington, his sophomore partner in crime, had to leave the game early with a "lower body issue," Spence keeps fulfilling the promise he enjoyed as a prospect. He was the No. 5 player on 247Sports' Class of 2012 composite.

    Spence will need to keep playing at an All-Big Ten level once the Buckeyes hit conference play. If he does that, and Washington comes back healthy, the major losses along the defensive line will be felt less and less.

Pass Rush Still Struggling on Early Downs

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    Spence and Bennett's strip-sack came on a 3rd-and-10 in the second quarter. The Buckeyes' only other non-garbage-time sack, recorded by Steve Miller, came on a 3rd-and-19 in the first.

    It's always great to rough up the quarterback on passing downs, but those are statistically favorable plays for the defense to begin with. Even without a sack, there are plenty of other ways for OSU to get off the field.

    The pass rush still hasn't recorded (without negating) a sack on first or second down this season, plays that can truly derail an opposing offense. That's forgivable against the Buffalo's and San Diego State's of the world, but teams like Cal, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Michigan could all eventually make Ohio State pay.

    Speaking of which...

Things Will Get A LOT Harder Next Week

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    Prior to the season, San Diego State and Cal were both listed as potential non-conference trap games for the Buckeyes. Cal looked decent in Week 1, hanging with Northwestern all game and even leading late. San Diego State got doubled-up by a middling FCS team.

    Ohio State looked very good on Saturday, but part of that has to be attributed to the Aztecs' incompetence. It became clear, almost immediately, that San Diego State's Week 1 performance was no fluke. This is a really, really, REALLY bad team.

    The Buckeyes got to work through some Week 1 kinks of their own, which made this contest a useful one. But they'll need to be even sharper in Berkeley next weekend, when Cal's Bear Raid offense will provide a much sterner test. 

    Even though the Bears defense is a work in progress, Week 3 will be the first good measuring stick for Ohio State's defense.

Returning Defensive Stars Look Good

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    Ryan Shazier and Bradley Roby, the Buckeyes' two All-American candidates on defense, both entered the game with some question marks. Shazier was hurt against Buffalo, and Roby was suspended for that game following a bit of offseason legal trouble.

    Both men were back in lineup on Saturday, though, and each looked good in his own right. Shazier frequently found himself around the football, even if his tackle totals don't jump off the page. And Roby helped shut down a (below-average) SDSU passing attack, holding it to 5.25 yards per pass.

    Buffalo's offense found some success in Week 1, specifically looking to No. 1 receiver Alex Neutz. Having Roby back was a big relief for Buckeyes fans.

Offensive Line Looks Better in Pass Protection

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    Ohio State allowed four sacks in Week 1, and it could have almost cost them the game if not for a lucky penalty against Buffalo's Khalil Mack on a fumble.

    Urban Meyer called that figure "unacceptable" and vowed to get it fixed, according to Rob Ogden of theozone.net. And though it was only one game against a not-so-good team, the Buckeyes allowed just one sack on Saturday and appeared to validate Meyer's claim.

    That said, it's important to slightly temper expectations. San Diego State doesn't have the same NFL-caliber pass-rushers whom Buffalo had (and many Big Ten opponents will feature).

Jordan Hall and Dontre Wilson Will Be Factors All Season

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    Carlos Hyde served the second game of his suspension, paving the way for Jordan Hall and Dontre Wilson to, once again, carry the load. And though neither posted eye-popping yardage or touchdown totals, they both reminded fans that they'll be here to make an impact all season.

    Watching Wilson, in particular, play football is a treat. Comparisons to Percy Harvin are not (that) overblown, and his speed stands out once he breaks through a hole. He scored the first (of what should be many) touchdowns of his career and averaged 10.2 yards on five carries.

    Hall, meanwhile, continued to be solid, steady and versatile. He led the team with 13 carries and totaled 75 yards on the ground, even though he didn't catch a pass. He'll line up all over the field once Hyde gets back, and Meyer will have no problems leaning on him to carry the load for series at a time.

Guiton Is the Loudest Clapper of All Time

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    Seriously. His pre-snap hand claps were echoing on the broadcast.

Miller Might Not Play Enough Snaps to Win a Heisman

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    It doesn't sound like Miller's MCL injury will keep him out of action going forward. But he's now missed large chunks of action in both games this season, and it's hard to keep chalking his injuries up as a fluke instead of a trend.

    Miller entered the season—and technically still is—a front-runner to win the Heisman. If he comes back healthy, stays on the the field, plays like he did last year and leads Ohio State to an undefeated season, there's a good chance he (at least) gets invited to New York.

    But the nagging injuries will gash in his stats, enough so that another qualified candidate might be able to jump him and steal the trophy. And if one of those injuries evolves past the stage of "nagging," Miller's Heisman prospects are the least of OSU's concerns.