Ohio State at Cal: 10 Things We Learned in Buckeyes' Win
The No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes hit the road for the first time this season for a Big Ten-Pac 12 matchup with the Cal Golden Bears. The Buckeyes came away with a 52-34 victory, improving to 3-0 on the season.
Ohio State was without star quarterback Braxton Miller and sophomore defensive end Adolphus Washington, but despite those injuries, the Buckeyes controlled the game.
The Buckeyes have pushed the nation's longest winning streak to 15, and with the 18-point victory over Cal, Ohio State remains in the thick of the national title race.
Here's 10 things we learned from Ohio State's trip out west.
Kenny Guiton Is the Country’s Best Insurance Policy
With Braxton Miller's knee injury, Ohio State needed a big performance from Kenny Guiton to have the Buckeyes keep pace with the high-scoring Cal offense.
Guiton provided that big performance, completing 21 of 32 passes for 276 yards and four touchdowns (against no interceptions). Guiton was solid in the run game as well, rushing for 97 yards on 14 carries while orchestrating Urban Meyer's zone-read offense almost flawlessly.
The fifth-year senior started fast, throwing for 197 yards in the first quarter to help the Buckeyes build a 24-14 lead. From there, Guiton made every play he needed to for the Buckeyes to get the win.
Cal entered the week ranking near the bottom of the NCAA in defense, so it's not like Guiton was carving up an elite unit. That he was able to produce 373 yards of total offense in the first official start of his career, though, proves Ohio State has one of the best backup quarterbacks in the country.
The Buckeyes Need Devin Smith as a Deep Threat
Ohio State's offense got off to a fast start and completely disoriented Cal's defense early, and much of the credit for that belongs to wide receiver Devin Smith.
The Buckeyes started the game with a pair of two-play touchdown drives, both of which were capped by long touchdown receptions from Smith.
Smith's first two catches of the game went for 137 yards, and even though he only hauled in one more reception in the final three quarters (finishing with 149 yards), his fast start forced Cal to respect the Buckeyes' deep routes.
That, in turn, helped pave the way for a dominant rushing performance as it kept the safeties from making plays in the run game.
If Smith can consistently provide that deep threat for Ohio State, the Buckeyes' offense will be that much harder to stop.
Ohio State’s Offense Is Just Getting Started
Speaking of an offense that's hard to stop...
Ohio State put on its best performance of the year during its biggest game so far, piling up 608 total yards of offense and 52 points.
With 52 points tonight, Ohio State has topped 40 points in three consecutive games for the first time since 2005.— Eleven Warriors (@11W) September 15, 2013
Looking back at those three games, it looks like Ohio State is building momentum offensively.
The Buckeyes were sluggish in the season-opening victory over Buffalo. A week later, even when Miller injured his knee on the first drive of the game, the Buckeyes were much more consistent against San Diego State.
Against Cal, Ohio State looked nearly unstoppable. Guiton's 276 passing yards was complemented nicely by a season-high 332 rushing yards, and all of this was done without the players—Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde—who paced the team offensively last year.
When Miller and Hyde return to the offense that ripped Cal to shreds, it will only get more dangerous.
Cal Quarterback Jared Goff Is the Real Deal
Jared Goff showed his first two games, when he piled up an NCAA-best 935 passing yards, were no fluke against the Buckeyes.
Goff was outstanding, completing 31 of 53 passes for 371 yards and three touchdowns (against one interception). That he's just a true freshman, playing in an offense that's seemingly tailor-made for his skill set, means he'll only get better for the Golden Bears.
The former 4-star prospect gave Ohio State all it could handle, and it's not hard to imagine him doing the same to Pac-12 defenses for years to come.
Ohio Sate's Tackling Issue Isn't Solved Entirely, but It Is Improved
Ohio State let Cal back into last year's game with a number of missed tackles that allowed Golden Bears playmakers like Brendan Bigelow, who ran for 160 yards and two touchdowns on just four carries, get loose in the open field.
While the Buckeyes showed improved tackling this time around, Cal still had a lot of success when it got Ohio State defenders in space.
Part of that was the result of Sonny Dykes' explosive offense, which is designed to get defenders in less-than-ideal positions. There were a number of times when the offense did just that, making Ohio State look bad on plays like the quick, wide receiver screens.
Ohio State’s Pass Rush Is Picking Up Steam
After registering just one sack in the season-opening victory over Buffalo, Ohio State has gotten to the quarterback three times in back-to-back games against San Diego State and Cal.
While those numbers don't suggest a dominant pass rush, it does show that the Buckeyes' young defensive line is starting to get on track.
After losing all four of its starters from a year ago, the Buckeyes' defensive front needed a number of young players to step up. Sophomore Noah Spence has shined early at the "Viper" defensive end position.
Freshman Defensive End Joey Bosa Is a Bad Dude
The injury that strong-side defensive end Adolphus Washington suffered against San Diego State prevented him from traveling with the team this week, and starting in his place was freshman Joey Bosa.
Nothing about Bosa's play against Cal would suggest he's a freshman.
Bosa was very impressive, registering 5.5 tackles (tied for fourth best on the team), two of which were for loss, including one sack.
The former 4-star prospect has displayed tremendous speed and power off the edge through Ohio State's first three games, and considering the depth along the defensive line, him getting the nod to start shows how game-ready the first-year player is.
Dontre Wilson Is Really, Really Fast
Dontre Wilson got his most extensive action against the Golden Bears, and he showed off the speed everyone has been talking about since the summer.
Wilson showed his game-changing speed on a number of sweep runs to the perimeter. He took his five carries for 59 yards and also hauled in three catches for 48 yards, averaging more than 13 yards every time he touched the ball.
As Wilson continues to impress, his role in the offense will only grow bigger and bigger.
Jordan Hall Is Making a Case to Be the Team's Permanent Starting Running Back
It's hard to argue that any player has been more impressive this season than Jordan Hall.
The fifth-year senior was slated to play "The Percy Harvin Role" in this offense before Carlos Hyde was suspended for the first three games of the year. The coaching staff plugged him into the backfield and he has responded with some outstanding performances.
Hall set a career-high in the opener with 159 rushing yards on 21 carries. After the Buckeyes spread the ball around against San Diego State, Hall set a new career-best against Cal, piling up 168 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Hyde will be eligible to play this coming week against Florida A&M, but he's going to have a hard time stealing carries away from Hall.
Ohio State Looks Like the Big Ten’s Best Team
After Michigan barely survived an Akron team that has just seven wins since the 2009 season, Ohio State looks like the Big Ten's best team.
The Wolverines came into the week with the most impressive resume, boasting a 41-30 victory over a Top-25 team in Notre Dame.
The lowly Zips calmed the hype generating in Ann Arbor Saturday as it came just four yards away from pulling off the upset of the year in college football.
Northwestern appears solid and Wisconsin has looked good through three weeks of play, but with a dominant victory over Cal with its backup quarterback, Ohio State has reasserted itself as the class of the Big Ten.
All stats per ESPN.com. All recruit rankings per 247sports.com
David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.