Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Florida A&M Rattlers Complete Game Preview
The No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes close out their nonconference schedule Saturday with a home game against the Florida A&M Rattlers.
The Buckeyes (3-0) are coming off a 52-34 road victory over Cal—a game which featured more than 1,100 combined yards of offense. With backup quarterback Kenny Guiton starting in place of the injured Braxton Miller, Ohio State controlled the game, racing out to a 21-0 lead six minutes into the first quarter.
Cal showed resilience in closing the gap to 11 before halftime, but the Buckeyes proved to be too much for the Golden Bears in an 18-point victory.
Even with Miller's playing status still in question, Florida A&M will travel to Columbus as heavy underdogs. According to Vegas Insider, Ohio State is favored by 57 points.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 21
Time: Noon ET
Place: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
TV: Big Ten Network
Ohio State Keys to Victory
There's a reason the Buckeyes are 57-point favorites. Ohio State is deeper, bigger and more talented at every level in its matchup with FCS opponent Florida A&M.
In fact, the biggest challenge for Urban Meyer will be keeping his team interested. Buckeyes starting safety Christian Bryant was brutally honest when asked if he'd rather be playing a high-caliber team.
''I would. I like to showcase our talent. I would like to play, like, bigger games," Bryant said, according to Rusty Miller of the Associated Press.
A big game looms for the Buckeyes next week, as they're set to host No. 24 Wisconsin under the lights in Columbus.
According to the AP article, Meyer acknowledged that it's hard to stay focused when playing a lower-division school.
''I could give you some coach-speak up here (but) it does make a difference. So we are going to have to really coach (the players) hard this week.''
Florida A&M Keys to Victory
Ohio State has dominated in the first quarter this season, outscoring its opponents 68-14.
If Florida A&M pulls off one of the greatest, if not the greatest upset in college football history, it will have to keep Ohio State from racing out of the gates.
A lot would have to happen for the Rattlers to overcome being eight-touchdown underdogs.
Since 2009, Florida A&M has played four FBS programs (Oklahoma, South Florida and Miami twice). The Rattlers have lost all four matchups by a combined score of 232-46.
Florida A&M would be making progress by showing the slightest form of competitiveness against an elite upper-division team.
Players to Watch for the Buckeyes
After serving a three-game suspension for an offseason incident, Carlos Hyde returns to the Buckeyes and a crowded backfield. Urban Meyer announced during the Big Ten teleconference that Hyde will play against the Rattlers.
Urban: "Carlos Hyde has been very unselfish working on the scout team, and he will play."— Austin Ward (@AWardESPN) September 17, 2013
Hyde will give Ohio State the power running game it lacked with smaller backs such as Jordan Hall and Dontre Wilson. It will be interesting to see how much action Hyde gets against Florida A&M and how the coaching staff splits the workload between him and Hall, who has been impressive through three weeks.
After stating Monday that Miller was probable for the Florida A&M game, Meyer didn't say anything definitive on his status Tuesday, according to Zack Meisel of The Plain Dealer.
The coaching staff needs to see Miller practice, and if his lateral movement doesn't bother his injured knee, he'll likely see action against the Rattlers. Ben Axelrod of Buckeye Sports Bulletin reports that Meyer said Miller is "right on schedule."
Players to Watch for the Rattlers
Florida A&M has struggled offensively this season, scoring just five touchdowns in three games.
Quarterback Damien Fleming has also struggled, throwing for just 126 yards per game while completing 48 percent of his passes. Fleming has thrown five interceptions and only two touchdown passes.
Florida A&M has good speed at wide receiver, and Lenworth Lennon is the unquestioned leader of the group.
Lennon has 229 receiving yards through three games, which accounts for more than 60 percent of the team's total.
Both Fleming and Lennon will need to fuel an offense that has averaged just 228 yards per game.
What They Are Saying
We didn't have that dilemma a year ago; or not dilemma, but luxury. We're in the conversation about that right now. If he's one of the best 11, you have an obligation to get him on the field a little bit.
If … I haven't said he's one of the best 11 yet, but that's something we are in the process of as coaches to ID that. The good thing is, there are some choices now.
I know a little bit about them because I have a few guys that I played against in high school that went to them. I know they have a bunch of athletes, and I know some of them guys are from Florida, and when you’re from Florida, you’ve got some athletes.
Florida A&M coach Earl Holmes talks about defending Ohio State's offense, via Florida A&M's official website.
Overall I think it's about the scheme of what they're doing. They've got a lot of speed on the offensive side of the ball.
They're big up front and they try to beat you with speed on the outside, as well as try to power you down the middle on the inside...We just need to do what we need to do, and that's just take care of the run first and make sure we don't let guys get behind us in the pass.
The Buckeyes will do what they want offensively, and that will mean a lot of yards on the ground. Ohio State will have three players—Jordan Hall, Dontre Wilson and Carlos Hyde—rush for more than 75 yards.
Ohio State will play Braxton Miller for just a few drives, and he'll connect on 10 of 12 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. Guiton will take a majority of the snaps and lead the offense to more than 600 total yards of offense.
The Buckeyes will take a 42-3 lead into halftime, then add three more touchdowns midway through the fourth quarter. The Rattlers will put together a touchdown drive in the closing minutes to cover the 57-point spread.
Prediction: Ohio State 63, Florida A&M 10
All stats via ESPN.com.
David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.