Are the Buckeyes headed back to the future?
Only rookie head coach Luke Fickell can answer that question and proceeded to do so Thursday, declaring true freshman Braxton Miller as OSU's starter at quarterback Saturday in the Horseshoe.
Nice guy that he is, OSU's destiny is not in the hands of fifth-year senior quarterback Joe Bauserman whose overall body of work over the team's first three games has resulted in mixed reviews.
OHIO STATE’S defense swarms an Akron runner during the first week of the season.
Not to suggest the athletic Braxton Miller is an immediate cure-all for the offensive's titanic struggles so glaringly exposed last weekend in south Florida.
To be sure, Miller's work in relief of Bauserman was only marginally better, albeit against an upgrade in caliber opponent.
Before Fickell and his team open Big Ten play Oct. 1 vs. Michigan State, the Bucks have a final non-conference test Saturday when the Pac-12's Colorado Buffaloes invade.
The 3:36 p.m. kickoff serves as final opportunity for OSU to overhaul an offense which generated no more than two field goals in a frustrating 24-6 loss to UM.
Yielding a pair of first quarter touchdowns, OSU discovered itself facing an early14-0 deficit and never recovered.
Though the Buckeyes' run game had its moments (gaining 190 yards), Bauserman and Miller teamed for just four completions in 18 attempts, including an INT.
Even more alarming was the fact no OSU wideout hauled in a reception, one of the more rare occurrences in team history.
On the plus side, junior Jordan Hall performed well in his initial game of 2011. Hall ran for 87 yards (three short of his career high). The western Pennsylvania native's play was somewhat limited in the second half due to cramping.
Sophomore Carlos Hyde provided 54-yard support and enters Saturday's game as OSU's leading rusher with 223.
The Bucks' ability to generate a solid air attack, however, will likely dictate what degree of success they're able to achieve this season.
Defensively, Ohio State yielded 363 yards to the Hurricanes. The Silver Bullets recorded two pass thefts of UM's Jacory Harris, but could not convert either into six-pointers.
OSU has not faced Colorado since 1986, a 13-10 Buckeyes' win in Ohio Stadium with quarterback Jim Karsatos at the controls.
The Buffaloes are off to a 1-2 start this season, opening with a 34-17 road loss at Hawaii before returning home and losing a 36-33 overtime verdict against California's Bears.
Like Fickell, CU is under the first-year leadership of head coach Jon Embree, a 1987 Colorado grad.
The Buffs presented Embree his first victory last weekend at Boulder in a 28-14 victory against state rival Colorado State.
Colorado has an experienced signal-caller in 6-1, 215-pound senior Tyler Hansen, a California native off to a strong start.
Hansen has completed 55 percent of his passes (61-101), good for 912 yards and seven TDs. He's been intercepted just one time.
Sophomore Paul Richardson (6-1, 175) leads CU's receiving corps with 18 receptions for 360 yards and four scores.
The Buffs' number two pass catcher is versatile running back Rodney Stewart, a Columbus native who played his prep football at Brookhaven High.
Standing just 5-6, the 175-pound Stewart has been a long-standing impact player, earning the bulk of carries the last three seasons.
Last fall, Stewart posted a career-high single-season best 1,318 yards, becoming the ninth player in CU history to lead the Buffaloes in rushing three straight seasons.
Stewart enters Saturday's contest less than 100 yards from becoming the school's number two all-time rusher behind former NFL vet Eric Bieniemy, currently a member of CU's coaching staff.
Freshman Tony Jones (5-7, 175), Stewart's heir apparent, is the Buffs' second leading rusher after three games.
Colorado's front line is an experienced group featuring three senior starters - 6-4, 290-pound left guard Ethan Adkins; 6-8, 195-pound right guard Ryan Miller; and 6-5, 335-pound right tackle Sione Tau.
On the defensive side, sophomore corner Parker Orms (5-11, 190) is the early leader in tackles (28), backed by 6-3, 230-pound junior linebacker Douglas Rippy, an ex-Buckeye prepster at Trotwood-Madison.
Conrad Obi, a 6-3, 290-pound fifth year senior, anchors the defensive line at nose tackle. Sophomore end Chidera Uzo-Diribe (6-3, 240) has logged a team-leading three QB sacks.
SATURDAY'S game represents Colorado's fourth all-time contest in the state of Ohio. The Buffs knocked off OSU in 1971 before sustaining the 1986 loss. Two seasons ago, CU traveled to Toledo and suffered a 54-38 reversal to the Rockets in the Glass Bowl....
Colorado awaits Pac-12 play Oct. 1 despite its week two loss to Cal which was not officially logged as a conference test.
One week from Saturday, the Buffs host Washington State, the first of nine consecutive PAC 12 tests, including a Thanksgiving weekend matchup at Utah....
The Buffaloes have yielded but one turnover during their first three games, tying eight other teams in that category. CU's lone miscue was a pass theft late in the opener at Hawaii.
In the 36-33 overtime loss to Cal, the Buffaloes' offense generated 582 yards, including a 474-yard passing output by Hansen....
OSU was without the services of two starters last week at Miami: senior defensive end Nathan Williams and sophomore wideout Corey "Philly" Brown. A 13-game starter, Williams is expected to remained sidelined this week.
Brown's status, meanwhile, could be a game time decision....
Ohio State University president E. Gordon Gee has served in a similar capacity at five universities including Colorado (1985-90). Gee also served at West Virginia between 1981-85.....
One of the few bright spots for the Bucks last week was produced by punter Ben Buchanan. The junior averaged 46.5 yards after six punts.
Included was a career-best 60-yarder. After three games, Buchanan is netting 42.6 yards per kick....
SATURDAY'S game, in addition to being broadcast by ABC/ESPN and on local radio, can be located via Sirius Satellite on Channel 117 and XM Channel 196...
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