COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A closer look at players and positions that will be critical for No. 4 Ohio State as it tries to extend its winning streak under Urban Meyer to 15 games on Saturday at California.
The health of Braxton Miller has been under the microscope all week long since he left on the opening drive of Ohio State's easy win last week, and while his sprained knee has responded well and the junior will be on the plane heading west, it's a safe bet his backup once again will be seeing some action.
The Buckeyes might not know exactly how much they'll need Guiton until shortly before kickoff, but even if Miller is in solid enough shape to start, Meyer might well play it safe and get his reliable reliever off the bench to share the load at times anyway -- particularly if the spread attack is able to get an early lead against a suspect Cal defense.
Perhaps overlooked with the spotlight shining so brightly on Miller's knee is the fact Ohio State is dealing with another injury concern on the other side of the ball, and the groin problem for defensive end Adolphus Washington actually might be a more pressing issue. Considering the youth in the front seven for the Buckeyes and Cal's uptempo, aggressive style with the football, removing Washington from the lineup could be a significant blow up front.
True freshman Joey Bosa has played himself into position for a potential start and has drawn rave reviews for his athleticism and smooth transition to life in major college football, and the Buckeyes might wind up counting on him to back up all that talk in a pressurized situation.
The senior center expected to go the distance last week on his surgically repaired foot, but the lopsided scoreboard instead influenced Ohio State to err on the side of caution once again and take it slow with Linsley. He's certainly ready for a full workload against Cal, and the Buckeyes clearly have been more effective when they have their anchor on the field. The 17 early snaps and 23 points in the opener provide obvious evidence when compared with the 17 points Ohio State scored in the rest of the game without him. To help take some of the strain off the defense as it deals with a Cal squad looking to snap the ball close to 100 times, the Ohio State offensive line often will be called on to dominate as run-blockers and help work on the clock with the ground game, and Linsley can set that tone right in the middle of it all.
Designating official starters at cornerback was all the rage last week, but it truly won't matter at Cal. All three of Ohio State's top cornerbacks are going to see plenty of action, and after a somewhat inconsistent outing in place of Bradley Roby in the opener, the defensive staff surely felt better about what it got out of Armani Reeves in the win over San Diego State. Along with Doran Grant, safeties C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant and nickelback Tyvis Powell, the secondary will be facing one of its toughest tests of the season against a pass-happy offense that will try to attack with a barrage of throws all over the field. The Buckeyes consider themselves one of the deepest, most talented units in the nation, and this will be a huge opportunity to prove it with no shortage of plays to be made.