COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The first half of the season is in the books, and "The Chase" is still right on schedule for Ohio State.
But even with an undefeated record and what appears to be a pretty manageable slate of games coming up, the Buckeyes still have some areas to clean up if they're going to be a factor in the national title race. They could have used a bye one week earlier instead of taking on Northwestern on the heels of a significant injury to a starter, but they survived that road test anyway and can regroup without having suffered a loss all the same. Here's what has likely had the attention of coach Urban Meyer as he sets the course for the stretch run.
Sorting out the secondary: The defense made some second-half adjustments against the Wildcats and did enough to slow down a dangerous attack to get another victory, but last week wasn't the first time the Buckeyes have looked susceptible to big plays in the secondary this season. There was even more attention on the defensive backs, particularly Corey "Pittsburgh" Brown, as the loss of Christian Bryant to a season-ending broken ankle has added some uncertainty to what was expected to be perhaps the strength of the team with all the veteran experience in the unit. Even star cornerback Bradley Roby has been victimized a few times, and there has appeared to be some communication breakdowns and blown assignments against the pass in previous games against California and Wisconsin, which will make cleaning up the fundamentals in coverage a priority.
Keep harping on Miller's mechanics: The offseason reviews about Braxton Miller's improved ability with his arm were unanimously positive and have largely been proved correct, but neither the Buckeyes nor the junior quarterback can consider the job complete just yet. Miller missed at least one throw that should have been a touchdown against the Wildcats and at times looked a little shaky in his decision-making, but those issues didn't wind up costing Ohio State anything in a gritty win on the road. Coming back from missing nearly three weeks with a knee sprain, Miller might have had just enough rust on him to keep him from operating at full capacity, though there have certainly been glimpses of what he's capable now as a passer, most notably in the scoring barrage early against Wisconsin. Focusing again on his footwork and getting more live reps on the practice field should only help him become more consistent in the passing game.
Stay hungry, healthy: The Buckeyes are obviously aware of how the schedule shakes out, and it's not hard for anybody to deduce that they'll be heavy favorites in each of the next five games. But it's far too early to look ahead to the matchup with Michigan waiting at the end of November, and with no margin for error in the national title picture, the Buckeyes will have to maintain both the chip on their shoulder and the one-game-at-a-time approach that has served them so well since Meyer took over. Getting an extra week to make sure Miller is fully comfortable with his left knee is also helpful, even though it doesn't appear to have really hampered him much over the last two weeks. But the Buckeyes should really be boosted by the return of defensive tackle Tommy Schutt from a broken foot that has kept him on the sideline since training camp, expanding the rotation up front and providing some extra beef to stop the rush.