COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Checking out the key areas for California as it prepares for a trip to Ohio State on Saturday (TV: ABC, noon).
1. Early risers: Setting the alarm for kickoff shouldn’t be a problem for the Golden Bears. They’re used to putting on the pads early thanks to a practice schedule that has them on the field in the morning. But jet lag could still be an issue for them as they fly across the country to a time zone three hours ahead of what they’re used to, though coach Jeff Tedford tried to address that by having his team fly in a day early to get the biological clocks set as well. Under Tedford, the program has a 5-1 record in road games that kick off before noon local time in California -- though only one of those matchups came against a ranked opponent, a blowout loss to Michigan State in 2002.
2. Grizzly bear: The schematics alone were enough to give Ohio State a bit of concern. The statistics wouldn’t be any more encouraging for the Buckeyes as they gear up for the unique 4-6 alignment the Golden Bears will employ defensively. Cal ranks sixth in the nation in tackles for loss after racking up 20 of them through two games, led by senior J.P. Hurrell and his three sacks. The Golden Bears will likely be loading the box and forcing Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller to beat them through the air, and they’ll have plenty of defenders near the line of scrimmage who have already proven they can make plays behind it.
3. Marquee matchup: There might be an occasional moment or two where Bradley Roby gets bored thanks to his physical advantage in the secondary, but that shouldn’t be an issue for the Ohio State cornerback against the Golden Bears. One of the top receivers in the nation, Keenan Allen, is coming to Ohio Stadium looking to build on a decorated career and improve his draft stock on the heels of another eye-catching performance last that featured a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown. His speed and reliable hands obviously makes him just as dangerous on offense, and his one-on-one showdown with Roby could help swing the game.
4. Rough start: The Golden Bears couldn’t break in their newly renovated digs at home to start the season, dropping the opener to Nevada thanks in part to a late fumble by Zach Maynard. Before that, the Cal quarterback was forced to miss the first three series of the game as part of his punishment for missing a tutoring session in the summer -- adding up to a forgettable performance all around. The Golden Bears aren’t likely to find much success on the ground against the Buckeyes, so they’ll need a focused Maynard to help spring an upset and turn around that sloppy start to the year.
5. Old friends: Urban Meyer doesn’t necessarily even have to speak up about what he knows of the Cal passing attack. The Buckeyes defense could be prepared for what Tedford has in store for them already just based on practices against their own offense. Meyer called the Cal coach one of his “great friends” with a relationship dating to his early days at Bowling Green and some time spent breaking down schemes together for a couple of days during a visit to the St. Louis Rams. Meyer indicated he still uses concepts borrowed from Tedford, which might put some pressure on the latter to come up with a few new tricks against his buddy’s defense.