Courtesy of MCT
The similarities between the results of the season-opening games for the Ohio State football team and their upcoming opponent, the Central Florida Knights, are striking.
Both teams scored 56 points to win their openers, and both wins came against opposition from the Mid-American Conference. The Buckeyes held Miami (Ohio) to just 10 points in Ohio Stadium last Saturday, while UCF allowed 14 points in a road game versus Akron two days earlier on Aug. 30.
This Saturday at noon, the Buckeyes will be back in Ohio Stadium to face UCF, who is playing in the state of Ohio for the second time in as many weeks.
The Knights’ first win came against a team that won only one game in 2011, but if they are to start the season with a second consecutive victory, they will have to upset the No. 14 Buckeyes.
Even with the ramifications of a road game versus a ranked team, UCF head coach George O’Leary told The Lantern that his team is preparing for OSU “the same way we prepare every week.”
“I think you’re only as good as your base defense,” O’Leary said. “My experience when you start venturing off too much, I think all you do is screw up your own kids.”
The final score from UCF’s victory against Akron was well in the Knights’ favor, but although O’Leary thought his team “played with great effort and great enthusiasm,” he acknowledged that the team did not play as well as it could have.
“I think we have to be more productive on offense, and more productive on defense,” O’Leary said. “Overall, I was pleased with their effort, and obviously the production. We’d like to have some plays back, both sides of the ball, but I think those are learning experiences and you get better by just showing them the mistakes and working on them.”
While the Knights might not be partaking in any special preparation for OSU, O’Leary acknowledged the “tremendous athleticism” that the Buckeyes have on their roster.
“The quarterback there is an outstanding athlete that can make a lot of things happen,” O’Leary said. “They’ve got really good, skilled athletes that can do things with the ball when they get in their hands, and defensively I think they’re very, very solid.”
That quarterback, OSU sophomore Braxton Miller, did make things happen in the Buckeyes’ season opener, passing for 207 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 161 yards and another touchdown.
UCF senior defensive end Troy Davis discussed the challenge of going up against the Buckeyes’ dual-threat quarterback during UCF’s football press conference on Tuesday.
“He’s a good quarterback and he can beat you two ways,” Davis said. “He can throw the ball and he’s a mobile quarterback as well. We just need to be prepared for whatever he can bring to the table.”
On the other side, OSU coach Urban Meyer acknowledged that the Buckeyes will be facing a “whole different animal” this Saturday than they did against Miami.
“We have great respect for everything they’ve done,” Meyer said. “They have very good players, two 300-pound plus defensive tackles, two very athletic defensive ends. It’s what you’d imagine out of Central Florida. On offense, they just pounded Akron … and just ran power downhill at them. With a big, athletic quarterback that also threw the ball very well, his stats were really good.”
The defensive linemen Meyer referred to include Davis and 327-pound junior defensive tackle Jose Jose, while UCF’s “big, athletic quarterback” is 6-foot-4, 221-pound redshirt sophomore Blake Bortles, who threw for 168 yards and three touchdowns against Akron.
One key player that the Knights could be without is redshirt senior running back Latavius Murray. Against Akron, Murray led UCF with 108 rushing yards, but during Tuesday’s press conference, O’Leary said he did not expect Murray to play on Saturday after suffering a shoulder injury against the Zips.
In addition to their season-opening scoring totals, OSU and UCF have something else in common: both teams have one-year postseason bans levied against them this year. UCF, however, has an appeal outstanding that could overturn their bowl ban, or if the appeal has not been decided by the end of 2012, the Knights would serve that ban in 2013 should it be upheld.
While UCF is playing with the uncertainty of whether they will be bowl-eligible this postseason, O’Leary explained his approach to the situation.
“We play 12 one-game seasons,” O’Leary said. “This is the second season coming up, and that’s the way I treat it. I don’t look back, I don’t look ahead. I think that’s the best way to deal with teams when they have any type of restrictions put on by the NCAA.”