Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
The University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers might have a tough road ahead in Ohio Stadium this weekend.
The winless Blazers (0-2) will face No. 16 Ohio State (3-0) Saturday at Ohio Stadium in the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
OSU opened its season with victories against Miami (Ohio), Central Florida and California, and coach Urban Meyer made the Buckeyes’ objective for Saturday’s game clear during his weekly press conference on Monday.
“We have to get to 4-0,” Meyer said. “That has to happen.”
If UAB is going to prevent the Buckeyes from doing that, the Blazers will need to reverse the result of a Saturday loss against South Carolina. The Blazers dropped that game 49-6 for their second defeat of the season.
Even though the Blazers finished far behind on the final scoreboard, UAB freshman safety Jake Ganus said their game versus South Carolina gave them confidence for playing OSU.
“Playing at South Carolina will definitely help us prepare for playing at a venue like Ohio State with the big crowd and atmosphere,” Ganus said during UAB’s weekly press conference on Monday. “I don’t think we will be quite as nervous running out of the tunnel in front of thousands of fans that are booing you when we have already been through it at South Carolina.”
UAB ranks 86th in the NCAA in total yards of offense per game, 117th in rushing yards per game and 110th in points scored per game, but it has been better statistically as a passing offense. The Blazers rank 30th nationally in passing yards per game, and already have 11 offensive plays of 20 yards or more in only two games.
Meyer expressed concern about his defense, which has given up 15 plays of 20 yards or more in three games, going up against a team who has been able to make big plays this season.
“We’ve seen enough big plays for a season all in just three games. And this team is willing to launch it down the field, so that’s an issue,” Meyer said during Tuesday’s Big Ten teleconference. “This is as many deep balls as we’ll see in one game. They just throw it down the field a lot, they have very athletic receivers.”
UAB’s defense has given up 88 points in two games, which ranks them 123rd out of 124 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision in points allowed per game. Furthermore, the Blazers rank 108th nationally in defensive yards allowed per game, 86th nationally in passing yards allowed per game and 110th in rushing yards allowed per game.
This week, the Blazers’ defense will have to go up against an OSU offense led by sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller, who ranks ninth nationally with 988 yards of total offense through three games this season. Numerous UAB defensive players discussed the challenge of playing against Miller during UAB’s press conference.
“We know he is a great athlete,” said freshman defensive tackle Jontavius Morris. “He has great running and throwing ability. But with correct alignments, assignments and execution, we can get the job done.”
“I think if we all do our part well and work together we can contain him, but he is an outstanding athlete who can run and throw the ball so we will be looking to stop him any way possible,” Ganus said.
Like the Buckeyes with Meyer, UAB also has a first-year head coach, Garrick McGee, who joined the Blazers after serving as an assistant coach at Arkansas from 2008-2011.
While at Florida, Meyer faced McGee and praised the former Razorback coach during Tuesday’s teleconference.
“He’s a classy guy,” Meyer said. “I think he’s one of the better coaches … we had some incredible battles when I was at Florida, so a lot of respect for him and I think he’s the right man for the job.”
Meyer also explained his approach to Saturday’s contest during the teleconference.
“We’re attacking this one,” Meyer said. “We understand there’s good athletes on that team. My objective for this game is to win and to have a clean game. Minimal penalties, no turnovers and block the right people and tackle.”
Kickoff between OSU and UAB is set for noon Saturday at Ohio Stadium.