The Ohio State Buckeyes sport the nation’s longest winning streak at 17 games as they head into their first Big Ten road game of 2013.
The Buckeyes (5-0, 1-0) are set to face an opponent whose record is also unblemished — the Northwestern Wildcats — and will be playing under the lights for the second week in a row.
OSU coach Urban Meyer has faced Northwestern only once in his coaching career, winning a 43-42 thriller in 2001 while at Bowling Green. ESPN College GameDay will be in Evanston, Ill., for the game, and the Wildcats will have had an extra week to prepare, coming off a bye week.
Who will replace Christian Bryant?
Coming off a physical matchup with the Wisconsin Badgers, Meyer said the team is being careful this week in practice.
“We had to be very cautious on how we operated (Sunday),” Meyer said. “I’m going to be very smart how we do Tuesday and Wednesday, because that’s usually very physical. Today (Monday) I’m getting a feel for how our guys are when they are going through the training room and treatment. It is what it is. It’s part of the season.”
Meyer and his staff have the task of replacing senior safety Christian Bryant, who broke his left ankle late in the 31-24 win.
Likely to replace Bryant is redshirt-senior safety Corey “Pitt” Brown, who Meyer said has a bit of advantage over other players like freshman Vonn Bell or redshirt-freshman Tyvis Powell because of his experience.
Special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs agreed.
“I think as we sit here (Monday) afternoon that “Pitt” Brown will go in there and play,” Coombs said. “I don’t know exactly the configuration of how all those guys are fit going into the week and some of that will be developed and discussed during practice.”
Big Ten recognition
For the third week in a row, an OSU player has been named Big Ten offensive or co-offensive player of the week. Earning the honor against the Badgers was junior quarterback Braxton Miller, following in the footsteps of redshirt-senior Kenny Guiton, who won the award while filling in for Miller the previous two weeks.
Miller threw for 198 yards and four touchdowns against Wisconsin and added running 83 yards rushing on 22 carries.
“I thought his preparation for the game was one of the best he’s had,” Meyer said of Miller. “His practice was one of the best he’s had as far as Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday. I thought his accuracy on the deep ball was outstanding.”
OSU’s quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Tom Herman was a little harder on the Buckeye signal caller.
“Not great, he still made some mental mistakes that can be corrected in terms of some reads,” Herman said. “We’ve still got to do a better job of when he does decide to scramble of going vertically, not losing yards. It’s much easier to call second and eight than it is to call second and 14.”
Herman mentioned how OSU would rather run the ball than throw it, saying “when we throw it, it’s because you have inhibited our ability to run it.” Prepping for the Wildcat defense is similar in that sense.
“There’s a lot of different ways that you can say ‘let’s stop the run,’” Herman said. “How they decide to do it and how they have, at least on video, is a little bit different than Wisconsin, but I think that the commitment to stopping the run is not going to change.”
Working on special teams
Freshman punter Cameron Johnston was named Big Ten special teams player of the week after planting all six of his punts inside Wisconsin’s 20-yard line.
Meyer said he was pleased with the Australian’s performance against the Badgers, but that improvement is still needed.
“I’ve graded him about a C- (through five games),” Meyer said. “His average hang time was just under four seconds, which is completely unacceptable.”
The punter agreed with his head coach, despite having a 55-yard punt late in the game that gave the Badgers poor field position as they tried to tie the game.
“It’s great to finally get out there and be able to finally have a really good game, but there’s still plenty of stuff to work on,” Johnston said. “But right now, that’s really good.”
Coombs said the entire special teams unit must be efficient, not just the punter.
“We want to cover kicks, we want to split the field and make sure the other team doesn’t return the ball,” Coombs said.
The Buckeyes and Wildcats are set to face off Saturday at 8 p.m. at Ryan Field.