Preparing for an intrastate opponent could easily be an afterthought for the Ohio State football team.
The Buckeyes have not lost a game to coach Urban Meyer’s alma mater Cincinnati since 1897.
But the Bearcats enter the matchup against OSU with a top tier passing offense, ranking ninth in the country.
Meyer said Wednesday that the matchup pitting the Bearcats’ aerial assault against the Buckeye defense will be the key to the game. He added that he has confidence in his secondary that just a year ago ranked 112 out of 125 teams in pass yards allowed per game.
“That’s the big one,” Meyer said. “I do (have confidence) from what I see not because I hope. They are highly-recruited kids. I see what I see in practice and this will be the big challenge for them.”
The Bearcats’ redshirt-sophomore quarterback Gunner Kiel, who was highly recruited out of high school, earned high praises from Meyer. He said Kiel has impressed him with his play thus far in 2014.
“He is big, strong and he runs pretty good when he runs,” Meyer said. “He looks giant on film and on TV. He just looks like a big, gunslinger-type quarterback.”
Kiel, who committed to Indiana and Louisiana State University before spending a year at Notre Dame, transferred to Cincinnati in 2013 and sat out all of last season. But just two games into his career, he is already impressing his peers.
OSU junior defensive lineman Tommy Schutt said the Buckeye defense cannot let Kiel be comfortable in the pocket, or he will be able to make plays.
“We have a lot of respect for Gunner Kiel and he is a great quarterback,” Schutt said Wednesday. “Our job up front is to get after him and disrupt his game. A huge part of our game plan is getting after the quarterback.”
OSU sophomore safety Vonn Bell agreed with his defensive teammate, adding that the Buckeyes will need to disturb Kiel in order to be successful.
“He is pretty calm back there,” Bell said Wednesday. “We got to bring a lot of chaos. We are going to bring something for him, so we got to get him mixed up in the head, cover our guys and do our jobs.”
Containing the Bearcats’ receivers is something that the OSU defense is also focusing on this week as Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville called his receiving corps the best he has ever coached. In comparison, Tuberville has coached at Auburn and Texas Tech amongst other schools, going undefeated at Auburn in 2004.
Bell said he knows the Buckeyes will be tested Saturday, but remains confident the OSU defense will hold its own.
“It’s a challenge for us, (but) it is a challenge for them too,” Bell said. “We got a good group of guys, they got a good group of guys. It’s going to be a real good contest out there. We are going to fight to the end.”
After receiving scrutiny last season, Bell said the Buckeye secondary is excited to prove that they are no longer the weak link on the football team.
“We are going to show the world who we are,” Bell said.
The Buckeyes will have the chance to do that in their second primetime game of the season and fourth overall contest Saturday, something Schutt said he is looking forward to following a week off.
“A bye week is always tough, sitting at home watching everyone play,” Schutt said. “We are definitely eager to get after it.”
OSU and Cincinnati are scheduled to kickoff Saturday at 6 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.