Ohio State will look to extend its nation-leading 14-game winning streak on Saturday at 3:30 p.m., when the Buckeyes are scheduled to face Hawaii.
Here are five things to watch for against the Rainbow Warriors.
Who gets the field goal duties this time?
Besides the quarterback battle, the other one-on-one battle heading into the season was for the kicker spot.
While it was known for some time that redshirt senior Jack Willoughby, a transfer from Duke, would be handling kickoff duties, he was still neck-and-neck throughout camp with sophomore Sean Nuernberger for field goals.
In OSU’s opener at Virginia Tech, it was Willoughby who got the job. However, his one attempt — a 43-yard kick late in the first quarter — had the distance but missed wide.
Willoughby kicked extra points for the Buckeyes as well, converting all six tries.
OSU coach Urban Meyer said on Wednesday that the battle was back to square one, and it will be the kicker who performed better during Thursday’s practice who wins the job against Hawaii.
No matter who wins the job, though, Meyer said he is not pleased with how the kicking situation has turned out for the Buckeyes for the second year in a row after Nuernberger missed seven of 20 attempts last year.
“(I’m) disappointed right now in our kicking obviously,” Meyer said. “That carries on from last year. We were not a very good field goal team, and we have to get better.”
Who fields punts?
Arguably the biggest surprise in the Virginia Tech game, other than redshirt junior Cardale Jones getting the start at quarterback, was junior tailback Ezekiel Elliott returning punts for the Buckeyes.
The Heisman hopeful was far from impressive as the return man, granted Tech’s solid kick coverage forced him to call fair catch twice. His muffed punt late in the second quarter that set up a go-ahead touchdown by the Hokies was a critical error.
Elliott — who Meyer, on Wednesday, called the team’s best catcher for fielding punts — was not listed as the punt returner on the depth chart released prior to the season opener; rather redshirt senior quarterback-turned-H-back Braxton Miller was penciled in as the starter with sophomore H-back Curtis Samuel as his backup.
As it turned out, neither returned a punt against the Hokies.
Meyer offered insight Wednesday as to why he opted to not go with Miller.
“I just didn’t think it would be fair to put him in that environment back there,” Meyer said.
For Saturday’s game, Meyer said he doesn’t know “who the starter is yet” but that it would be either Miller or redshirt sophomore H-back Jalin Marshall, who returned some kicks in 2014 but was suspended for the season opener.
After a misstep in the return game led to a Hokies touchdown, Meyer will need whoever is back fielding punts to be sure-handed to avoid giving the opposition extra possessions.
Three more guys, just one ball
The Buckeyes offense had an explosive performance Labor Day night at Lane Stadium, where it put up 42 points while racking up 572 yards of total offense — 360 of which were on the ground. For the game, OSU averaged a remarkable 10.2 yards per play.
All of this was accomplished with three projected offensive starters not in uniform due to suspension.
Now against Hawaii, Marshall, redshirt senior wide receiver Corey Smith and junior H-back Dontre Wilson will be back in action.
Meyer and offensive coordinator Ed Warinner have so many weapons at their disposal and they exhibited that against the Hokies. Factoring the three suspended players into the mix now raises an interesting question: There is one football. How do you spread it around to all the weapons?
Sophomore H-back Curtis Samuel, who had two catches for 32 yards and a score against Tech, said he is not concerned about how the bevy of playmakers will get their touches.
“There is great talent. We’ve got the best receiving corp in college football,” Samuel said. “We got a lot of guys on this team that are playmakers and whoever goes out there gonna make plays.”
The Brooklyn, New York, native said that the decision as to who will be on the field during games will be decided by the coaches based on practice.
“(It) starts on the practice field,” he said. “We all gotta go out there and put in the same amount of work. Whoever making plays in practice, the coaches build trust in you from there and when it comes to game time, they’ll put you on the field and go make the play.”
How many deep balls will the Buckeyes throw?
Despite being ranked 89th in the country in passing yards allowed per game in 2014, Colorado did not opt to attack the Rainbow Warriors through the air too much in Hawaii’s 28-20 season-opening victory.
The longest completion of the game for Colorado junior quarterback Sefo Liufau was 26 yards, and that came on its final drive. Prior to that, the longest completion was just 12 yards.
For OSU, obviously, Jones presents a little more of a threat through the air than Liufau, who threw 40 times against the Rainbow Warriors for just 156 yards.
The Cleveland native could have a chance to show off his arm at never-before-seen levels. The combination of a weak Hawaii secondary and multitude of aerial weapons — including redshirt junior Michael Thomas, Smith, Miller and Marshall — could enable Jones to put on a show with his deep throws.
Will we see a two-QB system this time?
Heading into the Virginia Tech game, Meyer said he had already made up his mind that both quarterbacks will play against the Hokies.
While he wasn’t wrong, as redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett ended up leading the final three drives of the game for the Buckeyes, that was more of a function of the game being out of hand than actually making Barrett a part of the offense.
Saturday’s game figures to be another blowout, so it is more than likely that Barrett — and perhaps even third-stringer and redshirt freshman Stephen Collier — will get a good number of snaps. But will Barrett come in for a play or two earlier in the game to give Jones a breather or catch the defense off guard?
Meyer didn’t confirm on Wednesday that Jones will be the starter on Saturday, but he said that the coaching staff is working on packages to get Barrett involved.
“There might be packages that I’m going to put in,” Meyer said. “We talked about that (Wednesday) with the quarterbacks, with maybe J.T.
“They both have to be on call and ready to go.”