1. Which team will have the better start?
When all was said and done, Urban Meyer said he was happy to see his team struggle at some point against Miami (Ohio) in the opener, but surely the Buckeyes would prefer to get off to a faster start.
The sluggish beginning was not new for this group of Ohio State players, many of whom are back from 2011 when the Buckeyes fell behind frequently in the second half of the season. They gave up the first score of the contest in five of their last six games. Michigan was the exception, but the Wolverines still took a 16-7 lead into the second quarter before the Buckeyes rallied for a halftime lead.
Central Florida followed a similar pattern in its season-opening win against Akron, taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter then tacking on 28 in the second to go into the locker room at halftime leading 35-0.
2. How will the Ohio State defense handle the power running game?
Meyer made a point to say UCF will bring a much different look to Ohio Stadium than did Miami, a pass-happy outfit that barely even played lip service to the idea of “balance” on offense.
The Knights trounced Akron with a running game that piled up 206 yards on 46 attempts, a 4.5-yard average. They attempted only 19 passes.
Leading rusher Latavius Murray has been declared out for the game with a shoulder injury, but UCF is deep at tailback with Storm Johnson, Brynn Harvey and Cedric Thompson expected to pick up the slack in his absence. Johnson ran for 34 yards on 12 carries last week while Thompson had 44 yards on 11 totes and Harvey went for 13 on five tries.
Ohio State had mixed results against power running teams last season, giving up 240 yards rushing to Miami (Fla.) and 239 to Penn State but holding Michigan State to 71 yards and Wisconsin to 89.
3. How will Ohio State attack the Knights offensively?
UCF does not come from a power conference, but it does not lack for size on defense. The Knights start 327-pound Jose Jose and 302-pound E.J. Dunston inside with ends and linebackers checking at roughly the same size as Ohio State’s players at those positions (linebacker Jonathan Davis is an exception at 5-9, 202).
Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman showed last week they can adjust to a defensive game plan when Miami came out set on taking away the inside run game, so it will be interesting to see if another chess match ensues.
UCF finished in the top 10 in total defense, scoring defense and pass efficiency defense last season.
4. What about the red zone?
The win over the RedHawks contained a notable black mark: Red zone offense. The Buckeyes failed to score on two of their seven trips inside the Miami 20-yard line, once because of an errant center snap and the second time when they failed to execute the “power” play at the 1-yard line on the last play of the second quarter.
Working on fixing the former issue seems like an automatic, and Meyer said there could be some changes in how his team attacks short-yardage going forward.
“We'll do some things different, but that was a tempo setter,” Meyer said of sending his team out to line up in a traditional two-back set with the quarterback under center. “That was a timeout. We called them together, and I wanted to see something happen, and we should have scored. We missed a block. The offensive line can't miss a block down there.”
A potential change could see more use of the shotgun, spread sets the Buckeyes use as a base now.
UCF was 7 for 7 with seven touchdowns in its opener.
5. And play action?
It follows that a strong running game can open up play action and with it big-play opportunities.
Ohio State was prone to miscues in the secondary last season and gave up a handful of big plays last week, so the defensive backs will be challenged to maintain eye control and discipline against the Knights.
This is a two-way street as the Buckeyes benefitted from the threat of their own run, too, last week when they had the ball.
A big play to Corey “Philly” Brown helped loosen up the Miami defense, and a play-action pass to Devin Smith produced the first touchdown of the afternoon.