THE OHIO State Buckeyes' opponent Saturday will be the University of California Golden Bears whose quarterback knows the importance of being an "early bird."
Bears quarterback Jared Goff, who now leads the nation in passing yards with 935, passing yards per game with 467.50 yards per game and total offense, 458 ypg, enrolled early at the university after graduating a semester early from high school.
In August, new Bears coach Sonny Dykes selected him as a starter. Also vying for the QB position were junior Austin Hider and redshirt freshman Zach Kline.
After Goff's selection as QB, Dykes pointed out the there had been "fiercely contested competition for our starting quarterback position. ... We feel that right now Jared Goff gives us the best chance to be successful as a team, but we are very fortunate to have three outstanding quarterbacks we feel we can be successful with."
OSU assistant head coach/co-defensive coordinator/safeties Everett Withers, asked if the Bears would pile more on Goff this week than they did last week, replied negatively before adding,
"I think he has a good grasp of the offense. Obviously, this is one of those offenses, you just call plays and you go so he's getting it in and calling it. So it's not a whole lot that's on his plate right now. But he seems to have managed it; he doesn't seem overwhelmed at all with running what they do."
The Bears, however, will be facing a defense which earned praise this week from OSU head football coach Urban Meyer.
Meyer said that "we are getting close to the kind of defense that I have a dream of seeing, and that's aggressive. Our defensive line is playing at a very high lively right now.
"I don't want to jinx them, they just are playing, they are not perfect at all; matter of fact, they are very poor in some things they do but as far as effort, energy, enthusiasm, esprit de corps, that whole unit is playing and I have to give credit to their coach, Mike Vrabel. They play like Mike coaches, and I imagine the way Mike played here - it's just high energy, intense, very close-knit group."
After pointing out, he was very impressed with the defense, the coach mentioned the energy, but added that "there's a lot of things we can fix. We are too soft on zone coverage. At times, I thought we were too soft in man coverage, but I liked the philosophy that we pressure ... we pressured more (in the game with San Diego) than we had the previous week."
More than once during this week's press conference, it was mentioned that the OSU coaches hadn't looked at last year's tape concerning the Buckeye-Bears game.
Withers said, "I think this (Bears) offense is totally different than last year's offense. You know, I think coach Dykes is more of the fast-paced, get the ball out quick type offense so we have to have a little bit different plan than last year's plan. So I think it's different, I mean, obviously, I don't think we even looked at last year's tape."
As to Cal's defense, Andy Buh, a former Wisconsin linebackers coach, is in his first season as the team's defensive coordinator.
The Bears are one of the nation's youngest teams with a preseason experience rating of No. 12 in the Pac-12 and No. 125 out of 126 teams but its 2013 schedule, as the season opened, was ranked as the nation's third-most difficult by sportswriter/analyst Phil Steele and No. 4 in the country by Sporting News.
Ohio State is 6-1 all-time against the Bears and has won the last six meetings overall. Last year's game, however, was almost an upset with the Buckeyes winning by one touchdown, and the score was 35-28. Cal's Brandan Bigelow had touchdown runs of 81 and 59 yards. The 81-yarder was the longest run ever by an opposing back at the 'Shoe and the longest by a Bears player since 2009.
And Bigelow's back again this year. He and running back Khalfani Muhammad combined for 155 yards against Portland State last week. Bigelow leads the Bears on the ground with 140 yards.
Muhammad also appears to be doing well. He ranks third in the Pac-12 and is tied for 19th nationally with an average of 163 yards per game. He has a team-high total of 326 all-purpose yards (76 rush, 103 receiving and 147 kick returns).
OSU is entering Saturday's game at Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, with the nation's longest winning streak at 14 games. It hasn't played in Berkeley since 1972 when the Buckeyes won 35-18.
OSU's Evan Spencer, son of former St. Clairsville High School and Buckeye standout Tim Spencer and his wife, Gilda, "only had one catch (in the San Diego game) but he graded out very high and did a nice job," according to Meyer.
THIS WEEK'S game will be only OSU's eighth non-conference road game in the 2000s, covering 14 seasons, and it's the first non-conference road game for a Buckeye team coached by Meyer. He's 37-13 all-time in road games.
THE GAME, which will be televised by Fox, will begin at 7 p.m.
Pokas can be reached at email@example.com.