Schedule preview: California

Golden Bears bring solid passing game and offense in what could be first big test

Updated: July 5, 2012, 9:12 PM ET
By Austin Ward | BuckeyeNation

California at Ohio State

Sept. 15, 2012, At Ohio Stadium (noon, ABC)

About the Golden Bears

2012 record: 7-6 (4-5 Pac-12)

Ohio State all-time against Cal: 5-1 (last meeting in 1972)

Top returners: WR Keenan Allen, OL Dominic Galas, QB Zach Maynard, RB Isi Sofele, OL Matt Summers-Gavin, DB Marc Anthony, DB Steve Williams

Key losses: OL Justin Cheadle, WR Marvin Jones, TE Anthony Miller, OL Mitchell Schwartz, DB D.J. Campbell, DB Sean Cattouse, P Bryan Anger, K Giorgio Tavecchio, DL Trevor Guyton, LB D.J. Holt, LB Mychal Kendricks

Jeff Tedford
AP Photo/Rick BowmerJeff Tedford brings a capable offense to Columbus on Sept. 15.

2012 statistical leaders (* denotes returners)

Rushing: Sofele* (1,322 yards, 10 touchdowns)

Passing: Maynard* (2,990 yards, 17 touchdowns, 12 interceptions)

Receiving: Allen* (1,343 yards, 6 touchdowns)

Tackles: Kendricks (107)

Sacks: Guyton (5.5)

Interceptions: Kendricks, Cattouse, Campbell, Josh Hill* and Williams* (2)

What they're saying: "We were so far ahead of last year when [Maynard] was new into the system. We were able to do much more on offense this spring and move along and (were) much more efficient. You could really tell his experience from the season had really paid off with the speed of the game and the management of the game." -- Cal coach Jeff Tedford on quarterback Maynard, in a conference call

Three things to watch

1. Turn it up: Of the four nonconference games, the date with the Golden Bears easily commands the most attention and should provide the best early test for Urban Meyer's first Ohio State team. After a couple weeks to get acclimated to the new offense, it could also be the first time the Buckeyes really need to open the playbook -- which might turn Week 3 into a sneak preview of sorts ahead of Big Ten action.

2. Golden trio: There might be better combinations on offense around the country, but the set of weapons Tedford has to work with is certainly capable of inflicting damage. Maynard threw for nearly 3,000 yards, and Sofele (rushing) and Allen (receiving) both easily cleared 1,000 for a team that averaged more than 28 points per game. With all of them back, Cal will surely be planning on raising that last number this fall.

3. Hall monitor: Based on the recovery period outlined by Ohio State, the earliest running back Jordan Hall figures to return to the lineup would be against Cal. But even if he's cleared to play after surgery on his foot, there's a chance Hall might not be prepared to just jump back in the mix -- which would potentially leave more chances for Rod Smith and Bri'onte Dunn behind Carlos Hyde. In a more pressurized situation, those young tailbacks could have a huge opportunity to establish their credentials against a respectable defense with six returning starters.

Austin Ward | email

Ohio State/Big Ten reporter