BERKELEY (CBS/AP) — Jared Goff’s college career has gotten off to quite the prolific start.
Goff became the first true freshman quarterback ever to start the season opener at California and responded by becoming the second player in Golden Bears history with back-to-back 400-yard passing games.
Goff will get his toughest test yet on Saturday when Cal (1-1) hosts a fourth-ranked Ohio State (2-0) team that has won 14 straight games.
Goff leads the nation in passing with 935 yards and has the most yards passing in his first two games since the start of the BCS era in 1998. Goff is more than 100 yards ahead of the next player on the list, North Carolina State’s Philip Rivers with 798 yards in 2000, according to STATS LLC.
“It’s cool, but I can’t think about stats,” Goff said. “I’m really not concerned about that. All we’re worried about is Ohio State.”
The Buckeyes are plenty concerned about Goff, who followed up his 450-yard passing debut in a loss against Northwestern with 485 yards last week in a win over Portland State.
Ohio State hasn’t faced anything like first-year coach Sonny Dykes’ Bear Raid offense that has thrown 115 passes the first two weeks. The Buckeyes have allowed 401 yards passing on 73 attempts in wins this season over Buffalo and San Diego State. Only Texas’ Colt McCoy and Purdue’s Drew Brees have thrown for more than 400 yards in a game against Ohio State in the BCS era.
“It’s impressive to come in and step into this kind of offense,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “He’s a very impressive guy.”
Here are five things to watch when the Buckeyes visit the Bears:
MILLER’S KNEE: Quarterback Braxton Miller sprained his left knee on the seventh play of Ohio State’s first series last week and did not return. Miller has been limited in practice all week but is expected to play Saturday. Miller led the way last year against the Bears when he threw for 249 yards and four TDs and added a 55-yard touchdown run in a 35-28 victory. “There are not a lot of guys in college football that possess the skill set he possesses and have the strength, size and speed that he has,” Dykes said.
DEPLETED DEFENSE: When the Bears opened camp this summer, they were counting on defensive linemen Chris McCain, Brennan Scarlett and Mustafa Jalil, linebacker Nick Forbes and safety Avery Sebastian to spearhead the unit. Injuries have sidelined those leaders for much, if not all, of the season so far and only Forbes is a possibility to play this week. Those absences are a big reason why Cal has allowed more than 500 yards in each of the first two games. “When you look out there and you haven’t played with really any of those guys, it’s a little scary,” Dykes said. “Those are guys who are battle-tested.”
BIG-PLAY BIGELOW: Brendan Bigelow provided the highlights for Cal in last year’s meeting with touchdown runs of 81 and 59 yards among his four carries on the day. Bigelow hasn’t had any other performances close to that, with just 392 yards rushing and one touchdown on the ground in 10 games since that highlight-reel performance. Bigelow is averaging 2.7 yards per carry on his last 30 runs this season. “Based on the way we’ve run the ball, I wouldn’t think they’d be too concerned,” Dykes said.
RARE ROAD TRIP: The Buckeyes will play just their eighth nonconference road game in the past 14 seasons when they visit Memorial Stadium. They lost three of those previous seven trips to UCLA in 2001, Southern California in 2008 and Miami two years ago. The Buckeyes are just 9-6 in their last 15 road openers.
HIGH-PROFILE GAME: This is the highest-profile game yet for Dykes, who is trying to get Cal back to the upper echelon of the Pac-12 after a 3-9 season in 2012 under fired coach Jeff Tedford. A strong performance on Saturday could help the cause because about 150 recruits are expected to be on campus for the game, including five on their official visits. Cal had just seven recruits at last week’s win over Portland State.
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