Rattlers face daunting task in clash with mighty Buckeyes

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Updated: 9/18/2013 11:02 am

Columbus, OH (Sports Network) - The fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes will try to extend the nation's longest winning streak on Saturday afternoon when they welcome the Florida A&M Rattlers to Ohio Stadium.

FAMU, a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference at the Football Championship Subdivision, got its season off to a strong start in a neutral- field opener against Mississippi Valley State, winning 27-10. From there, however, the Rattlers dropped a pair of home games to Tennessee State (27-7) and Samford (27-20).

Ohio State is 3-0 to start the season, running its winning streak to 15 games. After winning a pair of home bouts versus Buffalo (40-20) and San Diego State (42-7), the Buckeyes traveled out west and claimed an impressive 52-34 victory over California last weekend. Despite winning all of its games and starting the year No. 2 in the polls, OSU has slipped to No. 4 in recent weeks, being overtaken by both Oregon and Clemson.

"We need to do a very good job of coaching this week and not look past (Florida A&M)," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said. "I think there are some very good athletes we are going to face."

This marks the first time the Buckeyes and Rattlers will face off on the football field.

The FAMU offense has done very little to impress through three games, as the unit averages just 18.0 ppg and 228.3 ypg, while converting only 29 percent of its third-down attempts and committing seven turnovers.

Damien Fleming has been off the mark under center, completing less than 49 percent of his passes with five interceptions while throwing for just 127.7 yards per outing.

Fleming is locked in on Lenworth Lennon, who's hauled in 14 balls for 229 yards and a touchdown. Dewayne Harvey has seven receptions for 77 yards, and no other player has more than 34 yards receiving.

James Owens (23 carries), Omari Albert (22 carries) and Lemond Buice (21 carries) are utilized equally in the running game, but none of them averages more than 3.9 ypc.

Luckily for the Rattlers, their impressive defense (21.3 ppg, 321.3 ypg) has been able to pick up the slack for their underperforming offense.

The unit has recorded eight takeaways in three games, with Patrick Aiken picking off a pair of passes, including a 93-yard pick-six against Samford. Michael Ducre leads the way with 29 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss and 1.5 sacks.

Despite the absence of some key players in recent weeks, the Ohio State offense has not skipped a beat, as it ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring (44.7 ppg) and fourth in yardage (504.3 ppg).

Star quarterback Braxton Miller (.708 completion percentage, 208 passing yards, 82 rushing yards, two TDs) missed part of the San Diego State game and all of the Cal contest with a knee injury, but the Buckeyes have the luxury of having a top-notch backup in Kenny Guiton, who's thrown for seven touchdowns and just one interception on 67.2 percent completions this season.

"He's a very good distributor," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said of Guiton, who made his first-ever start against Cal and threw four TDs. "He gets the ball to the right people at the right time. What I was more impressed with him were the down field throws. Those were right on the dot, a few of them, and Devin Smith made some excellent catches."

Miller is probable to return for his matchup, but it's good to know that the Buckeyes have a quarterback they can trust if he suffers another injury.

Jordan Hall has excelled in the absence of Carlos Hyde, who served a three- game suspension to start the season. Hall has rushed for 402 yards and six touchdowns, which is tied for most in the nation. Hyde rushed for 970 yards and 16 scores in 2012, and the duo will make an outstanding one-two punch.

Devin Smith caught just three passes last week, but two were for long touchdowns (90, 47), and the big-play threat now has 13 receptions for 256 yards and three scores. Corey Brown (133 yards) also has 13 catches and three touchdowns.

The Buckeyes defense has been strong as well, holding opponents to just 20.3 ppg and 347.0 ypg while forcing seven turnovers.

Ryan Shazier has a team-best 24 tackles, but he is questionable for this contest with a shoulder injury. Noah Spence anchors a strong front four with 4.5 TFL and 2.5 sacks, Michael Bennett has recovered two fumbles and forced another, and Doran Grant has an interception and five pass break-ups.

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